Rhythm and Blues

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Rhythm and Blues is a popular music genre combining Jazz, Gospel, and traditional Blues influences, it is possibly the start to everything we know today as Rock and has played a big hand in the production of Heavy Metal and all sub genres generated by these two genres. Rhythm and Blues should not be confused with R 'n' B a very different form of music, which generally means "Rhymes and Beats".

Jerry Wexler of Billboard magazine coined the term rhythm and blues in 1948 as a musical marketing term in the United States, replacing the title “race music”, which originally came from within the Black American community but was deemed offensive in the postwar world.

One of the main originators of this style would have to be Robert Johnson, a huge influence, cited by many Rock and Rhythm and Blues artists.

Early Days

The 1920s/1930s saw a large migration of African Americans to the urban industrial centers of Chicago, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles and other similar parts of the USA, this built a new market for Jazz, early sounds of Blues, and similar styles of music.
These Jazz and Blues inspired precursors of Rhythm and Blues were the likes of such musicians as The Harlem Hamfats, with their 1936 hit "Oh Red", as well as Lonnie Johnson, Leroy Carr, Cab Calloway, and T-Bone Walker.
There was also increasing emphasis on the electric guitar as a lead instrument, as well as the piano and saxophone.

Into the 1940s

In the late 1940s, RCA Victor were marketing African American music under the name "Blues and Rhythm", later that year, Louis Jordan dominated the top five listings of the R&B charts with three songs, and two of the top five songs were based on the Boogie Woogie rhythms that had come to prominence during the 1940s. Jordan's cool music, along with the likes of Big Joe Turner, Billy Wright, and Wynonie Harris, is now also referred to as "Jump Blues".
Wynonie Harris' remake of Brown's 1947 recording "Good Rockin' Tonight" hit the charts in the #2 spot, following band leader Sonny Thompson's "Long Gone" at #1.
In 1949, the term "Rhythm and Blues" replaced the Billboard category "Harlem Hit Parade". Also in that year, "The Huckle-Buck", recorded by band leader and saxophonist Paul Williams, was the #1 Rhythm and Blues tune, remaining on top of the charts for nearly the entire year, the song was described as a "dirty boogie" because it was risque and raunchy. The concerts for a lot of these artists were sweaty riotous affairs that got shut down on a number of occasions. Their lyrics were often mildly sexually suggestive.
Also in 1949, a new version of a 1920s blues song, "Ain't Nobody's Business" was a #4 hit for Jimmy Witherspoon, and Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five once again made the top 5 with "Saturday Night Fish Fry". Many of these hit records were issued on new independent record labels, such as Savoy (founded 1942), King (founded 1943), Imperial (founded 1945), Specialty (founded 1946), the legend os a label that was Chess (founded 1947), and the absolute classic, Atlantic Soul (founded 1948)

The early 1950s

Johnny Otis, an artist who had signed with the New Jersey-based Savoy Records, came out with a number of hits in 1951.
The Clovers, a vocal trio who sang a distinctive sounding combination of blues and gospel, had the #5 hit of the year with "Don't You Know I Love You" on Atlantic Soul Records.
1951 also saw, Cleveland, Ohio DJ Alan Freed kicking off a late-night radio show called "The Moondog Rock Roll House Party" on WJW (850 AM). Freed's show was sponsored by Fred Mintz, whose Rhythm and Blues based record store had a primarily African American clientele. Freed began referring to the Rhythm and Blues music he played as "Rock n Roll". In 1951, Little Richard Penniman began recording for RCA Records in the jump blues style of late 1940s stars. However, it wasn't until he prepared a demo in 1954, that caught the attention of Specialty Records, that the world would start to hear his new, uptempo, rhythm and blues that would catapult him to fame in 1955 and help define the sound of Rock n Roll. A rapid succession of Rhythm and Blues hits followed, beginning with "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally", which would influence performers such as James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Otis Redding.
Ruth Brown on the Atlantic Soul label, placed hits in the top 5 every year from 1951 through 1954, an impressive track record.
In 1953, the Rhythm and Blues record-buying public made Willie Mae Thornton's original recording of Leiber and Stoller's "Hound Dog" the #3 hit that year.
That same year The Orioles, a doo-wop group, had the #4 hit of the year with "Crying in the Chapel".
Fats Domino made the top 30 of the popular music charts in 1952 and 1953, then the top 10 with "Ain't That a Shame".
Ray Charles came to national prominence in 1955 with "I Got a Woman". Big Bill Broonzy said of Charles' music: "He's mixing the blues with the spirituals... I know that's wrong."
In 1954 The Chords' "Sh-Boom" became the first hit to cross over from the R&B chart to hit the top 10 early in the year.
Late in the year, and into 1955, "Hearts of Stone" by The Charms made the top 20.
At Chess Records in the spring of 1955, Bo Diddley's debut record "Bo Diddley"/"I'm A Man" climbed to #2 on the Rhythm and Blues charts and popularised Bo Diddley's own original Rhythm and Blues clave-based vamp that would become a mainstay in Rock n Roll.
At the urging of Leonard Chess at Chess Records, Chuck Berry had reworked a Country fiddle tune with a long history, entitled "Ida Red". The resulting "Maybellene" was not only a #3 hit on the Rhythm and Blues charts in 1955, but also reached into the top 30 on the pop charts.
Alan Freed, who had moved to the much larger market of New York City in 1954, helped the record become popular with white teenagers. Freed had been given part of the writers' credit by Chess in return for his promotional activities; a common practice at the time.

The late 1950s

In 1956, an R&B "Top Stars of '56" tour took place, with headliners Al Hibbler, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and Carl Perkins, whose "Blue Suede Shoes" was very popular with R&B music buyers. Some of the performers completing the bill were Chuck Berry, Cathy Carr.
In Columbia the concert ended with a near riot as Perkins began his first song as the closing act. Perkins is quoted as saying, "It was dangerous. Lot of kids got hurt. There was a lot of rioting going on, just crazy, man! The music drove 'em insane."
In Annapolis 10's of thousands of people tried to attend a sold out performance with 8,000 seats. Roads were clogged for seven hours.
Film makers took advantage of the popularity of "Rhythm and Blues" musicians as "Rock n Roll" musicians beginning in 1956. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner, The Treniers, The Platters, plus others all made it onto the big screen.
Two Elvis Presley records made the R&B top five in 1957: "Jailhouse Rock"/"Treat Me Nice" at #1, and "All Shook Up" at #5, an unprecedented acceptance of a non-African American artist into a music category known for being created by the African American community.
Nat King Cole, a former Jazz pianist who had had #1 and #2 hits on the pop charts in the early 1950s ("Mona Lisa" at #2 in 1950 and "Too Young" at #1 in 1951), had a record in the top 5 in the R&B charts in 1958, "Looking Back"/"Do I Like It".
In 1959, two African American owned record labels appeared, one of which would become hugely successful, made their debut: Sam Cooke's Sar, and Berry Gordy's Motown Records.
Brook Benton was at the top of the R&B charts in 1959 and 1960 with one #1 and two #2 hits. Benton had a certain warmth in his voice that attracted a wide variety of listeners, and his ballads led to comparisons with performers such as Cole, Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Lloyd Price, who in 1952 had a #1 hit with "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" regained predominance with a version of "Stagger Lee" at #1 and "Personality" at #5 for in 1959.

Later Years

By the early 1960s, the music industry category previously known as Rhythm and Blues was being called Soul music, and similar music by white artists was labeled blue eyed soul. Motown Records had its first million-selling single in 1960 with The Miracles' "Shop Around", and in 1961, Stax Records had its first hit with Carla Thomas' "Gee Whiz! (Look at His Eyes)". Stax's next major hit, the Mar-Keys' instrumental "Last Night" (also released in 1961) introduced the rawer Memphis soul sound for which Stax became known.
In Jamaica, R&B influenced the development of Ska. By the 1970s, the term Rhythm and Blues was being used as a blanket term for Soul, Funk, and Disco.
Around the same time, earlier R&B was an influence on British Pub Rock and later, the Mod revival. Also, this was about the time that the term R&B was split into two different directions, one direction kept at least a flavour of the original Rhythm and Blues sound and the other direction took more inspration from the sounds of Disco, Funk and Soul and as time went on, the R 'n' B that took that direction, became known as "Rhymes and Beats", this version of R 'n' B also took some inspiration from Blaxploitation Music.

Now the term R&B, or R 'n' B is almost always used instead of the full Rhythm and Blues, or Rhymes and Beats and mainstream use of the term usually refers to contemporary R 'n' B, which is a newer version of Soul and Funk-influenced Pop music that originated as Disco faded from popularity.

The more traditional sound of R&B, went on to also grow in popularity, influencing more Rock sounding artists throughout the late 1960s and onwards, let's take the thought, that Led Zeppelin would be very different without this Rhythm and Blues influence, and we all know that the world of modern Rock would be very different without their influence, so it would be easy to come to the conclusion, that all music, whether Rock, Pop, R 'n' B, or even Punk, plus more genres than it is possible to list, have all grown from the same route.

Some Bands & Artists

There could be a large amount of crossover between the bands and artists mentioned on the Rock and the Blues pages, as well as other pages, but there is a large amount of crossover between these genres.


Albert Collins

Albert King

The Allman Brothers Band

Al Hibbler


Bad Company

Bessie Smith

Big Bill Broonzy

Big Joe Turner

Big Mama Thornton

Billie Holiday

Billy Wright

The Black Crows

Black Stone Cherry

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Blind Willie Johnson

Blind Willie McTell

Bo Diddley

Bobby Bland

Brook Benton

Buddy Guy



Cathy Carr

Cab Calloway

Charlie Patton

Chuck Berry

The Clovers



The Doors

Dr. Feelgood


Elmore James

Eric Clapton

Etta James


Fats Domino

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

Freddie King


George Thorogood and the Destroyers


The Harlem Hamfats

Howlin' Wolf

Huddie William Ledbetter


James Brown

Jeff Healey

Jimi Hendrix

Jimmy Reed

John Lee Hooker

Johnny Otis

Johnny Winter

Junior Wells


Jimmy Witherspoon

Joe Bonamassa

John Mayall

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers



Led Zeppelin

Leroy Carr

Lightnin' Hopkins

Little Richard

Little Walter

Lloyd Price

Lonnie Johnson

Louis Jordan


Ma Rainey

Memphis Minnie

Mississippi John Hurt


Nat King Cole


The Orioles

Otis Redding

Otis Rush

Otis Spann


Paul Williams

Peter Green

The Platters


Ray Charles

Robert Cray

Robert Johnson

Rolling Stones

Rory Gallagher



Skip James

Son House

Sonny Boy Williamson I

Sonny Boy Williamson II


Stevie Ray Vaughan


Taj Mahal

T-Bone Walker

Thin Lizzy

The Treniers


The Who

Willie Dixon

Wishbone Ash


Wynonie Harris


ZZ Top