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The Blues: The Best Music From Memphis Ever

Jul 4, 2008
The music from Memphis during the early part of the 20th century was unlike anything the country had ever heard before. It was called The Blues, and the music from Memphis soon took the entire country by storm without many people knowing it. The people who created the music from Memphis like W.C. Handy, Willie Nix, Furry Lewis, Frank Stokes, Robert Wilkins, Big Mama Thornton, Bobby Sowell, Rosco Gordon, Howlin Wolf, Memphis Minnie, Junior Parker, Ida Cox and Sleepy John Estes all gained a significant amount of fame because of their talents.

It should be clear by now that my blues are built around or suggested by, rather than constructed of, the snatches, phrases, cries and idioms such as I have illustrated, wrote W.C. Handy in his autobiography. The genre got so famous, that whenever somebody would mention music from Memphis, everyone automatically assumed that the other parties were talking about the blues sung by Handy and his companions.

In fact, Handy had infiltrated the music from Memphis scene so deeply that he even wrote the campaign song for the successful mayoral candidate Mr. Crump. Although it was not the first blues song ever published, it was an important hit that was influenced by the blues sound and helped transform music from Memphis as a whole.

Before World War II, most of the music from Memphis was made with relatively inexpensive instruments. Sure, there were always the standard instruments like banjos, mandolins, violins and guitars, but music from Memphis was unique in that the musicians also utilized odd items like jugs to make new sounds.

Jug bands accounted for a lot of the music from Memphis. For example, the Memphis Jug Band and Gus Cannons Jug Stompers were some of the more popular acts of Beale Street. Besides household jugs, there were also washboards, Jews harps and kazoos that were used to make music from Memphis.

After World War II, music from Memphis took on a much different sound. Acts like B.B. King came in to the picture with their electric instruments and made the blues sound a little more sophisticated. This new music from Memphis was highly sought after by the people at Sun Records, and many of the artists began to cut albums with Sun. Because of the distribution opportunities that a deal with Sun Records came with, people all over the country were able to hear music from Memphis.
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