W.C Handy- Farther of the Blues!

w c handy

W.C Handy, often termed Father of the Blues, had his biography published initially in 1941 by New York: Macmillan. In his Biography Handy describes his upbringing both in religious and musical surroundings.

Handy outlines his time spent travelling in minstrel shows throughout the South and documents the hardships faced by black musicians at the hands of white southern folk of the times.

Handy gives you an insight into what it was like to be a working musician, a band leader and also the effort required to get his work printed and circulated.

The book is well written and easy to read. It is of significant importance not only for its sociological documentation of the South but also because Handy describes for the first time in 1903 how he heard the blues being played (p74)

” Then one night at Tutwhiler ,as I nodded in the railroad station while waiting for a train that had been delayed nine hours, life suddenly took me by the shoulder and wakened me with a start. A lean loose jointed Negro had commenced plunkin a guitar beside me while I slept. His Clothes were rags; his feet peeped out of his shoes. His face had on it some of the sadness of the ages, as he played he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularised by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars. The effect was unforgettable. His song, too, struck me instantly.”

“Goin’ where the Southern cross’ the Dog”

The value of this book can not be overlooked. It is important reading for any blues enthusiast. It will give you a good look at life in rural Mississippi and allow you to immerse yourself in the Blues as seen through the eyes of its earliest pioneer. Buy it, Read it!






Have you met the Blues?

For those who have never met the Blues allow me to explain a little of how they came to be. The blues was born in America however there is strong evidence when we analyse the music that there is a mixture of African and European musical tradition involved. The main inlet for African influence, as shameful as it may seem today was the slave trade. Africans being brought over for this purpose and forced to work on Cotton Plantations for nothing.

slave culture


Slaves during these times were often kept illiterate.Their congregation in religious groups were restricted to prevent uprising.

It was in these harsh working conditions that the field hollers began to form. A call and response type of song where a question would be asked and then the reply given by the majority. Many of these Hollers became a way of spreading ideas and also began to take on double meanings which were know to the black community but not necessarily to their drivers and masters.

From these hollers emerged both gospel and blues music. Luckily some of the earliest blues recordings are still available to listen to. If I was to suggest someone to listen to who is a prime example of the progression from the field to the performer I would say Leadbelly:


In these recordings you will hear the call and response which I noted of earlier. Sometimes it is a question and answer with the voice. Other times the response is on the guitar but  the music of Leadbelly illustrates the principle well. This call and response aspect of the blues has carried on into Chicago blues and has also influenced Jazz, rock and pop music. It is easily heard if you listen for it.

Another great Bluesman, a term which may not have used in his day; is Charley Patton. Believed to have been born in 1891 in Mississippi Hill Country. He is reported to have played his guitar behind his back and knees for audiences. in 1929 He recorded his first song Pony Blues on Paramount label which is probably his most well known tune. Patton recorded another 14 sides for paramount and also made his way to new York to record for the American record Company. Patton is believed to have died age 43. Undoubtedly he left behind valuable recordings which if you are serious about blues should be in your collection. 

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There is a rich heritage of blues music which is captured and widely available on cd and Spotify. When they were recording, I don’t think either artist would have comprehended that their music would become so popular and wide spread. So for those who have never met the blues this was a short introduction. A gift from the past preserved for you. I encourage you to have a listen. You don’t know what your missing! 

Album Review – Best of John Lee Hooker.

Best of JLH

After the death of John Lee Hooker in June 2001 I remember being sat up one night watching the television. I was age 15 at the time. Music had always appealed to me, however I had not had the opportunity to learn an instrument up until this point. On came the concert ‘John Lee Hooker and friends’ which was showing in memory of John lee Hooker. I was hooked from the start. I hadn’t heard such a percussive driving sound made by a guitar before. John lee Hooker was joined by the likes of Albert Collings and Robert Cray. It was a great contrast in styles. After seeing this I was taken. I asked repeatedly for a guitar. My mother eventually purchased me a crafter acoustic. I will never forget it. It had a light blue laminated front and a plastic bowl back. The action was good and I played it till the frets were wearing down. Cut a long story short the above album is the first  blues CD I saved up for at age 15, I bought it from virgin music store- Manchester England.

The album contains 22 tracks consisting of some of Hookers most celebrated songs. It kicks off with Boom Boom which typifies Hookers style of grooving on a chord. Through out the CD Hookers use of open G tuning allows the delta sound to come through despite the electric guitar and amplification.

My favourite track no 11 which this blog is named after is Crawling King snake. it has always stuck with me due to the catchy lyrics which are Double entendre:

“I’m gon’ crawl to your window baby
I’m gon’ crawl over to your door
You’ve got everything I want now baby
I wanna crawl up on your floor
Cause I’m a crawlin’ king snake, and I rule my den
I don’t want nobody hangin’ around with my little girl
I’m just gonna use her for myself”

Another recommendation from the album is bottle up and go. Again the lyrics are captivating and it is a solid groove. :

Well, mama killed a chicken
Thought it was a duck
Put him on the table with his legs stickin’ up
You gotta bottle up and go, yeah
You gotta bottle up and go
Well, ya high pile o’ women
Sho’ gotta bottle up and go

All in all this is a great album, lots of examples of one chord grooves and smooth playing in the delta style. If you see it when your out its well worth buying. Hopefully it will bring you as much pleasure as it did me. The recording quality is good and you can easily pick out the guitar parts of you are a player.