East Coast Blues
Modern Electric Blues
Rhythm and Blues
Chicago Blues Music
The Chicago Blues is a form of blues music that developed in Chicago, Illinois. With America at war (World War II), this served as a springboard for African-Americans from Southern states to move north into the industrial cities such as Chicago, in search of work and a better life for their families. Folks from rural areas like Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama all joined in this exodus and many of the blues musicians of the time also migrated into the urban neighborhoods in place of their rural roots. And they brought with them a unique Delta blues sound that would soon change. The Chicago Blues was developed in these urban areas and the sound was dramatically changed as these acoustic veterans decided to 'plug in' and amplify their music.
Adding electric guitar, electric bass, drums, piano and the occasional saxophone or trumpet as well as harmonica, the music of the south became more full-bodied; reaching beyond the standard six-note blues scale and incorporated major scale notes and dominant 9th chords. This gave the music more of a jazz element, with Chicago Blues being well-known for a heavy, rolling bass.
In this form, the style was (and still is) flexible to accommodate singers, guitarists, pianists, and harmonica players as the featured performer in front of the standard instrumentation; creating the now standard blues band lineup. With Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie laying the groundwork other Chicago blues players of the day included: singer/songwriters such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Willie Dixon; guitar players such as Freddie King, Magic Sam, Syl Johnson, Buddy Guy, McKinley Mitchell, Bo Diddley, Mike Bloomfield and Elmore James; and harmonica players such as Big Walter Horton, Little Walter, Charlie Musselwhite, Paul Butterfield and Junior Wells. Of these musicians, Willie Dixon was one of the most important presences on the postwar Chicago scene, distinguishing and separating himself from other Delta bluesmen of his day with such talents as the ability to read, write, compose, and the arrange music -- talents that were to destine him for legendary status among the bluesmakers. Interestingly, it was boxing, not music, that brought Dixon to Chicago in 1936. He was an upstart professional fighter who at one time sparred with the great Joe Louis.
The Chicago Blues also helped to develop some of the legendary record labels of the time, including Chess Records, which was run by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess. In fact, critic Cub Koda often described Chess as 'the greatest American blues label.' Other famous blues labels included the St. Louis-based Delmark Records, who recorded Roscoe Mitchell, Junior Wells and Sonny Boy Williamson (among others) and Alligator Records, which remains one of the premier blues labels to this day, recording such Chicago blues greats such as Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Hound Dog Taylor and many more.
During the decade of the 1950s, Chicago blues ruled the R&B charts, later, new blood was added in the late 50s and early 60s, and taking their cue from some of the work by B.B. King and T-Bone Walker, they created the popular West Side Chicago Blues. Chicago Blues remains very popular in our music landscape with new generations of musicians carrying on the Chicago Blues traditions and the style has had a heavily influencing soul, rhythm & blues, and rock music to this day. The city hosts the Chicago Blues Festival which is one of the largest blues festivals in the world. During three days on six stages, more than 640,000 blues fans prove that Chicago is the "Blues Capital of the World." Past performers include Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, B.B. King, the late Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy and the late Koko Taylor.
Popular Chicago Blues Artists