The Alabama Blues Project
The Alabama Blues Project

712 25th Avenue
Northport, AL 35476
Phone (205) 752-6263
Fax (205) 752-6662

Through a balanced mixture of performance, lecture, and participation, students are introduced to the historical and cultural significance of blues music.

This 45 to 60-minute program examines the blues from its West African roots, through slavery times and Reconstruction, to modern Chicago style blues and beyond. Students learn how slaves struggled to keep their music alive even though their native languages, instruments, and religions were banned on southern plantations. Students are shown how African melodic and rhythmic influences survived through spirituals and work songs, and how the call and response pattern, also with African roots, continues to be found in many musical styles today.

In post slavery times, with few personal possessions, African Americans continued to expand their musical traditions and sometime in the late 19th century the blues evolved and came to be played all over the Southern states. At this time, when sharecropping replaced slavery as the system for cotton farming and most African Americans lived in rural poverty, the early "Country Blues" was played at house parties, family gatherings and juke joints. The blues musicians played on home-made instruments such as the “didley bo,” washboards, jugs, washtubs and cowbells, or bought inexpensive instruments such as acoustic guitars and harmonicas. The ABP Band demonstrates some of these instruments.

Students and performers follow the "Country Style” blues as it moved, along with the Great Migration, to Northern cities like Chicago and Detroit to become urbanized and electrified. Students learn how blues music impacted jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll, as well as country, rap, and hip hop and blues is the roots of contemporary music. Students are introduced to some of the numerous important blues musicians from Alabama like Big Mama Thornton, Dinah Washington, and W. C. Handy.

"An Introduction to the Blues" always features an outstanding guest Alabama blues musician who performs with the Alabama Blues Project Band and talks with the audience about life as a professional blues musician. Previously featured guest artists include Willie King, Little Jimmy Reed, Eddie Kirkland and Carroline Shines.
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