Chicago Blues

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The Chicago Blues is a subgenre of Blues music indigenous to Chicago, Illinois.

Typical instruments would be;-

  • Electric Guitar
  • Harmonica
  • Drums
  • Piano
  • Bass Guitar
  • Saxophone

Chicago Blues would be seen as an influence over - Blues, Rock n Roll, Rock, and Rhythm and Blues.

Early Times

It would be thought of a type of "Urban Blues". Urban Blues evolved from classic Blues as a result of the great depression and developed in the first half of the twentieth century during the Great Migration, when Black workers moved from the Southern United States into the industrial cities of the Northern United States such as Chicago.

Urban Blues started in Chicago and St. Louis, as music created by part-time musicians playing as street musicians, at rent parties, and other events within the black community. For example, bottleneck guitarist Kokomo Arnold was a steelworker and had a moonshine business that was far more profitable than his music.

One of the most important early incubators for Chicago Blues was the open air market on Maxwell street. The Maxwell street market was one of the largest open air markets in the nation. Residents of the black community would frequent it to buy and sell just about anything. It was a natural location for Blues musicians to perform. The standard path for Blues musicians was to start out as street musicians and at house parties and to eventually make their way to Blues clubs. The first Blues clubs in Chicago were mostly in predominantly black neighborhoods on the South Side with a few in the smaller black neighborhoods on the West Side. One of the most famous was Ruby Lee Gatewood's Tavern, known by patrons as "The Gates". During the 1930s virtually every big name artist played there.

What drove the Blues to international influence was the promotion of record companies such as Paramount Records, RCA Victor, and Columbia Records. Through such record companies Chicago Blues became a commercial enterprise. The new style of music eventually reached Europe and the United Kingdom.

In the 1960s, young British musicians were highly influenced by Chicago Blues resulting in the British Blues movement.

Its Influence

  1. Chicago Blues was one of the most significant influences on modern Rock music.
  2. Chuck Berry originally signed with Chess records—one of the most significant Chicago Blues record labels. Chuck Berry met and was influenced by Muddy Waters in Chicago and Waters suggested he audition for Chess.
  3. Willie Dixon and other Blues musicians played on some of Chuck Berry's early recordings.
  4. Although The Beatles were not significantly influenced by Chicago Blues music, later British invasion bands and artists such as The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and Rory Gallagher were all influenced by Chicago Blues musicians such as Big Bill Broonzy, Son House, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf.
  5. We can't forget the influence upon the classic 1980 movie The Blues Brothers

Some Artists

Well-known Chicago Blues players include;-

Singer/Songwriters like

Guitarists like

  • Freddie King
  • Otis Rush
  • Luther Allison
  • Syl Johnson
  • Jimmy Rogers
  • Buddy Guy
  • Robert Lockwood Jr.
  • Bo Diddley
  • Homesick James
  • Floyd Jones,
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Elmore James

Harmonica players like

  • Big Walter Horton
  • Little Walter
  • Billy Boy Arnold
  • Charlie Musselwhite
  • Junior Wells
  • Billy Branch
  • James Cotton
  • Jimmy Reed

Keyboardists like

  • Otis Spann
  • Lafayette Leake
  • Blind John Davis
  • Erwin Helfer