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The Memphis blues is a style of blues music that was created in the 1920s and 1930s by Memphis-area musicians like Frank Stokes, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis and Memphis Minnie. The style was popular in vaudeville and medicine shows, and was associated with Memphis' main entertainment area, Beale Street.

History

In addition to guitar-based blues, jug bands, such as Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers and the Memphis Jug Band, were extremely popular practitioners of Memphis blues. The jug band style emphasized the danceable, syncopated rhythms of early jazz and a range of other archaic folk styles. It was played on simple, sometimes homemade, instruments such as harmonicas, violins, mandolins, banjos, and guitars, backed by washboards, kazoo, guimbarde and jugs blown to supply the bass.

After World War II, as African-Americans left the Mississippi Delta and other impoverished areas of the south for urban areas, many musicians gravitated to Memphis' blues scene, changing the classic Memphis blues sound. Musicians such as Howlin' Wolf, Willie Nix, Ike Turner, and B.B.King performed on Beale Street and in West Memphis, and recorded some of the classic electric blues, rhythm and blues and rock & roll records for labels such as Sun Records. Sam Phillips' Sun Records company recorded musicians such as Howlin' Wolf (before he moved to Chicago), Willie Nix, Ike Turner, and B.B.King. These players had a strong influence on later musicians in these styles, notably the early rock & rollers and rockabillies, many of whom also recorded for Sun Records. After Phillips discovered Elvis Presley in 1954, the Sun label turned to the rapidly expanding white audience and started recording mostly rock 'n' roll.

Memphis blues musicians

W. C. Handy
B.B.King
Frank Stokes
Junior Wells
Furry Lewis
Willie Nix
Sleepy John Estes
Ida Cox
Junior Parker
Memphis Minnie
Howlin' Wolf
Rosco Gordon
Bobby Sowell
Robert Wilkins
Doctor Ross
Joe Hill Louis