Blues Guitar Lessons

Here at Guitar Tricks® the best way to get started learning how to play the blues is with our step-by-step blues courses:

Blues Level 1 Course    Blues Level 2 Course

To learn blues songs on guitar, check out the songs page: Blues Song Lessons

History Of Blues Music

The Origins Of Blues Music

Blues is a genre of music that was created by individuals in the iconic melting pot and unique mixture of cultures found only in America.

The end of the Civil War was the beginning of emancipation for African slaves and their descendants in the American South. By the end of the 19th century individuals from many different cultural backgrounds throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and other Southern states had started to develop a fusion of traditional African music and European folk music. This new fusion was a wide-ranging mixture from many diverse sources. Among those sources were work shanties and field hollers from former slaves and farm field workers combined with shouts and chants, spiritual hymns, traditional folk songs, and narrative ballads relating stories of the strife and joys of daily life.

Former African slaves and their children were free to forge their own lives in the South. Their exposure to the popular music of the day resulted in a cross-cultural and lasting influence that worked in both directions. The white European descendants were exposed to African musical elements that emphasized rhythm, the call-and-response format, and the use of blue notes, which are micro-tonal pitches. The black African descendants were exposed to the European musical elements that emphasized tonal melody, chromatic harmony, church music, and folk songs.

From author Lawrence W. Levine's book, "Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom" (Oxford University Press 1977):

"There was a direct relationship between the national ideological emphasis upon the individual, the popularity of Booker T. Washington's teachings, and the rise of the blues ..."

" ... psychologically, socially, and economically, African-Americans were being acculturated in a way that would have been impossible during slavery, and it is hardly surprising that their secular music reflected this as much as their religious music did."

Music was, as ever, used widely in Christian churches. The descendants of white European church communities had a long established tradition of hymns and spirituals that evolved from earlier classical and baroque music. Black individuals and communities became involved in the same religious activities as white individuals and communities. Although most churches and communities were still segregated, this use of a common religious culture was an important melting pot for the black African and white European musical elements to influence each other.

Music was also, as ever, used widely in entertainment. From dance halls and saloons, to parades and town squares, the brass bands, small ensembles, and piano players of the day were all able to learn from, influence, and inspire each other. The secular world of arts and entertainment was an important one for this sort of cross-cultural influence because it often valued individual effort and skill over race or class. Early blues musicians were also free to experiment with only themselves and their audiences to judge what worked and what didn't as blues music entertainment. Outside of any authority that might impose a strict set of standards on how music was supposed to be written, these early artists forged their own creative paths.

Performers quickly learned what audiences liked and preferred. The result was that the creative evolution of the blues was largely forged in the fire of live performance, improvisation, and immediate audience feedback. While the musical and lyrical content of blues songs continued to evolve throughout the 20th century, it has remained directly informed and influenced by these early artists.

Characteristics of Blues Music

Some early blues artists succeeded in making a name for themselves – either by their own performing styles, creating songs or new styles that had a lasting influence on subsequent generations of blues musicians. These early successes resulted in a set of essential characteristics that would come to be known as how blues music typically sounds.

Blues music is a cyclical musical form meaning that a musical pattern, lyric, or chord progression is first established then repeated throughout the song. This basic form and structure is commonly thought to be a reflection of the call-and-response format of African music introduced by slaves and other field workers.

Early examples of blues forms were not standardized. The patterns, chord progressions, and forms were left to the individual performer to decide. Gradually, however, certain forms emerged as favorites among blues musicians. Certain performers attained enough popularity to be influential within the ranks of blues musicians. As a result, the twelve-bar blues spread across the music industry during the 1920s and 1930s. Other chord progressions are still of course, considered blues including the 8-bar and 16-bar forms. Often, early blues musicians used odd numbered bars such as 9-bar or 11-bar structures, but not necessarily as standardized forms. Rather, these odd measured forms were used in an improvisational manner as the lyrics or music dictated.

A typical 12-bar blues in the key of C used the tonic (I), sub-dominant (IV), and dominant chords (V) of the key in a certain order.

C (I) / C (I) /C (I) / C (I)
F (IV) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
G (V) / G (V) /C (I) / C (I)

There are, of course, variations on this basic chord progression. Some include the key change on the 2nd bar.

C (I) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
F (IV) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
G (V) / G (V) /C (I) / C (I)

There is a variation including a walkdown including the IV chord on the 10th bar.

C (I) / C (I) /C (I) / C (I)
F (IV) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
G (V) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)

There is a variation including a return of the dominant chord at the end of the form.

C (I) / C (I) /C (I) / C (I)
F (IV) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
G (V) / F (IV) /C (I) / G (V)

And all of these variations and more can use a dominant chord on any or all chords used.

C7 (I7) / C7 (I7) /C7 (I7) / C7 (I7)
F7 (IV7) / F7 (IV7) /C7 (I7) / C7 (I7)
G7 (V7) / G7 (V7) /C7 (I7) / C7 (I7)

This extensive use of dominant chords is itself a key characteristic of the blues. Often blues melodies are distinguished by the use of "blues notes," the flattened third, fifth, and seventh of the diatonic major scale of the key. This combination of major chords and harmonic structures, along with minor scale notes as ornamentations and melodic notes, creates the distinctive, iconic sound of the blues.

There are even further alterations of the "blue notes" as they are sung or played in a microtonal manner that places their precise pitch between traditional chromatic, diatonic scale notes.

For example, a blues 3rd might actually sound somewhere between a strict minor 3rd and major 3rd. And the degree of pitch divergence is often a unique or characteristic of each individual blues musician.

Sometimes these blues notes are slid or bent into, vocally or instrumentally, and the specific phrasing or rhythm of this glissando movement is also a distinctive individualistic aspect of blues style.

The purpose of blues notes is artistic expression: to make for interesting variations away from standard scale degrees, and to allow for dramatic flourishes at important points of a song.

Rhythmically, the blues was heavily influenced by African rhythms. The driving, relentless, repetitive characteristic of blues was a direct descendent of African music's emphasis on additive, repetitive rhythms. As a result, the swing rhythms and shuffles recall the trance-like rhythms and call-and-response chants became standard blues groove.

Harmonically, the basic chord progressions and extensive use of dominant seventh chords showed a strong influence of European folk songs and classical tonality brought by European immigrants in their religious and secular music. Melodically, the combination of African influence "blue notes" and European diatonic and chromatic scales was the ultimate expression of two widely divergent cultures mixed together into something brand new and historically unique.

A Brief History of Blues Artists

By the beginning of the 20th century this mixture of cultures had resulted in a unique and distinctive American style of music, and it was called the blues. In 1908, a song by the name of "I Got the Blues" by Anthony Maggio was published. Although the song was actually more of ragtime two-step for piano than a blues, it is still notable for the use of the word "blues" in the title. In 1912, "Dallas Blues" by Hart Wand became the first copyrighted blues composition.

Also in 1912, W. C. Handy's "Memphis Blues," a blues composition, was published and made available for sale in Memphis, Tennessee.

"Folks I've just been down, down to Memphis town,
That's where the people smile, smile on you all the while.
Hospitality, they were good to me.
I couldn't spend a dime, and had the grandest time."
- W. C. Handy's "The Memphis Blues"

William Christopher Handy, a black man, brass band leader, and choral director, was already an accomplished musician and singer when he first heard rural folk blues. Legend has it that while traveling in Mississippi in 1903, he heard another black man play a simple repeated pattern on a guitar while singing a repeated lament, "I'm goin' where the chilly wind don't blow." Inspired by this encounter, Handy wrote songs influenced by this style, expanded on it, putting it in a formal written notation for the first time.

From these beginnings the music known as blues spread quickly up the Mississippi river to St Louis, then to Chicago, then across the East Coast, and eventually influencing musicians in New York.

The lyrics of early blues songs was often a single line repeated three or four times. It was typically a lament in which the singer expressed his desire to be rid of whatever his troubles were. Eventually the most common AAB pattern evolved into the standard blues form for lyrics. In this form a line would be repeated twice, then a third joining line would provide the conclusion. W. C. Handy wrote that he used this AAB form intentionally in order to avoid the monotony of the same lines repeated with no variation. Often, early blues music was played on horns in brass bands, or sung accompanied by pianos and organs in dance halls and churches. But a single player on guitar has become an iconic way of performing blues music. This is the result of several factors. The guitar is easy to transport and easily tunable. The singer is able to effectively and efficiently accompany himself without needing to consult or collaborate with anyone else. It also makes for a very powerful, intimate performance.

Many of the earliest blues artists were guitarists that performed as solo acts or fronted an ensemble that clearly took a back seat as the focus of attention.

Among the earliest blues musicians were Blind Lemon Jefferson. His song "Rising High Water Blues" is a narrative about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. This is a classic example of the blues song as a lament over troubles and tribulations, a tale of suffering through hard times.

"Backwater rising, Southern peoples can't make no time,
I said, backwater rising, Southern peoples can't make no time.
And I can't get no hearing from that Memphis girl of mine."
- Blind Lemon Jefferson "Rising High Water"

The blues was also used in a humorous way to tell comic narratives. For example, Hudson Whittaker, known as "Tampa Red," had a bawdy humorous style that was called "hokum." His song "It's Tight Like That" is a representative example of his work.

"Listen here, folks. I'm gonna sing a little song,
But you mustn't get mad. I don't mean no wrong.
There's an old maid name is Liza Beck(?)
Always singin' the blues when she tumbles in bed.
Oh, it's tight like that.
Oh, it's tight like that.
Hear me talkin' to you.
I mean it's tight like that."
- Tampa Red "It's Tight Like That"

Tampa Red in turn influenced many other younger blues musicians with his songwriting style and slide guitar playing. Among those he influenced are classic blues musicians such as Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Mose Allison.

In 1928 Tampa Red was the first black musician to play a National steel-bodied resonator guitar, the loudest and showiest guitar available before amplification, acquiring one in the first year they were available. This particular guitar was instrumental in the development of his influential style that incorporated slide and single string runs instead of chording patterns as an accompaniment. This was a huge influence on later players as the blues evolved and often the guitarists added extended soloing to each of their performances.

For his skills with the gold colored National steel guitar, Tampa Red was known as "The Man with the Gold Guitar," and he was sometimes billed as "The Guitar Wizard."

"Ma" Rainey, born Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett, was one of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first to be recorded. Ma Rainey was so successful and influential her nickname was The Mother of the Blues.

Rainey started performing at the young age of 12. She was known for her powerful, expressive voice, an energetic personality and highly individual vocal stylings. Her style of ‘moaning’ the blues was extremely influential.

Also notable was Bessie Smith, whose vocal style was extremely influential on countless later blues singers. Smith was nicknamed The Empress of The Blues. She also performed with Louis Armstrong, and as a result, has been regarded as a jazz singer as well as blues.

Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Willie Johnson are examples of early blues artists whose song lyrics clearly belong to the spirituals of the blues influenced religious hymnals. Both were guitarists with a highly developed individual sense of musical style. Both men achieved an advanced playing style that incorporated bass motion, chord figures, and melody much like the ragtime piano that they used as influence and inspiration.

"I'm gonna run through the streets of the city,
where my Lord have gone on before.
I'm gonna sit down on the banks of the river,
I won't be back no more"
- Gary Davis "Gonna Sit Down On The Banks Of The River"

"Nobody's fault but mine,
Nobody's fault but mine
If I don't read it my soul be lost
I have a bible in my home,
I have a bible in my home
If I don't read it my soul be lost"
- Blind Willie Johnson "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine

Charley Patton (died April 28, 1934), also known as Charlie Patton, was one of the earliest American Delta blues singer-guitarists to be widely known and recorded. He is considered by many to be the "Father of the Delta Blues." Patton grew up and performed around the Dockery Plantation sawmill and cotton farm near Ruleville, Mississippi. It was here he developed his singular acoustic blues bottleneck slide and picking style to accompany his loud vocal blues lyrics.

"I say I'm just like a rattlesnake baby, I say in the middle of his coil
I say I'm just like a rattlesnake baby, I say in the middle of his coil
I ain't going to have no hard time, mama rolling through this world"
- Charley Patton "Rattlesnake Blues"

Patton influenced another young blues musician at Dockery by the name of Robert Johnson. Johnson is one of the most iconic early blues guitarists. His life story is the stuff of legend and contains as much myth and truth. Johnson spent most of his short 27 years in the Deep South performing on street corners, juke joints, and rural dance halls. He had virtually no large scale recognition or professional success. However, he recorded in 1936 and 1937 in a hotel room, where he performed a set of blues songs that have become legendary. These recordings reveal a singer-guitarist with a well-developed, distinctive combination of phrasing, playing, and songwriting that influenced countless generations of blues musicians. Because Johnson's life was so short and undocumented but his talent so large, the result has been a Faustian myth that he sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads to achieve such skills in such a short time.

"I got to keep moving, I got to keep moving
Blues falling down like hail, blues falling down like hail
Mmm, blues falling down like hail, blues falling down like hail
And the day keeps on remindin' me, there's a hellhound on my trail
Hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail."
- Robert Johnson "Hellhound On My Trail"

Also, of great note in the list of early blues musicians that were singers as well as guitarists are Sam John "Lightnin'" Hopkins, Huddie William "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. All these artists have been highly influential to later generations of blues musicians and artists. Another pair of early blues singer-guitarists influenced by Patton achieved much more professional success than their mentor: John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf. Another artist born as McKinley Morganfield became one of the most successful and well-known of his style under the nickname Muddy Waters.

Hooker, Wolf, and Waters were among the first generation of singer-guitarists that were directly influenced by the older Delta, acoustic blues musicians. But this trio traveled beyond the South. They went up the Mississippi River to the larger cities to perform, record, and eventually become widely known as blues musicians to the general public. These new playing and performing situations also led to them to transition from acoustic to electric guitars.

"Boom, boom, boom, boom
I'm gonna shoot you right down
Right off your feet
Take you home with me
Put you in my house
- John Lee Hooker - "Boom Boom"
"I have a little red rooster
Too lazy to crow for day
I have a little red rooster
Too lazy to crow for day
Keep everything in the barnyard
Upset in every way"
- Howlin' Wolf "The Red Rooster"

"Baby, please don't go
Baby, please don't go
Baby, please don't go, down to New Orleans
You know I love you so
Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
I get you way'd out here, and let you walk alone"
- Muddy Waters "Baby Please Don't Go"

Women blues musicians were more often singers and featured performers. But they were represented among the early blues guitarists by Lizzie Douglas who became well-known as Memphis Minnie. She became known for her accomplished, impressive guitar style. She recorded over 200 songs and her performances were respected as professional and stylish.

"Won't you see my chauffeur
Won't you see my chauffeur
I want him to drive me
I want him to drive me downtown
For he drives so easy, that I can't turn him down"
- Memphis Minnie "Me and My Chauffeur Blues"

As blues musicians made their way from the South to the cities across America, there was again a cross-cultural mixing of influences as artists from different regions encountered each other and their diverse styles from the far flung corners of the States. There were soon almost as many different styles as there were individual artists.

After World War II, the increasing urbanization and electrification of the country lead to more musical developments. The Big Band Era had an influence on the evolution of the blues. In the 1940s, the jump blues style developed. Jump blues evolved from the basic boogie woogie blues beat but was strongly influenced by big band music. It had jazz aspects as the horns, saxophones, trumpets, and trombones took the melodic lead with the guitar in the rhythm section. T-Bone Walker was one of many blues guitarists to find success in the new jump blues genre.

"Let your hair down baby
Let's have a natural ball
Let your hair down baby
Let's have a natural ball
Cause when you're not happy
It ain't no fun at all."

- T-Bone Walker "T-Bone Shuffle"

These artists were part of what came to be known as the Second Great Migration. A great boom in economic activity that followed the austerity of World War II saw a massive migration of the African American population, the Second Great Migration, which caused an increase of the income among the urban black population. There was a brand new market for blues music and these artists were willing and able to supply that demand.

The new styles of electrified blues became popular in major cities in the American Midwest: Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and St. Louis. Each city had its own blues artists. And the artists started regularly traveling the country. Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters were among those leading the way in bringing blues from the Mississippi Delta to the North. Also among these artists were Willie Dixon, Elmore James, and Jimmy Reed, who were also born in Mississippi and moved to Chicago during the Great Migration. Bassist and composer Willie Dixon wrote many blues songs that would become standards of the genre and widely covered by his peers and later artists.

"When everybody's tryin' to sleep
I'm somewhere making my midnight creep
Yes, in the morning when the rooster crow
Something tell me I got to go
I am a back door man
I am, a back door man
Well the men don't know, but little girls understand"
- Willie Dixon "Back Door Man"

Elmore James was known as King of the Slide Guitar, but he was also noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice.

"Shake your moneymaker
Shake your moneymaker
You got to shake your moneymaker, yeah
Shake your moneymaker
You got to shake your moneymaker
And then ...
I got a gal that lives up on a hill
I got a gal that lives up on a hill
Says she'll let me roll her
But I don't believe she will"
- Elmore James "Shake Your Moneymaker"

Jimmy Reed had a rollicking, lively style of playing, singing and writing. Reed had an enormous influence on early rock and roll artists such as Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and Billy Gibbons.

"Bright light, big city, gone to my baby's head
Whoa, bright light, an'big city, gone to my baby's head
I tried to tell the woman, but she don't believe a word I said
It's all right, pretty baby, (gonna) need my help someday
Whoa, it's all right, pretty baby, gonna need my help someday
Ya' gonna wish you had a-listened, to some a-those things I said"
- Jimmy Reed "Bright Lights, Big City"

These 1950s blues artists all had a huge influence on mainstream American popular music. Some black artists like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry were influenced by the Chicago blues, but their individual styles were significantly different from the earlier blues. They were more upbeat, energetic. Their lyrics were lighter and less serious than the hard life trials and tribulations of the original blues. But they were considered electric blues singer-guitarists and achieved considerable success and lasting influence in their own right.

"Now when I was a little boy
At the age of five
I had somethin' in my pocket
Keep a lot of folks alive
Now I'm a man
Made twenty-one
You know baby
We can have a lot of fun
I'm a man
I spell M-A-N, man"
- Bo Diddley "I'm A Man""

"Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
Who never ever learned to read or write so well
But he could play the guitar just like a ringing a bell
Go go!
Go Johnny go!"
- Chuck Berry "Johnny B. Goode"

Many early rock and roll songs are based on blues: "That's All Right Mama," "Johnny B. Goode," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On," "Shake, Rattle, and Roll," and "Long Tall Sally." Artists such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis all used the driving, swinging rhythms of blues, the ornamental blue notes that flavored melodies, and the lyrical sexual themes and innuendos of blues music.

Aside from this pop and early rock influence, however, there was another generation of up and coming blues artists that were committed to keeping the old flame alive. They became known as the Three Kings: B. B., Freddie and Albert.

B. B. King's soloing technique and near life-long relentless performing schedule earned him the eponymous title King of the Blues. His singing was just as widely regarded.

"Everybody wants to know
Why I sing the blues
Yes, I say everybody wanna know
Why I sing the blues
Well, I've been around a long time
I really have paid my dues"
- B. B. King "Why I Sing The Blues"

Albert King was famed for his powerful string-bending style as well as for his soulful singing, which earned him the nickname The Velvet Bulldozer. His playing style was an enormous influence on many later blues guitarists that used wide, expressive string bending vibrato.

"Born under a bad sign.
I've been down since I began to crawl.
If it wasn't for bad luck,
I wouldn't have no luck at all."
- Albert King "Born Under A Bad Sign"

Freddie King based his guitar style on Texas and Chicago blues influences and was one of the first bluesmen to have a multi-racial backing band at live performances. His live performances were legendary and, along with his playing style and personality, he had a long lasting influence on future generations of blues guitarists.

"Well, I'm tore down
I'm almost level with the ground
Well, I'm tore down
I'm almost level with the ground
Well, I feel like this
When my baby can't be found."
- Freddie King "I'm Tore Down"

Also during the 1950s, a new blues style emerged on Chicago's West Side, along those artists were guitarists Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. Their bands provided strong accompaniment for their stinging lead electric guitar soloing. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, rock and roll and rhythm and blues genres formed the bulk of mainstream popular music. While blues (along with rockabilly, country, swing, and jazz) had directly influenced this popular music, blues as a popular genre had moved to the background of the market for music. Some blues artists sought and found new markets for their performances and recordings in Europe. Many blues festivals in Europe fostered the enjoyment of blues music on the international level. It was then, in the United Kingdom that many younger artists were exposed to and started to emulate these blues artists. The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Cream, and Irish musician Rory Gallagher performed classic blues songs from the Delta or in the Chicago blues traditions. They were all young United Kingdom musicians that started their careers by emulating their favorite blues musicians.

The blues musicians and these British musicians and bands they influenced in turn inspired many American musicians to use blues and mix it with pop and rock and roll genres into a blues-rock fusion style throughout the late 1960s and well into the 1970s. Popular rock bands such as the The Doors, Canned Heat, Janis Joplin, Ry Cooder, and The Allman Brothers Band all had strong blues influences in their music. All these and many other musicians and bands covered the songs of older blues artists. They mixed the blues style in their own compositions, up to and including writing out right blues songs of their own. The most legendary of the blues influenced 1960s rock guitarists started their careers by performing blues style music. Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton were the vanguard of this wave of British guitarists. Jimi Hendrix was viewed as an oddity, being a black man playing loud rock music. What was not immediately appreciated was that his playing and writing was deeply influenced by the blues he played while paying his dues in the American South Chittlin' touring circuit as a guitarist sideman in many backing bands for popular singers of the day. Clapton started by playing out right electric blues in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds. After forming his own power trio rock band, Cream, he continued to forge his own style of rock heavily influenced by old blues musicians, even covering songs (for example, "Crossroads") by his hero Robert Johnson in his rock bands.

"There's a red house over yonder,
That's where my baby lives
There's a red house over yonder,
That's where my baby lives
I ain't been home to see my baby,
for ninety-nine and one half days"
- Jimi Hendrix "Red House"

"Early this morning
When you knocked upon my door
Early this morning, ooh
When you knocked upon my door
And I said "hello Satan
I believe it's time to go"

- Eric Clapton covering Robert Johnson's "Me And The Devil Blues"

After Clapton left the Yardbirds, two of his British peers also played guitar in The Yardbirds, and became legends in their own right: Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Both musicians had strong blues based influences but used them to craft highly individualized rock styled playing, performing, and song writing. Jimmy Page eventually formed Led Zeppelin, one of the most famous of the British rock bands. Zeppelin covered many old blues songs, wrote their own blues songs and used the blues as a strong influence in their own songs and performances.

"I can't quit you, baby,
So I'm gonna put you down for awhile
I can't quit you, baby,
So I'm gonna put you down for awhile
I said you messed up my happy home,
Made me mistreat my only child."
- Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin covering Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You Baby"

"Ain't superstitious
Black cat crossed my trail
I ain't superstitious
But a black cat crossed my trail
Bad luck ain't got me so far
And I won't let it stop me now
The dogs begin to bark
All over my neighborhood and that ain't all
Dogs begin to bark
All over my neighborhood"
- Jeff Beck covering Willie Dixon's "I Ain't Superstitious"

In the 1970s and into the 1980s Texas rock-blues style emerged, and was strongly influenced by the British rock-blues movement. Some of the more well- known guitarists of the Texas blues-rock style are Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and ZZ Top.

Johnny Winter had been playing and performing since the late 1960s, but finally during the 70s began to emerge in mainstream music as a fierce live performer with a well-developed rhythm and lead playing style firmly grounded in the blues. His vocal delivery was also heavily blues based.

"Rock me baby, rock me all night long
Rock me baby, honey, rock me all night long
I want you to rock me,
Like my back ain't got no bones."
- Johnny Winter covering B. B. King's "Rock Me Baby

Stevie Ray Vaughan didn't achieve mainstream visibility until his 1983 breakthrough album "Texas Flood." But he had been performing, honing his considerable skills and paying his dues since the 70s. His mainstream success led to a new generation of young musicians and audiences to the blues. Vaughan's singing and playing style is very much in the same vein as his fellow Texan predecessor, Winter, fierce, over the top, a complete master of the blues form in rhythm and lead guitar playing.

"People talkin' but they just don't know
What's in my heart and why I love you so
I love you baby like a miner loves gold
Come on baby, let the good times roll"
- Stevie Ray Vaughan covering Earl King's "Come On"

ZZ Top formed in the late 60s and paid their dues as a bar band playing old blues tunes in their power trio rock format. Throughout the 70s they gradually gained popularity and success on the strength of their live performances and their original tunes and blues covers. Their originals, as well as their blues covers, were the epitome of the blues-rock fusion style. Every tune was firmly grounded in both styles, the result being a reputation as a hard rocking blues band.

"I been up, I been down
Take my word, my way around.
I ain't askin' for much
I said, Lord, take me downtown,
I'm just lookin' for some tush.
- Billy Gibbons with ZZ Top "Tush"

During the 1980s, blues continued in both traditional and new forms. In 1986, Robert Cray emerged with his album "Strong Persuader" showing a well-developed blues singer-guitarist. There were also many blues revivals with older blues artists gaining new visibility and success.

In the new millennium, from 2001 forward, blues rock gained a cultural following especially as popularity of the internet increased and artists started creating YouTube channels, forums, and Facebook pages. Many notable blues rock musicians in this time period have found critical and commercial success: Warren Haynes, Gary Clark Jr., Derek Trucks, Jason Ricci, Eric Gales, Susan Tedeschi, Joe Bonamassa, and Johnny Lang.

Some newer pop rock artists and bands are looking back to the original old Delta blues for inspiration. Bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys are heavily influenced by all forms of blues but especially old, primitive Delta blues.

This essay is by no means an exhaustive list of blues artists, musicians, and guitarists. There are many other notable blues musicians to be discovered by the avid listener with more research.

Written by Christopher Schlegel

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blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel

Christopher: Major Notes in Minor Pentatonic

info title style difficulty instructor
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel

Christopher: Rhythm And Blues Style

info title style difficulty instructor
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel
blues Christopher Schlegel Christopher Schlegel

Doug: Blues

info title style difficulty instructor
blues Doug Fearman Doug Fearman
blues Doug Fearman Doug Fearman
blues Doug Fearman Doug Fearman
blues Doug Fearman Doug Fearman
blues Doug Fearman Doug Fearman

Doug: Southern Rock

info title style difficulty instructor
blues Doug Fearman Doug Fearman
blues Doug Fearman Doug Fearman

Hanspeter: Blues

info title style difficulty instructor
blues Hanspeter Kruesi Hanspeter Kruesi
blues Hanspeter Kruesi Hanspeter Kruesi
blues Hanspeter Kruesi Hanspeter Kruesi
blues Hanspeter Kruesi Hanspeter Kruesi
blues Hanspeter Kruesi Hanspeter Kruesi
blues Hanspeter Kruesi Hanspeter Kruesi
blues Hanspeter Kruesi Hanspeter Kruesi
blues Hanspeter Kruesi Hanspeter Kruesi

Neal: Channel Episodes

info title style difficulty instructor
blues Neal Walter Neal Walter
blues Neal Walter Neal Walter
blues Neal Walter Neal Walter

Nick: Blues Improvisation

info title style difficulty instructor
blues Nick Marchant Nick Marchant
blues Nick Marchant Nick Marchant
blues Nick Marchant Nick Marchant

Blues Topics

info title style difficulty instructor
blues Anders Mouridsen Anders Mouridsen
blues Douglas Showalter Douglas Showalter
blues Lisa McCormick Lisa McCormick
blues Ron Sayer Ron Sayer
blues Anders Mouridsen Anders Mouridsen
blues Andy Gurley Andy Gurley
blues Anders Mouridsen Anders Mouridsen
blues Ry Kihn Ry Kihn
blues Doug Fearman Doug Fearman
blues Andy Gurley Andy Gurley
blues Ben Lindholm Ben Lindholm