What is Texas Blues?

A geographical sub-genre earmarked by a more relaxed, swinging feel than other styles of blues, Texas Blues encompasses a number of style variations and has a long, distinguished history. Its earliest incarnation occurred in the mid-’20s, featuring acoustic guitar work rich in filigree patterns — almost an extension of the vocals rather than merely a strict accompaniment to it. Like many other forms of blues music the lyrics reflected the hardships experinced by the African American’s who worked long hours on the old fields.

Origins

Texas Blues began to appear in the early 1900s among African Americans who worked in oilfields, ranches and lumber camps in Texas. Notable artists who had a profound influence on this genre of blues are Pee Wee Crayton who was born in Rockdale, Texas and played acoustic and electric guitar and Stevie Ray Vaughan who pioneered several styles that are very characteristic of Texas blues today.

Characteristics

Texas Blues is a unique an distinct shade of blues music. Using a rhythm called the Texas Shuffle it has other influences including Delta Blues and Tejano music. Today’s blues is electric with Fender Telecasters dominating the town with weathered, vintage Fender amplifiers as pioneered by Stevie Ray Vaughan right out of Austin, Texas in the early 80’s.

The Massive World-Wide Explosion Of Blues out of Austin

Prior to the 80’s blues had become a very niche market and most of the greatest originators of the genre were struggling for money and recognition. A small club on Guadalupe Avenue in Austin, a resurgence of blues music not only made the struggling originators relevant, but changed the entire face of music by making blues desirable by the masses and charting on the top 40.

At the center of this explosion was Antone’s house guitarist Derek Obrien. Derek’s sparse, swinging style of playing heavily influenced Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmie Vaughan. He was in charge of the stage and it was Derek whom had to be convinced to let a skinny kid named Stevie onto the stage.

Texas has produced many of the greatest blues players in history from T-Bone Walker and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Eric Johnson, Jimmie Vaughan, Billy Gibbons, Chris Layton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Marcia Ball, Gary Clark Jr., Allen Haynes, Delbert McClinton – too many to list.

Is it Country Music?

Country music came from a mix of influences from European Americans as well as African Americans. Irish Immigrants to North America brought with them the fiddle and the African American’s brought the banjo. Because of the great movement West and the vast amount of land and jobs in Texas these two influences met and formed the upbeat “hillbilly” music that evolved into country.

The sound known as “Texas Blues” is really a combination of Post War Jump Blues, New Orleans second line, swing, jazz, honky tonk and funk (Albert Collin’s anyone?)

But it has a particular feel that makes it a distinct sound – different from Chicago Blues, St. Louis Blues, West Coast Blues, East Coast, etc. Perhaps its the confluence of country swing ala Bob Wills with the electric intensity of T-Bone Walker that makes the feel more like a swagger than an elegant swing dance.

Contrary to what most people think of “blues”, Texas Blues is a more upbeat, optimistic blues. It’s a good time, come together with friends and jam kind of music. Here is Mighty Mike Schermer jumping with The Austin Blues Revue – a classic example of the sound.

Compare this to a Chicago Blues – in this case Mark “Kazanoff” of the Texas Horns, Mark Epstein from Johnny Winter and a group of ace sidemen improvise a deep blues in a club in Austin.

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