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The Blues and the Human Voice
of the themes of Mr. Crump by W. C. Handy, a campaign song written for an election candidate by that name, was in the 12-bar form. This number later became famous, with new lyrics, as Memphis Blues.
In describing the origin of this number, Handy points out: "The melody of Mr. Crump was mine throughout. On the other hand, the 12-bar, three-line form of the first and last strains, with its three-chord basic harmonic structure (tonic, subdominant, dominant seventh), was that already used by Negro roustabouts, honky-tonk piano players, wanderers and others of the under­privileged but undaunted class from Missouri to the Gulf, and had become a common medium through which any such indi­vidual might express his personal feelings in a sort of musical soliloquy. My part in their history was to introduce this, the *blues' form, to the general public, as the medium for my own feelings and my own musical ideas/'
After Memphis Blues in 1912 came the more famous St. Louis Blues, in 1914. This contained a first and last strain both of which were based on the blues, and a middle strain which was based on an eight-bar phrase in a minor key and was not blues. However, it is with the opening twelve measures, unmistakably a blues melody, that the composition is most closely identified, and there is no doubt that the St. Louis Blues helped to consoli­date the actual musical pattern for which this word stood, as well as establishing the word itself among a wide public.
The use of the 12-bar blues formula probably goes back as far among white instrumentalists as among Negroes. Certainly the earliest groups associated with the word "jazz" created their own variations, and with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band the pattern reached phonograph records for the first time in their Livery Stable Blues, Bluiri the Blues and others.
The blues has never left jazz, and it is to be hoped that it never will. Its 12-bar structure is as much a reflex to the jazz musician as the bell was to one of Pavlov's dogs. Whenever any group of musicians assembles that has never met before, it is the pattern most likely to provide the immediate and com­patible meeting ground. Throughout the decades of its use as a jazz base, the blues has changed only in the sense that it has