Soulful, fiery and heartfelt, the delta blues began a tradition of a uniquely American style of music.

The Delta blues originated in the Mississippi Delta among black musicians who lived and worked on the farms in north Mississippi. It drew influences from church songs, prison songs, African rhythms, and early American folk traditions. The dominant instrument was slide guitar, primarily steel guitar, and the human voice.

The Delta Blues incorporate complex vocal rhythms and syncopation and are spoken, sung, and “hollered.” Songs were about life, love and the hardships of being black in the early twentieth century American South. 

The music was performed at parties, honky tonks and local bars, and even at festivities hosted by and for the white farm owners. Eventually, some artists went on to record albums, known at the time as “race records”, that were quite popular in their time.

The delta blues eventually branched into other blues styles, including Memphis and Chicago styles, and later played a key role in british rock music, influencing key musicians like Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and many more.

 

Sources: Robert Palmer's definitive Deep Blues, Wikipedia, AllMusic, NPR's Take Five, The Mississippi Blues Trail, and Dr. David Evans.