how it all came into being

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 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.


British electric styles

British blues emerged from the skiffle and folk club scene of the late 1950s, particularly in London, which included the playing of American acoustic blues. Critical was the visit of Muddy Waters in 1958, who initially shocked British audiences by playing amplified electric blues, but who was soon performing to ecstatic crowds and rave reviews. This inspired guitarist and blues harpist Cyril Davies and guitarist Alexis Korner to plug in and they began to play a high-powered electric blues that became the model for the subgenre, forming the band Blues Incorporated. Blues Incorporated was something of a clearing house for British blues musicians in the later 1950s and early 1960s, with many joining, or sitting in on sessions. These included future Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Brian Jones; Cream founders Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker; and Graham Bond and Long John Baldry. Blues Incorporated were given a residency at the Marquee Club and it was from there that in 1962 they took the name of the first British Blues album, R&B from the Marquee for Decca, but split before its release. The model of British rhythm and blues was emulated by a number of bands including the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Small Faces, and the Yardbirds.

Clapton in 2008, one of the major figures of the British blues boom in the 1960s.
The other key focus for British blues was around John Mayall who moved to London in the early 1960s, eventually forming the Bluesbreakers, whose members at various times included, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. The Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (Beano) album (1966) is considered one of the seminal British blues recordings. It was notable for its driving rhythms and Clapton’s rapid blues licks with a full distorted sound derived from a Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall amp, which became something of a classic combination for British blues (and later rock) guitarists. It also made clear the primacy of the guitar, seen as a distinctive characteristic of the subgenre. Clapton left to form Cream with Baker and Bruce and his replacement was Peter Green, who in turn (with the then Bluesbreaker’s rhythm section Mick Fleetwood and John McVie) left in 1967 to form Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Incorporating elements of rock led these bands to a hybrid form known as blues rock.

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