1. The Beginning of Rock n' Roll

The Very Beginning: Blues

Before Rock n' Roll became a new American sensation in the 1950's, there was blues. You've probably heard of "the blues" before. You lose your job; you've got the blues. Your girlfriend leaves you; you've got the blues.

The blues originated on Southern plantations in the 1800's. Its inventors were slaves, ex-slaves and the descendants of slaves—African-Americans who sang as they toiled in the cotton and vegetable fields. It's generally accepted that the music evolved from a combination of African spirituals, African chants, work songs, field hollers, rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns, and country dance music.

Rosie and Levee Camp Holler.mp3
David Guetta - Hey Mama (Official Video) ft Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack.mp3

1940s "Camp Holler"

This is a recording from the 1940s. A "Camp Holler" was a type of song often sung by African slaves and field workers to accompany their work, communicate, or vent their feelings. This style of singing is what eventually evolved into blues.

Did that recording sound familiar? You may have heard it sampled on a famous song from a few years ago...

Blues Structure

Blues music usually follows the same structure. When it does, we call it Twelve Bar Blues. Twelve Bar Blues consists of twelve sections, each with a different chord played.

The chord sequence is:

1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 4 - 4 - 1 - 1 - 5 - 4 - 1 - 1

Watch the video to understand what this means:

Listen to B.B. King's Stormy Monday Blues and listen for the twelve bar sequence below:

12 Bar Blues (example)-Whatd I Say.mp4
B.B. King - Stormy Monday (Live).mp4

Blues Lyrics

The lyrics to blues songs are usually about a bad situation or loss. Here are the lyrics to B.B. King's Stormy Monday Blues:

They call it Stormy Monday but Tuesday's just as bad ( 2 x )

Wednesday's worse, Lord and Thursday's all so sad


Lord have mercy , Lord have mercy on me ( 2 x )

I'm crazy about my baby; send her back home to me

Write your own blues assignment

In the form below, write a two verses of lyrics to your own blues song. Make sure it's about a bad situation or loss - something that could happen in your daily life. Follow the same structure as the song above.

Extra Credit:

"Perform" your blues song in front of the class. Speak the words to your song and follow the twelve bar structure of the music.