BLUES ROOTS - 'Blues are the root. The rest is the fruit.' - Willie Dixon - The Blues are more than just a style of music; they are about truth, tradition, and personal expression. The Blues grew out of spirituals and work songs brought to North America with the African slaves. Variations of the Blues grew out of different regions of the country, but recorded Blues from the early 1900s is characterized by simple acoustic guitars/pianos. As time passed, the Blues began to diversify.

Where the Blues Began - Blues music has its roots in Africa. In West African tribes there was an individual known as the Griot, who was a sort of minstrel that traveled from village to village, telling jokes and stories, playing music, and giving his advice and wisdom. He usually carried an instrument that resembled the modern day banjo. The  Griot was regarded as a holy figure because of his special talent to play songs that could make you laugh or cry. During the years of the forced migration of African slaves to America, a large number of Griots are thought to have been brought over. Instead of singing the old village songs, they sang songs that expressed their pain and fear of never seeing their home again. Once the slaves were in America, working on plantations toiling through the day, it became customary to sing working songs while out in the fields. These were not songs of joy, but an outlet to express one's misery. With the introduction of Christianity to the African-American slaves, the spiritual became another method of expression and hope. These religious and deeply emotional songs were key in development of Blues.

No one can say for certain exactly when the Blues came into existence. In 1903 W.C. Handy, later to be known as the 'Father of the Blues', heard a shabbily dressed man playing a guitar while he was waiting for his train. The man was playing the weirdest music that Handy ever heard; sliding a pocket knife up and down the neck of the guitar, bending notes. W.C. Handy tried to write down the notes he heard as best he could. Some say that this is when the Blues entered written history. But the Blues were claimed to have been heard even before that. Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey, vaudeville singer, heard a young woman singing a sad song about how her man had left her. She later worked this special song into her act. It seems that Handy and Rainey both had a part in discovering and naming the Blues, but we know that African-Americans were playing this music much earlier. We will never know exactly who was the first person to slide a pocket knife across the neck of a guitar, or who first started singing soulful songs. From its roots up until now, the Blues has developed into many different styles and has acquired regional characteristics. Many Blues musicians since worldwide have contributed their talents to Blues history.

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