The King Biscuit Time Columns
The Blues Online, #3
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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 #3 - Got the Blues? Join the Club.

Clubs have always been a way for people with shared interests to meet, so it’s no surprise that the Internet is teeming with online groups dedicated to pastimes ranging from the commonplace to the seriously weird. For blues fans, the Net offers many opportunities to join discussions and swap text, graphic or sound files. One of the biggest and best of these is Yahoo Groups.

            In the last column we looked at Internet directories of blues websites, and found that at 175 sites, Yahoo’s listing (dir.yahoo.com/Entertainment/Music/Genres/Blues) was only a tenth the size of Google’s (directory.google.com/Top/Arts/Music/Styles/Blues). But unlike Google, Yahoo has a large section of groups it hosts, including ones based around music genres. I hadn’t explored their section of blues clubs prior to this issue, but figuring there would be something worth reporting on, I got online and headed off into deepest, darkest Yahoo.

            To enter the Yahoo clubs section, go to their top page at www.yahoo.com, where about a third of the way down the screen you’ll see a row of links marked “Connect.” After Chat, GeoCities, and Greetings is the Groups link. Click on it, and you’ll get to groups.yahoo.com.

            You’ll have to register as a Yahoo member before going further if you’re a new user, and this is where online privacy becomes an issue. I’m sure the folks at Yahoo are just old-fashioned sweethearts, but unfortunately, once you’ve revealed your personal information online, it can wind up in the hands of hackers or identity thieves. So unless you want to be known by your real name, my advice is to use an alias, and, with the exception of your email address (you’ll probably want it for correspondence), submit bogus information. You’re just protecting yourself, after all.

            Once you’ve registered, you’ll return to the Groups top page as a member. Under the blue band marked “Join a Group” is a directory of subjects in two columns; second down in the right-hand column is Music. Click on the link, and when you get to the next page, Top>Music, click on Genres link in the column under the gray band marked “Browse for More Specialized Groups.” This will bring you to the Top > Music > Genres page, where you will find the Blues link in the column starting with A Cappella. Click on it and you’ll arrive at Top > Music > Genres > Blues. (http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/dir/Music/Genres/Blues).

            Expecting to find a handful of blues groups, I was floored to see 639 of them listed. The top page of the category divides them into two sections, with link to each: a more generic subsection of 380 groups and a listing of 259 groups devoted to artists. You also have the option of starting your own group, but don’t attempt this before knowing what is already there and participating yourself.

            To view the general blues groups, click on the “blues groups” link and you’ll see the list in descending order of size. The largest group, Bayfrontblues, has 1159 members and is an email group for California’s Bayfront Blues Festivals, while the smallest groups have less than 5 members. Each page of the listing has links to 10 groups with brief descriptions, so that’s 38 pages to comb through in this half of the section alone. Other top groups include Texas Flood, a Stevie Ray Vaughn group, Soultraintv, a group run by the producers of the TV show (I thought it was long gone), and Bluesrock, where members preferring blues with a harder edge “can post blues or rock music concerts or CD reviews.”

            My tastes lean towards Chicago style blues harp and prewar blues guitar, so I went down the list looking for a group to join. With 602 members, Blues2 billed itself as “a gathering place for fans of the blues,” and seemed broad in scope. It had also been going for five years, so I gave it a try.

To join, click on the “join this group” link in the yellow box on the upper right side of the group’s index page. This brings you to the sign-in sheet, where you then choose your options for participation-what address do you want to receive email at, do you want the email all at once in a digest or individually, etc.

            Once you’re a member, click on the group link again and you’ll see the index page, but with all options open to you. On the left is a column of links to the standard Yahoo club features. These include a message board for announcements, a chat area, a storage bin where folders of text files or mp3s may be shared, a photo album repository (these were mostly gig shots and CD covers), a links page, a storage space for databases, a list of members’ email addresses (they are often undisclosed, though), and a calendar of events. On the right side of the index page is the message board, where members can promote bands, online radio shows, new websites, etc. Old messages are held in a searchable archive. All in all, blues2 offered substantial content.

            But more groups beckoned, so I headed down the list. Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, and Sonny Boy II are titans of American music in my book, so the group Post-war-blues looked like a good bet. When I tried to join, though, I got a screen saying, “Your membership request has been submitted to the group post-war-blues! You will receive a confirmation email when your membership has been approved” (The group’s moderator did respond the next day with a form letter welcoming me and detailing the house rules, though).

            I still hadn’t viewed the artists’ groups, so I returned to the main blues page and opened the listing at http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/dir/Music/Genres/Blues/Artists. The top page is divided into two sections: a link to a listing of 159 groups dedicated to mostly lesser-known artists and bands, and a column of 22 links to listings of groups for big names from the Blues Brothers to Johnny Winter. Johnny Lang has a surprising 29 groups- the most by far, which shows how popular the young guitarslinger has grown.

            So many Yahoo blues groups, so little time. There’s enough here for hours of browsing, and it’s hard to imagine a blueshound leaving this corner of the Web unsatisfied.

            After you’ve checked out Yahoo groups, be sure to drop by the King Biscuit Time Web site at www.kingbiscuittime.com and my own online juke joint at www.celticguitarmusic.com/bluesmain.htm, where all my back Blues Online columns are now archived. Ciao!

© 2003 Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.

Email: banjoandguitar100@yahoo.com
  

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