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THE INSTRUMENTS, THE SOUNDS, THE PERFORMERS
to the words 'look what a hole I'm in,*' the stage collapsed.
According to Zutty, the blues was something with which he grew up, something he heard from the cradle. In a band led by an uncle of his, Willie Bontemps, there was a fiddler named Lou Lewis who played splendid blues. "The blues had the same sort of melody that's still used," Zutty says. "And it was most always in B Flat then, just as it is today. And for the lyrics, everybody had their own special sets of verses. Often folks would sit around at parties, taking turns to sing their own blues lyrics for hours on end."
The blues was originally sung to the accompaniment of, or played as a solo on, whatever instruments were available to the economically blighted people who gave birth to it. Crude banjos, guitars or violins, one-stringed contraptions and honky-tonk pianos, first conveyed the blues to the world. Later, these were supplemented by the regular brass band. Ferdinand "je^y R°W Morton, of the original New Orleans ragtime school, was one of the first to exploit blues as well as rags. In an album of recordings entitled Neu> Orleans Memories, he sang Mamie's Blues, which he describes as the first blues he ever heard, dating as far back as 1890. (This was also recorded by Louis Armstrong under the title 2:19 Blues.)
Drummer Paul Barbarin, another veteran of New Orleans, recollects that Bunk Johnson used to play the blues in Economy Hall, New Orleans, around 1911. Henry "Red" Allen, from Algiers, Louisiana, remembers such early trumpet players as Punch Miller and Chris Kelly playing the same tunes. Kelly, he recalls, muted his trumpet and played the blues with breaks, and accompanying tremolo effects, on the first and third bar— a special blues device still used today. 'When Chris got to the fourth bar and fell back into the regular rhythm on the fifth bar," Allen says, "everybody would holler and stomp, just the way they do today when you play breaks on the blues."
For a long time the blues was mainly the property of these pioneer instrumentalists, and of singers such as Lizzie Miles, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and their contemporaries. But W. C. Handy, the first musician to document and notate the blues, started this form on the road to worldwide recognition. One