In the early days, back in the Mississippi Delta, the sons of slaves in the Deep South would often make their own acoustic blues guitars out of an old box, a broom handle and some chicken wire! Needless, to say, they were not the highest quality, but something really big was starting then – blues music. Musical instruments and particularly drums (they spoke of freedom too much) were just not allowed and so the voice was used to express emotion.
Gospel songs were very popular in those days, as were the so-called ‘field-holler’, which was a kind of call and response song that was employed very often to help the work flow of repetitive tasks like sawing or hammering. A good example of this is the Gandy Dancers, which were basically teams of men employed to push heavy steel rails back into place and shore them up again with rubble. One man would lead the song and at the end of each line of verse, the whole team would push, using a long steel bar wedged underneath the rails. It would be a few years yet before the complex fingerstyle guitar of giants like Blind Blake would make their mark, and it was all their own work – there were no blues guitar lessons on the internet!
With the advent of the cheap Stella type guitar marketed at a distance using the Sears catalog, the blues really came into it’s own and many fine classic songs were created. Such men as Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Blind Blake quickly made the music exciting and in demand as Race Records. A huge turning point came when Muddy Waters took up the electric guitar and pushed Chicago into the next stage of blues guitar, which later was taken up by the Rolling Stones and others to evolve into the rock and roll that we know today.
Much later, young students wanted to play just like the old guys did, searching out acoustic blues guitar lessons from the surviving guitarists, and a revival took place in the 60s, during which time Stefan Grossman and others created a quick way of learning the old blues guitar styles. This new way of learning involved reading blues guitar tablature, a way of writing down where the fingers of both hands should be place to re-create the sounds heard n the classic race records. Many guitarists and teachers today, such as Jim Bruce from the UK, specialize on teaching acoustic style finger picking and offering acoustic guitar lessons on several websites.
Fingerpicking blues guitar is the basis of all rock music that we hear today and it’s rhythms appear in many classic songs. For example, in the 70s the boogie beat played by Blake, Robert Johnson and others could be heard in dance music created by The BeeGees and other groups. Rural country blues gave way to Broonzy’ swing style Chicago sound, which was transformed by another artist originally from the Southern States, Muddy Waters, and the foundation of electric rock guitar was laid.
The huge range of guitar styles emanating from the Deep South, but also other states such as Texas and South Carolina represented a lot of choice for young guitarists looking for something a little different, while keeping the old emotional draw of artists like Blind Boy Fuller and Big Bill Broonzy, who were super-stars in their day. When BB Fuller wanted to learn how to lay blues guitar he sought out Reverend Gary Davis, a great master who could play any style at all. Davis used to play blues guitar on the streets of Harlem for 20 years or so, but in later years preferred to sing Gospel songs.
Many younger student guitarists go right back to the roots music if they want to learn blues guitar, because they know that the secret is in the basics created by these early musicians.
See site: http://www.play-blues-guitar.eu .