I want the blues...

I’m thinking of broadening my musical horizons by getting into the blues. I lack an in-depth knowledge of the blues world and I don’t know where to start. I suppose I could go buy something like B.B. King’s Greatest Hits, but I’d rather tap the collective culture of the Teemers first.

Do any of you have any recommendations on a good place to start? Anyone have any personal favorite musicians or albums?

“The world ends when I die. And as far as I’m concerned, the rest of the universe might as well call it a day too.” – Matt Groening

"Do any of you have any recommendations on a good place to start? "

I would recommend a few decades of near abject poverty, preferably in a social matrix where your ethnic group is looked upon with disdain by the wealthy and powerfull. Try to maintain a sense of fatalistic wisdom, combined with a certain warm humor, directed toward yourself. Wrenching emotional trauma from time to time is also to be recommended.

And practice, man, practice.


No no no. I mean to just to listen to! I’m not a musician in the least. Trust me.

“The world ends when I die. And as far as I’m concerned, the rest of the universe might as well call it a day too.” – Matt Groening

Somebody send this thread to Ms. Tubadiva! She can give you all the Straight Dope on the blues.


When I first go into the blues, I was surprised at how it sounded. There were very few “Woke up this morning/ Had the blues” cliches. The songs were not, in general, heavily-distorted down-temper sob stories about liquor and bad love. This is not to say that kind of music is not out there, just that the blues people I’ve heard aren’t much like that.

The blues people I’ve heard:
John Lee Hooker
Muddy Waters
Billie Holliday
Howlin Wolf
Robert Johnson

Blues people I would go to Hell for having listened to very little (except that John Lee assures me “Ain’t no heaven/ Ain’t no burnin hell”):
Albert King
B.B. King
Bessie Smith
a ton of others I’ve forgotten

Above all, I recommend The Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson. If you don’t mind a scratchy CD remaster in mono, this is just wonderful music. Here is a sampling of Johnson’s wisdom, refreshingly far from the cliches of “what blues should be” (from memory):

Don’t forget Dutch Mason and Nina Simone.

Now here’s a thread I can sink my teeth into.

**B.B. King **is a decent guitarist, but his style is kinda glittery pop, not good ol’ raw, earthy bluesy blues.

Yes, Robert Johnson is a must. He is to blues what George Washington is to presidents.

In addition to the already-mentioned JLH, MW, BH, HW, AK, BS, all excellent suggestions, please give a listen to the following: (in no particular order)
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
Elmore James
Koko Taylor
Junior Wells
Sonny Boy Williamson
Lightnin’ Hopkins
Jimmy Reed
Albert Collins
Little Milton
Slim Harpo
Fenton Robinson
Katie Webster
Junior Parker
Bobby Bland
Little Walter
Clifton Chenier
Freddie King
Otis Spann
Lonnie Brooks
Son Seals
Robert Cray
James Cotton
Earl Hooker
Otis Rush
Maggie Jones
Mary Dixon
Ida Cox
Sonny Terry
Brownie McGhee

and yes,
Jimi Hendrix, whose blues roots go deep, especially in his early stuff

“The blues ain’t nothin’ but a good soul feelin’ bad…”

Lots of good suggestions here, and I will only add a very good rule of thumb - avoid white limies who proport to be “bluesman.” They in league with the devil, man…

Oh, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd blows as well!

Yer pal,

TennHippie, that huge list is pretty inclusive, but not much use for somebody looking to dip their toes in the Blues and not buy 500 LPs at once, or? Good paces to start if you aren’t sure what kind of blues you like are BB King, Howlin Wolf, JLH, Lightning Hopkins, Robert Cray and, dare I say it, Eric Clapton. Once you’ve got a better idea of what you like and what you don’t, you can get deeper into it. There are Bluesmen of every pursuasion in TeenHippies list, you can undoubtedly find something right for you from there.

Damn, Tennhippie took all the good ones.

You also might want to look into cajun/zydeco. Just saw Chubby Carrier and His Bayou Swamp band at the Chenango Blues Fest back in august and they were fantastic.

Many of the better young (read “still alive”) artists on Tennhippie’s list distribute from a common label. Go to www.alligator.com and try a compilation album. Pretty much any one of them will give you a good start into modern blues. From there, work backward. Find the artists you like best, and seek out their influences (hint: musicians cover their heroes’ work more often than not).

BTW, Son Seals and Kenny Neal (one of my favorites not mentioned yet) are both in town over the next two weeks, and blues is best live. Check out Manny’s Car Wash, Chicago B.L.U.E.S. and other clubs in town. You can find the listings in New York Press, which you already have because it carries Cecil.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Besides the excellent ones listed above, one of my favorite all time blues albums is Ella Fitzgerald’s “These are the Blues”. Dyno-mite.

As the wife of a blues guitarist, I must say that nearly all the music listed in this thread is somewhere in my house (including the zydeco mentioned by an earlier poster), and it is all just great.

Just for hangin’ out & listening, though, BB King is a good place to start, as are Clapton & Hendrix. If you decide you really, really dig this stuff, start working your way down the lists provided by the other posters. You’ll probably like it all. I also recommend T-Bone Walker, Danny Gatton, and Roy Buchanan. Have fun!

Get Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood”

Listen to Jimi Hendrix’s song “Red House”

Ty Webb: I like you Betty.
Danny Noonan: That’s Danny, sir.

Thanks much, all! I’m printing this thread out now. I knew you wouldn’t let me down. :slight_smile:

Hey manhattan, is Manny’s Car Wash still open? I walked by it just last night and it appeared to be gutted.

“The world ends when I die. And as far as I’m concerned, the rest of the universe might as well call it a day too.” – Matt Groening

If you want to listen to white boys,
Stevie Ray Vaughn,
George Thorogood,
Junior Brown,
Allman Brothers,

(early)**ZZ Top,**and
(a distant 5th)Eric Clapton
are good starts.
I’m the only person I know who thinks Clapton is overrated, but I stand by the assertion. Cream was great, though.

Satan, I just knew we’d met before!

“I was down at the crossroads…”


You rule. Even got Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry.

I would recommend their “Live at the 5th Fret”(?) (I’m not at home but I think thats what it is called!)

Great guitar riffs!

-Frankie (Now I need to listen to some blues!)

Don’t print it out just yet, Al, I’m about to make things MUCH more difficult for you.

So you want to get into the blues, eh? It’s a leeeetle like saying you want to get into “jazz.” Or “classical.” In that there are an enormous number of different subgenres to deal with.

Do you want to do Mississippi Delta blues? Chicago blues? Piedmont blues? Texas blues? Memphis blues? Rhythm and blues?

Electric or acoustic? Chicks singing with horns backing them up? Guitar as primary backing instrument? Piano?

Bessie Smith is a helluva lot different listening experience than Blind Willie McTell…Roosevelt Sykes is nothing like Albert King. Charles Brown and Charley Patton share nothing but a name. Memphis Minnie and Tampa Red: totally different guitar-picking styles.

Best advice, read a book. Nothing too monumental, but having a history of the art form under your belt wouldn’t hurt.

Penguin published a nice primer that I’d recommend: THE BIG BOOK OF BLUES: A BIOGRAPHICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, by Robert Santelli.


TennHippie: I thought about mentioning Junior Brown, but since he’s not technically “blues,” I decided against it. He’s one of my husband’s faves. I personally could listen to Junior play all day…as long as he doesn’t sing. I can’t take that much cheese in one sitting. :wink: No doubt the man is an absolute terror on that guit-steel, though. Truly amazing.

TennHippie: Trust me, you are NOT alone in thinking Clapton is overrated as all Hell…

If only HE had been in that helicopter instead of Stevie…