Blues or Rock Which is it?

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) writes:
> >In a message dated 97-07-16 17:24:09 EDT, (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

> 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

> 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.


"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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