VINTAGE ELECTRIC BLUES They taught Jimi, EC and SRV
After WWII a new breed of electric bluesman emerged that would push the music on to new heights. These players were prime influences for Hendrix, Clapton, The Stones and more. Jon Bishop goes vintage!
Blues’s modern ‘big guns’ may well be your guitar heroes, but where did their inspiration come from? Meet Otis, Elmore, T-Bone, Muddy & more!
In the late 1940s and early ’50s a number of guitarists started to use newly available amplification to augment their sound. Electric instruments made it possible to play at louder volumes enabling solos to be heard over drums and other loud instruments, such as horn sections. The sound of a valve amp turned up loud also focused the tone and helped with sustaining long notes. Many blues players would use this sustain to emulate the long, lonesome notes and vibrato created by the harmonica (known as the blues harp).
The first guitars to be fitted with pickups were big semi-acoustics. These were basically archtop ‘jazz’ style instruments with pickups and suffered from feedback at high volumes. The solidbody electric was a far more manageable tool and many of our featured players quickly graduated to it - or the thinline ‘semi-solid’ guitars of Gibson, Epiphone, Guild and others.
The goal of this feature is to get you sounding more authentic in the vintage blues style. To help you achieve this there’s a full backing track to practise along with. There are 15 examples to study and they have been split between five legendary players with three examples per player. The examples highlight a trio of concepts that you can learn and incorporate into your playing. We have also tabbed a demonstration solo drawing from the ideas in the examples.
The electric blues revolution began with Muddy Waters’ 1948 recording I Can’t Be Satisfied. Muddy’s style can be viewed as Delta blues played on electric guitar. For the Muddy examples use an open G tuning - from low to high, DGDGBD. Open G has the same intervallic structure as an A-shaped Major chord only now we can play this chord with a one-finger barre or indeed the slide.
Elmore James was an influential slide player who often used an open D tuning (DADF#AD) for slide. Open D lets you play the notes of a six-string Major barre chord with one finger; it also has the advantage of making the classic blues accompaniment riff extremely easy to play with two fingers.
Otis Rush’s sound is typical of West Side Chicago blues. Otis plays a right-handed guitar left-handed so the strings are effectively upside down. To bend notes, the high strings are now pulled down and the hand has a lot more power when pulling (as with Albert King). The result is a powerful and aggressive bending technique.
Hubert Sumlin is famous for playing in both Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf’s band in the 1950s. He cultivated a fingerstyle picking technique that used the flesh of the fingers to create nuances in his tone and dynamics.
T-Bone Walker was one of the first electric blues guitarists. His still modern sounding style influenced many players including BB King and Chuck Berry, who in turn influenced an entire generation. T-Bone’s bending style is of particular interest and it’s amazing how wide a variety of players still use T-Bone’s vocabulary in their playing.
ThE goal of This fEaTurE is To gET you sounding morE auThEnTic in a rangE of VinTagE BluEs sTylEs