Bumble Bee Slim
Cephas & Wiggins
Davis, Rev. Gary
Fuller, Blind Boy
Holeman, John Dee
Howell, Peg Leg
McTell, Blind Willie
Original map from USDA Yearbook of Agriculture,
Influenced by ragtime, country string bands, traveling medicine
shows, and popular
song of the early 20th century, East Coast Piedmont Blues
blended both black and white, rural and urban song elements in the diverse urban
centers of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic region. In contrast, the Delta
style of rural Mississippi is believed to have less of a white
influence, as it was produced in a region with a
higher concentration of African Americans.
Although it drew from diverse elements of the region, East Coast Piedmont Blues is decidedly an
African American art form. The Piedmont blues
style may even reflect an earlier musical tradition than
the blues that emerged from the Mississippi Delta. According to Samuel Charters, the alternating-thumb bass pattern and
“finger-picking style” of Piedmont blues guitar is reminiscent of West African
kora playing and earlier banjo styles, also of African origin
(Sweet as the Showers of Rain, Oak Publications, 1977, p. 137).
The Geography of Piedmont Blues
This style was principally found in the region between the Appalachian Mountains to the west and
coastal plain to the east, stretching south to north from Atlanta
to Washington, D.C. Most Piedmont bluesmen were associated with
Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Bruce
Bastin, probably the leading expert on Piedmont blues, has written that large numbers of
migrating African Americans settled in the urban centers of
the mid-Atlantic region during
the 1910s and 1920s, principally on the main roads and
railroad lines connecting the South to the Northeast. The
Appalachian Mountains provided a physical barrier to a
more westward expansion, and migration was generally rural to
urban up the Eastern Seaboard. As a result, the urban centers along the way --
Atlanta, GA, Greenville and Spartanburg, SC Durham, NC, Richmond,
VA -- became fertile areas for black musicians to
both perform and influence each other. (For more
information, see Bruce Bastin, Red River
Blues, U of Illinois P, 1986.) See a complete
list of East Coast Piedmont Blues Musicians by state.
When did Piedmont blues musicians record?
The heyday of the Piedmont blues sound was the 1920s
and 30s, during the earliest days of commercial recording. 78
rpm records of African American musicians from this period
-- often marketed as "race records" -- are highly
collectable today. Document
Records in Scotland and Yazoo
Records out of Newton, NJ, are two companies that have
done an excellent job in preserving many of these rare recordings on compact disc.
What distinguishes the Piedmont blues sound from,
say, Delta blues or Texas blues (generally speaking)?
Generally speaking, the Piedmont blues sound incorporated
ragtime piano rhythms and chord changes in guitar playing.
The left hand piano rhythm is reproduced with the thumb and
the right hand piano melody with the forefingers. This is
often called "finger-picking style." This type
of playing has been described by some critics as being
more "melodic" than other blues, with an alternating thumb bass pattern supporting the melody on
Bastin, Bruce. Crying for the Carolines.
London: Studio Vista, 1971.
Bastin, Bruce. Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition of the
Southeast. University of Illinois Press, 1986.
Bastin, Bruce. "Truckin' My Blues Away: East Coast Piedmont
Styles." Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the
Musicians. Ed. Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Press, 1993.
Charters, Samuel Barclay. The Country Blues. Da
Capo Press, 1975.
Charters, Samuel Barclay. Sweet as the Showers of Rain. Oak
Publications, 1977. Contained in the reprint The Blues Makers. New
York: Da Capo Press, 1991.
Harris, Sheldon. Blues Who's Who: A Biographical
Dictionary of Blues Singers. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1979.
Hart, Mary L., Brenda M. Eagles, and Lisa N. Howorth. The
Blues: A Bibliographical Guide. Intro. by William Ferris. New York: Garland, 1989.
Napier, Simon. "Blind Boy Fuller On Down." Blues
Unlimited 38 (November 1966): 17; 39 (December 1966):
19; 40 (January 1967): 19; 41 (February 1967): 19.
Oliver, Paul. The Story of the Blues. Philadelphia:
Pearson, Barry Lee. Virginia Piedmont Blues: The Lives and Art of Two Virginia
Bluesmen. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.
Titon, Jeff Todd. Early Downhome Blues: A Musical
and Cultural Analysis, 2nd ed. Chapel Hill: University
of North Carolina Press, 1994.
All Music Guide to the Blues, 3rd ed. Ed. by
Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, and Stephen Thomas
Erlewine. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2003. <http://www.allmusic.com>
Dixon, Robert M. W., John Godrich, and Howard Rye,
comps. Blues & Gospel Records, 1890-1943, 4th
ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.
Leadbitter, Mike, and Neil Slaven. Blues Records:
1943-1966. New York: Oak Publications, 1968.
Lornell, Kip. Virginia's Blues, Country, & Gospel Records 1902-1943: An Annotated
Discography. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, c1989
Oliver, Paul, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Blues Records. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Reference, 1989.
T-Bone's Piedmont Blues Page. Accessed 8 December
Center for Southern African American Music.
University of South Carolina School of Music. Accessed
8 December 2003. <http://www.sc.edu/library/music/csam/index.html>
"Putting Blues on the Map." North
Carolina Blues Historical Marker Project. Accessed 15
December 2003. <http://members.aol.com/Trucknlittlemama/bbfhmpx.html>
Piedmont Blues. UNC-TV site for program Piedmont
Blues: North Carolina Style. Accessed 8 December