50 Top Blues Musicians
Carr (1905-1935) - Blues Musician
the least appreciated Bluesmen today compared to his impact on
the music of his time. With his partner, guitarist Scrapper
Blackwell, Leroy Carr waxed some of the finest Blues
compositions ever while utilizing sly lyrics, a smooth voice and
excellent piano work. He was instrumental in implementing a new
sophistication and urbane approach to the Country Blues that came
before. His "How Long How Long Blues" was just one song that
influenced many others, including T-Bone
Sykes (1906-1983) - Blues Musician
pioneering barrelhouse and boogie-woogie piano playing, along
with his smart and fun lyrics, influenced just about every piano
player that has ever played a blue note. His huge presence was
felt in both the St. Louis and Chicago Blues scenes. "44 Blues,"
"Driving Wheel," and "Night Time Is The Right Time" are all
classic examples of his excellent work.
Fuller (1908-1941) - Blues Musician
Blind Blake started and became one of the most influential
and popular Piedmont Bluesman of all time. A talented, versatile
guitarist and expressive singer, he recorded an impressive amount
of material over a short period of time.
Wolf (1910-1976) - Blues Musician
Arthur Burnett, better
known as Howlin' Wolf, was a Delta musician who waxed some
incredible sides in Memphis for Sam Phillips that were an
unbelievable mixture of raw and primal Country Blues combined
with Jump Blues. After his move to Chicago, and with the help of
Willie Dixon's songwriting, Wolf became the main rival of
Muddy Waters for domination of the Windy City Blues scene
in the '50s, and into the '60s. His gravelly, powerful voice and
flamboyant stage presence were incomparable.
Johnson (1911-1938) - Blues Musician
Johnson took the
raw, rhythmic immediacy of the Delta Blues that Charley
Patton and Son House began, absorbed the influences
and innovations of more sophisticated stylists like Lonnie
Johnson, and created the most ingenious blend of Country
Blues guitar ever. He was the first guitarist to expertly
incorporate boogie-woogie piano bass lines underneath his
fingerpicking and slide sound. He lived fast and died young, but
after his material was re-released to the world in 1966, his
impact was felt across the globe.
Turner (1911-1985) - Blues Musician
the premier Blues shouters, Big Joe Turner typified the
ebullient sound of Kansas City's Jump Blues sound. His big,
smooth baritone voice soaring over swingin' boogie-woogie rhythms
that later became a mainstay of the West Coast scene, was a
precursor to what would become known as Rock 'n' Roll, as
exemplified by his "Shake, Rattle & Roll."
Hopkins (1912-1982) - Blues Musician
the most recorded Blues musician of all time. During his long and
prolific career, Sam Hopkins comfortably bridged the gap
between acoustic Country Blues and the urban Blues of his home
ground of Houston, Texas. With his deep, evocative voice and deft
guitar playing, Hopkins always did things his way and was one of
the most respected artists of the Blues.
Dixon (1915-1992) - Blues Musician
Big Willie Dixon's presence was profound,
with his multiple roles as bassist, arranger, talent scout, and
especially songwriter, playing a huge role in creating what has
become known and loved as Chicago Blues. This poet laureate of
the Blues wrote a major share of the greatest Blues tunes of all
time. Both Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, among many others,
benefited greatly from his uncanny ability to craft a song and
direct recording sessions.
Harris (1915-1969) - Blues Musician
bore the title of "Mr. Blues" with unabashed pride and style. One
of the greatest Blues shouters of the popular Jump Blues era of
the late '40s and early '50s, Wynonie Harris helped shape
the sound that would become Rock 'n' Roll with his combination of
panache, bold sense of humor and sheer attitude. His version of
Roy Brown's "Good Rockin' Tonight," along with his stage
presence, had a huge impact on a young Elvis Presley,
McGhee (1915-1996) - Blues Musician
the most beloved Piedmont style guitar pickers and singers,
Brownie McGhee enjoyed a long career that blossomed even
greater during the '60s Folk Blues boom. A fine ambassador of the
Blues around the globe, he was an important figure both in Europe
and in the States, whether he was on his own or with longtime
partner, harpist Sonny Terry.
James (1918-1963) - Blues Musician
contemporaries from the Delta - Elmore James played a huge role
in popularizing electric Chicago Blues in the '50s. His version of
"Dust My Broom" has become the standard for driven slide guitar playing.
James' anguished vocals and intense songs helped pave the way for
anybody who has incorporated a raw, energetic edge to their Rock
Longhair (1918-1980) - Blues Musician
"Fess" as he became to be known, was a founding father of
New Orleans R&B. His polyrhythmic and rollicking piano lines
defined what New Orleans Blues was all about. His songs like
"Mardi Gras In New Orleans" and "Tipitina" have become virtual
anthems of the Big Easy, leaving their mark on all that followed,
including Fats Domino and Dr. John.
Hooker (1920-2001) - Blues Musician
the most unique Bluesmen ever, only Lightnin' Hopkins may have
more recordings among Blues artists. John Lee
Hooker's guitar and vocal style was primal, deep and went
straight to your gut and soul. This Mississippi Delta Bluesman
learned his style early on, mostly from his stepfather Will
Moore, and throughout his career that took him to Detroit and
Chicago and eventually to the Bay Area; he never wavered from his
singular vision. His initial smash hit in 1948, "Boogie Chillen,"
with its stomping beat, has been imitated by countless Rock and
Blues bands ever since.
Brown (1922-1999) - Blues Musician
antithesis of John Lee Hooker, Charles Brown helped
popularize the smooth, jazzy crooning ballad style of Blues that
Nat King Cole pioneered in the '40s. His groundbreaking
"Drifting Blues," recorded in 1945 with Johnny Moore's
Three Blazers, greatly influenced a bevy of artists
including Amos Milburn, Floyd Dixon, and a young
Ray Charles. His "Black Night" and "Please Come For
Christmas" are great examples of how Brown could create a mood
that melted the soul.
This article appeared in Blues Wax. Used by permission.