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The History of Rhythm &Blues

Rhythm and Blues has become one of the most identifiable art-forms of the C20th, with an enormous influence on the development of both the sound and attitude of modern music. We have defined Rhythm and Blues as the accidental synthesis of jazz, gospel, blues, ragtime, country, pop and Latin into a definable form of black music, influencing all popular music from the 1950s to the present day. Other useful definitions include Robert Palmer's in Rock & Roll: An Unruly History, as 'a catchall rubric used to refer to any music that was made by and for black Americans', or Chip Deffaa's in Blue Rhythms as 'popular music that arose in black communities after the swing era and before the arrival of the Beatles.'

New forms of music arose in the early C20th: spirituals, ragtime, barrelhouse, jazz, black ballad form. Over the years, these distinctive sounds would come to merge into a recognisably “new” musical style. It was the move to the city, which brought the increase in popularity for the blues, and it was the technology of sound recording, which helped to define its structure. Wider dissemination came with the development of radio and the jukebox, but also through touring bands playing the new network of dance halls and ballrooms that were springing up throughout the States in the 1930s. It was in these ‘territory’ bands that the first major fusion of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie is to be found.

The History of Rhythm and Blues comes in three (now four) box sets, each comprising four CDs, with every track and artist annotated in detail in the richly informative, splendidly illustrated booklets that come with each set. This is a labour of love, and a work of genuine scholarship, but it is also hugely entertaining. I have been listening to almost nothing else for the past fortnight but still feel I am only scratching the surface of a wonderfully rich treasure trove. Throughout, famous names and familiar songs are mixed with the rare and unexpected, but what makes these sets so special is that they aren’t a dry and dusty exercise in musical archaeology. - Charles Spencer – The Spectator

The History of Rhythm and Blues Volume One takes the story up to the eve of the American entry into the Second World War. Volume Twoinvestigates the transition from race music through sepia to Rhythm & Blues; the growing importance of radio; the rise of the independent record labels, the 45rpm record and the jukebox and looks at the rhythms behind the blues from shuffle and jump through rumba to rock’n’roll and beyond. Volume Three highlights the growing urbanisation of the music; the impact on white teenagers; the prominence of the vocal groups; the gradual transition towards a more soulful expression of the blues. There is a detailed examination of the various rhythms that lie behind the music from Rumba Shuffle through New Orleans Second Line to Twist Beat.

Volume Four, the fourth and final part of our forty year retrospective takes the story up to the end of 1962. A case could be made for finishing the series later but a decision was taken to go with the prevailing industry opinions of the time. There were so many white pop records in the R&B charts and so much black music in the pop charts towards the end of 1963 that Billboard temporarily abandoned their R&B charts substituting in their place the Hot 100. Billboard magazine did not publish an R&B singles chart from December 1963 to January 1965.

This is a comprehensive, cross-label compilation showcasing the most important and influential records in the rise of Rhythm & Blues. It will appeal to anyone interested in the evolution of the blues, or simply curious as to how the sounds of today continue to be shaped and forged by the aural fusions and experiments of the first half of the C20th.

The Rhythm & Blues Timeline

Pre 1920
1877 Invention of the Phonograph
1896 Jim Crow Segregation laws
1908 Introduction of 2-sided records
Black Diaspora from the south

Ring Shouts and Hollers
Ragtime and Cakewalk New Orleans Bands
Folk Blues

Austin Coleman
Scott Joplin
W.C. Handy
Blues formatted as 8 or 12 bar chorus
1920 1st American Radio Station
1922-7 Boom in sales of radios
1925 New electrical recording process
1925 78rpm standardized
1926-32 Okeh Records Race Series
1927 Lindy-hop introduced
Delta Blues
Texas Blues
Eastern Seaboard Blues
Ragtime Blues Guitar
Boogie Woogie Piano
Guitar evangelists
Urban songsters
Jug Bands
Charley Patten
Blind Lemon Jefferson
Barbeque Bob
Blind Blake
Cow Cow Davenport
Blind Willie Johnson
Papa Charlie Jackson
Gus Cannon
1931 Invention of the Microphone
1932-42 Bluebird Records
1933 Repeal of Prohibition Act
1935 Mass-production of Jukeboxes
1938 1st recording of the electric guitar
1938 Spirituals To Swing Concerts
Gospel Quartets
Black Pop Harmony Groups
Harlem Jive
Kansas City Jazz
Swing Jazz
Country Blues
Urban Blues
Georgia Tom - Tampa Red
Golden Gate Quartet
Mills Brothers  Ink Spots
Cab Calloway
Andy Kirk - Count Basie
Jimmie Lunceford
Albert Ammons
Robert Johnson
Big Bill Broonzy
1940-5 Decca Sepia series
1941 First Bebop Sessions
1942 AFM Musicians strike
1942 Billboard Harlem Hit Parade
1942 US entry into Second World War
1944 Louis Jordan #1 in pop charts
1945 End of Second World War
1946 1st mass-produced TV sets
1948 WDIA 1st black radio station
1948 Columbia unveils 33rpm LP
1949 Billboard Rhythm & Blues Chart
1949 RCA introduces 45rpm vinyl
Swing Boogie
Jive & R&B Vocal
Blues Shouters
Blues Balladeers
California Club Blues
Hillbilly Boogie
West-Coast Jump Blues
Harlem Jump Blues
New Orleans Jump Blues
Gospel/Secular Vocalists
Jubilee/Secular Groups
Female R&B Singers
Honking Saxophone
Downhome Blues
Lucky Millinder
The Ravens
Joe Turner - Wynonie Harris
Charles Brown
Nat Cole - Cecil Gant
Hank Williams
T-Bone Walker - Johnnie Otis
Louis Jordan
Roy Brown - Champion Jack
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
The Larks - The Trumpeteers
Dinah Washington - Little Esther
Paul Williams - Big Jay McNeely
Muddy Waters - John Lee Hooker
1950 Introduction of 45rpm Jukebox
1950 Sun Records
1952 Black radio reaches white teenagers
1954 Mambo craze in America
1954 July Chords Sh-boom #5 pop
1954 Aug Bill Haley Shake Rattle & Roll #7 pop
1954 Dec Alan Freed’s Rock’n’Roll Show
1955 Growth of civil rights movement
1955 1st hits for Bo Diddley & Chuck Berry
1956 1st hits for James Brown & Elvis Presley
Memphis Blues  
New Orleans Piano
R&B Vocal Groups
Mambo R&B
Electric Chicago Blues
Soulful Blues
Early Soul
Junior Parker - Ike Turner  
Fats Domino - Professor Longhair
Elvis Presley
The Dominoes - Etta James
Orioles - Five Keys - Teenagers
Midnighters - Dominoes - Drifters
Ruth Brown - Clovers
Chuck Berry - Little Richard
Little Walter - Howlin’ Wolf
Ray Charles - Billy Wright 
Clyde McPhatter - Sam Cooke
1963 Martin Luther King March on Washington
1963 Billboard suspends R&B chart
1963 1st hit for Otis Redding
1963 1st hit for Motown writers Holland/Dozier/Holland
1964 Civil Rights Act
1964 Beatles 1st hit in USA
1965 Rolling Stones force Shindig to include Howlin’ Wolf on their TV special
Uptown R&B
Twist Pop
Early Soul
Rockin’ Instrumentals
New York R&B
British R&B & Blues
Modern Blues
The Shirelles - Ben E. King
Hank Ballard - Lloyd Price
Otis Redding - Sam & Dave
Bobby Bland
James Brown - Meters
Booker T & The MGs
The Coasters
Rolling Stones - The Yardbirds
B.B. King - Albert King


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