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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 6, 1972)
To dig the blues, you've got to dig a little
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This is the last of a two part series on the blues by
Fine Arts writer Bart Becker
bv Bart Becker
To dig the blues, you've got to dig a little . . .
In the 1930s and subsequent years, blues began to
divide into two cr s -an -' and urban.
People familiar with Rolling Stones music might
want to listen to some of the Robert Johnson records
available. On recent albums the Stones have used at
.1 . -fe. i:
least two of his songs-"Love In Vain" and "Stop
Stylistically, Johnson was a Mississippi Delta blues
man. The music of that area places a high premium
on the close relationship between voice and
accompanying guitar. Johnson was uncanny in that
relationship. In most of his performances, voice and
guitar seem a single instrument.
Columbia recently released what amounts to a
"best of" album of Johnson's work. Called Robert
Johnson: King of the Delta Blues Singers, the two
volumes include 20 of his songs, originally recorded
for the American Recording Company in 1935-36.
The second volume includes both "Stop Breaking
Down" and "Love In Vain."
usiA&taougn..tihtnin' Hopkins probably can be
xU&Mlied as modern, he is another good example of
rural blues. The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins is
available on Everest's Tradition series. It includes
"Short Haired Woman" and "When the Saints Go
Blues instrumental solos traditionally have been
carried by two instruments: the guitar and the
harmonica or mouth harp. Two of the best examples
of early blues harp are done by Sonny Boy
Williamson I and II.
Little Walter is the man who first amplified the
harp in the blues. He cupped the microphone in his
hand and manipulated it to produce the sound he
desired. Walter played with Muddy Waters' band in
the early Fifties before going out on his own.
Another singer and harp player who bears
mentioning and listening is Junior Wells. For years a
stalwart and proponent of the Chicago blues sound,
several good recordings of his material are available
There are a couple of performers who have gained
a larger measure of contemporary recognition than
many of their colleagues. Muddy Waters is quite
possibly the most well-respected of all the blues
performers today. Almost any of his recordings will
be valuable to the inexperienced blues listeners. Any
of his sidemen or associates are equally competent.
In addition, such names as John Lee Hooker and
the Kings-BB., Albert and Freddie-now are
familiar to most rock fans.
For a good introduction and lesson in the blues of
this era, it would be more valuable to listen to some
of the music than to read about it. The Chess Vintage
series is a good one for highlighting many performers.
Peter Guralnick's book, Feel Like Going Home, is
written in a style that may be highly palatable to
someone curious about the blues but not too plugged
into it yet. It contains some lively journalistic
portraits of Muddy Waters, Johnny Shines, Skip
James, Howl in' Wolf, Sam Phillips and Sun Records
and the Chess Brothers.
Many blues people who had performed for years
for a largely black audience now enjoy popularity
with a young, white audience. In many cases this is
due to rock performers tinting their music a little
blue in order to slide the rock fans into some blues
White performers like Paul Butterfield and Mike
Bloomfield hung around Chicago blues joints for
years, playing with older black musicians and
developing a blues style.
These musicians and their bands had moderate
success with the rock market, but it was Cream that
really opened up the market to the blues. Touted as a
"supergroup," Cream plowed through America and
helped tune some of their audience in to the blues.
Cream played loud enough for the rock audience
which, at the. time, was idolizing Jimi Hendrix and
the Airplane. Eric Clapton is a good blues guitarist
and Cream arranged a lot of traditional blues tunes.
That paved the way for a lot of groups to mix
some blues with their rock, making it palatable to the
heretofore unexposed audience.
Canned Heat, a white blues band, helped John Lee
Hooker achieve some recognition among young
whites By recording a couple of collaborative
albums, John Lee's name and music became more
familiar to rock fans. .
B B King Albert King and Freddie King have
achieved about as much success with rock audiences
as any blues performers. They've made the transition
to rock charts more strongly than any other
performers and probably are the most familiar names
to the casual observer and listener.
A lot of bands are capable of playing some good
blues and do so occasionally. But it's usually thickly
mixed with rock.
Both the Allman Brothers Band and the Rolling
Stones are good examples of this.
The late Duane Allman was a good guitarist and
a good slide guitarist. His band always rocked, but it
often had a good dose of the Hues built into its
The Stones have recorded some older biues
material, and most of their original material can be
classified as blues. The difference between a lot of the
nouveau blue groups and the older performers is that
the new bands use volume as one of the aspects of
their music. That shows the influences of rock on
In any event, the Stones and groups that lean
toward the blues have opened the collective rock
mind to the blues.
Unfortunately, most blues artists remain available
only on smaller labels, therefore remaining largely
unexposed to the large young audience. A few dder
performers, for example, the Kings and some newer
artists, like Taj Mahal, are easily available.
The point is that newspaper articles will not give a
feeling for, or an understanding of, the blues. All a
newspaper article can do is drop some names and
suggest some records and books. But the records have
to be listened to and the books have to be read to be
Editor-in-chief: Jim Gray. Managing Editor: Tom
Lansworth. Newt Editor: Randy Beam. East Campus Editor:
John Runogle. v
The Daily Nebraskan is written, edited and managed by
students at the University of Nebratka-Lincoln and it
editorially independent of the University faculty,
adminittration and student body.
The Daily Nebreskan it publithed by the CSL
tubcommittee on publications), Monday, Wednesday,
Thurtday and Friday throughout the school year, except on
holidays and vacations.
Second class postage paid at Lincoln, Nebraska 68508.
Address: The Daily Nebraskan34 Nebraska
UnionLincoln, Nebr., 68505. Telephone 4024722588.,, ,v
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friday, October 6, 1972
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