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“B” is for Blues

South Carolina from A to Z logo

  “B” is for Blues. A powerful form of secular African American musical and cultural expression, blues developed in the South around the turn of the 20th century—a product of large plantations and railroad, mining and logging camps where black workers congregated. With thickly idiomatic, metaphysically charged lyrics, early blues songs confronted everyday life with humor and resilience. But, they also reflected the oppression and social isolation African Americans faced during the Jim Crow era. As blues spread throughout the South in the early decades of the 20th century, regional styles and traditions evolved. In South Carolina the hotbed of the blues was the Greenville-Spartanburg area where a coterie of talented guitarists—including Willie Walker, Josh White and the Rev. “Blind” Gary Davis--contributed to a style that became known as the Piedmont or East school of the blues.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.