The blues begins its integration into the American pop music canon in 1920 when Mamie Smith records “Crazy Blues” and launches the Classic Blues period and the “race” records boom of the 1920s. Mostly urban in scope and female in gender, Classic Blues featured first generation blues divas such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Victoria Spivey, and others backed by jazz bands led by the likes of Louis Armstrong and Lonnie Johnson. In this show we’ll explain the hows and whys of the blues migration from country to city, “recreate” the environs of the Cotton Club in Harlem where many blues divas from the period performed, depict the importance of “race records,” and detail the rich music from the only era in blues history dominated by women. Today’s disciples, including Maria Muldaur, Rory Block, and Lavay Smith, will be featured. The show will conclude with an interpretation of Bessie Smith by contemporary blues woman, Shemekia Copeland.
Reporting locale: Mississippi Delta Robert Johnson was the single most important country blues artist of the pre-War era. In this episode we explore Johnson’s legacy and investigate the “mythology” of […]
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