Back to table of Contents


The blues revival, which spanned the decade of the 1960s, attempted to resurrect indigenous African American music styles within a modern context; i.e., employing rock instrumentation, performing dynamics, and studio technology. The movement encompassed two different approaches, those centered in the United States and Great Britain, respectively.

In the U.S., folkies took a leadership role in the exploration of blues roots. They worshipped "authenticity," which was taken to mean an aged black man playing an acoustic instrument. Living electric interpreters such as B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, and Magic Sam were largely overlooked. Contemporary white performers were acknowledged only if their work focused on pre-World War II forms.

Electric blues practitioners finally began to receive recognition when white rock musicians discovered the genre in the mid-1960s. The most influential of the white artists was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Butterfield was an accomplished harmonica players who'd learned the craft from blues masters based in the South Side district of Chicago. The band--which also featured guitarists Michael Bloomfield (according to The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, the most influential performer on that instrument until the arrival of Eric Clapton) and Elvin Bishop--opened the door to mainstream acceptance for an entire generation of blues revivalists from the Allman Brothers Band to albino guitar slinger Johnny Winter.

In the United Kingdom, black American blues became available in appreciable numbers after World War II through (1) records left behind by American G.I.s and sold in secondhand stores, (2) product mail ordered by young enthusiasts, and (3) pressings leased by English jazz labels. The "trad" jazz fad of the 1950s represented a pale, but enthusiastic, attempt to recreate the Chicago and New Orleans styles popular in the 1920s (best known as "dixieland" in the United States). The best known exponent of this genre was Chris Barber; two of his sidemen, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies, formed an r & b unit within the main band. This aggregate, Blues Incorporated, recruited another young Barber recruit, future Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones, and struck out on its own in 1962.

The Stones, formed in 1963, went on to become the British blues revival band both to achieve broad-based popularity and advance the genre beyond the mere imitation of old models. The Yardbirds are widely considered to have been the most accomplished of the bands to have followed in the wake of the Stones' success. Featuring the talents, in successive order, of three of the most influential rock guitarists of the rock era (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, whose later installment of the band metamor- phosed into Led Zeppelin), the Yardbirds attempted a balancing act between straight blues live and progressive studio explorations (e.g., Indian raga phrasings in "Shapes of Things," electric violin in "Over Under Sideways Down," twin guitar feedback leads in "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago").


Top Artists and Their Recordings

U.S. Artists

Mike Bloomfield/Al Kooper/Steve Stills--Super Session (1968)

The Blues Project--Live at the Cafe Au Go Go (1966); Projections (1966); The Blues Project Live at Town Hall (1967)

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band--The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965); East-West (1966); The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (1968); In My Own Dream (1968); The Butterfield Blues Band/Live (1971); Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin' (1971)

Canned Heat--Canned Heat (1967); Boogie With Canned Heat (1968); Living the Blues (1969); Hallelujah (1969); Future Blues (1970); Hooker 'N Heat (w/John Lee Hooker) (1971); Canned Heat Concert (1971)

The Fabulous Thunderbirds—Tuff Enuff (1984)

J. Geils Band--The J. Geils Band (1970); The Morning After (1971); Live - Full House (1972); Bloodshot (1973); Ladies Invited (1973); Nightmares...and other tales from the vinyl jungle (1974); Hotline (1975); Live - Blow Your Face Out (1976); Monkey Island (1977); Sanctuary (1978); Love Stinks (1980); Freeze-Frame (1981); Showtime! (1982); You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd (1984)

Charley Musselwhite--Ace of Harps (1970)

Vaughan, Stevie Ray—Texas Flood (1983); Couldn’t Stand the Weather (1984); Soul To Soul (1985)

Johnny Winter--The Progressive Blues Experiment (1969); Johnny Winter (1969); The Johnny Winter Story (1969); Second Winter (1969); Johnny Winter And (1970); Live/Johnny Winter And (1971); Still Alive and Well (1973); Saints & Sinners (1974); John Dawson Winter III (1974); Captured Live! (1976); Together (w/Edgar Winter) (1976)

U.K. Artists

Chicken Shack--Imagination Lady (1972)

Climax Blues Band--The Climax Chicago Blues Band Plays On (1970); A Lot of Bottle (1971); Tightly Knit (1972); Rich Man (1973); FM/Live (1973); Sense of Direction (1974); Stamp Album (1975); "Couldn't Get It Right" (1977); "Makin' Love" (1978); "Gotta Have More Love" (1980); "I Love You" (1981)

Cream--Fresh Cream (1967); Disraeli Gears (1968); "Sunshine of Your Love"; Wheels of Fire (1968); "White Room" (1968); Goodbye (1969)

Fleetwood Mac--English Rose (1968); Then Play On (1969); Kiln House (1970)

Savoy Brown--Getting to the Point (1967); Blue Matter (1968); A Step Further (1969); Looking In (1970); Street Corner Talking (1971); Hellbound Train (1972); Lion's Share (1972); Jack the Toad (1973); Boogie Brothers (1974); Wire Fire (1975)

Taste--Taste (1969)

Ten Years After--Undead (1968); Stonedhenge (1969); Ssssh (1969); Cricklewood Green (1970); Watt (1970); A Space in Time (1971); Rock & Roll Music to the World (1972); Recorded Live (1973); Positive Vibrations (1974)

The Yardbirds-- For Your Love (1965); Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds (1965); Over Under Sideways Down (1966); Little Games (1970)