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Singing the Blues

Today we can listen to music just about anywhere and from a wide variety of formats. That was not the case before the turn of the 20th century. If you wanted to hear music, you made it yourself or with your family. Norman and Nancy Blake and James Bryan play American string music and talk about it as the main form of entertainment in the home. Charles Wolfe, a music historian, describes how songs were a way of telling stories and spreading the news. Fiddlin’ John Carson from Georgia became a sensation because he could play and sing simultaneously. His wins at the Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers contest led to a recording contract. He is considered to be the first person to make a country music record when he recorded “Little Ol’ Log Cabin in the Lane.” Other record companies did not know what to call this form of music, but they rushed to Georgia to record it. African Americans also played string music but began interjecting a new form called the blues. The blues probably originated in West Africa and was heard in America when slaves sang work songs. By the 1920s it was the hottest form of music in the country and the basis for rock and roll music in later decades. Some people believe every form of American pop music including rap, the blues, rock and roll, gospel, and country can be traced to Southern music.

Teacher tip: As illustrated, music has been central to the culture of the South. Many well-known musicians claim Georgia as their home. The Georgia Music Hall of Fame is a resource for identifying Georgia musicians and music styles. Choose a musician or musical group and write a paragraph describing how he, she, or the group brings recognition to Georgia and how the work of the individual or the group has contributed to the state’s economy.