The Blues Explosion

The lessons in this chapter, coming in the second phase of the project, will explore the scenes in Britain and the United States that found young, white musicians studying American Blues music, learning its style, and creating something that was related but not entirely so, as is often the case in even the most studious cultural borrowing. In the early 1960s, British musicians such as Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner approached American music as "purists," attempting to get as close as they could to the spirit of the Blues and Jazz they loved. Future members of the Rolling Stones soaked up what they could in their environment (no matter that they would eventually depart from the purist camp), and thus this purist movement proved itself a key to the transition into the Rock and Roll of the late 1960s.

In the States, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band played a similar role in influencing a wide array of artists who would go on to become giants of late 60s and early 70s Rock and Roll. With two former Howlin' Wolf sidemen in the racially mixed group, the Butterfield band worked in Chicago, where artists including Muddy Waters were actively playing clubs. Among the band, it was guitarist Mike Bloomfield who would garner the most attention. Like Davies and Korner, he studied the Bluesmen of Chicago with a noted reverence. But his abilities as a player took him beyond that world and, among other places, into Dylan's band when Dylan "went electric" at Newport Folk Festival.

The Blues Explosion chapter captures a time in which the Blues "crossed over," changing the lives and careers of many of the music's most celebrated names. If this chapter discusses acts that have less notoriety than many across this curriculum, those acts nonetheless played a pivotal role in the development of much that would follow.