Last night, I had the pleasure of taking in a couple of sets at Blue Chicago at 536 N Clark Street. It’s an ode to a more simple time. Wooden chairs adorn the old creaky floors. The lighting is non-existent; all but the spotlight marks the room. It’s a tiny stage, large enough for only 3 musicians at time. (In fact, the keys players had to set up on dance floor below). The drinks were flowing, and feet were stomping! By 11:30 PM the cheers from the crowd was only matched by the intensity of the artists. The spirit of the blues breathes effortlessly in this small club dedicated to preserving a most important art form.
On this occasion I had the pleasure of listening to the deep, raspy sounds of vocalist Nellie “Tiger” Travis as she brought down the house with her raucous renditions. She is an accomplished blues singer, whose talents have taken her around the world. As I sat there listening to her gritty, haunting solos, the significance of the blues became painfully obvious. I realized where Clapton, The Beatles, The Ramones and many others borrowed (though some would say “stole”) their style. Now this is not some major proclamation of any sort. Nor is it a condemnation of those “thieves”. If you have taken a basic music class, you are aware of its historical significance. No other musical genre has been as pervasive as the blues.
So what was going through the minds of the writers at Variety stating that Elvis Presley invented Rock and Roll? Elvis invented Rock and Roll? Really? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I know this was only a tweet, but I mean, this was a joke, right? Forget about Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, BB King, and a host of other great blues players. Forget about the plantations where those voices sang; where lives were lost. Forget the ingenuity and creativity of an entire people, their struggle and the symbolic reflection of the life and times of those who wrote and sang. Forget the stories, the pain and melancholy of those who futures were uncertain, yet their spirits were lifted and their faith remained unmoved. Nope, ELVIS PRESLEY invented rock and roll. I don’t know which is worse, this stunning example of historical revisionism or Variety magazine’s limp explanation for such an unforgivable gaffe.