Blues For Kids

Blues For Kids

Typically, when you hear the phrase, "the blues," you think that someone is sad. True, "to have the blues" has come to mean that someone is feeling down. However, the blues are also a type of music that people listen to, like rock & roll. Most people are surprised to hear that some rock & roll actually comes from some blues songs. Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary are two artists that you might have heard about who sang some of the same songs as some of the blues musicians sang.

Piedmont blues sounds a lot like folk music or bluegrass. Blues musicians usually play the guitar, although some of them play the banjo or the harmonica. Piedmont blues has a "happy" sound and is usually picked from the strings rather than strummed. A lot of Piedmont blues musicians use a thick metal ring that they slide up and down the neck of the guitar while they pick the strings--this is called "slide guitar" or "reeling." In the beginning of the blues movement, musicians used the neck of a bottle before the metal rings had been invented.

Most Piedmont blues musicians lived during the 1920s and 30s; there are very few left today, and most of them have changed the music slightly so it sounds a little different from the way it was played in the past. Blind Boy Fuller, Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were some of the most famous Piedmont blues artists.

Before the 1970s, there weren't any state festivals where you could listen to blues music, and if you were white, you weren't supposed to go to the places where blues musicians would play. Most musicians would play in front of tobacco factories or in people's houses, but the people who listened to them were usually black. That's because after the end of the Civil War, North Carolina set up some laws, called Jim Crow laws, that kept blacks and whites separated. In the 1950s, the Supreme Court began ruling that these laws were unconstitutional, and that started the Civil Rights Movement.