RockStory - Blues in the 50's early 60's
The Blues in the 50's early 60's: Blues..without the Blues there would not have been any Hard Rock!

The Blues in the 50's early 60's

By Claes Hassel at

The Blues Roots

The Blues has its roots in Africa, probably from the West Africa where people, known as the Griot, played music on a sort of banjo looking instrument and sang about joy and telling stories.

When African people was brought to North America as slaves, to work in the cotton and tobacco fields in the Mississippi River Delta region, they took the singing and playing with them. T
hey so-called work songs, 'workers' were allowed to sing songs during their working time, had hidden verses(sung when the 'master's' wasn't near/hearing them) that expressed the social misery, sadness, pain and fear about their situation. 


In the early 1900's the Blues grew out of this music story telling songs(work songs/negro spirituals), melting European musical traditions with the African music.

The 'Bluesy' style of the music, played on guitar(shifted from the banjo), a 12-bar pattern with three major chords and emotional lyrics was shaped between the 1920's and 30's.

The Blues became more widely known through the urbanization(migration of people from the countryside to the cities) of the Southern United States in the 1930's and 40's.

The Electrified Blues

Blues..without the Blues there would not have been any Hard Rock.

In the 40's the recording techniques, radio broadcasting of live performances and the amplifying of the instruments was the breakthrough for the Electrified Blues.

With Bluesplayers such as  Muddy WatersElmore James, John Lee Hooker and others playing the guitar distorted and at high volumes not only sets the parameters for the Electrified Blues but also for the Rock'n'Roll to come.

      I will not talk about the early acoustic blues pioneers such as, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, etc, I'll concentrate on some of the pioneers who came to expound the boundaries of the Electrified Blues.

Some of the most important 'Electrified Blues' artists:

Muddy Waters(McKinley Morganfield)
Born : April, 1915. Died: April, 1983
Guitar/vocals and songwriting.
Active Years : 40's-80's.
Chicago Blues with the roots in the Delta region.
Playing amplified bottleneck guitar with his bandmates Little Walter(harmonica), Ernest "Big" Crawford(bass), Otis Spann(piano) and others.
Some Songs: Versions by:
'Rolling Stone'(1950) Duane Allman, Paul Rodgers, Stack Waddy. The Rolling Stones took their name from his song.
'Mannish Boy'(1955) Groundhogs, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones
John Lee Hooker
Born :August, 1917. Died : June, 2001
Guitar/vocals and songwriting
Active Years : 40's-90's
Detroit Blues, playing a mix of blues and boogie with sidemen such as, Eddie Taylor(guitar), Jimmy Reed(harp). In the early mid-60's Hooker played together with the Groundhogs(Tony T.S. McPhee on guitar). In 1970 Hooker released the album 'Hooker 'n' Heat' together with Canned Heat.
Some Songs: Versions by:
'Boom Boom'(1961) Animals, CCS, Eric Clapton, Albert King, Yardbirds
'Dimples'(1956) Allman Brothers, Animals, Canned Heat, Steve Winwood
Elmore James
Born : January, 1918. Died : May, 1963
Guitar/vocals and songwriting
Active Years : 50's- early 60's
Chicago Blues. Great slide guitarist with famous blues licks 'building' his own amplifiers, made some great blues recordings with for example: Ike Turner(piano) and his backing band, the Broomdusters: J. T. Brown(tenor sax), Johnny Jones(piano), Ransom Knowling(bass), Odie Payne(drums).
Some Songs: Versions by:
'Dust My Broom'(1951) Canned Heat, Fleetwood Mac, Howlin' Wolf, Yardbirds, ZZ Top
'Rollin' and Tumblin'(1959) Jeff Beck, Blackfoot, Canned Heat, Cream, Tony T.S McPhee, Muddy Waters
'Shake Your Moneymaker'(1961) Paul Butterfield, Chicken Shack, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Page, Johnny Winter
Big Joe Williams
Born : October, 1903. Died : December, 1982
Guitar/vocals and songwriting.
Active Years : 30's-80's
Delta Mississippi Blues, using his guitar not only as a guitar(G-tuned 9-string guitar) but also as an percussive instrument. Rumoured: was also married to blues singer Bessie Mae Smith in the early 30's.
Some Songs: Versions by:
'Baby Please Don't Go'(1935) Animals, Rolling Stones, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, AC/DC, Budgie, Ted Nugent, Them
'Highway 49' (e.g. Robert Johnson's 'Traveling Riverside Blues'). Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf
B.B. King
Born : September, 1925.
Guitar/vocals and songwriting.
Active Years : 40's-00's
Memphis Blues. On of the most important guitarist for the evolution of the Electric Blues.
Song: Versions by:
'Rock Me Baby' (1958) Blue Cheer, Jimi Hendrix, Hot Tuna, Savoy Brown, Robin Trower, Johnny Winter
Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett 
Born : June, 1910. Died : January, 1976
Guitar/vocals and songwriting.
Active Years : 20's-70's
In his teenage(around 1928) he met bluesman Charley Patton who learned Chester the roots of playing the Delta Blues and in 1948 he formed an electric band including James Cotton(harp) and Little Junior Parker in West Memphis. 1952 he he moved to Chicago and met Muddy Waters who introduced him to the Chicago R & B people. He recorded several hits with Willie Dixon, at the Chess studios.
Some Songs: Versions by:
'Killing Gound'(1935) Jimi Hendrix
'How Many More years' Led Zeppelin
'Smokestack Lightin' Yardbirds
'The Red Rooster' Rolling Stones
'I Ain't Superstitious' Jeff Beck
Willie Dixon
Born : July, 1915 Died : January, 1992
Guitar/bass/vocals, producer and songwriter.
Active Years : 40's-90's
Chicago Blues. Main instrument was bass but it was his songwriting/arranger/producer skills for the Chicago blues record companys(Chess Records/..) that made him (one of) the 'creators' of the modern Chicago blues sound. Most of the famous recordings by Chuck Berry were on Chess Records with Willie Dixon on bass throughout the 50s and 60s.
Some important Willie Dixon's productions(with his own songs): Muddy Waters 'Hoochie Coochie Man', Howlin Wolf 'Spoonful', Otis Rush 'I Can't Quit You Baby' and Bo Diddley 'You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover'.
Willie Dixon had a major influence on both the Blues and the Rock music and must be one of the most important persons for the Hard Heavy (Blues) Rock movement in the 60's and the 70's.
Some Songs: Versions by:
'I Can't Quit You Baby'(1956?) Led Zeppelin, John Mayall, Otis Rush, Savoy Brown
'You Shook Me'(1962) Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters
(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man' (1957) Long John Baldry, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix
'Bring It On Home'(1963) Bakerloo, Canned Heat, Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Thunders, Sonny Boy Williamson
'Spoonful'(1960?) Howlin' Wolf, Allman Brothers, Canned Heat, Eric Clapton, Climax Blues Band, Cream, Howlin' Wolf, Ten Years After
'You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover'(1962) Cactus, Bo Diddley, Yardbirds
'Wang Dang Doodle'(1962) Eric Clapton, Love Sculpture(Dave Edmunds), Groundhogs, Howlin' Wolf, Ted Nugent, Savoy Brown, Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters
'You Need Love'(1962) Savoy Brown, Muddy Waters and Led Zeppelin on the track 'Whole Lotta Love'