About This Program

Created by African-Americans in the United States in the late 1800s, the blues is a music genre, a style of music, a way of presenting musical ideas, different musical cultures, and an emotion. Its roots are in African American slave songs such as field hollers, work songs, spirituals, and country string ballads. Rural music that captured the suffering, anguish, and hopes of 300 years of slavery and tenant farming, the blues was typically played by roaming solo musicians on acoustic guitar, piano, or harmonica. Early on, the lyrics and instruments of the blues were improvised, giving rise to the one-stringed diddley bow, the percussive washboard, the jug, the spoons, and the washtub bass.

The most common form of the blues is the 12-Bar blues, which only uses three chords (I, IV, and V) and repeats after each twelve bars or measures.

In 1912, W.C. Handy helped raise public awareness of the blues when he became one of the first to transcribe and publish sheet music for a blues song— “Memphis Blues.” Eight years later, listeners bought more than a million copies of “Crazy Blues” by Mamie Smith, the first black female to record a blues vocal.

Georgia and the Carolinas, Texas, and Mississippi

The blues of Georgia and the Carolinas is noted for clarity of enunciation and regularity of rhythm. Influenced by ragtime and white folk music, it is more melodic than the Texas and Mississippi styles. Blind Willie McTell and Blind Boy Fuller represent this style.

The Texas blues is characterized by high, clear singing accompanied by supple guitar lines that consist of single-string picked arpeggios. Blind Lemon Jefferson was by far the most influential Texas bluesman.

Mississippi Delta blues is the most intense of the three styles and has been the most influential. Vocally, it is the most speech-like, and the guitar accompaniment is rhythmic and percussive; a slide or bottleneck is often used. The Mississippi style is represented by Charley Patton, Eddie James (“Son”) House, and Robert Johnson, among others.

Detroit, West Coast and Chicago

John Lee Hooker settled in Detroit, and on the West Coast T-Bone Walker developed a style later adopted by B.B. King. In the 1920s and ’30s, Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, and Sonny Boy Williamson were popular Chicago performers.

After World War II they were supplanted by a new generation of bluesmen that included Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Little Walter Jacobs, Buddy Guy, and Koko Taylor. In the 1940s, acoustic guitars were swapped for electric ones and sound was rounded out by drums, harmonica, and standup bass. This gave rise to an electrified blues sound with a stirring beat that drove people onto dance floors and pointed the way to rhythm and blues and rock and roll.

Support WPKN 89.5 FM

Thanks for reading about the blues! Our volunteers will be wild about this fundraiser and we hope you will show your support by donating either by clicking the DONATE button or by purchasing SWAG. To us, it’s the same — wonderful! You can also DONATE A CAR or other vehicle. We want to shout out our special thanks to all the hosts and volunteers who work so tirelessly to keep the station going, including Martha Willette Lewis, who supplied the artwork for this fundraiser.

Cliff Furnald
Cliff Furnald
Cliff brings music little heard on the radio or the mainstream.

Learn More
Steve di Costanzo
Steve di Costanzo
WPKN General Manager
Music has always been front and center for me. It’s beyond therapeutic.
Learn More
Michelle Morgan
Michelle Morgan
I describe my musical tastes as eclectic, but more honestly, they fall along the Indie, Alternative, Americana, Dream-Pop, Folk-Pop, Folk, Punk, and Post-Punk lines.
Learn More
Joseph Celli
Joseph Celli
Joseph Celli is an American musician and composer specializing in contemporary and improvised music for oboe and English horn. In addition, he plays the Yamaha WX7 MIDI breath controller, as well as double reed instruments from several Asian cultures.
Learn More
Bob Shapiro
Bob Shapiro
Bob has defined WPKNs blues for decades.
Learn More
Pete Stewart
Pete Stewart
WPKN Board of Directors Public Service Director
Pete Stewart hosts Stream of Consciousness and Soul & Funk. WPKN programmer since 1988, currently doing a semi-weekly eclectic music program, Mondays 4-7 PM.
Learn More
Luis Pomales
Luis Pomales
Luis J. Pomales, Host of La Esquina Latina (LEL) since 1974 and keeping Latina music alive and strong. Edwin Muñiz joined LEL in 1985 and remains as an integral member of the LEL team. Remember…it’s all about the music!!
Learn More
Al Bell
Al Bell
Al Bell celebrates the Blues and R&B, playing songs in accordance with his own unique desire to hear one creative piece in juxtaposition with the next. And, it works. Al’s love of music is an expression of joy and delight that will brighten your day.
Learn More
David Golden
David Golden
I showed up at the WPKN studio as a college student and never went away. In the intervening years, I’ve served on various station boards and committees, hosted a bunch of live music, and hopefully kept you company. Bring your favorite mug and hang out.
Learn More
Colette Rossignol
Colette Rossignol
WPKN Board of Directors Chair
Colette started at WPKN in 1982 presenting “Capital Radio” and continues on programming both a Rock-N-Roll and her “Blues for Bob and You” show.
Learn More
Mark Mushin
Mark Mushin
WPKN Board of Directors Technical Director
Mark Mushin loves his family and the blues. He hosts One Step Ahead of the Blues and is a part of The Car Bob Show. Mark volunteers on the WPKN Board of Directors.
Learn More
Del LaPietro
Del LaPietro
WPKN Board of Directors Library Director
I have been Library Director since August of 2012, and have been dubbed ‘the Anarchivist’ because of my interest in and passion for preserving the future of the WPKN collection. This includes LPs, 45s, CDs, and digital formats.
Learn More
Annette Szczesiul
Annette Szczesiul
What inspires me about ‘PKN is that amidst all the differences, there is a beautiful core sharing values, mutual inspiration, spirit, heart, humor and never-ending goofiness!
Learn More
Kevin Gallagher
Kevin Gallagher
WPKN Board of Directors, Long Island Director
Kevin Gallagher likes to dig. Ask him to tell you about his life, and don’t be surprised if he digs up a tale about traveling the world with the Eurythmics or that he’s been digging WPKN since he became a DJ in 1972.
Learn More
Rob Silber
Rob Silber
Rob Silber hosts Rock Therapy on WPKN. View his schedule.
Learn More
Mark Naftalin
Mark Naftalin
Mark appears on the first five albums by Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the mid-1960s as a band member, and as such was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Learn more at his website.
Learn More