The King Biscuit Time Columns
The Blues Online #1
By Glenn Weiser

These are the archived columns I've written for King Biscuit Time, a magazine covering blues artist and festivals. - GW

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The Year of the Blues Web Site

“Keep the blues alive,” a dying Muddy Waters famously told Buddy Guy and Junior Wells on his hospital bed. Although interest in the genre remains strong, sales of blues records in this country have declined in recent years, leaving a key role in sustaining this vital music to the Internet. With a click of a mouse, you can now visit hundreds of blues oriented Web sites, yak about your favorites artists with fellow fans from all over the world in various electronic forums, catch online radio shows, and download songs. Today, Muddy’s deathbed wish has been honored in a way nobody at the time could have foreseen.

            This monthly column will show you where the digital doors to the blues are in every branch of the Internet: the World Wide Web, Usenet, email, chat rooms, etc. I’ll recommend content- rich Web sites that entertain, educate or host a community, not just try you to sell you a product or hype a band. Several Usenet newsgroups are now devoted to the blues; you can either monitor discussions as an unseen “lurker” or spring out the cyberdarkness into the frequently spirited “threads.” Much the same can be done through listserves, which are email based groups limited to subscribers as a way of keeping out spammers and/or moderating the tone of the exchanges. And now that a royalty agreement has been reached between the music industry and online radio stations, the way is legally clear for blues e-broadcasting. I’ll tell you who’s playing the hot tracks and how to tune in. Sharing MP3 music files online is of course controversial because of intellectual property concerns, but in cases where artists have offered MP3s on their sites or otherwise authorized free online distribution of their music, I’ll review prime cuts. With the Internet expanding faster than Einstein’s universe, I’ll have plenty to talk about here.

            Nobody knows exactly when the blues was born, but perhaps the earliest mention of the music is an encounter in 1903 African American composer W.C. Handy had with an unknown slide guitarist in a train station in Tutwiler, Mississippi, which Handy describes in his book Father of the Blues (he called the man’s playing “the weirdest music I had ever heard.”). Accordingly, the Seattle-based Experience Music Project and the Memphis based Blues Foundation have designated this the official Year of the Blues, and assembled a program of PBS-TV shows and events all around the country to mark the centennial of the event and promote the blues in general. A cool roadside attraction on the Information Highway to visit, then, is the YOTB website at 

An online trove awaits the surfer, starting with the attractively designed site’s index page, which lists major events of the current month. As of this writing in April, the home page touts the New Orleans Jazz Festival, a PBS - TV segment  about Muddy Waters, a scholarly symposium honoring the work of the late musicologist Alan Lomax in New York City and other events. A link goes to a more complete calendar for the month. And that’s only the beginning.

Also linked to from the index page is a video of the month, in this case Buddy Guy talking about Guitar Slim. The site’s designers have thoughtfully made both high and low bandwith versions available depending on whether you have a dailup or a high-speed connection. And don’t worry-when you read this, the Buddy Guy video will have been archived along with each month’s offering, so you’ll still be able to see it.

If you’re a guitarist, watching your favorite blues players online may get you itching to haul out your ax and pick a while. The YOTB site aims to inform your playing by posting a weekly online blues guitar lesson, and that’s not enough, a riff of the day. Another guitar feature, The Fender Players’ Club, ties into the month’s video - April’s edition is a transcription of Guitar Slim’s signature hit, The Things I Used To Do. You can download the music/tab in a PDF file (you’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader, available free at, to view it), and also an MP3 file of the music. A year of practicing all the riffs on the site could do wonders for a beginning or intermediate student’s chops. Again, it’s all archived.

That’s not all, either. As well as the blues riff of the month, the table of contents on the left side of the home page also has a link to the YOTB features page. In April, you could read a six-page article on Excello Records and the swamp blues. Another April article, The British Blues, takes the laudable stand that white boys can indeed play the blues, and chronicles the early days of UK bluesheads Eric Clapton, the Stones, Jeff Beck, et al. And if you’re looking for leads on CD purchases, the site periodically posts lists of Top 10 recordings from “blues experts and enthusiasts.” Moreover, YOTB recommends a classic album every week with a sample track for you to listen to.

The site knows who its friends are, too, and has a page of links to blues societies all over the world. Find out if there is a blues organization near you and get involved if you’re not already. is simply one of the best blues Web sites I’ve ever seen, and as editor of the Netscape Directory’s blues listing, I’ve seen hundreds. One can only hope the creators will keep this fine resource going after the year is out.  

© 2003 Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.


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