If I think back, I believe the first music I heard that could be classified as Blues would have been an old cassette tape of Ray Charles. He was a giant in the world of music, with a musical voice all his own and became a foundational influence in the genres of Blues, R&B, and early Rock and Roll. That old cassette had to be some sort of greatest hits compilation I’m sure, including such favorites as “Georgia On My Mind” and “What I’d Say”. The one I remember as a straight up blues was a tune named “A Fool For You”.
I was coming of age in that transition period between vinyl records and the first compact discs. Most new releases were available on record, cassette and CD all at the same time. Stores were selling records for less money, and I was able to explore new music by stretching my dollars and trying out things on LP. I remember following the Grammy Awards and hearing the name Robert Cray for the first time. I searched out some records by this blues guitarist, and bought them without having heard what they sounded like yet. In the days before streaming music services, this was one of the only ways to hear something that wasn’t on the radio.
This was during the same time that Stevie Ray Vaughan was getting a lot of attention with his brand of Texas Blues. I was only beginning to realize at the time that the “Blues” comes in all shapes and sizes. Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, Memphis Blues, Delta Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll with large blues roots. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s was authentic Texas Blues that paid respect to what had gone before, as well as advance the tradition. The two things that are most commonly known about Stevie is that he had a hit with “Pride and Joy”, and that he died tragically in a helicopter accident. His life and career were cut short, but he is still a major figure in my music collection.
This past week, one of the great sounds of the Blues was silenced when B.B. King died in his Las Vegas home under hospice care. I wrote about B.B. King about six weeks ago, in a post entitled “No Introduction Needed For The King”, shortly before his recent hospitalization and transfer to home care. Every Blues musician, blues fan, or fan of music in general is saddened by the passing of this great music legend. He was a genuinely kind human being, from humble beginnings, who kept that humility through all of his success in the field of music. If you have never heard another blues record in your life, you likely have heard something by B.B. King. He didn’t invent the electric guitar, but anyone who has tried to play one owes Mr. King a debt.
We all miss you B.B !