Houston Music

Where's the Blues in the Black Community?

"For a black male, the sound of the blues is pre-Civil Rights. It's oppression. In high school I had a friend who asked me why I played the blues, that black people don't play blues."

-- Gary Clark Jr.

Blues was once a very popular and influential musical genre. Its artists were a common sight at local venues like Third Ward's legendary El Dorado Ballroom, as well as in other Houston-area African-American neighborhoods like Sunnyside, Fifth Ward and beyond, where Johnny Taylor, Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland and countless others would play to mostly black audiences on a nightly basis.

But nowadays this music is all but completely absent in these African-American communities, and blues gigs are rare, novel events. Black folks have seemingly abandoned the blues at the street level and even in a commercial sense. Young African-Americans no longer make up the audiences at blues venues around town. In most places in the U.S., including Houston, the audience of the blues is primarily constituted of non-African Americans.

The question is: Why? What has happened to the blues in the African-American community?

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Kerry Melonson
Contact: Kerry Melonson