At a recent rooftop gathering last month, a young birthday boy in his final year of music school proudly pronounced that 'white people had no right to play the blues.' I've been thinking about that statement ever since, so I did a little digging. In the southern states before recording and distribution, the musicians referred to themselves as 'songsters' and fostered no prejudice. It was only when money started rolling in that the tunes became classified as 'race' or 'hillybilly' - predecessors to country and blues. There was no real musical difference, however I think it's fair to say that the African rhythms were the basis of early blues feel.
It was when the slaves were taught gospel hymns written mostly by Isaac Watts- an English Hymn writer, that a blend of music, culture and oppression began a new era.
There was white music, black music and Cajun. Honourable mention goes to the Cajuns, who brought their own flavour to blues music. Cajun's up and down foot stomping ' La La' melodic contribution from the also persecuted french folk in Louisiana earns it kudos from early to modern blues. You can hear the Cajun influence in Leadbelly's famous recording, above.
Let's not forget Charlie Patton who taught the blues to John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf, and was a racial mix of white, black and Cherokee. No doubt in my mind that the African slave culture nurtured a new generation of music, and deserves to lay the highest claim in the creation of the blues.
However, being direct descent French Huguenot from the Ozarks.....i beg to differ with the little white boy from above. Maybe HE has no right to play the blues.
My son just looked over my shoulder and commented on how much this guy looks like Barak Obama (wonder if the president has any Cherokee in him?) !!!!! :D