Blues or Rock Which is it?

Mike Curtis ironmanc@JUNO.COM
Thu Jul 17 08:07:14 EDT 1997

On Wed, 16 Jul 1997 18:34:25 -0400 (EDT) writes:
>In a message dated 97-07-16 17:24:09 EDT, (Mike
><< Blues isn't classical music, fixed in form and preserved in
> for posterior - I mean - posterity.  It's dynamic, changing, evolving.
> It started off way back in one form, and each new original artist
> expanded it.  Same for rock and roll.
>          -I think that, if a musician wanders from the roots of the
>he or she is no longer playing blues, and should come up with a new name
>what he or she is playing. By your reasoning, what we all call jazz is

Well, some jazz IS blues.  Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith, Hank Crawford all
play what is commonly considered to be jazz because it's instrumental,
but the form is pure blues.  Coltranes Equinox is a blues.  charlie
Parkers Ornithology is not.

>I have played both music forms, and I get offended when somebody calls a
>band tune blues.

Why? There's nothing to be offended about.  Be glad that someone cares
enough about your music to call it anything :-)

>  Muddy Waters is blues, Count Basie is not. Johnny Winter
>plays rock n' roll, however, he has played with Muddy and can
>between these two forms of music. Maybe we should ask Johnny Winter
>where to draw the line!

Count Basie is considered blues by some (many?) qualified people, even
though he used a big band.  Joe Williams is recognized as a blues singer
by everyone I've bothered to ask or discuss it with (which isn't a whole

Most knowledgeable people also put Johnnie Winter as Texas Blues.  But if
he's not, then would you consider Stevie Ray Vaughan rock as well?  And
if not, then what about Hendrix?  Where do we draw the line?  Can someone
be "blues" yet play some non blues material?  And if this is the case
(not blues artist because they play a few non blues tunes), then what do
we call the blues style music they play most of the time?  While I
wouldn't try to argue that Purple Haze is blues, I don't see how Red
House could possibly be considered anything else.

I'll bet this same debate ensued when Muddy came out, playing different
than his predecessors, and when Little Walter cut JUKE, a definite
departure from the blues of times past.  We don't hear much about this
(hypothetical) debate today.

We can learn from this - a few generations from now, who will remember
these quaint little debates?  They can be amusing, but they never
accomplish anything.  We're better off making music than trying to
pigeonhole it - and it's easier on the pigeons, too :-)

There is a most harmful side in having a very narrow and strict
definition of what is blues.  The stuff you specifically mentioned, most
people think is just old junk.  If they don't like these few similar
artists, then they don't like blues, and that hurts our marketplace.  By
accepting a broader spectrum as "blues", we gain these additional artists
- and their FANS.  Because they're now "blues fans", theey're inherently
more receptive to other blues artists.  True, calling Hendrix or SRV
"blues" isn't going to instantly make ALL of theeir fans appreciate
Robert Johnson, but it's a whole lot more likely to eventually happen as
long as we keep them as "blues fans" than if we chase them away with a
cackle and broomstick.

A lot of places are wary about hiring a "blues act" around here  in Los
Angeles (e.g. "We had blues for a while - we died big time"), yet when I
audition and don't mention blues (or include it with a whole bunch of
other styles like oldies, classic rock, etc.), I typically get hired -
and one of the most common compliments I get from the audience and
management is "I REALLY like your blues".  And I do play mostly blues, or
tunes arranged as blues or close to it.  It's not that I feel a
compulsion to do so.  It's simply that that's how it comes out :-)

 -- IronMan Mike Curtis
The One Man "Better'n A" Band
Electric harmonica, guitar, bass pedals, vocals
Cassette available - Email for details

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