concert in Chicago. These blues-inspired artists, including B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Clapton, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Steve Winwood, ZZ Top, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Ron Wood, Vince Gill, and Albert Lee, represent the rich appeal of the basic blues form set in the late 1800s (thanks to the African-American composer and publisher W.C. Handy). This concert left no doubt that, besides being a musical style still popular in its own right, the blues continues to reinvent itself in myriad forms, infused with a range of musical influences, from jazz to rock to country to funk. Up and down Beale Street in Memphis the next day and evening, the sounds of live blues bands in restaurant gardens, on the street, and inside the original BB King Blues Club provided a fitting environment for the statue of the man called the Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy. His numerous compositions, including “Beale Street Blues” and “St. Louis Blues,” exemplify the musical Above: the intersection in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where legend has it that early blues player Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being a great blues guitarist.
twelve-bar structure that continues to be used and expanded to
Below: inside the Sun Records studio in Memphis, where Elvis Presley recorded, are guitars played by Elvis and band member Scotty Moore.
on knowledge of this musical form by examining the melodic
this day. At Browning, Lower School boys have gained a hands-
and harmonic blueprint and making up their own lyrics within that basic blues structure. A short drive from Beale Street, calling itself “the birthplace of rock and roll,” Sun Records first opened its doors in 1952 recording rhythm and blues featuring African American performers. It soon became host to myriad well-known R&B, pop, rock, and country recording artists. Its most famous? Elvis Presley. The old Sun Records studio building still stands in Memphis and provides a gem of a tour! During my visit to Graceland, home of Elvis “The King” Presley, more than musical insights gave me ideas to share with the Browning students. It was at Graceland that I learned one of Elvis’s favorite phrases—so much so that it is emblazoned on the tail of the performer’s jet: “TCB” (Taking Care of Business)— with a lightning bolt emblem signifying, “in a flash.” This has provided a useful reminder to the students on occasions when it is needed in the classroom! Clarksdale, Mississippi, was a “must-see” on my itinerary. It was here that, as legend has it, the itinerant musician Robert