Click on the widget above to hear some fine blues mandolin while you read this post.
A while back I took and interest in less common instruments being used in blues and found that actually banjo, violins and an early single string instrument known as the diddley bow were prominent blues instruments before the widespread availability of guitars. I thoroughly enjoyed my exploration of banjo blues and the discovery of Otis Talyor. To be honest I found very little remaining violin blues except Papa John Creech which is not a blues style I fully appreciate and a wonderful video you can view here. I started to wonder about Mandolin Blues since thats an instrument I’ve appreciated in the past.
A quick search turns up many interesting facts about Mandolin and an excellent book called Mandolin Blues: From Memphis to Maxwell Street by Rich DelGrosso. According to the Rich DelGrosso one of W.C. Handy’s first encounters with the blues (which apparently he didn’t fully appreciate at the time) included witnessing a band comprised of a guitar, a mandolin and bass earning more in tips from a crowd than W.C. Handy was paid. The book goes on to explain the transition of blues music into ragtime with the mandolin players influence. Makes sense when you think about it.
From there it was easy to find lots of great mandolin blues. The stars of the genre seem to be Yank Rachell, Johnny Young, Howard Armstrong and Charlie McCoy. I’ve put some links to the titles at the end of this post for you all of the mandolin fans out there. I plan to blog more about Mandolin and the blues and a Ry Cooder post I’m working on also includes some mandolin blues so I hope you’ll check back soon as I explore this topic further. In the mean time here is wonderful youtube video by Vol Stevens.