In the 1930s you have basically the same styles as the 20s, but the big bands are getting bigger which leads to music becoming greater on one side, but more sad sappy crooning which leads to the frowny face. Most importantly, the depression is going crazy up in here and World War 2 is about to get even crazier up in here.
Perhaps the craziest phenomenon of the 30s is Robert Johnson, who posthumously became the first rock’n roll star. He’s not at the time because to be a rock’n roll star, people have to be screaming to hear you play, and this wasn’t the case in the 1930s. He became a rock star by default, mostly because his influence of three of the greatest rock blues guitarists that would achieve popularity decades later, those being Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. I’m obviously leaving out many great blues guitarists also heavily influenced by him, but I pick these three because aside from their tremendous celebrity status, they all picked from Robert Johnson’s collection more so than the others.
Rather than group Johnson amongst the other artists from the 30s, I’ve decided to give him his own list. Any time a fun story about selling your soul to the devil to play guitar better is part of your history, you know you’ve achieved a God-like status in guitar playing. I picked 14 songs from his complete recordings recorded between 1936 and 1937. Also, let’s remember that many of Robert Johnson’s songs weren’t his, and every time someone bitches how some band “stole” something from the blues, that’s always been the way it is with the blues. Blind and poor people don’t copyright. Blues are more like an oral tradition passed from generation to generation around a camp fire. We’ve all suffered, which makes them so universal, some have suffered more than others, and that alone usually makes one a better blues musician. Not a claim to being the first one to combine being drunk and your woman leaving you. Anyways, on with the list:
14. Drunken Hearted Man
Being drunk and blues go so well together.
13. Terraplane Blues
12. Walking Blues
Eric Clapton has played this one a lot.
11. Ramblin on my Mind
10. Hell Hound on my Trail
This song is just so badass.
9. Kind Hearted Woman
8. Sweet Home Chicago
7. Love in Vain Blues
Just think, without this song, you most likely don’t have the Rolling Stones. RJ is that powerful.
6. Me and the Devil Blues
5. Come On In My Kitchen
This sounds so much like “You Gotta Move”, another Rolling Stones classic.
4. Travelling Riverside Blues
I first heard this song played by Led Zeppelin as it was one of two “bonus” tracks on what became the box set to lead the box set fad of the early 1990s.
3. 32-20 Blues
Any time you have a song about a gun, it’s going to rank high, that is, until rap started sucking and all the songs were about guns.
2. Stop Breaking Down
Another great song I’ve heard covered by the Stones and Jack White.
1. Cross Road Blues
“Crossroads” is my favorite Eric Clapton song, and this is the earliest known recording. Well, maybe “After Midnight” is my favorite Clapton tune .. no wait, it’s “Sunshine of Your Love”. I guess I’ll have to wait and see when I get to the late 60s and early 70s.