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by Justin Farrar

October 25, 2014

The Birth of British Blues Rock

by Justin Farrar  |  October 25, 2014

Rhapsody has officially declared it Classic Rock-tober! That means it's time to crank things up to 11, as we travel back in time to salute the finest in classic rock. Stay tuned each day of October for a new reason to rock out.

From the early '60 to the dawn of punk, the American blues tradition played a profound role in the evolution of British rock. Explore just about any chapter in that evolution and it becomes all too clear that British rock is as influenced by the blues, particularly the Chicago school (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James et al), as it is by '50s rock 'n' roll. The most telling examples include the beat music boom (The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Pretty Things), formative hard rock (Free, The Jeff Beck Group), progressive music (Jethro Tull), early heavy metal (Black Sabbath) and pub rock (Dr. Feelgood).

When talking about the blues' popularity in the British Isles, we'd be remiss not to mention musician and historian Alexis Korner, commonly hailed as one of the founding fathers of British blues. Initially cutting his teeth in England's trad jazz scene, Korner, along with mouth harpist Cyril Davies, founded the London-based Blues Incorporated in 1961. More a rotating cast of musicians than formal ensemble, Blues Incorporated proved to be something of a blues clinic for an impressive number of young and aspiring artists who would go on to change the course of rock history, among them The Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones; Cream drummer Ginger Baker; Rod Stewart; Jimmy Page; Long John Baldry; and Graham Bond.

Nearly as pivotal was singer and guitarist John Mayall. His Bluesbreakers (who in 1966 released Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, one of the decade's most revered albums) also nurtured their fair share of future icons. In addition to a pre-Cream Clapton, there was Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (all of whom founded Fleetwood Mac) and guitar player Mick Taylor, who served time in The Rolling Stones during their run of classic albums from Let It Bleed to Exile on Main St.

Though we've already covered many of the artists spotlighted in our Birth of British Blues Rock playlist, you can also expect key cuts from the great Van Morrison, Ten Years After (credited with one of Woodstock's most electrifying performances), the criminally underrated Groundhogs, Chicken Shack (featuring a young Christine McVie), Blodwyn Pig and Dirty Mac, the John Lennon-led supergroup that in 1968 recorded a snarling and rambunctious version of "Yer Blues" for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus film. Enjoy all the killer tunes!

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