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50 Top Blues Musicians

Leroy Carr (1905-1935) - Blues Musician

One of 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 Walker.

Roosevelt Sykes (1906-1983) - Blues Musician

Roosevelt Sykes' 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.

Blind Boy Fuller (1908-1941) - Blues Musician

Blind Boy Fullertook what 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.

Howlin' Wolf (1910-1976) - Blues Musician

Chester 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.

Robert Johnson (1911-1938) - Blues Musician

Robert 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.

Big Joe Turner (1911-1985) - Blues Musician

One of 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."

Lightnin' Hopkins (1912-1982) - Blues Musician

Perhaps 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.

Willie 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.

Wynonie Harris (1915-1969) - Blues Musician

This man 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, among others.

Brownie McGhee (1915-1996) - Blues Musician

One of 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.

Elmore James (1918-1963) - Blues Musician

Like his 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 and Blues.

Professor Longhair (1918-1980) - Blues Musician

Henry Byrd or "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.

John Lee Hooker (1920-2001) - Blues Musician

One of 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.

Charles Brown (1922-1999) - Blues Musician

The 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.

Part 3 - 50 Blues Musicians

This article appeared in Blues Wax. Used by permission.

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