Boogie Woogie

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A style of music that became popular during the late 1920s, but developed in African American communities in the 1870s.

It was eventually extended from piano, to piano duo and trio, guitar, Big Band, Country and Western, Ragtime, Gospel, and The Spirituals.

While the blues traditionally expresses a variety of emotions, Boogie Woogie is mainly associated predominantly with dancing.

The lyrics of one of the earliest hits, "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie", consist entirely of instructions to dancers.

This song is believed to date back to December 29, 1928.

"Pinetop's Boogie Woogie Lyrics

Now I want you all to know This is my own boogie woogie, do it like I tell you

Now, when I tell you to hold it, I don't want you to move a thing And when I tell you to get it, I want you to Boogie Woogie

Hold it

Now, Boogie Woogie

When I tell you to hold it this time, I don't want you to move a peg And when I tell you to get it, I want you to mess around Or something

Stop now

Now, mess around

I want that gal with the red dress on, any kind of dress will do, to come over here and stand by this piano Now, when I tell you to hold it, I don't want you to move a muscle And when I tell you to get it, I want you to shake that thing Or something

Hold it

Now, shake that thing


It is characterised by a regular left-hand bass figure, which is transposed specific chord changes.

Boogie Woogie is not strictly a solo piano style; it can accompany singers and be featured in orchestras and small combos. It is sometimes called "eight to the bar", as much of it is written in common time (4/4) time using eighth notes (quavers). The chord progressions are typically based on I – IV – V – I (with many formal variations of it, such as I/i – IV/iv – v/I, as well as chords that lead into these ones).

For the most part, boogie-woogie tunes are Twelve-Bar Blues, although the style has been applied to popular songs such as "Swanee River"

Plus hymns such as "Just a Closer Walk with Thee".

Derivative Forms & Influence

In 1939 Country artists began playing boogie-woogie when Johnny Barfield recorded "Boogie Woogie".

"Cow Cow Boogie" was written for, but not used in, the 1942 movie Ride 'em Cowboy. This song by Benny Carter, Gene DePaul, and Don Raye successfully combined boogie-woogie and Western, or cowboy music.

The lyrics leave no doubt that it was a Western boogie-woogie. It sold over a million records in its original release by Ella Mae Morse and Freddie Slack, and has now been recorded many times.

The trickle of what was initially called hillbilly boogie, or Okie boogie (later to be renamed Country Boogie), became a flood beginning around late 1945. One notable Country Boogie from this period was the Delmore Brothers "Freight Train Boogie", considered to be part of the combined evolution of Country music and Blues towards Rockabilly.

In 1948 Arthur Smith achieved Top 10 US country chart success with his MGM Records recordings of "Guitar Boogie" and "Banjo Boogie", with the former crossing over to the US Pop chart, introducing many people to the potential of the electric guitar.

The hillbilly boogie period lasted into the 1950s, the last recordings of this era were made by Tennessee Ernie Ford with Cliffie Stone and his orchestra with the great guitar duo Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West. Bill Haley and the Saddlemen recorded two boogies in 1951.

The boogie beat continued in Country music through the end of the 20th century. The Charlie Daniels Band (whose earlier tune "The South's Gonna Do It Again" uses boogie-woogie influences)

Released "Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues" in 1988.

Three years later in 1991 Brooks & Dunn had a huge hit with "Boot Scootin' Boogie".

More representative examples can be found in some of the songs of Western swing pioneer Bob Wills, and subsequent tradition-minded Country artists such as Asleep At The Wheel, Merle Haggard, and George Strait.

The popularity of the Carnegie Hall concerts meant work for many of the fellow boogie players and also led to the adaptation of boogie-woogie sounds to many other forms of music. Tommy Dorsey's band had a hit with "T.D.'s Boogie Woogie" as arranged by Sy Oliver and soon there were boogie-woogie songs, recorded and printed, of many different stripes.

Most famously, in the Big Band genre, the ubiquitous "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", which was revamped by Christina Aguilera as her 2006 hit, "Candyman".

In the many styles of Blues, especially Chicago Blues and (more recently) West Coast blues, some pianists and guitarists were influenced by, and employed, the traditional boogie-woogie styles. Some of the earliest and most influential were Big Maceo Merriweather and Sunnyland Slim. Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins, two of the best known Blues pianists, are heavily boogie-woogie influenced, with the latter taking both his name and signature tune from Pinetop Smith.

The boogie-woogie fad lasted from the late 1930s into the early 1950s, and made a major contribution to the development of Jump Blues and ultimately to Rock n Roll, epitomized by Fats Domino, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Louis Jordan is a famous Jump Blues musician. Boogie-woogie is still to be heard in clubs and on records throughout Europe and North America. Big Joe Duskin displayed on his 1979 album, Cincinnati Stomp, a command of Piano Blues and boogie-woogie, which he had absorbed at first hand in the 1940s from Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson.

In Western Classical music, the composer Conlon Nancarrow was also deeply influenced by boogie-woogie, as many of his early works for player piano demonstrate. "A Wonderful Time Up There" is a boogie-woogie gospel song. In 1943, Morton Gould composed Boogie-Woogie Etude for Classical pianist José Iturbi, who premiered and recorded it that year. Povel Ramel's first hit in 1944 was Johanssons boogie-woogie-vals where he mixed boogie-woogie with waltz.

John Lee Hooker took the Boogie-woogie style over to guitar from piano, creating the Boogie song "Boogie Chillen".

21st-century commentators have also noted the characteristics of boogie-woogie in the third variation of the second section of Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32, written between 1821 and 1822.

Boogie Woogie hits the 1970s

Beginning in the 1970s, and continuing to this day, artists such as George Frayne (Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen), keep (mostly) traditional boogie style alive with songs such as "Rock That Boogie", "Too Much Fun", "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar", and others. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Jools Holland has been instrumental in keeping the boogie-woogie tradition alive. Also, multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee experimented with boogie-woogie in his 2006 soundtrack for the game Bully, in the song "Fighting Johnny Vincent".

Hard boogie bands like T.Rex, Status Quo, Foghat, ZZ Top, Suzi Quatro, Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and George Thorogood, were popular in the 1970s.

The Grateful Dead took part in the boogie-woogie rhythmic style as well; they played a dance hall sort of music as they emerged. Over the years there are many examples of them jamming, when they are just playing boogie-woogie.

Internal Links

Big Band





Jump Blues


Urban Blues Story pt1

External Links