The blues is a genre of music that has its roots in the southern United States, emerging after the American Civil War. It was heavily influenced by work songs, field hollers, minstrel shows, ragtime, religious music, and the folk and popular music of the white population. As time went on, blues music evolved and spread to other parts of the world, with artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and W. C.
Handy helping to popularize it. Instruments like the ngoni were tuned on the pentatonic scale, which is a key element of blues music. Dick Waterman and the blues festivals he organized in Europe played an important role in spreading blues music abroad. Additionally, there was influence from classical and popular European music on jazz and American music in general.
This is evident in traditional West African Wassoulou music, which includes basslines similar to those found in Albert King's Matchbox Blues and Howlin' Wolf's Moanin' At Midnight. John Lee Hooker mixed his blues style with elements of rock and roll, creating a unique sound that can be heard on his 1971 album Endless Boogie. The most common structure of blues lyrics today is known as the AAB pattern, which was established in the first decades of the 20th century. This period also saw a shift from group performance to individualized interpretation. Harmonica players like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) and Sonny Terry were prominent figures in the early Chicago blues scene. World War II marked a transition from acoustic to electric blues and opened up the genre to a wider audience.
The spiritual or religious songs of the African-American community are also an important part of blues history. The blues scale is omnipresent in modern popular music and serves as the basis for many modal frameworks, especially the three-thirds scale used in rock music. It is clear that blues music has had a profound impact on modern musical styles.