Styles & Forms | Modern Electric Blues

Although the first generations of electric bluesmen played louder and more flamboyantly than their acoustic forefathers, their music was still traditional in its delivery and structure. The British blues players who emulated them during the 1960s were also fairly traditional in their approach to the genre.

Jimi Hendrix opened things up a bit more when he first appeared on the scene in 1967, but the musicians he in turn influenced tended to lean towards the rock side of the musical spectrum.

Another group of electric bluesmen also began to emerge during the late-1960s and early 1970s – guitar players such as Roy Buchanan and Johnny Winter, who had taken on board the new sounds of rock but were steeped in the traditions of the blues.

Blues Got Them Early

The son of a Pentecostal preacher, Roy Buchanan grew up in California and, as a teenager, joined Dale Hawkins’ band in 1958. After a stint as a session player in the 1960s, he decided to try his luck as a solo artist with Roy Buchanan (1972), an accomplished album highlighting his distinctive, treble-sounding Fender Telecaster tone. He was asked to join The Rolling Stones after Brian Jones died but, surprisingly, he turned the offer down. His career, like that of many other blues musicians, was plagued by booze and drug problems, and, after a number of unsuccessful suicide attempts, he hung himself in a police cell in 1988.

Johnny Winter, an albino bluesman who grew up in Texas, also began playing and singing the blues early in life; he cut his first record at the age of 15, and produced a demonstration disc known as The Progressive Blues Experiment in 1968. An excellent review in Rolling Stone magazine led to lucrative management and recording deals. His first proper album, Johnny Winter (1969), established his standing as an outstanding performer with an exceptionally dexterous guitar style and paved the way for more than 20 further, critically acclaimed Winter blues albums.

Blues Fusions

Robben Ford is another great blues artist who emerged during the early 1970s. He also showed a mastery of jazz, unlike most blues guitar players, and his music developed into a compelling blend of the two styles. Inspired by Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield, Robben learned blues guitar during the 1960s and performed with Charlie Musselwhite in 1970. He also toured and recorded with George Harrison and Joni Mitchell in the mid-1970s and with Miles Davis in the 1980s. His Talk To Your Daughter album (1988) was nominated for a Grammy, while later, Robben Ford And The Blue Line (1992) won considerable acclaim for its original, earthy approach to the blues. Robben’s soloing is more sophisticated than that of most other blues players and his chord progressions are often laced with rich jazz harmonies.

Another musician who effortlessly fused jazz with the blues is the Connecticut-born John Scofield. Although John spent many of his early years studying the work...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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