Blues or Rock Which is it?

jjperry jjperry@indiana.edu
Thu Jul 17 16:37:16 EDT 1997


On Thu, 17 Jul 1997, Mike Curtis wrote:

> On Wed, 16 Jul 1997 18:34:25 -0400 (EDT) Boneblues@aol.com writes:
> >In a message dated 97-07-16 17:24:09 EDT, ironmanc@juno.com (Mike
> >Curtis)
> >writes:

> >          -I think that, if a musician wanders from the roots of the
> blues,
> >he or she is no longer playing blues, and should come up with a new name
> for
> >what he or she is playing. By your reasoning, what we all call jazz is
> blues.
>
> 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 think some jazz songs are obviously blues-based (never mind the whole
genre), but that's songs.  If you're talking about artists, and "who is
or is not blues," then Coltrane, Burrell, et al are *not* blues, even
if some of their songs are blues progressions or whatever.

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

> 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

I generally see things as either "blues," "rock" or "blues-rock." It's
pretty easy to pick out, but it changes every time.  Johnny Winter has
always struck me as being a "blues-rocker."  But the two Magic Dick and
Jay Geils records are "blues" to me, regardless of their days as MTV
darlings.

> 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

Otis Rush's version of "Rainy Night In Georgia" is a good example. If he
did a whole record of standards or pop or rock songs, I'd get worried, but
if he can slip one in now and again, that's cool.

> (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.

But one song doesn't make Hendrix a blues artist. I mean, he had a love for
it, he studied it and maybe even played it.  We have to look at the big
picture.

> 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.

I think a lot of the debate stems from the fact that many people think
"pushing the envelope" equals "playing rock and roll."  When I was 21 and
playing John Lee Hooker and Hound Dog Taylor songs, folks my age thought
it was cool, but wondered when I was going to start mixing it up with
"other stuff."

A band I always point people to as taking the blues forward without being
a rock band is the Red Devils.  Their one record had such energy and drive,
while never becoming a meandering rock and roll wankfest that I often thought
this is what folks should be listening to as a good representation of
where blues could go.

> 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.

It seems easier to instead point out to people, "Hey, if you like Red
House, you oughtta hear this other song..."  I make mix tapes for people,
put on some Buddy Guy or whatever, then ease it into some harder-core
stuff, until it blends together and they're listening to Snooky Pryor. ;)

Calling Hendrix "blues" only makes people think, "I'm a blues fan, I'm
listening to the greatest guitarist ever, I've got a great blues collection!"
There needs to be more arrows placing rock and roll in perspective.  I
always hope I'll buy a new blues record by some band and inside, with the
song list, will be a "recommended listening" section, telling from who
and from what records their cover songs are from, or who influenced them.

All just MO, of course.


J. J.

"BLUESTIME!" http://ezinfo.ucs.indiana.edu/~jjperry

"Why don't you paint me up a school bus, and let me go
around the country, and every time someone shows up, I
just whoop everybody's ass?  Why don't we do that?
That *wouldn't* be stupid."
                        --Stone Cold Steve Austin





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