In the late fifties the electrification of the blues created a range of different styles emanating from different regions of the Southern States. Swamp Blues was the sound that came from Louisiana. It was called swamp blues because this was the land of the bayous and swamps along the coast out from Baton Rouge.
The sound was developed by J.D Jay Miller who distributed via Excello records. It was a laid-back, slightly muffled, echoey production based very much on the Jimmy Reed beat. Baton Rouge had close proximity to New Orleans and there is a rich flavour of Cajun, Creole and Zydeco in that earthy beat. It is very distinctive.
The leading exponents were Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester and Lonesome Sundown. Even the names conjured up that lethargic, sultry heat of the Mississippi Delta. The only one I got to see was Lazy Lester a few years back. I got in on a photo session and took some shots and had a chat. He was a bit moody and surly but his set was brilliant and perversely he refused to play his big hit ‘I’m a Lover Not a Fighter’. It seemed right.
I discovered Swamp Blues back in the sixties on an LP simply called ‘Swamp Blues’ featuring samples of all the various artists’ work. I was smitten. The sound was so rich and textured, so full of Spanish moss that you could imagine yourself sitting in the bayou with the alligators as the sun went slowly down.
I visited Baton Rouge (named after the little red stick the slaves used to check the ripeness of the chillies) and hunted out Slim Harpo’s grave. It was a big sarcophagus all covered in roots and trees. That was OK too. I’m rather glad that he wasn’t lauded by the town. It would have seemed insincere.
Slim Harpo was the main man. His songs ‘King Bee’, ‘Got Love if you Want It’ and ‘Shake Your Hips’ were covered by the Stones, Kinks and Yardbirds. I would have liked to have seen him play but I did get to see Lazy and Jimmy Reed and I guess that was the next best thing!
2 thoughts on “Rock Music Genres – Swamp Blues in the late fifties.”
Reblogged this on Opher's World and commented:
A bit about Swamp Blues!!
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