A Voice to be Heard -The Blues Shouters

Written by Cameron K
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Blues shouters were blues singers, usually men, capable of singing unamplified with a band. Their voice projected fervour and energy and got audiences to their feet, driven by the power of the music.

Blues shouters became fashionable during the 30s and early 40s when live music started to regain popularity. Big bands were all the rage and most had a big-voiced blues and ballad singer who could be heard over the band.

Live music gave people a chance to forget the troubles of the Depression and gradually a new form of blues, ‘Jump-Blues’ emerged. Jump blues was an up-tempo style of blues, usually played by small groups and featuring horn instruments (honkers). The style evolved as jazz and blues musicians favoured a heavy, insistent beat. Many of the popular jump blues artist were blues shouters and when ‘honkers and blues shouters’ combined they created, ’rhythm and blues.’

Music helped maintain public morale during the war years, but record production was badly hit with a shortage of shellac, In 1942, a dispute over royalties, saw the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), led by trumpeter James Petrillo, call a ban on all commercial recordings (the ‘Petrillo Ban‘). Live music was replaced with records on the radio, and jukeboxes in cafes and bars. In the run-up to the ban record companies recorded as much music as they could. During the year of union action, many old recordings were re-released and crooners like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra released singles without musical accompaniment (vocalists were not in the union as they were not considered musicians). One exception to the strike was “victory disks” which were recorded for soldiers fighting in World War II and sent to them overseas. Decca and Capitol gave into the AFM in 1943, RCA Victor and Columbia held out but eventually backed down in 1944, and the recording ban ended. By this time, many musicians had been drafted and war shortages meant big-bands could not afford to tour. Smaller groups took over and constantly toured.

James Petrillo

In 1942, a dispute over royalties, saw the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), led by trumpeter James Petrillo

The blues shouters remained popular until the beginning of 50's rock and roll when it became too expensive to maintain the big bands and there was increasing competition from jukeboxes and small combos. Many vocalists went onto success in Jazz and R&B and some had very long careers but the one thing they had in common was, without exception they could belt out a Blues.

Jimmy Rushing, (26th August 26, 1901– 8th June 1972) the blues and jazz singer played piano and became the featured vocalist of Count Basie's Orchestra from 1935 to 1948. Jimmy had a range from baritone to tenor, and his voice so loud he barely needed a microphone and his extrovert stage presence generated huge excitement on the crowd. Dubbed Mr Five by Five because of his small stature and portly build, he was a giant on stage. Jimmy was held in high critical esteem during his career and after his death. He is generally regarded as the greatest blues shouter.

The article used by Kind Permission and with thanks from ZANI


Read 2167 times Last modified on Monday, 06 January 2020 17:40
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Cameron K

Cameron K

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