Did you know that the style of music called boogie-woogie was born in Texas? First known as ‘Texas Western’ or ‘fast Western,’ this genre is in the blues family. It’s played on a piano and with a bass, and other variations do exist. Developed in Northeast Texas African American communities in the 1870s, it became popular during the late 1920s, spreading across the United States as Texans moved around and shared it. The style boogie-woogie is generally tied to dancing.
The December 1928 recording by Pine Top Smith is the first time “boogie-woogie” was used in a title of a published audio recording. “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” is a song in which the lyrics spell out how to dance the boogie-woogie. Some of the more famous musicians who played boogie-woogie were Jimmy Yancey, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Pinetop Smith, and Meade “Lux” Lewis. Although the origin of the term is unknown, there are several African terms which can be linked to the name boogie-woogie.
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The first step of playing boogie-woogie is to understand the basic bass pattern, which is a two-bar pattern using quarter notes. This two-bar pattern goes: | Root-3-5-6 | b7-6-5-3 |. According to StudyBass.com, “the bassline ascends and then descends strongly outlining the notes of each dominant 7th chord in the blues progression.”
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Marshall, Texas registered as the “Birthplace of Boogie Woogie” on June 21, 2011. The city highlighted this part of its history after San Antonio doctor and musicologist Dr. John Tennison published his research about this music developing here around the early 1870s, by African Americans working in the railroad and logging industries. A Texas historical marker was unveiled on September 2, 2018 which declared Marshall as the birthplace of boogie-woogie. The city of Marshall is also home to some of the oldest African American neighborhoods in the Lone Star State. What are some of your favorite boogie-woogie tunes?