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Blues Timeline
Important dates in Blues History

March
1903
W.C. Handy sees a "ragged loose-jointed black" playing the guitar in a Tutwiler, Mississippi railroad station. The unknown guitarist used a knife as a slide to play the guitar. Handy remarked "The event was unforgettable. His song, too, struck me instantly.
Goin' where the Southern cross the Dog.
March
1912
The first appearance of the word 'blues' in a piece of music: "The Dallas Blues" by Hart Wand. The story goes that a black porter overheard Hart playing his violin and the porter remarked "That give me the blues to go back to Dallas."
1920 Mamie Smith records "Crazy Blues", the first of the Race Records. Race Records, was the term used by recording companies at the time for recordings of black artists with the target audience of black Americans.
Late 1925
or
Early 1926
Texas born Blind Lemon Jefferson records in Chicago. The success of these recordings revolutionized Race Records, which had previously relied on female band vocalists with established reputations.
Dec 3
1927
Texas born Blind Willie Johnson records in Dallas, TX. These and all of his subsequent recordings blurred the lines between blues and gospel music.
1928 Mississippi Native John Hurt, better known as Mississippi John Hurt, records for Okeh records in New York and Memphis.
Sept
1928
Georgia Born Tampa Red records "It's Tight Like That". This song is considered a predecessor to urban blues and spurned numerous imitators of the song and the style.
June 14
1929
Mississippi Born Charlie Patton records 14 songs for Paramount Records in Richmond, Indiana. Charlie Patton would influence countless blues guitarists and musicians, including Son House and Robert Johnson.
Dec
1929
Blind Lemon Jefferson dies in Chicago. Both his music and his success had a tremendous impact blues musicians across the Southern United States.
1933 Louisiana born Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, is recorded by John and Alan Lomax at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Leadbelly, not exclusively a blues artist, introduced the blues to a wider audience. He was the first folk blues artist to present his music in concert to white audiences outside the South.
Apr 28
1934
Charlie Patton dies near Holly Ridge, Mississippi. He is considered by some to be the most influential blues musician on his contemporaries. Directly influencing Son House, Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Bukka White, Big Joe Williams, Furry Lewis and Tommy Johnson, to name a few.
Nov
1936
Mississippi born Robert Johnson records for the first time in San Antonio, Texas.
Aug 16
1938
Robert Johnson dies near Greenwood, Mississippi at age 26. The cause of his death is widely disputed, but it is believed that he was murdered by a jealous husband who poisoned Robert's Whiskey. Some consider Robert Johnson the most influential of early blues musicians and his direct influence is still felt today.
1941 Alan Lomax records McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, for the Library of Congress on Stovall's plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi.
1941 Alex Rice Miller, aka Sonny Boy Williamson (#2), begins performing live on the radio (KFFA) in Helena, Arkansas. 'The King Biscuit Hour' was fairly popular and made Sonny Boy a Delta radio star.
May
1943
Muddy Waters boards a train from Clarksdale, Mississippi to Chicago, Illinois. This trip is symbolically viewed as the first step in rural country blues' transformation into urban blues.
Sept 6
1946
Mississippi Born Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup records "That's Alright Mama" for Blue Bird records in Chicago.
July 5
1954
Elvis Presley records Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup's "That's Alright Mama" for Sun Records in Memphis, TN. This record launched Elvis' career and a musical style called Rock and Roll.
1961 Columbia Records releases selections of Robert Johnson's recordings on LP. This release was critical in the popularity of blues in England in years to come.
1963 Mississippi John Hurt, assumed to be deceased by many, is found living in Avalon, Mississippi. Still playing and singing his folk-blues in the same manner as he did in 1928 , he is asked to tour. Hurt, the first of the 'rediscovered' early blues artists, was a big success on the coffeehouse and folk festival circuit until his death in 1966.
Late
1963
Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds record John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" among other blues standards in Surrey, England. The blues begins to catch on in England and Europe.





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