The History of Blues and Louisiana

Louisiana loves its music, and music loves Louisiana. While its contributions to Cajun and jazz to zydeco are well known, its impacts on the blues are all too often overlooked. From its earliest beginnings to today, musicians from Louisiana have shaped and molded the blues carrying its sole into zydeco, jazz, and the New Orleans rhythm and blues that would eventually evolve into rock n’ roll.

The birth of the blues occurred near the end of the 1800s deep in the rural South along the Mississippi Delta. An evolution of African-American traditions including spirituals, work songs, field hollers and ring shots, each song is as individual and unique as its performer.

After World War II a genre of blues emerged known as the Louisiana blues and its two major subgenres the New Orleans blues and the swamp blues. Strongly influenced by jazz, New Orleans blues developed in the 1940’s and 1950’s around the city of New Orleans was dominated by piano and sax. Swamp blues, on the other hand, developed in the 1950’s and peaked in popularity in the 1960’s around Baton Rouge.

Of the over 119 musicians inducted into the national Blues Hall of Fame, roughly 20% are from Louisiana including Irma Thomas, Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton, Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter and Henry Roeland Byrd, better known as “Professor Longhair”.