The Blues Timeline
The History of the Blues
We hope you like our latest addition to the History section: a Blues Timeline! Scroll down to view important events and dates in Blues history.
NOTE! We also have a beautiful flash version of the timeline as well.
You can find the Flash Blues Timeline here.
1895 - Dockery Plantation Established
1903 - First Documentation of the BluesW.C. Handy, a musical scholar, was awakened on a train station platform in Tutwiler, MS by what he described as "a lean, loose jointed negro... playing the weirdest music I'd ever heard". He went on to talk about how the man played his guitar with a pocketknife, and he sang that he was going "where the southern cross the dog". His description is widely regarded as the very first documentation of Blues.
August 1920 - Mamie Smith records "Crazy Blues"
1922 - "Race Records" Introduced
1923 - Bessie Smith records "Down Hearted Blues"In February, 1923 Bessie Smith recorded "Down Hearted Blues", her first recording. She quickly became a nationwide sensation and one of the most popular Classic Blues artists. Dubbed "The Empress of the Blues", Bessie had a very fruitful career as an entertainer. In fact, she was one of the highest paid African-Americans of her day! Bessie's larger-than-life career and popularity opened many doors for future black recording artsts, particularly Blues artists. Bessie's life was unfortunately cut short in 1937 when she died in a car accident on Highway 61, the Blues Highway, outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi. (need to send an image along of bessie smith.... )
1925 - Blind Lemon Jefferson begins his recording career in Chicago.Blind from birth, Jefferson had exquisite guitar skill, and became one of the most popular musicians of the era. His style defined what would come to be known as the Texas Blues. Many of his songs have become Blues staples, such as "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and "Matchbox Blues", and his playing and style influenced Blues musicians across the country. Tragically, in 1929 Jefferson died under mysterious circumstances in a snowstorm in Chicago.
1928 - Mississippi John Hurt records for OKeh Records
"Mississippi" John Hurt
1929 - Charley Patton records for ParamountCharley Patton was one of the most inspiring Bluesmen in existance, having directly influenced Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker. His style and musical influence would impact both Blues and Rock artists for many years to come though. He was playing behind his back and between his legs long before Jimi Hendrix. In 1929 he recorded 14 sides for Paramount Records, "Pony Blues" being his most popular hit. (ignore this -> The creation of Gibson)
1931 - First Electric GuitarThough various inventors and enthusiasts were experimenting with electric guitar designs, one of the first electric guitars most similar to modern counterparts was made by Rickenbacker and nicknamed "the frying pan" because of it's resemblance to one. The body of the guitar was perfectly circular and made out of metal.
November 1936 - Robert Johnson's First Recording Session
One of the only known
pictures of Robert Johnson
June 1937 - Robert Johnson's Second Recording SessionRobert Johnson had his second recording session in Dallas, Texas. Here he recorded a confirmed eleven more songs, though there is a suggestion that he recorded several more that were never heard or seen.
September, 1937 - Bessie Smith dies in a car accident outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi
August 1938 - Robert Johnson dies
A Robert Johnson grave at
Mount Zion Missionary Baptist
Church at Greenwood, MS
1939 Les Paul creates "The Log"Inventor, Blues man, guitar extrordinaire Les Paul invents "The Log". The Log was the first solid-body guitar. It was built with a 4x4 piece of fencepost, with pickups made from pieces of a telephone and an Epiphone body cut in half and glued to either side!
Les Paul's 'The Log',
from a 4x4 piece of fencepost
1941 - Alan Lomax Records Muddy WatersLegendary folklorist and musicologist Alan Lomax, in search of the (unbeknownst to him) already deceased Robert Johnson, records Muddy Waters outside of his cabin at Stovall's Plantation. This is a symbolic turning point for Muddy Waters, who described the moment as "meeting himself for the very first time". The encounter led Muddy to realize his abilities, and eventually led him to Chicago.
November 1941 - King Biscuit Time FoundedSonny Boy Williamson (II) and Robert Lockwood, Junior were the innagural disc jockeys for the King Biscuit Radio Time, out of Helena Arkansas. It was named after a nearby flour company, and was the only station around that played music by African-Americans, primarily Blacks. King Biscuit Time had a profound impact on many soon-to-be greats in the area, including B.B King.
1943 - Muddy Waters Moves to Chicago
June 1949 - Billboard changes the term "Race Records" to "Rhythm and Blues"
1950 - Chess Records is Founded
Bluescentric's Chess Records History
March, 1952 - Sun Records is Founded
Sun Studio, Memphis Tennessee
Bluescentric's Sun Studio History
Sun Studio Website
1952 - Gibson Guitar Company releases the first "Les Paul" guitarNamed after Bluesman Les Paul's original design. Les Paul guitars would become one of the most quintessential blues instruments in existence, being used by a hugely diverse group of Blues guitarists such as Duane Allman, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, and most famously, B.B. King, who names all of his guitars Lucille. It's been extensively used by some of the most popular rock guitarists in existence, including Jimmy Page of Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton, Angus Young of AC/DC, and Keith Richards of Rolling Stones.
Gibson Guitar Company
July 4th, 1952 - Elvis Begins His Career With A Blues SongElvis was at his first recording session at Sun Studio, which was proceeding unfruitfully until he played an Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup song. It was an instant success and he quickly skyrocketed to fame and fortune by playing a unique brand of "rockabilly", a combination of Blues and Hillbilly Country with a twist.
Bluescentric's Sun Studio History
Sun Studio Website
Elvis Presley's Website
November, 1956 - Tommy Johnson Dies at 60 Years Old
September, 1957 - Buddy Guy Hits Chicago
1959 - Newport Folk Festival CreatedThe 1960's folk revival was coming to fruiction and would revitalize and widely popularize the musical careers of many many Blues artists that had either faded into obscurity, been presumed dead, or whose careers had been fading. The Newpork Folk Festival became a popular spot for Bluesmen to play, including Howlin' Wolf, The Allman Brothers, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Son House, and Sonny Boy Williamson (II), among many others.
1962 - Rolling Stones Formed As A Blues Band
1963 - Mississippi John Hurt RediscoveredIn the midst of the 1960's folk revival, Blues and folk enthusiasts tracked down many artists who recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. John Hurt was among the most famous. he was presumed dead, but rediscovered to be playing in the same hometown he lived in when he first recorded thirty years prior.
1966 - Eric Clapton forms CreamClapton was already a very well known Blues guitarist, having played with John Mayall's Blues Breakers and The Yardbirds. Clapton, along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker formed the Blues-centered supergroup Cream. The band played lively versions of old Blues songs such as "Four Until Late" and perhaps most famously "Crossroads."
1970 - B. B. King Releases "The Thrill Is Gone"
1980 - The Blues Hall of Fame FoundedThe Blues Foundation created the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. It's innagural members are some of the greatest in Blues history: Robert Johnson, John Lee hooker, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson (II) and (I), and the great Muddy Waters.
The Blues Foundation Website
(need to send along blues hall of fame image)
1983 - Stevie Ray Vaughan Debuts Texas Flood
August 27th, 1990 - Stevie Ray Vaughan DiesStevie played an electrifying show and an amazing final performance of "Sweet Home Chicago" with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and his brother Jimmie Vaughan at Alpine Valley Theater in Wisconsin. Afterwards, Stevie took off in a helicopter for his next town. He would never make it. In dense fog, the helicopter pilot veered into a hillside almost immedietly after takeoff, wrecking the chopper and killing everyone on board. Stevie was only 35.
2008 - "One Kind Favor" by B.B. King and "Skin Deep" by Buddy Guy ReleasedTwo of the most popular Bluesmen of all time, Buddy Guy and B.B. King both release new original albums. Both were nominated in the "Best Traditional Blues Album" category. The 83 year old Mr. King won the award. Both albums were recieved with incredibly enthusiastic critical reviews, and have, to date, sold very well.
One Kind Favor by B.B. King
Skin Deep by Buddy Guy