Today in Blues History
Today marks the birthday in 1925 of the man who would go on to be called “The King of the Blues,” and one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” along with Albert King and Freddie King. Of course that is Riley B. “B.B.” King who was born on a plantation called Berclair, in Mississippi. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later electric blues guitarists. King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and is considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time. King was known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing at more than 200 concerts per year on average into his 70s. In 1956, he reportedly appeared at 342 shows. While learning his chops, King initially worked at Memphis radio station WDIA as a singer and disc jockey, gaining the nickname "Beale Street Blues Boy", which was later shortened to "Blues Boy" and finally to B.B. It was there that he first met T-Bone Walker. King said, "Once I'd heard him for the first time, I knew I'd have to have [an electric guitar] myself. 'Had' to have one, short of stealing!" Following his first Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart number one, "3 O'Clock Blues" (February 1952), B.B. King became one of the most important names in R&B music in the 1950s, amassing an impressive list of hits including "You Know I Love You", "Woke Up This Morning", "Please Love Me", "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer", "Whole Lotta Love", "You Upset Me Baby", "Every Day I Have the Blues", "Sneakin' Around", "Ten Long Years", "Bad Luck", "Sweet Little Angel", "On My Word of Honor", and "Please Accept My Love".
3 O’Clock Blues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPeTtg3fTB8
Today also marks the birth in 1931 of Little Willie Littlefield in El Campo, TX. Littlefield was an R&B and boogie-woogie pianist and singer whose early recordings "formed a vital link between boogie-woogie and rock and roll." Littlefield was regarded as a teenage wonder and overnight sensation when, in 1949 at the age of 18, he popularized the triplet piano style on his Modern Records debut single "It's Midnight." He also recorded the first version of the song "Kansas City" (originally issued as "K. C. Lovin'"), in 1952.
It’s Midnight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZEKrvlxW5g
Sadly, this date also saw the passing in 1946 of Mamie Smith in Staten Island, NY. Smith was a vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist and actress. As a vaudeville singer she performed in various styles, including jazz and blues. In 1920, she entered blues history as the first African-American artist to make vocal blues recordings. On February 14, 1920, Smith recorded "That Thing Called Love" and "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down" for Okeh Records, in New York City, after African-American songwriter and bandleader Perry Bradford persuaded Fred Hagar. This was the first recording by a black blues singer; the musicians, however, were all white. Hagar had received threats from Northern and Southern pressure groups saying they would boycott the company if he recorded a black singer. Despite these threats the record was a commercial success and opened the door for more black musicians to record. Smith's biggest hit was recorded later, on August 10, 1920, when she recorded a set of songs written by Perry Bradford, including "Crazy Blues" and "It's Right Here for You (If You Don't Get It, 'Tain't No Fault of Mine)", again for Okeh Records; a million copies of the record were sold in less than a year. Many copies of the record were bought by African Americans, and there was a sharp increase in the popularity of race records. Because of its historical significance, "Crazy Blues" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994 and was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2005. Although other African Americans had been recorded earlier, such as George W. Johnson in the 1890s, they were performing music that had a substantial following among European-American audiences. The success of Smith's record prompted record companies to seek to record other female blues singers and started the era of what is now known as classic female blues.
Crazy Blues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaz4Ziw_CfQ