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Stephen F. Austin State University

Jefferson Blues (June 2013)

Jefferson Blues

Jefferson Blues

By Jeff Campbell

In a few weeks our neighbor to the north, Linden, Texas, will celebrate the T Bone Walker Blues Festival. T Bone Walker, a Linden native, was one of the founders of "Jump Blues" and "Electric Blues" in the 1940's and 1950's.

East Texas, along with the Mississippi Delta and Chicago, is one of America's blues cradles. The East Texas blues tradition goes back to Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893- 1929), from Coutchman, Texas and continues today with Rafael Espinoza from Golden, Texas. Rafael Espinoza has performed in Jefferson, Texas many times but he is not Jefferson's only connection with the blues.

The East Texas Blues can be traced backed to Boogie-Woogie. Boogie-Woogie's roots traverse back to the 1870's in East Texas, starting in the Marshall area. Boogie-Woogie is piano based and identifiable by its prevailing left hand base figure. Throughout East Texas bass figures were recognized and named by the cities that were associated with their origin. Such as the "Marshall", which consisted of a very basic four beats to the bar figure. The "Jefferson" shares the same four beats to the bar figure, except that it goes down in pitch on the last note in each of the four note cycles.

What made the "Jefferson" four beats to the bar figure differentiate from the "Marshall"? Most likely Jefferson's bass figure was affected by its relationship with New Orleans. In the 1800's Jefferson was a Steamboat trading partner with the New Orleans. Jefferson's bass figure was influenced by the New Orleans musical gumbo of jazz, dixieland and brass bands. The era of steamboat transportation not only moved cotton to New Orleans and pioneers to East Texas, they also brought New Orleans musical influences to Jefferson. A musical influence that would evolve into what we know today as the "Blues".