Other Styles Of Playing The Blues
Generally, artists tended to stick within their own regional style, sometimes adding songs in other styles to 'round out' their repertoire and keep audiences interested. Some guitarists, however, crossed all the boundaries and could pretty much play any style, such as Reverend Gary Davis and Big Bill Broonzy.
The Reverend was taught in part by Willie Walker, an incredibly fast and accurate ragtime guitarists from Carolina. Gary Davis could play in any key and in any style, but favoured Gospel guitar in his later years.
Broonzy came from the South, but ended up as a celebrity 'rock star' in Chicago, where he developed a particular style of swinging blues characterized by his monotonic thumb action on the bass strings. He was also very fast and accurate, and very few modern day players can copy his technique effectively. Some of his pieces tended towards ragtime and he could also incorporate pop songs from the 'tin pan alley' of his day.
Towards Ragtime Blues Guitar
Ragtime blues could be considered to be the more complex technique within the genre 'acoustic blues guitar'. The music of Lightnin' Hopkins was definitely bluesy and often appeared in the keys of E and A. In fact, many of his pieces in the same key were very similar. However, his ability to up-beat the temp and mix techniques places him in a class of his own - acoustic Texas Blues. He can't be glossed over in our study, if we seriously want to learn blues guitar.
It's interesting that some great talent who could really play blues also came out of Carolina, such as Pink Anderson, Floyd Council and Scrapper Blackwell. Pink was a fast ragtimey player and honed his craft playing behind the good Doctor Kerr in a traveling medicine show.
Floyd Council made few records in his own right, but can be heard backing Blind Boy Fuller on several tracks cut in 1940s. Their styles were very similar. He was known as the 'Devil's Daddy In-Law', but it's not certain why that is.
Scrapper Blackwell was an extremely influential artists who produced several blues guitar classic, such as 'Blues Before Sunrise, Nobody Know You When You're Down And Out' and 'Kokomo Blues'. The latter was taken by Robert Johnson, who re-worked it and called it Sweet Home Chicago.
In passing, it's worth mentioning that a separate branch of picking developed called 'Travis' picking (after Merle Travis), which has a ragtime feel and muted alternating bass lines. Doc Watson shows us how to play the blues in this style in his great classic song 'Deep River Blues.)
Ragtime Blues Guitar
Reverend Gary Davis was an exponent of ragtime guitar par excellence. He played a Gibson J200 guitar, which had a prodigious sound when played with finger picks, as davis did.
Rev Gary Davis was a giant of ragtime guitar, but there were other very notable exponents of this wonderfully complex style of playing guitar.
Blind Wille McTell played syncopated rhythms on a 12 string guitar, creating classics such as 'Statesboro Blues'. Blind Boy Fuller was perhaps the most commercially successful of the ragtime players, and his style was heavily influenced by Gary Davis, who taught him in his early years.
cut over 100 sides for Paramount and was very prolific. His complex
technique was characterized by a complicated double-thumb beat
syncopation, rapid triplets executed by his fingers and lightning fast
single strings runs.