Boogie Woogie


A great name for a subgenre of anything, eh? “Boogie woogie” originated in Texas at the turn of the 20th century as a style of early blues piano playing called “fast Western”–different from the “slow” piano playing in New Orleans–but it really became popular in the 1930s and ’40s when it became the realm of mutli-instrumental performing ensembles and even big bands. Boogie woogie piano playing has a similar feel to ragtime, but relies more improvisation. In boogie woogie the piano player’s left hand repeats a particular pattern of chords or bass notes while the right hand is available for melody and improvising. The hands operate so separately a listener may think there are two different pianos playing. [Learn about the differences between ragtime and boogie woogie.] While most blues songs of the time conveyed deep emotion of either the songwriter, the performer or both, the goal of most boogie-woogie was to inspire the audience to dance.

[Listen to Clarence “Pine Top” Smith’s 1929 song “Pinetop’s Blues,” which introduced the term “boogie woogie” to the public | Listen to Jimmy Yancey’s 1939 boogie, “Rolling the

“Talking blues” guitar player JOHN LEE HOOKER didn’t exactly play boogie woogie, but he did develop a style similar enough to be referred to as “guitar boogie.” [Watch a young Hooker play “Boom Boom” on BBC-TV in the early ’60s | Watch a slightly more seasoned Hooker perform “Boogie Chillen” in 1992]


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