“Blues Groups”; In Music History

I recently had an email question posed to me from my site that asked me what I thought was the most successful “Blues Group?” (I have narrowed it down to the word “blue” in the beginning of the band name)

I can only say with such an eclectic list of choices that you would have to narrow it down to what type of music is being played by the group, how you define success and of course, personal preference.

If you are looking for a hard-rock group, you have several selections, including Blue Cheer, a 60’s group that some refer to as one of the first heavy metal bands. Their hit, a remake of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” spent ten weeks on the American Billboard Top 40, peaking at number 14 in 1968. Even with numerous personnel changes, San Francisco’s Blue Cheer was able to release several breakthrough and influential albums.

However, if you are looking for commercial success and longevity, one could argue that Blue Oyster Cult, another hard-rock/heavy metal band could top that list. In 1972, with their self named debut album, Blue Oyster Cult combined the elements of hard-rock and intense touring to pave the way for their upcoming success. In 1976, they broke through to the mainstream arena and FM radio with the album “Agents Of Fortune” that included their biggest hit, the classic and infectious “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” Blue Oyster Cult proved that they were more than a one-hit wonder with more than fourteen albums to their credit.

Furthermore, if you a looking for one of the top “blues” blue albums, there are several in that realm. The Blues Brothers (formed by Saturday Night Live alumni’s Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi) rode the success of an SNL skit and with many superstar musicians scored several top 40 hits including “Soul Man.” Blues Traveler, with singer/harmonica virtuoso John Popper are known as a “blues jam Band” with strong improvisional skills and their top hit “Run-Around,” one of the biggest singles in 1995.

The Blues Project, a group formed in 1965 by guitarist Danny Kalb and Steve Katz, was one of the first “underground” groups in the US, mixing rock/blues/pop and folk; they compiled a couple of eclectic and revolutionary albums in the mid 60’s.

But if you are looking for the definitive blues album by a blues band, John Mayall’s Blues Breakers (with Eric Clapton) provide the perfect example of a blues and boogie combination extraordinarily played by the astonishing Clapton.

The psychedelic music genre is well represented with the Bronx-based Blues Magoos who charted in 1967 with “(We Ain’t Got) Nothing Yet.” Throughout their short career they rode the psychedelic era horse and played a mixture of infectious rock and roll and unrelenting garage rock.

A largely unknown blue band “Blue Things” was able to mix their Byrdesque folk and energetic pop rock to become a regional success in the Midwest and Texas. Despite a national record contract with RCA, they remain one of the better examples of the mid 60’s music era that you probably never heard of.

A group from Toronto, Canada named Blue Rodeo has drawn comparisons to the Beatles/Dylan with smooth harmonies and rootsy folk rock, they are certainly worth a listen if you like alternative country rock.

Other blue groups include Blue Nile, formed in 1981 in Glasgow, Scotland, were highly praised for their dreamy-pop sound. The Blue Ridge Rangers gets a mention merely because of the iconic John Fogerty, who released an album under that name (even though, technically the group was just Fogerty playing all the instruments), that although was not a huge commercial success, proved he belonged as one of the top performers in rock and roll.

“Ride Captain Ride” was a top 40 hit in 1972 for Blues Image, a rock group that featured Mike Pinera (who later joined Iron Butterfly). Blue Magic, an R & B vocal group from Philadelphia scored two top ten hits in 1974. Additionally, a group named Blue Haze, a reggae group from England secured a top 40 hit in 1972 with the song “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”

Now, I may not have completely answered the email question, I think that is up to personal preference and taste. But I will give you an opinion of the worst song by a blue group. That distinction belongs to Blue Swede and the remake of the song “Hooked On A Feeling,” a hit in 1974, complete with the sickening and dreaded “OOGA Chacka” lyric added to the song.

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