The Influence of Blues


B. B. King

A culture is influenced by a lot of things.  Political leaders, movie stars, trends, wars, ups and downs in the economy and so on.  Paradigms will shift in every generation.  Each generation thinks it’s more “Hip,” Cool,” or “With it” than the last.

Each generation uses and is influenced by its own music. The mid to late 1950’s gave us Rock and Roll.  Prior to that, styles of music were segregated to different classes and races.  The Roaring 20’s had their own music.  Big-Band influenced a lot of styles throughout the 20’s through the 40’s.  Then came Rock.

Rock was a whole different style.  I heard the legendary and late B.B. King talking about it once.  Riley B. King had been a blues musician and played in the juke-joints and black clubs in the south.  According to Mr. King, Blues came out of the churches.  It was Black Gospel, which celebrated Jesus Christ as Savior.  It was lively and upbeat.  And speaking of beat, the structure was different.  The beat was on the first and third measure.  Heretofore, the beat had been and the second and fourth measure making the beat recessive. Black Gospel brought the beat to the forefront and made it dominant.

B.B. continued.  He claimed that the church musicians would take their Gospel music and play it in town before audiences in bars and clubs for money.  Times were tough in the south for those who were only a generation or two from slavery and they had to make a buck any way they could.  They changed the lyrics to a celebration of God’s goodness to the plight of the black man.  Poverty, inequality, sorrow, Blues.

The people could relate to the lyrics.  And the structure of the music grabbed their attention.  The beat of Blues and Rock appeals to the carnal, emotional side of a person.  A new style of music was born which would give birth to another.

Blues bands toured the South and finally made their way to Chicago, New York and other cities.  Blues evolved into categories and similar styles.  When artists like Chubby Checker and Fats Domino increased the tempo, Rock and Roll was born.

Blues and Rock influenced an entire generation of young people and bridged the gap between the races.  White kids loved it and couldn’t get enough.  The country was still largely segregated, but music was beginning to bring black and white together.

History records that Bill Haley and the Comets were the first Rock band. Maybe they were the first white rockers.  Many followed and developed styles of Rock which appealed to white audiences.  Black Rock and Blues continued to evolve and the various styles would cross-over and influence the other.  Among musicians there was no black and white.  There was a mutual admiration and respect for what they were all playing.

And so began a massive paradigm shift.