Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Piedmont blues

Piedmont blues

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Piedmont blues'
Start a new discussion about 'Piedmont blues'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Piedmont blues refers primarily to a guitar style, the Piedmont fingerstyle, which is characterized by a fingerpicking approach in which a regular, alternating thumb bass
Bassline
A bassline is the term used in many styles of popular music, such as jazz, blues, funk, dub and electronic music for the low-pitched instrumental part or line played by a rhythm section instrument such as the electric bass, double bass, tuba or keyboard...

 string rhythmic pattern supports a syncopated melody
Melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

 using the treble strings generally picked with the fore-finger, occasionally others. The result is comparable in sound to ragtime
Ragtime
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

 or stride piano
Stride piano
Harlem Stride Piano, Stride Piano, or just Stride, is a jazz piano style that was developed in the large cities of the East Coast, mainly in the New York, during 1920s and 1930s. The left hand may play a four-beat pulse with a single bass note, octave, seventh or tenth interval on the first and...

 styles.

The term was coined by blues researcher Peter B. Lowry
Peter B. Lowry
Peter B. Lowry , is a folklorist, writer, record producer, ethnomusicologist, historian, photographer, and teacher on popular music in his seventies specializing in blues, and jazz with a primary focus on the Piedmont blues of the south-eastern United States.-Ethnomusicological Field Research:Mr...

,Harris, Jeff "Some Ramblings On Peter B. Lowry, Field Recording & The Trix Label" Big Road Blues who in turn gives co-credit to fellow folklorist Bruce Bastin
Bruce Bastin
Bruce Bastin is a folklorist and a leading expert on the blues styles of the South Eastern states of America ....

.
The Piedmont style is differentiated from other styles, particularly the Mississippi Delta blues
Delta blues
The Delta blues is one of the earliest styles of blues music. It originated in the Mississippi Delta, a region of the United States that stretches from Memphis, Tennessee in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi in the south, Helena, Arkansas in the west to the Yazoo River on the east. The...

, by its ragtime-based rhythms.

Paul Oliver
Paul Oliver
-Biography:Oliver was a researcher at the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development , and from 1978-88 was Associate Head of the School of Architecture. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Gloucestershire...

 stated "...Emphasis on good execution, rhythmically free flowing, lighter in texture... It had a distinct flavour which mingled with that of the hillbilly and mountain singers of the rural tradition".

Origins



The basis of the Piedmont style began with the older "frailing" or "framming" guitar styles that may have been universal throughout the South, and was also based, at least to some extent, on formal "parlor guitar" techniques as well as earlier banjo playing, string band
String band
A string band is an old-time music or jazz ensemble made up mainly or solely of string instruments. String bands were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and are among the forerunners of modern country music and bluegrass.-String bands in old-time music:...

, and ragtime
Ragtime
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

. What was particular to the Piedmont was that a generation of players adapted these older, ragtime-based techniques to blues in a singular and popular fashion, influenced by guitarists such as Blind Blake
Blind Blake
"Blind" Blake was an American blues and ragtime singer and guitarist.-Biography:...

 and Gary Davis
Reverend Gary Davis
Reverend Gary Davis, also Blind Gary Davis, was an American blues and gospel singer and guitarist, who was also proficient on the banjo and harmonica...

.

Geography


The Piedmont blues was named after the Piedmont
Piedmont (United States)
The Piedmont is a plateau region located in the eastern United States between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the main Appalachian Mountains, stretching from New Jersey in the north to central Alabama in the south. The Piedmont province is a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian division...

 plateau region, on the East Coast of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 from about Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

 to Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

. Piedmont blues musicians come from this area, as well as Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, Delaware
Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

, West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 and northern Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, western South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

, central North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

, eastern Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, and Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

 - later the Northeastern cities such as Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

, and New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

.

Recordings


Recording artists such as Blind Blake
Blind Blake
"Blind" Blake was an American blues and ragtime singer and guitarist.-Biography:...

, Josh White
Josh White
Joshua Daniel White , better known as Josh White, was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor, and civil rights activist. He also recorded under the names "Pinewood Tom" and "Tippy Barton" in the 1930s....

, Buddy Moss
Buddy Moss
Eugene "Buddy" Moss was, in the estimation of many blues scholars, one of two the most influential East Coast blues guitarists to record in the period between Blind Blake's final sessions in 1932 and Blind Boy Fuller's debut in 1935...

, and Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller was an American blues guitarist and vocalist. He was one of the most popular of the recorded Piedmont blues artists with rural Black Americans, a group that also included Blind Blake, Josh White, and Buddy Moss.-Life and career:Fulton Allen was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina,...

 helped spread the style on the strength of their sales throughout the region. It was a nationally popular with the African-American audience for about twenty years from the mid-1920s through to the mid-1940s. Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller was an American blues guitarist and vocalist. He was one of the most popular of the recorded Piedmont blues artists with rural Black Americans, a group that also included Blind Blake, Josh White, and Buddy Moss.-Life and career:Fulton Allen was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina,...

's 1940 recording of "Step It Up and Go" sold over half a million copies.

Post-World War II


As a form of Black American popular music, Piedmont blues fell out of favor on a national basis after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. By the late-1950s Piedmont blues was being performed at US folk music revivals and festivals initially by established Piedmont blues artists such as Josh White
Josh White
Joshua Daniel White , better known as Josh White, was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor, and civil rights activist. He also recorded under the names "Pinewood Tom" and "Tippy Barton" in the 1930s....

, Rev. Gary Davis, and Brownie McGhee
Brownie McGhee
Walter Brown McGhee was a Piedmont blues singer and guitarist, best known for his collaborations with the harmonica player Sonny Terry.-Life and career:...

 and Sonny Terry
Sonny Terry
Saunders Terrell, better known as Sonny Terry was a blind American Piedmont blues musician. He was widely known for his energetic blues harmonica style, which frequently included vocal whoops and hollers, and imitations of trains and fox hunts.-Career:Terry was born in Greensboro, Georgia...

, as well as Cephas & Wiggins
Cephas & Wiggins
Cephas & Wiggins was an American acoustic blues duo, composed of guitarist John Cephas and harmonica player Phil Wiggins . They were known for playing Piedmont blues.- History :...

, John Jackson
John Jackson (blues musician)
John Jackson was an American Piedmont blues musician; his music did not become primary until his accidental "discovery" by folklorist Chuck Perdue in the 1960s...

 in later years.

While musicologists such as George Mitchell
George Mitchell (music historian)
George Mitchell is an American music historian, writer, record producer, and photographer.Born in Coral Gables, Florida in 1944 and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, from the 1960s until the 1980s he has recorded blues musicians such as Jessie Mae Hemphill, Fred McDowell and Johnny Woods, George Henry...

, Peter B. Lowry
Peter B. Lowry
Peter B. Lowry , is a folklorist, writer, record producer, ethnomusicologist, historian, photographer, and teacher on popular music in his seventies specializing in blues, and jazz with a primary focus on the Piedmont blues of the south-eastern United States.-Ethnomusicological Field Research:Mr...

 and Tim Duffy
Music Maker (label)
Music Maker Relief Foundation is an American non-profit record label, based in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Music Maker Relief Foundation was founded in 1994 by Tim and Denise Duffy to "help the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern music gain recognition and meet their day to day needs...

 collected recordings by the aging community of Piedmont blues players, younger musicians such as Roy Book Binder
Roy Book Binder
Roy Book Binder is an American blues guitarist. A student and friend of the Rev. Gary Davis, he is equally at home with blues and ragtime, he is known to shift from open tunings to slide arrangements to original compositions, with both traditional and self-styled licks...

, Jorma Kaukonen
Jorma Kaukonen
Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen Jr. is an American blues, folk, and rock guitarist, best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.-Biography:...

, Paul Geremia
Paul Geremia
Paul Geremia is an American blues singer and acoustic guitarist.Geremia recorded his first album in 1968, having been significantly influenced by both the rural blues tradition and the folk music revival of the 1960s...

, Keb Mo', Michael Roach
Michael Roach (musician)
Michael Roach is an expatriate American blues performer and educator, who has released six albums on the independent Stella Records label...

, Samuel James
Samuel James
Samuel James is an American musician who is currently signed to Toronto's NorthernBlues Music. He currently works at Videoport in Portland, Maine. Lately he is touring with Efes Pilsen Blues Festival.-External links:*...

, Eric Bibb
Eric Bibb
Eric Bibb is an American acoustic blues singer-songwriter. He is based in London and launched his career in Europe. Today he lives in Finland.-Biography:...

, Ry Cooder
Ry Cooder
Ryland Peter "Ry" Cooder is an American guitarist, singer and composer. He is known for his slide guitar work, his interest in roots music from the United States, and, more recently, his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries.His solo work has been eclectic, encompassing...

, David Bromberg
David Bromberg
David Bromberg is an American multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. Bromberg has an eclectic style, playing bluegrass, blues, folk, jazz, country and western, and rock and roll equally well. He is known for his quirky, humorous lyrics, and the ability to play rhythm and lead guitar at the...

 and Guy Davis
Guy Davis (musician)
Guy Davis is an American blues guitarist and banjo player, actor, and musician. He is the son of actors Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis.-Davis' roots:Davis says his blues music is inspired by the southern speech of his grandmother...

 have carried on the Piedmont tradition, often having "studied" under some of the old Piedmont masters. The Piedmont style of guitar playing has also influenced other popular musicians such as Doc Watson
Doc Watson
Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson is an American guitar player, songwriter and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues and gospel music. He has won seven Grammy awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Watson's flatpicking skills and knowledge of traditional American music are highly regarded...

, Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Paul Frederic Simon is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.Simon is best known for his success, beginning in 1965, as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, with musical partner Art Garfunkel. Simon wrote most of the pair's songs, including three that reached number one on the US singles...

, Nick Drake
Nick Drake
Nicholas Rodney "Nick" Drake was an English singer-songwriter and musician. Though he is best known for his sombre guitar based songs, Drake was also proficient at piano, clarinet and saxophone...

, Ralph McTell
Ralph McTell
Ralph McTell is an English singer-songwriter and acoustic guitar player who has been an influential figure on the UK folk music scene since the 1960s....

, and Mark Knopfler
Mark Knopfler
Mark Freuder Knopfler, OBE is a Scottish-born British guitarist, singer, songwriter, record producer and film score composer. He is best known as the lead guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the British rock band Dire Straits, which he co-founded in 1977...

.

Musicians


  • Pink Anderson
    Pink Anderson
    "Pink" Anderson was a blues singer and guitarist, born in Laurens, South Carolina.-Life and career:After being raised in Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina, he joined Dr...

  • Etta Baker
    Etta Baker
    Etta Baker was an American Piedmont blues guitarist and singer from North Carolina, United States.-Biography:...

  • Barbecue Bob
    Barbecue Bob
    Robert Hicks, better known as Barbecue Bob was an early American Piedmont blues musician. His nickname came from the fact that he was a cook in a barbecue restaurant. One of the two extant photographs of Bob show him playing his guitar while wearing a full length white apron and cook's hat.-Early...

  • Blind Blake
    Blind Blake
    "Blind" Blake was an American blues and ragtime singer and guitarist.-Biography:...

  • Cephas & Wiggins
    Cephas & Wiggins
    Cephas & Wiggins was an American acoustic blues duo, composed of guitarist John Cephas and harmonica player Phil Wiggins . They were known for playing Piedmont blues.- History :...

  • Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten was an American blues and folk musician, singer, and songwriter.A self-taught left-handed guitarist, Cotten developed her own original style. Her approach involved using a right-handed guitar , not re-strung for left-handed playing, essentially, holding a right-handed...

  • Floyd Council
    Floyd Council
    Floyd Council was an American blues guitarist and singer. He became a well-known practitioner of the Piedmont blues sound from that area, popular throughout the southeastern region of the US in the 1930s....

  • Reverend Gary Davis
    Reverend Gary Davis
    Reverend Gary Davis, also Blind Gary Davis, was an American blues and gospel singer and guitarist, who was also proficient on the banjo and harmonica...

  • Blind Boy Fuller
    Blind Boy Fuller
    Blind Boy Fuller was an American blues guitarist and vocalist. He was one of the most popular of the recorded Piedmont blues artists with rural Black Americans, a group that also included Blind Blake, Josh White, and Buddy Moss.-Life and career:Fulton Allen was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina,...

  • Peg Leg Howell
    Peg Leg Howell
    Joshua Barnes Howell, known as Peg Leg Howell , was an African American blues singer and guitarist, who connected early country blues and the later 12-bar style...

  • Luke Jordan
    Luke Jordan
    Luke Jordan was an American blues guitarist and vocalist of some renown in his local area of Lynchburg, Virginia....

  • Carl Martin
    Carl Martin
    Carl Clarke Martin is an English professional footballer who plays as a defender for Crewe Alexandra.-Personal:Carl and twin brother Callum both had good career prospects in football having played since a young age and having football run in the family. Carl went to Hendon School, North London...

  • Brownie McGhee
    Brownie McGhee
    Walter Brown McGhee was a Piedmont blues singer and guitarist, best known for his collaborations with the harmonica player Sonny Terry.-Life and career:...

  • Blind Willie McTell
    Blind Willie McTell
    Blind Willie McTell , was an influential Piedmont and ragtime blues singer and guitarist. He played with a fluid, syncopated fingerstyle guitar technique, common among many exponents of Piedmont blues, although, unlike his contemporaries, he used exclusively a twelve-string guitar...

  • William Moore
    William Moore (musician)
    William "Bill" Moore was an African American blues singer and guitarist.Born in Dover, Georgia, United States, he was the only Virginian country bluesman to record for the Paramount label . His four 78 rpm records are highly sought by collectors and have been numerously re-released on LP and CD...

  • Buddy Moss
    Buddy Moss
    Eugene "Buddy" Moss was, in the estimation of many blues scholars, one of two the most influential East Coast blues guitarists to record in the period between Blind Blake's final sessions in 1932 and Blind Boy Fuller's debut in 1935...

  • Lesley Riddle
    Lesley Riddle
    Lesley "Esley" Riddle was an African-American musician whose influence on the Carter Family helped to shape country music....

  • Bumble Bee Slim
    Bumble Bee Slim
    Amos Easton , better known by the stage name Bumble Bee Slim, was an American Piedmont blues musician.-Biography:Easton was born in Brunswick, Georgia, United States...

  • Baby Tate
    Baby Tate
    Baby Tate was an American Piedmont blues guitarist, who in a sporadic career spanning five decades, worked variously with guitarists Blind Boy Fuller, Pink Anderson, and Peg Leg Sam...

  • Sonny Terry
    Sonny Terry
    Saunders Terrell, better known as Sonny Terry was a blind American Piedmont blues musician. He was widely known for his energetic blues harmonica style, which frequently included vocal whoops and hollers, and imitations of trains and fox hunts.-Career:Terry was born in Greensboro, Georgia...

  • Willie Walker
    Willie Walker
    This article is about the New Zealand rugby player. For the DC Comics character of the same name, see Black Racer.Willie Walker is a New Zealand rugby union footballer, currently playing in the Guinness Premiership for Worcester Warriors...

  • Curley Weaver
    Curley Weaver
    Curley James Weaver was an American blues musician, also known as Slim Gordon.-Early years:He was born in Covington, Georgia, United States, and raised on a farm near Porterdale...

  • Josh White
    Josh White
    Joshua Daniel White , better known as Josh White, was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor, and civil rights activist. He also recorded under the names "Pinewood Tom" and "Tippy Barton" in the 1930s....



Publications

  • Bastin, Bruce
    Bruce Bastin
    Bruce Bastin is a folklorist and a leading expert on the blues styles of the South Eastern states of America ....

     (1986/1995) Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press). ISBN 0-252-06521-2, 9780252065217 at Google Books
  • Cohen, Andrew M. (2008). "The Hands of Blues Guitarists." In Ramblin' on My Mind: New Perspectives on the Blues, ed. David Evans
    David Evans (musicologist)
    David Evans is a musicologist and director of the Ethnomusicology/Regional Studies program at the University of Memphis.He has written or edited a number of books on the blues, and also performs. He won a Grammy in 2003 for "Best Album Notes" for the CD Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues - The...

     (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press). ISBN 0-252-03203-9.
  • Bastin, Bruce
    Bruce Bastin
    Bruce Bastin is a folklorist and a leading expert on the blues styles of the South Eastern states of America ....

    . (1971) Crying for the Carolines (London: Studio Vista). ISBN 028970297.
  • Lowry, Peter B.
    Peter B. Lowry
    Peter B. Lowry , is a folklorist, writer, record producer, ethnomusicologist, historian, photographer, and teacher on popular music in his seventies specializing in blues, and jazz with a primary focus on the Piedmont blues of the south-eastern United States.-Ethnomusicological Field Research:Mr...

     (1977) "Atlanta Black Sound: A Survey of Black music from Atlanta During the 20th Century" in The Atlanta Historical Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 2, pp 88–113.
  • Welker, Gayle & Peter B. Lowry
    Peter B. Lowry
    Peter B. Lowry , is a folklorist, writer, record producer, ethnomusicologist, historian, photographer, and teacher on popular music in his seventies specializing in blues, and jazz with a primary focus on the Piedmont blues of the south-eastern United States.-Ethnomusicological Field Research:Mr...

    . (2006) "Piedmont Blues" in The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues, ed. Edward Komera (New York: Routledge). ISBN 0-415-92699-8.
  • Lowry, Peter B.
    Peter B. Lowry
    Peter B. Lowry , is a folklorist, writer, record producer, ethnomusicologist, historian, photographer, and teacher on popular music in his seventies specializing in blues, and jazz with a primary focus on the Piedmont blues of the south-eastern United States.-Ethnomusicological Field Research:Mr...

     (2003) "Against the Wind: Tim Duffy and the Music Maker Relief Foundation" in Rhythms (Melbourne) #130/May, pp. 48–50.
  • Lowry, Peter B.
    Peter B. Lowry
    Peter B. Lowry , is a folklorist, writer, record producer, ethnomusicologist, historian, photographer, and teacher on popular music in his seventies specializing in blues, and jazz with a primary focus on the Piedmont blues of the south-eastern United States.-Ethnomusicological Field Research:Mr...

    (2009) "DIY Fieldwork: George Mitchell's Southern Trawlings" in Rhythms (Melbourne) #203/June, pp. 26– 27.

External links