When I was growing up in Auburn, California my older cousin would come to visit us during the summer and thrill and amaze me by playing Flight of the Bumblebee and Bumble Boogie. That was my introduction to boogie, and I still find it interesting and exciting.
Boogie-Woogie, thought to have its birth place in Marshall Texas, Is a style of blues piano playing that is characterized by a steadily repeated left hand bass figure. Sometimes called eight to the bar with a succession of right hand figures, much of it is written in 4/4 using eight notes. Boogie-Woogie pieces are generally 12 bar Blues.
This raw rhythmic style is considered the most impressive form of Jazz music. This piano music is infectious. Once you catch the Boogie-woogie “there ain’t no going back”. This music is extremely rhythmic with a real strong drive. It just grabs hold of you and makes you want to submit to its amazing power. It takes you to rapid highs and fast paced rhythms before you know what is happening to you.
The lively, exhilarating, rhythmic Pinetop Boogie Woogie was first recorded in 1928 by the incomparable Pinetop Smith. But that wasn’t the beginning of Boogie-Woogie. It was just the first recording of this exciting fast paced music. Soon to follow was a hit by Mead Lux Lewis that was called The Honky Tonk Train Blues. The Boogie Woogie was soon being played in house parties and Juke joints across the country. It wasn’t long before it even hit Carnegie Hall in 1938.
Boogie-Woogie style is characterized by the pumping left hand patterns that were said to be inspired by the steam locomotives that were opening up new opportunities for the recently emancipated Afro- Americans in America. This syncopated style of blues piano playing, has had a major influence on popular American music. In the early forties it had a huge influence on the swing bands and RandB style Jazz music. It was soon to become one of the major ingredients of what would become known as Rock and Roll.
Boogie-Woogie was originally called Barrelhouse music because it was played in the Barrel Houses that were a place where barrels of liquor were stored. The Boogie-Woogie has a distinctive 8 beat rhythm that will get your toes tapping in no time and will make you want to shout with enthusiasm. The roots of this style of music are said to go back as far as the 1900s But it really came into it’s own in the 1930s.
Fats Domino and Dr. John are a couple of all time favorites when it comes to Boogie-Woogie. Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis are not to be forgotten when talking about Boogie-Woogie piano playing. They brought this style of music to a whole new generation.
The Boogie- Woogie style is kept alive by current piano players both famous and amateur. The most famous Boogie-Woogie piano player today is probably Axel Zwingenberger. Ben Waters and Caroline Dahl are also known for their mastery of playing a mean Boogie- Woogie piano. Some of the well known songs by these pianists are Boogie Woogie Be With Me by Axel Zwingenberger, Boogie Woogie Stomp by the UKs Ben Waters and Caroline’s Boogie by Caroline Dahl.
If you are a relative beginner, take a look at Boogie For Beginners. It will get you started as a boogie-man or boogie-lady.