Joe?s Music Rack
Part of

The Rhythm
Blues Rack

NOT 45 or 78
Records and Tapes

Rhythm and Blues (R & B) is the name given to a widerange of popular music created by Negroes in the late 1940s and early 1950s. With roots that go back to the first Negroes transported to the 'new world' - slave or freeman. The music began as a 'call-response' pattern. Known as 'Race' music by the late 1700s and early 1800s, it was sang by an isolated traveler, moving from village to village, for his 'keep'. Very little, if any, traditional training was given to non-whites at that time. Many emigrates from Europe tended to live and work together and their worship music, which they knew from their homeland, was also a large part of they musical life. Not so with the Negroes. From the time of the Pilgrims, the worship music of the slaves from Africa was forbidden. Legislation prevented the Negro population from cultivating their tribal ceremonies, and in most of the Unites States their culture was squeezed, as much as possible, into a white Protestant mold. The result of which had a profound influence on a new style of music - later called jazz.

No single form of music was predominated in per-1850 American, western style music, canal workers, mountain dwellers, and the field workers, all had their form of music. Bands of the day played marches, popular tunes of the day and the classics. Single players, or small groups played tunes or again classics. Thanks to Stephen Collins Foster (1826 - 1864), a new American sound was coming on the scene. While his work could not compared to those in Europe of the day, his works were simple, catchy tunes. Easy to play, with regular harmonies and a simple rhythm, but most of all, easy to remember.

With the abolishment of slavery in 1865. Many southern blacks, free now to move around the country, migrated to urban centers. They brought their own music. Their own definitions. The only limitation placed on this music was what each individual placed on it. It was allowed to grow, to accept or reject outside influence. It was, like the new black artists, free. Free to join; or to take from; and more importantly; free to ADD to other more traditional forms of music.

From minstreley, vaudeville, the ballad, and band music appear the way the nation way moving. With groups like the Fisk Juniliee Singers, and writers like James Bland (1854 - 1911) Carry Me Back to old Viginny (1878), In the Evening by the Moonlight and Oh, Dem Golden Slippers, again note a simple harmonic pattern. The pattern is growing, ever growing.

With sound (music) now being recorded (about 1857/1874, depending on the account you read), the music is of the day is getting out to more people than ever. Printing presses working over time to print the latest in sheet music. Growing ever still into the turn of 1900s with the likes of W. C. Handy, William H. Krell, Tom Turpin, Scott Joplin, and into the movies with Al (Asa) Jolson. Race music is a very popular form. Playing a very important roll in both World Wars, even receiving alot of air time on Arm Forces Radio, and in those ´Kits´ given out to the troops going over seas.

By the end of World War II with the nation going back to a normal way of like - radio, jukeboxs, dance halls, still played ´Swing´, and ´Big Band´, but ´Race´ was moving on up.

The term R & B, is credited with being coined by the billboard writer Jerry Wexler in 1947. Originally used by record companies to refer to recordings marketed predominantly to urban Blacks, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular.

In 1949, Billboard changed its chart for "Race Records " to Rhythm & Blues.

In 1920, Mamie Smith becomes the first black female artist to record with "That Thing Called Love", also selling 200,000 copies of "Crazy Blues", to become the first blues national hit. In 1921, the Okeh label introduces a "Colored catalogue" first series of "race records". Around 1931, Lester William Polsfuss, known better as Les Paul (June 9, 1915 - August 13, 2009), guitarist and inventor, lays ground work for the perfection of the electric guitar. By 1946 Clarence Leonidas Fender designed the first commercially successful electric guitar, with that introduction the flood gates for experimentation and revolutionized blues music forever, with the likes of BB King, Louis Jordan, Aaron "T" Bone Walker, White band leader Johnny "Otis" Veliotes, McKinley "Muddy Waters" Morganfield, John Lee Hooker, shouter "Big" Joe Turner, Chester "Howling Wolf" Burnett, Dinah Washington (real name Ruth Lee Jones), Ike Turner, Antoine "Fats Domino", just some of the multitude of black artists that deserve mentioning.

Books in the thousands, indeed volumes, have been written about Rhythm and BLues, but in the end, gospel, ragtime, swing, jumpblues, jazz, doowop, rock and roll, hiphop, rap, all to some measure or another have been influenced and some even born from the Rhythms of the work songs of slaves and the vocalizations found in the Blues.

Joe Stephens

Jazz - A History: by Frank Tirro Duke Univ 1977 W W Norton & Compny, Inc.

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part of the Music Section of

The Rhythm and Blues Section
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