The History of Mississippi Delta Blues Music

The fertile plain that runs between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, known as the Mississippi Delta, might be the most influential place in the country when it comes to music. It was here that Delta blues was born—a genre that has influenced rock and roll, rap, and so much more. If you plan to visit Mississippi, you will likely encounter the blues in some form, and having an understanding of the genre’s history will allow you to appreciate it even more. Visit Mississippi is here to help all wanderers at heart explore the state’s rich music culture, delicious food, and amazing attractions. Here, we offer an overview of Mississippi’s blues history.

The Origin of Delta Blues

During the Civil War, Caucasian soldiers noticed that African American soldiers sang different songs about the war, in which they emphasized less harmonious tones. This music was a predecessor to Delta blues, which began as an embellishment of field hollers and work chants. In this way, Mississippi blues acted as a driving force and symbol for overcoming. Proving the integrity of its symbolism, the ground-breaking genre became the first African American guitar-dominated music to become recorded on phonographs.

Delta blues infused the polyrhythms and tonalities of African tribe music with the folk traditions and instruments of predominantly white music. It was neither more nor less influenced by either culture, but instead, it was a large-scale combination of both that became a foundation for mainstream music for much of the twentieth century.

The Growth of Delta Blues

Juke joints allowed Mississippi blues to travel fast across the state. These makeshift buildings acted as social clubs, where musicians shared lyrics and techniques to enhance their styles. Delta blues at this time was characterized by playing a finger-picked acoustic guitar and slide guitar for a distinct aesthetic. Other blues artists, like Eddie “Son” House, created a unique howling sound on the second guitar by sliding a bottleneck or similar object along the strings.

Two noteworthy Mississippi Delta blues musicians are Charlie Patton and Robert L. Johnson. From 1897 to 1934, Patton traveled with Son House and performed at numerous juke joints, fish fries, and parties. The legendary Robert L. Johnson, who allegedly sold his soul to the devil for his superior talent, produced some of the richest music in Mississippi blues history during his recording sessions in the mid-1930s. Both Johnson’s guitar and vocal abilities created a foundation upon which countless musicians have developed and honed their own talents.

The Evolution of Delta Blues

Mississippi blues grew more as musicians moved north to cities like Chicago and discovered jazz and tin pan alley music. They intensified their instruments electrically and included drums and horns, morphing solo blues artists into blues bands. Perhaps the most notable blues player of the Chicago scene was Muddy Waters, who was known as the king of the area. His song “Rollin’ Stone” sold 80,000 copies and was the inspiration for the name of the band The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” and even Rolling Stone magazine.

The changes Mississippi Delta blues experienced in the north made way for the rock revolution of the 1960s. Delta blues continued to be an influential force through the 1970s, and we still see the legacy of Mississippi’s music in numerous genres enjoyed around the world today.

Begin Exploring Blues History with Visit Mississippi

The rich history of Mississippi Delta blues indicates why the state is known as the Birthplace of America’s Music. This title is reason enough to visit the state to discover the legacy of Mississippi blues and the influence it continues to have on the artists of today.  Visit Mississippi showcases an extensive compilation of music-centered activities in the state, including the Mississippi Blues Trail and numerous Mississippi blues museums. To ensure you don’t miss out on great blues attractions in our state, let us help you plan your trip.