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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Don Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
> On 29/07/06, steven c wrote:
> 
> > In 1916, the ODJB cut what are supposed to be the first recordings
> > of jazz; note that one of the tunes was not only titled as a "blues"
> > but was indeed a 12-bar blues tune. These records led in turn to
> > a "jazz" fad (which included blues). One of the side effects of
> > this development was the recording (by the smaller labels) of
> > Black blues and jazz performers. When Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues"
> > became popular and made money for the Okeh label, that firm
> > decided to issue "race" records, aimed at Black customers
> > (note that Okeh already had a profitable sideline of "ethnic"
> > records using sides obtained via its Lindstrom connection...
> > the Black demographic was viewed as another ethnic group!).
> > Since the record companies, almost all based in New York
> > City or recording there, had no idea where/how to find
> > artists whose blues records would sell, they usually
> > trusted people they knew...often salesmen based in
> > the US south!
> > 
> > The firms had started by recording "vaudeville blues"
> > artists...usually female singers recounting "tales of
> > woe" of how they had been abused by their menfolk, but
> > still loved them anyway...backed up by small jazz bands
> > or, occasionally, pianists. Around 1923-24, Paramount
> > and Okeh first experimented with "country blues"...
> > male blues singers self-accompanied on a stringed
> > instrument (usually guitar, althouh mandolin and
> > banjo are also known). This style came closer to
> > reflecting the music that Black record buyers across
> > the US south knew; when it sold well, the labels set
> > out to issue more of it, but realized they knew
> > absolutely nothing about whomever played it! They
> > hired artists to record "by guess and by gosh"...and
> > evidence of both competence and INcompetence survives
> > on shellac!
> > 
> > One effect of this, of course, was that blues music
> > itself trended toward standardization. The blues
> > artists performing in the "jook joints" knew they
> > would be asked for recorded "hits"...and therefore
> > made a point of learning those tunes off the records.
> > 
> > Note that I could go on to recount how electric guitars
> > replaced acoustic ones, and how "Big Bill" Broonzy
> > introduced (AFAIK) the idea of using a small combo for
> > backup instead of his own guitar...but this message
> > is already getting unmanageably long...
> 
> I wonder why male blues singers also played the guitar, but female
> singers just sang?
> 
I'll hypothetize here: the male "country blues" performers were all
(or nearly all) playing blues in southern Black communities around
the south, and if they were to be accompanied they had to provide
that by themselves...and guitars were cheaper, and easier to carry,
than pianos! (note that some early bluesmen were self-accompanied
on mandolin or banjo!). On the other hand, the female blues singers
were mostly found in or around NYC...and were, as the name of the
sub-genre suggests, stars in vaudeville. As such, they would have
been accompained by one or more instrumentalists...or even a
small band...and these players were, more often than not, Black
(if only to convince the audiences they were hearing "real n****r
blues?!)...

Steven C. Barr