I Got The Blues

Album: not on an album (1908)

Songfacts®:

  • "I Got The Blues" has the distinction of being the first blues song every published, in the sense that it has "blues" in the title and used a 12-bar pattern. It's more of a rag though; the sheet music is subtitled "Characteristic Ragtime Two Step."
  • Antonio Maggio published this song but didn't write it - the man who did was never revealed. Maggio emigrated from Sicily to Louisiana in 1982. A violinist, he settled in New Orleans, where he heard this song in the Algiers district of the city. The book Creating Jazz Counterpoint quotes from an interview with Maggio where he told the story:

    "I heard an elderly negro with a guitar playing three notes for a long time. I didn't think anything with only three notes could have a title so to satisfy my curiosity I asked him what was the name of the piece. He replied, 'I Got The Blues.' I went home. Having this on my mind, I wrote 'I Got the Blues,' making the three notes dominating most of the time. That same night, our five-piece orchestra played at the Fabaker Restaurant 'I Got the Blues,' which was composed with the purpose of a musical caricature, and to my astonishment became our most popular request number."

    With demand for the sheet music, Maggio published the song in 1908, making copies for piano, band and orchestra.

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