Greetings my friends, as I look out at the beautiful landscape
that surrounds us here in this beautiful place, I cannot help but
draw the analogy to the landscape of American popular music.
There's rock, soul, country, jazz, blues, and several amalgams of
each of these genres. So the challenge for me is to find the three
most influential that impacted all these styles. This ain't gonna
be easy folks, but here I go.
1. Robert Johnson: Blues
Although Robert Johnson was not the earliest of the Delta Blues
artists, or the best guitarist, he certainly had the most
impressive collection of skills of any pre-war blues artist.
Although many of his songs were derivative of earlier songs done by
other blues singers, Johnson's versions are without doubt the most
well known and well constructed.
His influence can not only be traced to cats like Eric Clapton,
Muddy Waters, and BB King, but his lyrics became the vernacular for
rock and roll, and rhythm and blues songs for many decades. His
singing was a more higher pitched and emotional then blues singers
of his era. It should be noted that Robert Johnson was influenced
by predecessors like Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind
Willie Johnson, and Willie Brown. His guitar playing was not as
technically advanced as guitar masters like Blind Blake, Lonnie
Johnson, and Reverend Gary Davis, but he did possess a wide
knowledge of chord forms and chord changes that gave him the
arsenal of ideas you would need as a prolific songwriter. Robert
Johnson "the king of the delta blues singers."
2. Louis Armstrong: Trumpet player, singer,
jazz musician and musical icon
Widely acknowledged as the man who invented the language of jazz
music, Louis Armstrongs early recordings were, are and will always
be the framework on learning how to play jazz music.
I don't think that in all of music there is a more misunderstood
or misused word as jazz. Jazz to me is a very broad palette
incorporating mellow easy listening jazz, avante garde/free form
jazz, New Orleans style, and electronic fusion, all of these can be
directly traced to Satchmo and his true genius.
To say he influenced jazz musicians only, would be a mistatement
of gargantuan size. Every singer in every style that ever scooped a
note owes a debt of gratitude to Satchmo. Every guitar player who
ever bent a string can thank the great man himself. And finally
Louis Armstrong was the first African-American entertainer to mange
to endear himself to black and white audiences, not a small feat in
pre- and post-war America.
3. Jimmie Rodgers: The father of country
Jimmie Rodgers is probably the least known of any of the
candidates for this column, not because of his talent but more
because of the timing of his life and his recordings. Jimmie
Rodgers, known as the "Singing Brakeman," was born in 1897, and
died in 1933 from a lung hemorrhage due to his long battle with
tuberculosis. Rodgers influenced every country singer from Roy
Acuff, Hank Williams, Gene Autry and Bob Wills but his influence
also shaped the careers and music of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and
Bruce Springsteen. Some of Jimmy Rodgers's best known songs are,
"Frankie and Johnnie,""Blue Yodel #1," "the Brakemans Blues," "In
the Jailhouse Now," "My Old Pal" and "Long Tall Mama Blues."
The length and depth of his influence is so wide that when
researching him for this column I could not list the amount of well
known artists who claim Jimmie Rodgers as a primary influence. To
me Jimmie Rodgers singlehandedly legitimizes country music as an
original American music genre.
Please go online and check out the works of these great legends
of american music and see why the are at the top of "Leone's
Enjoy the spring! Peace and love, Joey