Revolutions: Texas Blues by David Cavazos
This week we’re going into our own backyard to see what Texas has to offer. Specifically one of our greatest pride and joys Texas Blues. Although most people instantly throw the genre to Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top there is a long and rich past of southern blues emanating from the lone star state.
The blues in general derived from African-American slavery during the early development of our country. The blues spread like wildfire along the southern state lines creating delta blues, piedmont blues, and of course texas blues.
Texas Blues is said to of been founded by Lemon Jefferson. Jefferson was a street performer who sang throughout the state performing in major cities such as Houston, Dallas, and Galveston. In the 1920s he sang along Deep Hellum where his eclectic guitar style began to be noticed. Jefferson mixed fingerpicking with slide and strumming techniques that would later inspire other Texas Blues guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Slowly Texas Blues grew in popularity and reached one of it’s hay points in the middle of the 20th century. Artists like Blind Willie Johnson and Big Mama Thornton were experiencing great success in their careers and many rural blues musicians were migrating towards major cities. [cue Big Mama Thornton] Houston predominately was a mecca because of the numerous R&B recording labels that had taken root in the city were now seeking to cash in on the new style.
While Houston was flooded with new blues artists the electric guitar sound at the time being pioneered by Chicago Blues artist Muddy Waters reached Houston and became an epidemic amongst the artists. The electric guitar sound was adapted to Texas blues and made it’s way up to Dallas falling in the hands of one of the three blues kings.
Freddie King mastered the Texas Blues electric guitar and made the genre known nationally with his on stage flashiness and high tempo songs. Eric Clapton is even quoted stating Freddie King has one of the main guitarists he learned his licks from.
Throughout this time in the 1970s more and more clubs were opening in Austin adding a new location for Texas Blues to thrive. Jimmie Vaughan older brother of Stevie formed The Fabulous Thunderbirds and played in Austin and other venues around Texas with fellow headliners like Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top. Leading up to Texas’s second Blues mainstream success Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble during the 1980s popularized Texas Blues through new formats. Stevie modernized the distribution of an old beloved sound. They created music videos that reached a new generation and not just older people who had grown up listening to the blues. Stevie’s eclectic, intense, and technical guitar work caught the attention of the country and continues to inspire guitarists. Stevie left such a large impact that following his death in 1990 Texas Blues is still largely popularized with new artists still surfacing adding to our wonderful lone star culture.