Memphis Blues is a kind of blues that appeared in the 1920s and 1930s with musicians from Memphis or near. These would include Sleepy John Estes, Frank Stokes, Furry Lewis and Memphis Minnie.
This style of music had become popular through parts of Vaudeville and was associated with the main Memphis entertainment venue located on Beale Street, a popular street of the city.
Apart from the guitar-based blues, the jug bands were popular groups of Memphis blues. The jug band style dance and emphasized the syncopated rhythms of jazz and a variety of archaic folk music. They played on simple instruments, sometimes made by the musicians themselves, as harmonicas, fiddles, mandolins, banjos or washboards, kazoo, harps or pitchers playing the role of bass.
After World War II, electric instruments have become popular among musicians of Memphis blues. While African Americans left the Mississippi Delta and others deserted the southern regions to travel to urban areas, many musicians arrived on the scene Memphis blues, gradually changing the traditional Memphis blues. Musicians like Howlin ‘Wolf, Willie Nix, Ike Turner and B. B. King played in Memphis and recorded songs that are now part of the standard electric blues, rhythm and blues and rock’ n ‘roll. These artists have had a major influence on musicians who also play these music styles, including early rock & roll and rockabilly.
The famous African-American composer W.C. Handy is said to have written the first successful blues song the St. Louis Blues in a bar on Beale Street in 1912. Handy who resided in Memphis from 1909 through 1917 also wrote “The Memphis Blues”.
Memphis Blues Musicians
Memphis blues is a regional style created by area musicians such as Sleepy John Estes, Frank Stokes, Furry Lewis, Memphis Minnie, and Memphis Jug Band in the 1910s-1930s, with stylistic origins in the Country blues and the Delta blues. It was a center of blues music for much of the 20th century.
During the 1940-50s, Memphis became the home of B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Rosco Gordon, Johnny Ace, Junior Parker, Willie Nix, and Joe Hill Louis. Duke Records was started in Memphis in 1952. Also in 1952, Sam Phillips insigated Sun Records, a seminal early rock and roll and electric blues label. Among the artists who made their first recordings on Sun was Elvis Presley; who had eighteen top hits in the U.S. Others include Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Carl Perkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, and Charlie Rich.
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