Your first exposure to the blues

  • Your first exposure to the blues

    Was it on vinyl? CD? Radio? Live? Share a bit about your first exposure to the blues and how (or if) you think it's influenced your blues listening since.

    My first exposure was the purchase of Johnny Winter on vinyl sometime in 1972. It was at the front of a bin in our little record store in Mt. Pleasant, IA (population, 8,000 - hearty Midwestern souls all!). The photo of Johnny's face on the cover caught my attention. It was simple and striking. But what really hooked me were the notes on the back of the album - a Kerouac-ish beat rant about the unexpected similarities between being African American and being an albino. And, that the similarities allowed the albino guy to tap into, to channel this traditionally black music. The prose was startling. I wouldn't read Kerouac, Kesey or Ginsberg for a few years (I was only 11), but the picture and the prose somehow promised greatness in the music.

    From the first few millimeters of that vinyl groove, I was hooked. I couldn't play the album often enough or loud enough. Every cut was over the top, from the scorching opener, "I'm Yours and I'm Hers" to the gospel background of "I'll Drown In My Tears." Every note, every nuance seemed as authentic as the grass, or the sky or the breeze - magnified by a factor of ten. It was the first time I really listened to a guitar, trying to pick out the individual notes from the sonic river. Couldn't do it. Johnny's was also the first singing voice I'd heard that didn't sound at all contrived, though I'd never really noticed the contrivances before.

    Over 35 years, it's the one album that's been continuously in my collection, in one medium or another. There's even a little guitar touch in "Leland Mississippi Blues" that still makes me smile today, every single time I hear it.

    I have no doubt that Johnny set a personal preference for guitar-driven hardcore blues. I love all blues, but when I reach into the collection, I'm always very glad to find an overdriven guitar (probably a Strat, probably a 4x12 Fender cab), and a voice that evokes so much emotion you're always certain it's but a note away from falling completely out of control. Johnny led to Freddie King, who led to Johnny Copeland, who led to Albert King and, finally, straight to Stevie Ray Vaughan and all the other hard-nosed blues guitarists of the day.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it! What's yours?

    • madowyn said...
    • User
    • 9 Nov 2007, 16:45


    Sometime in the early 60's. Maybe Leadbelly via Folkways. Still listening to primarily trad music but blues starting to creep in.

    Then met a recent British immigrant at school. He had brought over his collection of British and American blues. John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, John Lee Hooker, Clapton, Cream, Johnny Winters, Long John Baldry, ...

    Various festivals, but best exposure was probably Mariposa.

    Turned legal in Quebec. Spent a lot of weekend time on St. Catherine's street in Montreal. Lots of great live Blues, Soul, Gospel, early Funk. I was not driving so a lot of the concert memories are a bit blurry.

    Just kept listening off and on. Turned more to Jazz for a while, but the blues was always part of what I listened to.

  • Leadbelly and St. Catherine

    I have quite a bit of Leadbelly in the collection, though I don't listen as often as I should.

    I'll be on St. Catherine's in Montreal in late November. What a lovely city. I'm hoping to catch some good live blues during a business trip.

  • First exposure to the blues - an English/Australian perspective

    Interesting theme Tony. Growing up in England, first exposure was in the early 60s with people like the Animals with Eric Burdon doing a number of John Lee Hooker songs, The Stones, Clapton through the Yardbirds, Long John Baldry, Manfred Mann not dissimilar to madowyn.

    Then picked up on Tony Joe White in the late 60s and whilst he had his own style, he still played plenty of blues. First blues concert seen was BB King and I have seen him live 6 more times since then.

    Moved to Australia in 1970 with the full vinyl collection, which then included LPs by BB King, Albert King (double live album also featuring Rory Gallagher, Lousiana Red and Lowell Fulsom), but little else because Atlantic Soul and Tamla Motown had taken preference (lucky enough to see Otis Redding).

    Moved through country music and then on to jazz but always had a love of the blues in the background. At that time, personal favourites were Ry Cooder, JJ Cale and the UK The Blues Band with some ex Manfred Mann personel.

    Early 90s was a blues eye opener in Australia with the Byron Bay Blues Festival featuring an overeseas contingent of Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, Roy Rogers & Norton Buffalo, William Clarke, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Duke Robillard, Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Joe Louis Walker and the Gospel Hummingbirds over two consecutive years.

    After moving back into jazz, discovered the Roadhouse in 2006 and am now a confirmed blues addict. Unfortunately not enough live concerts coming to Australia especially the Gold Coast so just need to get my fix each Sunday (for us) and enjoy sharing opportunities like this on last fm.

    Earliest vinyl album remains BB King Live at The Regal although my CD collection shows much earlier stuff.

    So much music, so little time (t-shirt from Austin Texas)
    • Jen29H said...
    • User
    • 16 Nov 2007, 16:14
    I seem to be younger than most in the group...and I believe my first exposure, or at least the first one that caught my attention, was in a history of popular music class. I don't remember much from that...we listened to a couple of Robert Johnson songs and learned the 12 bar blues form...but beyond that I don't remember any other artists we listened to. But apparently it sunk in a bit and I borrowed a couple cds from the library - Charlie Musselwhite and James Cotton. The harmonica was what really drew me in.

    From there, a local radio station played a blues show, I think it was called The Red Rooster Lounge, on Sunday nights that I was always pleased to catch - that was about 5 years ago...and my interest kinda faded from there until recently.

    Now I'm nightstocking, and in the "need" to not listen to store radio all night, purchased an ipod...and after getting bored by my normal music night after night, I kinda fell into the podcasting world. Once I realized there were music podcasts, I started exploring Blues and Jazz again and The Roadhouse was the first I came across...and I've been hooked for the last month or so - jamming out, dancing with and stocking cereal in the early morning hours...

  • I actually don't remember.

    I grew up on Broadway showtunes and started getting into rock in the late 60s, some of which was blues based. At some point, I bought a Robert Johnson album, but didn't much care for it at the time (the songs were a bit too repetitious to me).

    I do remember going to a Buddy Guy/Junior Wells concert at college and loving it. What I really liked was that they started at the advertised time, not a half hour later (though it was just the backing band, it showed a nice consideration for the audience that I'd only seen at the time with other blues acts and the Earl Scruggs Review).

    There was also a Taj Mahal concert.

    And my roommate got me started with the Allman Brothers Band (I had already seen them twice in concert as an opening act, but other than "Whipping Post," nothing really stuck). He also played a lot of the Siegel-Schwall Band.

    But I gradually started realizing that I loved blues music; give me the standard blues guitar intro and I'm in heaven.

  • Albert King 1968 or 9 Filmore West Carosel Ballroom

    My first live concert. Albert King had just had his big hit with "Born under a bad sign". I didn't know anything about the blues but it was a great concert. I was in love with Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth but I didn't think of her as a blues singer. Same with Janis, it was all rock'n roll to me.

    Thinking back it's interesting just how much of what I lined in rock 'n roll was really blues or blues inspired. Some was obvious, Elvin Bishop, Paul Butterfield but others were less so, Tracy Nelson, Maria Muldaur, Janis Joplin. Now it's obvious but then what did I know.

  • The Blues

    My first contact with the blues was in the early 70s. I heared some Free and Led Zeppelin. But my favorite band was Deep Purple (who don't have the blues, right?). In the years following I learend about people like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters.

    But never could I say I love the blues. This only happened when I had my first iPod and looked for cheap / free and legal music to download. Somewhere at Garagband I found a link to The Roadhouse. The show I listened to was no. 5 or 6 and it got me hooked! Since then I heared more blues than the 30 years before. ;-) Thanks, Tony!

  • Learning Blues

    First exposure to blues had to be when I was just starting out on learning to play bass; most instruction books teach 12 bar relatively early. Later I bought a CD with full instrumental tracks with the bass removed to practice with and I just had so much fun playing along. Blues is easy to play mechanically, but getting the soul of it is a challenge and infinitely rewarding if you can tap into it.

    I didn't get into listening to the blues that much, though, until much later, when I started listening to the Roadhouse. I found it just cruising the podcast listing and decided it looked like fun, plus I was hoping to expand beyond the simple, rock-driven playlists I was used to (don't get me wrong - I still love the rock, but I wanted to add to my collection and expand my horizons with some blues, soul, and R&B). Since then, I've purchased a wide array of blues artists that I've found on Roadhouse - Albert Cummings, Mighty Lester, artists from Alligator records, plus others.

    Unfortunately, it's not that interesting of a story. I missed out on a lot of the great music of the twentieth century by virtue of being born too late. That's why I'm thankful there are outlets like the Roadhouse to bring the blues into today, at least for those who know where to look.

    Create like a god. Command like a king. Work like a slave.

    Vi Veri Ueniversum Vivus Vici [] Ad Pleniorem Scientiam [] Auctoritas, Non Veritas, Facit Legem

    The Blues Brothers movie two years ago. I was 17 and apparently in the right mindset to become obsessed with the blues. It's been full speed ahead since then.

  • joe bonamassa

    Herd this guy on a UK radio station (Planet Rock) and found out that rock music has a grandfather that isn't as outdated and doddering as many would have you think.

    Saw him live a few weeks ago and for the past couple of months have had a new found love for walking bas lines and the ability to count higher than 4 (outside of prog rock).

    For info:

    Joe Bonamassa:
    Planet Rock:

  • Purple's Just Deeper Blue

    @krusty1958: Along with Johnny Winter, Deep Purple's Machine Head has been in my collection continuously since the mid-70s. Yes, Smoke on the Water is on the album. It seems a bit cliched all these years later. But, the album's also got Maybe I'm a Leo, Never Before and (maybe my favorite) Lazy. The 4+ minute intro is still pretty stunning for its deep, deep groove. They definitely had the blues, buried in a big pile of shiny steel.

  • Blues on the radio

    I grew up in the country outside of Montgomery, Alabama (I'm still there). My father owned a logging business, and my mother was a civilian clerk at Maxwell AFB. Since they both worked, during the day they left me at home with the maid, a lady named Amanda Jarrett. While she ironed or cleaned house, she listened all day to the radio on top of our refrigerator. I remember the station (WRMA, 950 AM) as playing gospel in the mornings and other music in the afternoons.

    This was during the time of the Korean War, around 1950, '51. '52, and it was the "other" music that got me when I was so young. I can't remember specific tunes, but I do remember hearing that low volume wailing and singing with piano and saxaphone and guitar, with a beat, all day long. It sounded so good to me as a child. I'm sure it was the popular rhythm and blues of the times, because for the rest of my life, whenever I heard songs from that time period, I knew I had heard them before.

    About 5 years later, I remember very well that a local black DJ used "After Hours" as his theme song on an afternoon radio show on WRMA. I don't know if it was the original version by Erskine Hawkins or not, but when I heard that piano coming out of the radio, I knew there was some good music and some "sly talkin'" coming up. I don't know if it was another maid or my older sister playing the radio in those days, but the music was always on in our house in the afternoons.

    By the summer of 1962, I was working for my father and learning to play the guitar. Every morning and afternoon, riding to and from work, we would listen to the radio in the truck playing Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Bobby Bland, Jackie Wilson, Chuck Willis, Ruth Brown, Etta James, etc. One of the first things every guitar player learned in those days was that 2-string riff on "Baby What You Want Me To Do" by Jimmy Reed.

    When I started high school in the fall of 1962, I found out that you could hear blues on the radio all night long from WLAC, AM 1510 in Nashville. The "cool" people listened to that station while they drove around town at night. In the mornings, driving to school, we listened to local stations WRMA and WAPX with their DJ's' snappy patter between blues and soul songs. Those stations led me to my first B.B. King concert in the summer of 1965 at the City Auditorium in Montgomery. B.B. was still on the "chitlin' circuit" and I was one of four white boys in the whole crowd.

    I started college that fall, and we listened to WLAC and WWL from New Orleans at night. They were still playing lots of blues and soul in the wee hours. But, by the time I graduated in 1970, it seemed that the blues I had heard on the radio all my life had just evaporated. There were blues bands playing, like Blues Project, the Paul Butterfield Band, and others, but to me and other Southerners, any white band calling themselves a blues band was just a bunch of pretenders.

    So, I heard the blues coming from a radio every day, from my earliest memories through the first 23 years of my life. It was always there, somewhere, in the background, just playing. I soaked it all up, and it's still with me. Any time I hear a radio playing a good tune, at low volume, early in the morning or late in the afternoon, I think about those days when I was younger, listening to the blues. It feels good.

    That's why I like The Roadhouse so much. The Roadhouse is the closest thing I can find to those broadcast blues from years ago. I have thanked Tony many times for the Roadhouse. I thank him again, here and now. Keep going, Tony - keep going.

    George in Alabama.
    Alabama is in me.
  • Nice. I appreciate the recollection, George. Thanks.

    • bzmac said...
    • User
    • 7 May 2009, 17:02

    From rock to...

    I caught a Stevie Ray Vaughan song on the radio when I lived in the San Jose area in the late '80s. I would swear it was Mary Had a Little Lamb from Texas Flood, but I've never heard that on the radio since, so I can't be sure.

    I bought the CD, then bought In Step, and played them incessantly. All my friends and relatives knew I had the bug, so birthdays and holidays were filled with SRV CDs and videos (Austin City Limits!). I was making plans to attend any nearby concert that I could get to when a friend told me, "Stevie Ray was killed last night."

    It's hard to describe the feeling...outrage, betrayal, sadness, regret...but reading Jimmie Vaughan's recollections in Guitar magazine a couple years ago made me realize how trivial my feelings were in that regard. Jimmie said something like, "Everybody else misses a great guitar player. I miss my brother."

    Since then I've gotten into all kinds of blues - it's about all I play - but my greatest satisfaction is listening to The Roadhouse!

    • [Deleted user] said...
    • User
    • 10 Jun 2009, 21:53

    Good question :-)

    Hi all. That's my story of the blues. Almost 25 Years ago I stepped in to my favorite record store in Basel, Switzerland. Nothing planed, joust to have a look and sneak for some new records. Suddenly I recognized a never heard sound floating over me out of the loudspeakers of that record store. I never heard that type of music before, I did not know that artist, I even had no clue what this gent was singing because my English was not a real good at that time. But I was exited, because it was fresh and full of power what I heard. I jumped to the desk, asking the the guy behind for the name of that artist and record. It was Live Wire / Blues Power and the song named Blues Power from Albert King :-)

    I bought that record on Vinyl right away. I also bought the two other records from Albert King available in the store Thursday Night In San Francisco and Wednesday Night In San Francisco.

    Since that day, Blues is an ongoing love in my life. I found out more and more about that music and as more I found as more addicted I got. There are so many good Blues artist out in this world, that I assume, I do not find all of them in this short life :-) But I keep trying ........

    Stefan alias Bluesknight

  • My experience was like 4 years ago, I'm 29, and always listened hip-hop. But something changed in me, I needed something new for me, specially instruments in the music, nothing digitally made. I chatted with some guys in the Soulseek, and the first blues I listened was a Robben Ford song, then came the downloads...
    Now, 98% of my music library is Blues...

    I subscribed to the Roadhouse podcast a week ago and really enjoyed it. Keep the good job!

  • ... or is it more a case of your first awareness?

    If you listen to any popular music, you're going to be exposed to the Blues in some form.

    I can't say when I first noticed it, but for many years I've heard Blues tunes and thought I'd like to know more about the genre -but didn't do anything about it until relatively recently when a podcaster in Michigan started playing tracks from a band I'm associated with (but that's a distraction from this message). I started downloading the show every week and started forming an idea of what I thought the Blues was and have developed it since -mainly in weekly doses of about half a dozen Blues podcasts -obviously including The Roadhouse.

    Have I listened to the Blues all my life? -not yet!

  • MTV

    I can remember flipping through the TV channels sometime around 1995 or so and MTV came on (in the 90's MTV actually played music) and I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan doing his classic Love Struck Baby and was just transfixed - sitting there on the couch with my jaw dropped and my mouth open. I remember saying "Did all that came out of that guitar"? And then I noticed that all that sound was coming from just a 3 piece band? WOW!

    God, what an addiction that turned out to be. Now, 15 years later I have managed to collect (according to my iTunes library) well over 16,000 tracks of blues tunes. And thanks to podcast like The Roadhouse and Bandana Blues, I am always discovering new artist (thanks Tony).

  • Around 1967 I first discovered Canned Heat, Savoy Brown and John Mayall, which led me to Eric Clapton, B.B. King, then Albert King (through Beaker Street on KAAY in Little Rock), Johnny Winters, John Lee Hooker (who did an album with Canned Heat called 'Hooker 'n' Heat').

    Even though I ended up playing for a few decades in progressive rock bands, I always held the blues in a special place in my heart. I've finally returned to the blues performing as a solo/duo artist, and I'll never let go of the blues again.

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