Watch the Trouble Blues online guitar lesson by Paul Rishell from Dirt Road Blues
Let's learn Scrapper Blackwell's "Trouble Blues" (Vocalion, Chicago 1928). Scrapper Blackwell (February 21, 1903 - October 7, 1962) Francis Hillman Blackwell was born in Syracuse, North Carolina as one of 16 children. Blackwell and his partner, pianist and singer Leroy Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues scene, recording over 100 sides together until Carr's untimely death in 1935. He also made his own records during that period, for Vocalion, Gennett, Bluebird, Champion, and Decca. He recorded an album for the Prestige/Bluesville Record label in 1962 and was on the cusp of reviving his blues career before being shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley.
Blackwell's thumb technique is totally different from everyone else's we'll cover in this course. He uses his thumb almost like a Delta musician, striking the muted bass strings, keeping straight 4's going with his thumb and playing arpeggios on top. You can hear Blackwell's influence in the playing of Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, and Robert Johnson. Johnson took the melody from Blackwell's "Kokomo Blues," simplified it, and rewrote it as "Sweet Home Chicago" some 9 years later. Scrapper Blackwell was also very fond of using a capo, sometimes capoing up as much as five frets, another trick later appropriated by Johnson. "Trouble Blues" is played with a capo on the 2nd fret and is in standard tuning.