IT'S often mentioned that a lot of music from the 1950s onwards was essentially derived from the blues. But among all the blues styles, one particular form played a larger role, acting as a precursor to the birth of both rock 'n' roll and R&B. This was called jump blues, which existed both before and after World War II.
Over the years, artistes like Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Clayton and Big Joe Turner have been associated with this sound. Infectiously swinging, full of good humour and hugely popular for its time, the jump blues movement is said to have originated in Kansas City in the 1930s via the catchy, rolling rhythms of Walter Page's Blue Devils, the Bennie Moten Band and Count Basie Band.
After the war, however, the action shifted to Los Angeles, which actually gave birth to a new West Coast sound characterised by shuffling uptempo rhythms, raucously upbeat spirits, honking saxophones and vocalists who shouted about drinking and partying.
The undisputed king of the jump blues movement was saxophonist Louis Jordan, whose song 'Let The Good Times Roll' became an anthem. His Tympani Five had nearly sixty chart hits between 1942 and 1951. Jordan's followers included pianist-singer Charles Brown, best known for 'Drifting Blues', and pioneering electric guitarist T-Bone Walker, who would influence an army of musicians including BB King, Lowell Fulson, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. His 'Call It Stormy Monday' is one of the most covered blues songs, and 'T-Bone Shuffle' and 'West Side Baby' are among all-time concert favourites.
Following Walker's success, the jump blues movement saw artistes like guitarist Pee Wee Clayton and drummer-singer Roy Milton. But some of the biggest contributions came from brothers Joe and Jimmy Liggins. Joe Liggins was the first the strike gold with his 1945 hit 'The Honeydripper', which he followed up five years later with the more successful 'Pink Champagne', which was covered by jazz artistes Tommy Dorsey and Lionel Hampton. His younger brother Joe, who was earlier a bus driver, had a major hit with 'Cadillac Boogie'. In fact, his wild stage presence and manic delivery had a direct and lasting impact on Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, the pioneers of rock 'n' roll.
A key figure on the West Coast blues scene was bandleader Johhny Otis, whose 1958 song 'Willie and the Hand Jive' was later popularised by Eric Clapton, and also covered by Cliff Richard, George Thorogood and Grateful Dead. Another star from that era was Big Joe Turner, whose 'Shake Rattle and Roll' was brilliantly covered by Bill Haley and the Comets. Turner eventually switched to rock 'n' roll, and later returned to the blues. With newer styles emerging, the popularity of jump blues waned from the late 1950s. Today, there are only a handful of performers, including Mitch Woods, Roomful of Blues and the Mighty Blue Kings.
The contribution of jump blues to the creation of two of music history's most popular genres is something that's truly worth jumping about.