The Golden Years of Rhythm & Blues

Instructor: Frank Johnson

Tuesdays •  9/17-11/5 • 10:15AM-12:15PM • 8 classes

Class size 8 to 26 students
18 seats remaining
Location: Jewett 293

From 1946 to 1959 Rhythm & Blues dominated black American popular music. Rooted in blues, jazz and gospel the golden years of rhythm and blues spawned early rock ‘n roll and soul music. Honking tenor sax, stinging guitar licks and pulsating boogie woogie piano provided the accompaniment for blues shouters, and harmonizing vocal groups. Our survey will examine the popular and influential bandleaders like Louis Jordan, Jimmy Liggins and Roy Milton. We will listen to vocalists Big Joe Turner, Wynonie Harris, Little Willie John, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Lavern Baker, Ruth Brown, Julia Lee, and many more. The contributions of singer/guitarists T-Bone Walker, B. B. King, Pee Wee Crayton and others will be explored as well as pioneering vocal groups – the Dominoes, the Orioles, the Clovers, and the Drifters. The course will also consider the pianists/singers Amos Milburn, Memphis Slim, Ray Charles, among others.

Post-war rhythm and blues music revolutionized American popular music as it pushed the color line with the high-energy sounds calling to let the good times roll.​Classroom


Frank Johnson has a lifelong passion and interest in African-American music: jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, soul, and Afro-Latin. He has a collection of over 4,000 albums covering these genres. In addition, he has a personal library of over 250 books on African-American musical styles, musicians and cultural influences. Frank is a graduate of University of Maine with a degree in Political Science and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives of State and Local Government.