A little history of Rhythm and Blues

rhythm and blues

Quote sources: http://bit.ly/1sdyBxe and  http://bit.ly/1qdRWMO

So this month I’m sharing a smidgen about the New Orleans Sound because that is what I’m listening to right now…

It’s always been difficult for me to put a label on my musical style. In the music biz, labels are important, so I’ve listened to what folks have said.  “You’re a jazz singer, you’re an R&B singer, you sound like a country singer, you’re a torch singer.  You remind me of New Orleans.”  That being said, I’ve noticed that “New Orleans” frequently seeps into descriptions of my music. I’ve often thought, “well of course, I am strongly influenced by Jazz.  New Orleans being the birth place of jazz, it makes perfect sense!” However, New Orleans is the birthplace of multiple musical genres that emanate from jazz — one of them being Rhythm and Blues, which I believe to be in closest alignment to my personal style.  

So today I’ve decided to talk a bit about R&B.  I’m going back to the inception of jazz where it all started, at the mouth of the Mississippi in the city of New Orleans.  This melting pot of Native American, French, Spanish, English, African, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures have mixed for over two centuries. Here is the birth place of jazz, which in turn shaped rhythm & blues, rock & roll, reggae and ska. It all seems to have started with an Afro-Cuban rhythm called the tresillo which infiltrated the New Orleans city from the dances and music of the African and Caribbean slaves.  By adding a back beat the tresillo evolved into the habanera (also known as congo, tango-congo, or tango). “The habanera was the first written music to be rhythmically based on an African motif.”  Then you mix second line brass band music and so begins the germination of multiple genres that became the music of the North Americas. (As you’ve most likely surmised, things were not that simple; but for the sake of brevity I have minimized history.)

In the latter part of the 1940’s a new sound came out of New Orleans: its stylistic origins were Negro Spirituals, blues, gospel, boogie woogie, and jazz.  It was called Rhythm and Blues. “The term Rhythm and Blues replaced the offensive commercial term ‘race music’ and was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, featuring ‘urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat’.  In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, saxophone, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy. Lyrics focus heavily on the themes of triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, freedom, economics, aspirations, and sex.”


Here are some examples of R&B through the years.  Please note: I look for recordings of live versions so check ‘em out.  If you know of something I should see please send it!  

Here ya go!

Country Boy,-by Dave Bartholomew (1949) http://bit.ly/1sdjYdo

Caldonia- Louis Jordon(1946) by Louis Jordan http://bit.ly/1TaSBsS

Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean- Ruth Brown (1953) by: Johnny Wallace and Herbert J. Lance http://bit.ly/24Lg9tu

Please, Please, Please-James Brown (1956) by Brown and Johnny Terry http://bit.ly/1VTaC2D

Hit The Road Jack, Ray Charles (1961)written by:  Percy Mayfield  http://bit.ly/1USF4sp

Hand Jive -Johnny Otis(1958) written by Bud Allen http://bit.ly/27dCDFC

Maybellene- Chuck Berry (1955) Adapted from traditional fiddle tune “Ida Red” http://bit.ly/1fZgEFB

Jailhouse Rock- Elvis Presley (1957) by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller  http://bit.ly/24LikgE

Chain Gang- Sam Cooke (1960) by Sam Cooke http://bit.ly/1T8IlEz

Tell me something Good-Chaka Khan and Rufus (1974); by Stevie Wonder http://bit.ly/1X0VGye

Yes We Can Can- Pointer Sisters (1973), by Allen Toussaint  http://bit.ly/24LjYii

Big Chief-Neville Brothers (1987) by Earl King https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fRtFs7-3nLg

Fats Domino & Dave Bartholomew – Live in Austin (1986) http://bit.ly/1T4RhZH

Dr. John – Right Place Wrong Time by Dr. John (1973) http://bit.ly/1SJtlcR