The Appalachian Mountains, while long overlooked, are emerging as a core cradle of African-American music, notably the blues. The blues from the Appalachians don many hats, ranging from vaudeville blues, piano-based boogie, dance tunes with string bands, raw harmonica and guitar blues, to ragtime, East Coast R&B, and even the unique white mountain blues. Icons like Bessie Smith, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Cow Cow Davenport, Pinetop Smith, Josh White, Rev. Gary Davis, Jaybird Coleman, Luke Jordan, Dinah Washington, and the legendary James Brown hail from this tradition. It’s perplexing, given the lineage of such eminent figures—the Empress, Queen, and Godfather of their respective genres—that the Appalachian blues legacy isn’t more celebrated.

BTW – I once pronounced Appalachia and a friend from that part of world said, “Hey, you need to get the pronunciation right. If you don’t, I will throw “an apple atcha”!

Check out the Smithsonian Folkways’ excellent Journey into Appalachian Blues

Bessie Smith

Cripple Clarence Lofton

Cow Cow Davenport

Pinetop Smith

Josh White

Rev. Gary Davis

Jaybird Coleman

Luke Jordan

Dinah Washington

James Brown

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