Mudcat Café message #3976569 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157325   Message #3976569
Posted By: Neil D
13-Feb-19 - 05:36 PM
Thread Name: Who started the Delta blues myth?
Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
First of all, I think we sometimes are too narrow in our definition of blues music. I remember having a conversation on the patio of my local watering hole. My friend Joe said "Imagine if the guitar had never been invented. What would we do for blues music?" I said "We'd be playing it on banjos." A guy sitting nearby who had just been onstage singing "Maggie's Farm", chimed in with "There's no banjos in Blues music'" repeating it over and over like some kind of mantra. I could only respond "Well, I know a guy named Gus Cannon who might have something to say about that." You wouldn't think the fife was a blues instrument either, till you heard Otha Turner.

In the same way I wouldn't be too narrow when it comes to where the blues originated. Some people like to see history as specific points in time. These people will tell you that Ike Turner "invented" Rock and Roll or that Buddy Bolden "invented" Jazz. In my mind however, Turner's recording of "Rocket 88" with the Brenston band was the culmination of an evolution over time. Same with Bolden's "Funky Butt." I don't deny the Delta's importance in the development of Blues. It may be the most important springboard for the music's spread and growth into an international popularity, from the '20s on. But as to origins, it seems to pop up simultaneously in many places at approximately the same time: the Tidewater; Northern Missippi hill country; even Southern Indiana. East Texas in particular.

Blues music did indeed evolve from field hands, as well as dockworkers and almost entirely overlooked, black cowboys. East Texas was full of them. As many as one quarter of all cowboys were African-Americans who had a major influence on both blues and country music. Dom Flemons from the Carolina Chocolate Drops recently released an important album called "Black Cowboys" featuring some of this seminal music. Leadbelly himself had been a cowhand in his youth and reflected this in some of his songs. I don't want to overstate this influence, I'm not saying that the first ears to hear Blues music belonged to cattle, bedded down after a day on the trail. I'm just pointing out that the music evolved from many sources in many regions. Someone earlier in the thread mentioned the importance of the railroad in communicating the music from region to region and remember, every cattle drive ended at a railhead.

There are a handful of articles exploring these connections. To read one of the more informative ones type into your search engine: Cowboy Blues: Early Black Music In The West.