What Exactly is Appalachian Blues Music?

America’s music culture has adapted over time when different cultures have come to live in the United States. It has been the innovator of a whole raft of musical styles that have taken their influences from people from all over the world.

America gave the world jazz, country and western, blues, soul, and many other wonderful types of music that has enriched our lives forever. But some of these influences you may never have heard of and one is called Appalachian Blues.

Appalachian Music

As it may sound, Appalachian Blues comes from the Appalachian Mountains and encompasses a raft of musical styles that are derived from African-American influences that include, blues, boogie, piano blues, vaudeville blues, ragtime, boogie, and piano blues. The most celebrated artists that have played Appalachian Blues have included legendary names such as, Cow Cow Davenport, James Brown, Dinah Washington, Pinetop Smith, Bessie Smith, and Jaybird Coleman. These names include the Godfather of Soul, Queen of the Blues, and the Empress of the Blues. So even though Appalachian Blues may not be the most famous musical style in the world, certainly the people who have played and sung it are legendary. Part of the reason that Appalachian Blues music has not drawn more attention is its geographical position and simply the huge area that it encompasses.

The Appalachian Mountains

The diagonal range of mountains cut across America from the great Mississippi to New York, in total this vast range of mountains encompasses no less than thirteen states. One generally held misbelief was that there was not enough of a black population living in the mountains to sustain a blues tradition. And as such if you mention Appalachian Blues music to many people in America they will say it is country music.  

But the real truth is that the story is far more complicated, there was a bigger gathering of the black population in areas such as West Virginia and Alabama but this is not to say these were the only regions that they lived. There was no uniformed split between the demographics of where white or black people lived, it was completely random. Cities such as Greenville, Birmingham, Alabama and Chattanooga attracted many black people to make their homes     

The Civil War

The Civil War rocked America and pulled up many of its roots, families were torn apart and a mass movement of people uprooted to other areas. The war saw a great growth in industrialization, new rail links and roads were being constructed and many southern blacks came looking for work. When this happened Appalachian music took on broader influences and it changed. The workers came from every walk of life including musicians and singers. These influential musicians developed new techniques and adapted Appalachian Blues music radically. To answer our initial question What is Appalachian Blues Music? It is really like saying What is Rock Music.  There are so many forms and styles of Appalachian Music that you cannot just box it up as one thing.