Jelly Roll Blues

Album: The Library Of Congress Recordings Volume 10 (1915)
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Songfacts®:

  • The notion of blues music bubbling up from plantations in Mississippi is upended by "Jelly Roll Blues," which Jelly Roll Morton published in 1915, but had been performing for years in his native New Orleans and around the country, including New York City.

    Unlike the dour, primitive blues commonly associated as the origin of the genre, this song is upbeat and lively. As Chris Thomas King explains in The Blues: The Authentic Narrative of My Music and Culture, "'Jelly Roll Blues,' was snappy feel-good blues. New Orleans blues arrangements had creative catchy musical introductions. Morton's expression of the form danced around the 12-bar formula instead of becoming a slave to it. After all, the whole idea of blues was freedom of expression."
  • This instrumental song is led by Jelly Roll Morton's piano, the instrument of choice in the 1910s. Lonnie Johnson later developed blues on guitar, and Louis Armstrong on trumpet. Like Morton, both are from New Orleans.
  • Morton first recorded "Jelly Roll Blues" for the Edison label in 1923, backed by The Original Memphis Five. His most popular rendition he recorded in 1926 for the His Master's Voice (HMV) label, backed by a group he called Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers.

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