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The Early History of Blues Music

Blues Music pic
Blues Music
Image: thoughtco.com

San Diego resident Brian Borg likes to play and listen to old blues music by artists like Blind Willie Johnson and Josh White. Blues listeners and artists like Brian Borg participate in a tradition dating back nearly 200 years, which spread to places like San Diego starting from the Mississippi Delta.

Blues originated among sharecroppers and slaves in the 19th century, as drum music, revivalist hymns, spirituals, and work songs mixed together to create a new genre about based on expressing emotion and the overcoming of trials and tribulations. Due to the geographic proximity to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, blues and jazz music influenced each other during the course of their creation. Blues, however, took much longer to spread.

Before World War II, blues usually involved solo performers traveling with only a guitar. The blues band sound evolved out of jug bands, jazz bands, and gospel choirs, adding jugs, washboards, harmonicas, and banjos, among other instruments. As blues continued to spread, it fragmented into a variety of genres, taking on elements of local music. Chicago blues, for instance, added an electric sound to traditional blues music, while boogie-woogie added ragtime elements such as piano accompaniment.

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