Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

St. Louis Blues

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

St. Louis Blues

Article excerpt

In 1914, remembering hard times he'd experienced in St. Louis in the late 1800s, the composer W.C. Handy penned a prototype for the 12-bar blues as we know it today, "St. Louis Blues." An incalculable number of tunes-not just blues, but jazz, rock, and beyond-are built around variations of the 12-bar structure, with its repeating first two lines and overall melancholic effect, found in the verses of "St. Louis Blues."

The song became a pop and jazz standard, and among thousands of interpretations, singer Bessie Smith's dirge-like 1925 version stands out as one of the finest. That recording, with Louis Armstrong on cornet and Fred Longshaw on harmonium, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1993.

Smith's interpretation of "St. Louis Blues" is the inspiration for this arrangement, based on common, mostly open grips suggested by the harmonium part. …

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