The Blues Era
and early blues piano
1909 - 1927
Imagine a line drawn from Jacksonville, Florida west to Mobile, alabama and along the gulf coast to New Orleans, through the pine-tar camps to Galveston, Texas; from the Crescent City go north up the Mississippi to Cairo, Illinois. Then extend this line to St. Louis, maybe even as far north as Davenport, Iowa and then to Chicago, just a short ride on the rails from either of these two river towns. From Chicago the line runs over to North Carolina and then south, back to Jacksonville. From the fertile Mississippi Delta it is just a short hop north to Memphis, Tennessee. This is the great area covered by the men and women who sang, wrote, played and lived the blues. Towards the later part of the blues era, this area extended as far north as New York which had a thriving music scene including the blues.
It is not known exactly when the first blues was performed. It is certain that a basic style of blues was being performed by rural musicians before 1900. Blues apparently followed about the same development time-line as Ragtime, but had a much longer gestation period. Jelly Roll Morton, W.C. Handy and "Ma" Rainey each has said that the first time they heard a performance, of what was later to be called "The Blues", was about 1903 or 1904.
The period of wide-spread popularity for blues music, which shall be referred to here as "The Blues Era" was from approximatley 1909 to 1927. This period saw the blues rise from obscurity to a national craze. Blues are an extremly important part of America's music. It is one of the key building blocks that developed into Jazz and influenced all subsequent popular music.