Top 10 Most Popular Blues Artists of the '80s

Updated on January 23, 2020
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James L Komi is an online researcher and freelance writer who loves writing about music and music history in his free time.

These blues artists will go down in history as some of the greatest of all time.
These blues artists will go down in history as some of the greatest of all time.

Blues is a music genre that originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s. The genre was created by African-Americans, influenced by their roots in African musical traditions, which they blended with African-American work songs and spirituals to form new arrangements. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed narrative ballads.

The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale, and specific chord progressions (of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common). Blue notes (or "worried notes"), usually thirds, fifths, or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles, or walking bass, reinforce the trance-like rhythm, forming repetitive patterns known as the "groove."

Most Popular Blues Artists of the 1980s

  1. John Mayall
  2. John Lee Hooker
  3. The Rolling Stones
  4. Carlos Santana
  5. Thin Lizzy
  6. Fleetwood Mac
  7. The Allman Brothers Band
  8. Canned Heat
  9. Grateful Dead
  10. Ray Charles

1. John Mayall

Born: November 29, 1933

From: Macclesfield, United Kingdom

John Mayall, OBE is an English blues singer, guitarist, organist, and songwriter, whose musical career spans over sixty years. In the 1960s, he was the founder of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, a band that includes some of the most famous blues and blues rock musicians of all time.

2. John Lee Hooker

Born: August 22, 1917

Died: June 21, 2001

From: Tutwiler, MS

John Lee Hooker was an American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. The son of a sharecropper, he rose to prominence performing an electric guitar-style adaptation of Delta blues. Hooker often incorporated other elements, including talking blues and early North Mississippi Hill country blues.

Some of his best known songs include "Boogie Chillen'" (1948), "Crawling King Snake" (1949), "Dimples" (1956), "Boom Boom" (1962), and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" (1966). Several of his later albums, including The Healer (1989), Mr. Lucky (1991), Chill Out (1995), and Don't Look Back (1997), were album chart successes in the U.S. and U.K. The Healer earned a grammy for the song "I'm In the Mood" and Chill Out earned him Grammy for Best Blues Album. Don't Look Back went on to earn him a double-Grammy win for Best Traditional Blues Recording and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (with Van Morrison).

3. The Rolling Stones

From: London, United Kingdom

Year formed: 1962

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The first stable lineup consisted of bandleader Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and Ian Stewart.

The Stones have not had an official keyboardist since 1963, but have employed several musicians in that role, including Jack Nitzsche (1965–1971), Nicky Hopkins (1967–1982), Billy Preston (1971–1981), Ian McLagan (1978–1981), and Chuck Leavell (1982–present).

4. Carlos Santana

Born: July 20, 1947

From: Autlán, Mexico

Carlos Santana is a Mexican American guitarist who rose to fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band Santana, which pioneered a fusion of rock and roll and Latin American jazz.

More radio-friendly singles followed from Santana and the band. "Winning" in 1981 (from Zebop!) and "Hold On" (a cover of Canadian artist Ian Thomas' song) in 1982 both reached the top twenty. After his break with Sri Chinmoy, Santana went into the studio to record another solo album with Keith Olson and legendary R&B producer, Jerry Wexler. The 1983, the album Havana Moon revisited Santana's early musical experiences in Tijuana with Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" and the title cut, Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon." The album's guests included Booker T. Jones, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Willie Nelson, and even Santana's father's mariachi orchestra. Santana again paid tribute to his early rock roots by doing the film score to La Bamba, which was based on the life of rock and roll legend Ritchie Valens and starred Lou Diamond Phillips.

The band Santana returned in 1985 with a new album, Beyond Appearances, then released Freedom two years later.

5. Thin Lizzy

From: Dublin, Ireland

Year formed: 1969

Thin Lizzy are a hard rock band that formed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1969. Two of the founding members, drummer Brian Downey and bass guitarist and lead vocalist Phil Lynott, met while still in school. Lynott led the group throughout their recording career, which included twelve studio albums, writing most of the material.

6. Fleetwood Mac

From: London, United Kingdom

Year formed: 1967

Fleetwood Mac are a British-American rock band that formed in London in 1967. They have sold more than 120 million records worldwide, making them one of the world's bestselling bands.

7. The Allman Brothers Band

From: Jacksonville, FL

Year formed: 1969

The Allman Brothers Band was an American rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969 by brothers Duane Allman and Gregg Allman, as well as Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson.

8. Canned Heat

From: Los Angeles, CA

Year formed: 1965

Canned Heat is an American rock band that was formed in Los Angeles in 1965. The group is notable for its original interpretations of blues material and for its efforts to promote taking an interest in blues music's history and culture.

9. Grateful Dead

From: Palo Alto, CA

Year formed: 1965

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band is known for its eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, country, jazz, bluegrass, blues, gospel, and psychedelic rock. They're also known for their performances of lengthy instrumental jams and their devoted fan base, which are known as "Deadheads."

After the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, former members of the band, along with other musicians, toured as the Other Ones in 1998, 2000, and 2002, and the Dead in 2003, 2004, and 2009. In 2015, the four surviving core members marked the band's 50th anniversary in a series of concerts that were billed as their last performances together. There have also been several spin-offs featuring one or more core members, such as Dead & Company, Furthur, the Rhythm Devils, Phil Lesh and Friends, RatDog, and Billy & the Kids.

10. Ray Charles

Born: September 23, 1930

Died: June 10, 2004

From: Albany, GA

Ray Charles Robinson was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians, he preferred being called "Brother Ray." He was often referred to as "The Genius." Due to glaucoma, Charles started losing his vision at the age of six, but he never let this derail him from his dream of becoming an incredible musician.

Brief History of the Blues

Early blues frequently took the form of a loose narrative. African-American singers voiced their "personal woes in a world of harsh reality: a lost love, the cruelty of police officers, oppression at the hands of white folk, [and] hard times." This melancholy has led to the suggestion of an Igbo origin (Nigerian) for blues because of the reputation the Igbo had throughout plantations in the Americas for their melancholic music and outlook on life when they were enslaved.

According to wikipedia, American blues singer Ma Rainey (1886–1939), is the "Mother of the Blues." Ma Rainey was one of the earliest African-American professional blues singers and a member of the first generation of blues singers to record.

She began performing as a teenager and became known as Ma Rainey after her marriage to Will Rainey, in 1904. They toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group, Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. Her first recording was made in 1923. Over the next five years, she made over 100 recordings, including "Bo-Weevil Blues" (1923), "Moonshine Blues" (1923), "See See Rider Blues" (1924), "Black Bottom" (1927), and "Soon This Morning" (1927).

Rainey was known for her powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a "moaning" style of singing. Her qualities are present and most evident in her early recordings "Bo-Weevil Blues" and "Moonshine Blues."

Rainey recorded with Louis Armstrong, and she toured and recorded with the Georgia Jazz Band. She continued to tour until 1935, when she retired and went to live in her hometown.

Ma Rainey
Ma Rainey | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 James L Komi

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      • JC Scull profile image

        JC Scull 

        3 weeks ago from Gainesville, Florida

        I am big time into jazz and blues, so this article hit the spot. Excellent.

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