Blues Performance Style
Blues performance styles underwent significant change with the migration of segments of the black population within the US. Three distinct styles resulted, and all continue to be explored. Country or "Delta" (Mississippi/Louisiana) blues usually involves a single, male musician (such as Robert Johnson) accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar; it is this type of blues that first emerged at the turn of the 20th century, although it was not recorded as a distinct genre until the mid-1920s. "Classic" blues, mainly performed by female singers (such as Bessie Smith) accompanied by jazz musicians, emerged circa 1910 and as a recorded form in 1920. After World War II, urban or "electric" blues emerged (such as by Muddy Waters), usually featuring a small band employing amplified instruments, as well as harmonica ("blues harp"), drums, and sometimes piano. A popular variant of the electric blues is commonly associated with Chicago. The 12-bar "chorus" form common to the blues is also used in jazz, "jump blues," Rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, certain rock music subgenres (including hard rock and heavy metal), and frequently in country music. In addition, the "call-and-response" performance technique of the blues has strongly influenced soul, funk, and rap music (all predominantly African-American in origin), as well as some rock music.
Blues in Canada
The blues did not gain widespread popularity with Canadian performers until the early 1960s, but Canada's first exposure to the genre likely occurred decades earlier through US radio and touring blues artists. Most major US blues musicians have appeared in Canada. Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines performed circa the late 1930s on the "Elder Moten Hour," a gospel radio show based in Windsor, Ont. Other country or Delta blues musicians played in Canadian coffeehouses or at folk festivals in the 1960s-70s, and the urban blues musicians (usually from Chicago or Detroit) in nightclubs and at jazz festivals (eg, during the 1980s, at the Festival international de jazz de Montréal).
Blues Festivals, Societies, Awards
Blues on Canadian Radio
Blues Performers 1960s-80s
The popularity of most Canadian blues musicians was at first limited to a city, province or region. Some, however, enjoyed a national reputation as a result of tours and/or recordings. These have included the Downchild Blues Band, Paul James, King Biscuit Boy, Dutch Mason, Matt Minglewood, and Powder Blues. Blues has also been an important component in the music and/or repertoire of The Band, David Clayton-Thomas, Crowbar, David Essig, Amos Garrett, Ronnie Hawkins, Jeff Healey, Colin James, Offenbach, Ken Whiteley, and David Wilcox.
Other Canadian blues or blues-rock bands, singers, chansonniers, and instrumentalists active at various points from the late 1960s through the 1980s included Stephen Barry, Dan Bigras, Gerry Boulet, Robert Charlebois, Bob Harrison, Jimmy James, Plume Latraverse, Sylvain Lelièvre, Jorn Reissner, Bob Walsh, and Jim Zeller in Montreal; Carl Tremblay in Quebec City; the Blue Angels, Drew Nelson, Heaven's Radio, and the Saints and Sinners in Ottawa; Tony D (DiTeodoro) and the Phantoms in Ottawa and Toronto; the Cameo Blues Band, Rita Chiarelli, Morgan Davis, Jack DeKeyzer, Luke (Gibson) and the Apostles, Larry Goodhand, the Hock (Rick Walsh), the Kendall-Wall Blues Band, McKenna-Mendelson Mainline, Michael Pickett, Gene Taylor, and Whiskey Howl in Toronto; Guitar Mikey and the Real Thing and Jude Johnson in Hamilton, Ont; The Nationals in Cambridge, Ont; Black Cat Bone in Guelph, Ont; Big Dave McLean (Muddy Tones), Brent Sam Parkin (Houndog, The Stingers), and Gérald Laroche in Winnipeg; Jack Semple in Regina; Johnny V and the Houserockers, John Rutherford, and Ray Lemelin in Calgary; Hot Cottage, Dean Cottrill, Lester Quitzau, Lionel Rault, Rusty Reed and the Southside Shuffle, and Three Times the Blues in Edmonton; the Black Snake Blues Band, Harpdog Brown and the Bloodhounds, Jim Byrnes, David Gogo and the Persuaders, David Raven, Hans Staymer, and the Wailin' Demons in Vancouver; and Uncle Wiggly's Hot Shoes Blues Band in Victoria, BC. Long John Baldry, a central figure in the British blues revival of the 1960s, moved to Canada in the mid-1970s and was active in several cities.
Several singer-guitarists and ensembles in Canada have also taken up the country or acoustic blues style, among them David Essig, Ken Hamm (Thunder Bay, Ont, and later Cedar, BC), the Jackson Delta Trio (Peterborough, Ont), Rick Fines, Paul James, Colin Linden, Harry Manx, Big Dave McLean, the duo of Denis Parker and Roger Howse (St John's, Nfld), David Rea, Chris Whiteley, Ken Whiteley, and David Wilcox.
Women Blues Performers
The pianist Jane Vasey (of Downchild); the guitarists Judy Brown, Sue Foley, and Ellen McIlwaine; the singer/drummer Maureen Brown; the multi-instrumentalist Treasa Levasseur; and the singer-songwriter Georgette Fry have broken the long-standing blues tradition that women should be limited exclusively to singing. Many of these musicians have appeared in the Women's Blues Revue, a concert series begun by the Toronto Blues Society circa 1986, and on the retrospective recording Women's Blues Revue Live (2006). Women blues musicians have frequently been honoured by the Maple Blues Awards. In 2000 Sue Foley was the first woman to be awarded a Juno in the blues category.
Aboriginal Blues Performers
The blues has been an effective mode of expression for marginalized or alienated groups, and in Canada has resonated with Aboriginal communities. "Rez Blues" (or "Reservation Blues"), a subgenre combining Native themes with urban blues and R&B, has established a particularly strong presence in southern Ontario, where US blues radio shows gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Notable Aboriginal blues musicians to emerge in the 1990s and 2000s have included Jani Lauzon, the Pappy Johns Band, Murray Porter, the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band, The Soul Kings, Slidin' Clyde Roulette Band, Jared Sowan, Texas Meltdown, and Wolfpack. Performance showcases have included "Real Rez Bluez," begun by Elaine Bomberry in 1993 and adapted for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in 2004; and the 2002 radio documentary "The Aboriginal Music Experience."
Blues Songs in Canada
The blues song form has been popular with Canadian jazz composers - eg, Moe Koffman's Swinging Shepherd Blues, Oliver Jones's Blues for Chuck, Oscar Peterson's Blues for Big Scotia, and Vic Vogel's Blues for Duke. Some jazz pianists in Canada have made a reputation as interpreters of the form, among them Wray Downes, Mike Taylor, and Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne.
Popular Canadian Blues Songs
Publications and Record Labels
Canadian publications devoted to the blues include Blues Magazine (Toronto 1975-9); the Toronto Blues Society Newsletter, introduced in 1985; Blues Local (Marieville, Que, 1989-90); and Blues & Roots Montreal, established in 1991. Blues columns also have appeared in Coda. WestCoast Blues Review (Victoria, BC) debuted in 1993 and was replaced circa 1999 by Real Blues. Blues-related record labels in Canada include Disques Bros and Justin Time (Montreal); Electro-Fi and NorthernBlues Music (Toronto); Fat Tone (Vancouver); and Stony Plain (Edmonton).
- Rock With the Best. 1982. Cap ST-6490
- It Still Ain't Easy. 1991. Stony Plain SPCD-1163
Stephen Barry. Live. 1979. Fix It in the Mix FM-101
- Blues Under a Full Moon. 1990. Justin Time JTR-8419 (CD)
Blues Brothers. Briefcase Full of Blues. 1978. Atlantic KSD-19217
Ray Bonneville. Gust of Wind. 1999. Stony Plain SPCD 1256
Mel Brown & the Homewreckers. Neck Bones & Caviar. 1999. Electro-Fi Records 3363
Jim Byrnes. I Turned My Nights into Day. 1987. Stony Plain SPL-1107
Morgan Davis. Morgan Davis. 1989. Stony Plain SPCD-1148
Jackson Delta Trio. Acoustic Blues. 1989. JC-0012384 (CD and cass)
Ronnie Douglas Blues Band. Big Brother. 2001.
Sue Foley. Love Comin' Down. 2000. Shanachie SH 8036
-Where the Action Is. 2002. Shanachie SH 8038
-Change. 2004. Justin Time JTR 8508-2
Georgette Fry. Let Me Drive. 2002. Spare Ribs Records
The Jeff Healey Band. See the Light. 1988. Arista AL 8553
Colin James. Sudden Stop. 1990. Virgin VL43107
Paul James. Paul James Band. Other People's Music OPMPJ-1
- Rockin' the Blues. 1989. Stony Plain SPCD-1135
- Acoustic Blues. 1990. Stony Plain SPCD-1155
Lonnie Johnson. Stompin' at the Penny with Jim McHarg's Metro Stompers. 1965. Col ELS-310
Harrison Kennedy. High Country. 2007
Colin Linden. Colin Linden Live!!!!. 1980. Ready LR-011
Phantoms. Pleasure Puppets. (1990). Spy CD-1006
Roxanne Potvin. Careless Loving. 2003
-The Way it Feels. 2006. Alert Music 6152810416
Saturday Night Blues. 1991. CBC Variety VRCD-1014/Stony Plain SPCD-1172
Saturday Night Blues: 20 years of blues and boogie. 2006. CBC Records TRCD 3019-2
Shakura S'Aida. Blueprint. 2007
Skin Tight Blues: First Peoples Blues Compilation. 2002. Sweet Grass Records SGBcd 2002
Slidin' Clyde Roulette Band. Let's Take A Ride. 2007. SCR2007
Jared Sowan. Eclectically Yours. 2006. Sunshine Records SSCD-4523
Hans Staymer. Hans Staymer Band. 1975. RCA KPL1-0087
Time Bomb. Sue Foley - Deborah Coleman - Roxanne Potvin. 2007. Ruf 1129
VP and the Hammerheads. Hypnotized. 2004. Fat Tone Records
Kenny Wayne. Can't Stop Now. 2008. Electro-Fi EF3407
Whiskey Howl. Whiskey Howl. 1972. Warner WSC-9012
Wolfpack. Every Li'l Thing. 2003.
Women's Blues Revue Live. 2006. Toronto Blues Society TBSCD003
Author Revised: Durrell Bowman
Côté, Gérald. Les 101 Blues du Québec (Montreal 1992)
Andrews, Derek. "Real Rez Bluez II," The Toronto Blues Society Newsletter, vol 10, no 2, Feb 1994
Leblanc, Larry. "Domestic blues gains renewed interest," Billboard, vol 107, no 21, 27 May 1995
Isherwood, Barbara. "Can. blues?" Toronto Blues Society website
Dicaire, David. Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century (Jefferson, North Carolina 1999)
Schweitzer, Ruth. "Rez Bluez," Maple Blues, vol 20, no 1, Jan 2004
Cain, Celia M. "Red, black and blues: Race, nation and recognition for the bluez," Canadian Journal for Traditional Music, vol 33, 2006
Bliss, Karen. "Paul James," Canadian Musician, vol 29, no 3, May-Jun 2007
Links to Other Sites
Saturday Night Blues
The website for “Saturday Night Blues,” a weekly CBC Radio program that features a mix of classic blues from the "Petersen Vaults," concerts, interviews, and new releases. Check out the profile of host Holger Petersen, previous winners of the Great Canadian Blues Awards, and more.
Stony Plain Records
The website for legendary recording company Stony Plain Records, home of the blues, classic R&B, folk, country, bluegrass, rock and roll, and music that "defies categorization." Click on "Releases" for music clips from selected recordings.
Justin Bieber - Never Say Never
Watch the music video "Never Say Never" featuring Canadian singing sensation Justin Bieber. From YouTube.
The Canadian Musician magazine covers prominent Canadian artists, the latest gear, and the business of music. Check out their online articles and directory of Canadian musicians’ websites.
Toronto Blues Society
The Toronto Blues Society website features show listings and links to blues groups, musicians and record labels. Check out the latest news about the annual Maple Blues Awards.
Canadian blues pioneer Dutch Mason dies
A CBC obituary for Canadian blues musician Dutch Mason.
The Top 100 Canadian Singles
What are your favourite songs? See if they are on "The Top 100 Canadian Singles" list. From the National Post.
Techniques of Hypermetric Manipulation in Canadian Blues
This paper investigates techniques used by some Canadian blues artists to alter phrasing in the twelve-bar blues paradigm. From the Canadian Journal for Traditional Music.
The official website for acclaimed singer, songwriter, and blues guitarist Sue Foley. Check out her bio and the lively videos clips of her music.
This site is dedicated to Sue Foley's book “Guitar Woman” which highlights the lives and contributions of female guitar players from “past to present and beyond.” Features numerous excerpts from her book.
Museum of Canadian Music
An extensive information source about Canadian music and musicians. Features performer profiles, music clips, podcasts, and more.
Listen to recordings by your favourite musicians at the website for CBC Music.
Use the search feature at the top of the allmusic.com website to find bios, music clips, and videos of your favourite Canadian rhythm and blues recording artists. Features the music of Nelly Furtado, Jason Bieber, Drake, Melanie Fiona, Tamia, and many others.
Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest
The website for the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest, an annual event that showcases local, regional, national and international talent. Check out the performer profiles and program schedules.
Tune into the inspirational blues of Canadian singer-songwriter George Olliver, the original lead singer of the 60’s R&B band Mandala.
Canadian Music Week
Check out the latest news about Canadian Music week, Canada's international music convention and film festial.
FestiBlues International de Montréal
The website for the FestiBlues International de Montréal. Check out the "Up-and-Coming Blues Contest" and the Route du Blues, an association that brings together blues festivals in Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick.
Bob Walsh, Quebec's Grandmaster of the Blues
Listen to a concert featuring popular blues singer Bob Walsh. From the CBC's "Concerts On Demand" website.
Festival International du Blues de Tremblant
The website for the Festival International du Blues de Tremblant. Check out the videos, musician profiles, and more.
"Real Blues Magazine" showcases blues, soul, gospel and zydeco music. Check out the latest events listings, awards, special features, and more.
Montréal Blues Society
The website for the Montréal Blues Society. Check out the latest news and events in the Montréal region.
Downchild Blues Band
Brighten up your day by listening to a few tracks from Downchild Blues Band Recordings on their website.
Listen to songs featuring the R & B band The Stickmen. Also provides a profile of the band. From myspace.com.
The website for award-winning roots and blues artist Rita Chiarelli. Check out her bio, discography, audio clips from her recordings, and more.
Facebook: Stony Plain Records
Join the conversation about the latest releases from Stony Plain Records.
Underground Railroad Music Festival
An information site for the Underground Railroad Music Festival in Drayton, Ontario.
The website for multitalented Vancouver-based blues singer Jim Byrnes.