Blues rock is a fusion genre combining elements of blues and rock. It is mostly an electric ensemble-style music with instrumentation similar to electric blues and rock: electric guitar, electric bass, and drums, often with Hammond organ. From its beginnings in the early- to mid-1960s, blues rock has gone through several stylistic shifts and along the way it inspired and influenced hard rock, Southern rock, and early heavy metal. Blues rock continues to be an influence in the 2010s, with performances and recordings by popular artists.
Blues rock started with rock musicians in the United Kingdom and the United States performing American blues songs. They typically recreated electric Chicago-style blues songs, such as those by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf, and Albert King, at faster tempos and with a more aggressive sound common to rock. In the UK, the style was popularized by groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, who managed to place blues songs into the pop charts. In the US, Lonnie Mack, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Canned Heat were among the earliest exponents and "attempted to play long, involved improvisations which were commonplace on jazz records". John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac also developed this more instrumental, but traditional-based style in the UK, while late 1960s and early 1970s groups, including Ten Years After, Savoy Brown, the Climax Blues Band and Foghat became more hard rock oriented. In the US, Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers Band, and ZZ Top represented a hard rock trend.
Although around this time, the differences between blues rock and hard rock lessened, there was also a return to more blues-influenced styles. In the 1980s, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan, recorded their best-known works and the 1990s saw guitarists Gary Moore, Jeff Healey, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd become popular concert attractions. Groups such as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the White Stripes, brought an edgier, more diverse style into the 2000s, as do contemporary artists such as the Black Keys.
|Cultural origins||Early to mid-1960s, United States and United Kingdom|
Blues rock can be characterized by bluesy improvisation, the twelve-bar blues, extended boogie jams typically focused on the electric guitar player, and often a heavier, riff-oriented sound and feel to the songs than might be found in traditional Chicago-style blues. Blues rock bands "borrow[ed] the idea of an instrumental combo and loud amplification from rock & roll". It is also often played at a fast tempo, again distinguishing it from the blues.
The electric guitar is usually amplified through a tube guitar amplifier or using an overdrive effect. Two guitars are commonplace in blues rock bands: one guitarist focused on rhythm guitar, playing riffs and chords as accompaniment; and the other focused on lead guitar, playing melodic lines and solos.
While 1950s-era blues bands would sometimes still use the upright bass, the blues rock bands of the 1960s used the electric bass, which was easier to amplify to loud volumes.
Keyboard instruments, such as the piano and Hammond organ, are also occasionally used. As with the electric guitar, the sound of the Hammond organ is typically amplified with a tube amplifier, which gives a growling, "overdriven" sound quality to the instrument.
Vocals also typically play a key role, although the vocals may be equal in importance or even subordinate to the lead guitar playing. As well, a number of blues rock pieces are instrumental-only.
Blues rock pieces often follow typical blues structures, such as twelve-bar blues, sixteen-bar blues, etc. They also use the I-IV-V progression, though there are exceptions, some pieces having a "B" section, while others remain on the I. The Allman Brothers Band's version of "Stormy Monday", which uses chord substitutions based on Bobby "Blue" Bland's 1961 rendition, adds a solo section where "the rhythm shifts effortlessly into an uptempo 6/8-time jazz feel". The key is usually major, but can also be minor, such as in "Black Magic Woman".
One notable difference is the frequent use of a straight eighth-note or rock rhythm instead of triplets usually found in blues. An example is Cream's "Crossroads". Although it was adapted from Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues", the bass "combines with drums to create and continually emphasize continuity in the regular metric drive". Cream also uses some of the lyrics from "Traveling Riverside Blues" to create their own interpretation of the song.
Rock and blues have historically always been closely linked, with driving rhythms and electric guitar techniques such as distortion and power chords already used by 1950s blues guitarists, particularly Memphis bluesmen such as Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson and Pat Hare. Characteristics that blues rock adopted from electric blues include its dense texture, basic blues band instrumentation, rough declamatory vocal style, heavy guitar riffs, string-bending blues-scale guitar solos, strong beat, thick riff-laden texture, and posturing performances. Precursors to blues rock included the Chicago blues musicians Elmore James, Albert King, and Freddie King, who began incorporating rock and roll elements into their blues music during the late 1950s to early 1960s. In 1963, American rockabilly soloist Lonnie Mack had an idiosyncratic, fast-paced electric blues guitar style that later came to be identified with blues rock. His instrumentals from that period were recognizable as blues or R&B tunes, but he relied heavily upon fast-picking techniques derived from traditional American country and bluegrass genres. The best-known of these are the 1963 hit singles "Memphis" (Billboard R&B #4, Pop #5) and "Wham!" (Billboard Pop #24). However, blues rock was not named as such, or widely recognized as a distinct movement within rock, until the mid-late 1960s. At that point, Mack's earlier recordings were rediscovered and he came to be regarded as a pioneer, or close stylistic forerunner, of what, by then, had become known as "blues rock guitar". Other American artists, such as Paul Butterfield and Canned Heat are now also considered blues rock pioneers.
In the UK, several musicians honed their skills in a handful of British blues bands, primarily those of Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner. While the early British rhythm and blues groups, such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, incorporated American R&B, rock and roll, and pop, John Mayall took a more distinctly electric blues approach. In 1966, he released Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, the first of several influential blues rock albums. When Eric Clapton left Mayall to form Cream, they created a hybrid style with blues, rock, and jazz improvisation, which was the most innovative to date. British band Fleetwood Mac initially played traditionally-oriented electric blues, but soon evolved. Their guitarist Peter Green, who was Clapton's replacement with Mayall, brought many innovations to their music.
The electric guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix (a veteran of many American rhythm and blues and soul groups from the early-mid-1960s) and his power trios, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, had a broad and lasting influence on the development of blues rock, especially for guitarists. Clapton continued to explore several musical styles and contributed to bringing blues rock into the mainstream. By this time, American acts such as the Doors and Janis Joplin further introduced rock audiences to the genre. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd is known for incorporating a mixture of blues rock, progressive rock and psychedelic rock into his guitar work. Gilmour has described Hendrix as an inspiration for his style of playing.
In the late 1960s, Jeff Beck, with his band the Jeff Beck Group, developed blues rock into a form of heavy rock. Jimmy Page, who replaced Beck in the Yardbirds, followed suit with Led Zeppelin and became a major force in the 1970s heavy metal scene. Other blues rock musicians on the scene in the 1970s include Dr. Feelgood, Rory Gallagher and Robin Trower.
Beginning in the early 1970s, American bands such as Aerosmith fused blues with a hard rock edge. Blues rock grew to include Southern rock bands, like the Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd, while the British scene, except for the advent of groups such as Status Quo and Foghat, became focused on heavy metal innovation.
Blues rock had a rebirth in the early 1990s–2000s, with many artists such as Gary Moore, Mad Season, John Norum, Gary Clark Jr., Susan Tedeschi, the White Stripes, Jack White, Rival Sons, John Mayer, Blues Traveler, the Black Crowes, the Black Keys, Jeff Healey, Philip Sayce, Clutch, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Joe Bonamassa, Greta Van Fleet, and Guy Forsyth.
Black country bluesmen made raw, heavily amplified boogie records of their own, especially in Memphis, where guitarists like Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson (with the early Howlin' Wolf band) and Pat Hare (with Little Junior Parker) played driving rhythms and scorching, distorted solos that might be counted the distant ancestors of heavy metal.
Boogie rock is a genre of rock music which came out of the hard heavy blues rock of the late 1960s. Largely designed for dance parties, it tends to feature a repetitive driving rhythm in place of instrumental experimentation found in the more progressive blues-rock bands of the period.Cinderella (band)
Cinderella was an American rock band formed in 1982 from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The band emerged in the mid-1980s with a series of multi-platinum albums and hit singles whose music videos received heavy MTV rotation. Cinderella initially had a heavy metal and glam metal sound before shifting into a more hard rock and blues rock based sound. By the mid-1990s, the band's popularity declined severely due to personal setbacks, break-ups, and changes in the music industry. After a brief hiatus, Cinderella reunited in 1996 and to continue to perform live, but never released any studio material after their 1994 album Still Climbing. The band has sold 15 million records worldwide, according to Tom Keifer's official website. After participating in the 2014 "Monsters of Rock Cruise", Cinderella again became inactive and in November 2017 Keifer declared that "there won't be any reunion."Electric blues
Electric blues refers to any type of blues music distinguished by the use of electric amplification for musical instruments. The guitar was the first instrument to be popularly amplified and used by early pioneers T-Bone Walker in the late 1930s and John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters in the 1940s. Their styles developed into West Coast blues, Detroit blues, and post-World War II Chicago blues, which differed from earlier, predominantly acoustic-style blues. By the early 1950s, Little Walter was a featured soloist on blues harmonica or blues harp using a small hand-held microphone fed into a guitar amplifier. Although it took a little longer, the electric bass guitar gradually replaced the stand-up bass by the early 1960s. Electric organs and especially keyboards later became widely used in electric blues.Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse
Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse was a British blues rock studio group formed in 1966. They recorded three songs, which were released on the Elektra Records sampler album What's Shakin' in 1966. A possible fourth song remained unreleased.Free (band)
Free were an English rock band formed in London in 1968, best known for their 1970 signature song "All Right Now". They disbanded in 1973 and lead singer Paul Rodgers went on to become a frontman of the band Bad Company along with Simon Kirke on drums. Lead guitarist Paul Kossoff formed Back Street Crawler in 1975, but died from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 25 in 1976. Bassist Andy Fraser formed Sharks.The band became famed for their sensational live shows and nonstop touring. However, early studio albums did not sell very well until the release of Fire and Water, which featured the massive hit "All Right Now". The song helped secure them a place at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970, where they played to 600,000 people.By the early 1970s, Free became one of the biggest-selling British blues rock groups; by the time the band retired in 1973, they had sold more than 20 million albums around the world and had played more than 700 arena and festival concerts. "All Right Now" remains a rock staple and has been entered in ASCAP's "One Million" airplay singles club.Rolling Stone has referred to the band as "British hard rock pioneers". The magazine ranked Rodgers No. 55 in its list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time", while Kossoff was ranked No. 51 in its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".Free were signed to Island Records in the UK and A&M Records in North America. Both labels became part of the PolyGram group in 1989, then Universal Music Group (UMG) in 1998; UMG now controls the band's catalogue worldwide.Gerry McAvoy
John Gerrard McAvoy (born 19 December 1951) is a Northern Irish blues rock bass guitarist. He played with blues rock musician Rory Gallagher between 1970 and 1991, and then with Nine Below Zero until 2011.Hard rock
Hard rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music that began in the mid-1960s, with the garage, psychedelic and blues rock movements. It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with keyboards.
Hard rock developed into a major form of popular music in the 1970s, with bands such as the Who, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Kiss, Queen, AC/DC and Van Halen. During the 1980s, some hard rock bands moved away from their hard rock roots and more towards pop rock, while others began to return to a hard rock sound. Established bands made a comeback in the mid-1980s and it reached a commercial peak in the 1980s, with glam metal bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard and the rawer sounds of Guns N' Roses, which followed up with great success in the later part of that decade. Hard rock began losing popularity with the commercial success of R&B, hip-hop, urban pop, grunge and later Britpop in the 1990s.
Despite this, many post-grunge bands adopted a hard rock sound and in the 2000s there came a renewed interest in established bands, attempts at a revival, and new hard rock bands that emerged from the garage rock and post-punk revival scenes. Out of this movement came garage rock bands like the White Stripes, the Strokes, Interpol and, later on, the Black Keys. In the 2000s, only a few hard rock bands from the 1970s and 1980s managed to sustain highly successful recording careers.Heavy metal music
Heavy metal (or simply metal) is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.In 1968, three of the genre's most famous pioneers, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were founded. Though they came to attract wide audiences, they were often derided by critics. During the mid-1970s, Judas Priest helped spur the genre's evolution by discarding much of its blues influence; Motörhead introduced a punk rock sensibility and an increasing emphasis on speed. Beginning in the late 1970s, bands in the new wave of British heavy metal such as Iron Maiden and Def Leppard followed in a similar vein. Before the end of the decade, heavy metal fans became known as "metalheads" or "headbangers".
During the 1980s, glam metal became popular with groups such as Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe. Underground scenes produced an array of more aggressive styles: thrash metal broke into the mainstream with bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax, while other extreme subgenres of heavy metal such as death metal and black metal remain subcultural phenomena. Since the mid-1990s popular styles have further expanded the definition of the genre. These include groove metal and nu metal, the latter of which often incorporates elements of grunge and hip hop.Joe Bonamassa
Joe Bonamassa (born May 8, 1977) is an American blues rock guitarist, singer and songwriter.
When he was 12 years old, Bonamassa opened for B.B. King. In the last 13 years Bonamassa has put out 15 solo albums through his independent record label J&R Adventures, of which 11 have reached number 1 on the Billboard Blues charts.Bonamassa has played alongside such artists as Stephen Stills, Eric Clapton, Blondie Chaplin, Foreigner, Buddy Guy, Steve Winwood, Warren Haynes, Solomon Hicks,and Derek Trucks among others. His career highlights include performances at the Royal Albert Hall and a Grammy Award nomination in 2013. In addition to his music career, Joe Bonamassa runs a nonprofit organization called the Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation, whose mission is to further music education by funding scholarships and providing music education resources to schools in need.
He is also known for his enormous collection of guitars and related gear.John Mayall
John Mayall, OBE (born 29 November 1933) is an English blues singer, guitarist, organist and songwriter, whose musical career spans over sixty years. In the 1960s, he was the founder of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, a band which has counted among its members some of the most famous blues and blues rock musicians. They include Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor, Aynsley Dunbar, Hughie Flint, Jon Hiseman, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser, Johnny Almond, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya, Kal David, and Buddy Whittington.Johnny Winter
John Dawson Winter III (February 23, 1944 – July 16, 2014), known as Johnny Winter, was an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Best known for his high-energy blues-rock albums and live performances in the late 1960s and 1970s, Winter also produced three Grammy Award-winning albums for blues singer and guitarist Muddy Waters. After his time with Waters, Winter recorded several Grammy-nominated blues albums. In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and in 2003, he was ranked 63rd in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".Punk blues
Punk blues (or blues punk) is a rock music genre that mixes elements of punk rock and blues. Punk blues musicians and bands usually incorporate elements of related styles, such as protopunk and blues rock. Its origins lie strongly within the garage rock sound of the 1960s and 1970s.
Punk blues can be said to favor the common rawness, simplicity and emotion shared between the punk and blues genres. Chet Weise, singer/guitarist of the Immortal Lee County Killers stated, "Punk and blues are both honest reactions to life. It's blues, it's our blues. It's just a bit turned up and a bit faster."Steppenwolf (band)
Steppenwolf is a Canadian-American rock band, prominent from 1968 to 1972. The group was formed in late 1967 in Los Angeles by lead singer John Kay, keyboardist Goldy McJohn, and drummer Jerry Edmonton (all formerly in Jack London & the Sparrows from Oshawa, Ontario). Guitarist Michael Monarch and bass guitarist Rushton Moreve were recruited by notices placed in Los Angeles-area record and musical instrument stores.
Steppenwolf sold over 25 million records worldwide, released eight gold albums and 12 Billboard Hot 100 singles, of which six were top 40 hits, including three top 10 successes: "Born to Be Wild", "Magic Carpet Ride", and "Rock Me". Steppenwolf enjoyed worldwide success from 1968 to 1972, but clashing personalities led to the end of the core lineup. Today, John Kay is the only original member, having served as the lead singer since 1967.Ten Years After
Ten Years After are a British blues rock band, most popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Between 1968 and 1973, Ten Years After scored eight Top 40 albums on the UK Albums Chart. In addition they had twelve albums enter the US Billboard 200, and are best known for tracks such as "I'm Going Home", "Hear Me Calling", "I'd Love to Change the World" and "Love Like a Man". Their musical style consisted of blues rock and hard rock.The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was an American-English rock band that formed in Westminster, London, in September 1966. Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jimi Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell, and bassist Noel Redding comprised the group, which was active until June 1969. During this time, they released three studio albums and became one of the most popular acts in rock. Starting in April 1970, Hendrix, Mitchell, and bassist Billy Cox performed and recorded until Hendrix's death on September 18, 1970. This later trio was sometimes billed as the "Jimi Hendrix Experience", but the title was never formalized.
Highly influential in the popularization of hard rock and psychedelic rock, the Experience was best known for the skill, style, and charisma of their frontman, Jimi Hendrix. All three of the band's studio albums, Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968), were featured in the top 100 of the Rolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, at positions 15, 82 and 54 respectively. In 1992, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
decade of origin