The early 1900s saw the birth of Memphis blues music, and the sound of the Memphis blues has resonated through the country ever since. Some of the greatest blues musicians who helped to make the city famous for its music were Sleepy John Estes, Memphis Minnie, and Frank Stokes. Beale Street in Memphis was the area that Memphis blues music centered around, and most of the performances were given there, and most of the musicians made Beale Street their home.
There were many instruments that helped to make Memphis blues music what we know it as today. Guitars were used, along with jugs, harmonicas, some percussion, and even piano, although most instruments were more like hand made instruments. Some of the handmade instruments were from household objects such as spoons, stove pipe, washboards, and cans hit with sticks. In the very beginning of Memphis blues music, large gourds were even used to make home made guitars out of. They were flattened on one side, and then the musicians would carve a sound hole into it. Banjos were also sometimes made this way, and even though they didnt last for more than a few days before they rotted, the instruments sure worked.
Jug bands were a large part of the development of Memphis blues music. They were common in Memphis for years up until around the time of World War II, then after that, the electronic instruments began shooing the homemade instruments into history. The jugs that were used were held to the mouth, and blown across the top to make different pitches. Different jugs made different sounds, and most were made from stone or glass. Also, buzzing the lips a couple of inches away from the top of the jug also created different sounds and pitches.
Many African Americans who were living in the Mississippi Delta region and other poorer areas of the south left their homes in the early and mid 1900s to go to Memphis in search of a better life in a more urban setting. Many of the musicians who came to Memphis, and slowly the sound of Memphis music began to change. The Memphis blues music became a combination of the jug bands and homemade instruments and the songs of the African Americans, who often worked out in the fields and would sing songs all day while they worked hard.
Some of the most famous musicians who performed Memphis blues music were Howlin Wolf, Willie Nix, Ike Turner, and the famous B.B. King. They formed the genre known today as the Memphis classic electric blues, rhythm and blues (or R&B), and the beginnings of rock and roll. Without these musicians and many more like them, Memphis blues music would certainly not be all that it is today.
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