KEXP Documentaries: Blues for Hard Times – “St. Louis Blues”

Louis Armstrong & Bessie Smith

KEXP Documentaries is taking a new step!  Our series Blues for Hard Times will be part of a class on the blues at the University of Washington.  Music history professor Larry Starr will teach this Wednesday evening course Blues for Hard Times.  The class starts 3/31 and is open to the public. You can sign up at

Our first episode in this series is on “St. Louis Blues,” one of the first popular blues songs. It was written by African-American composer W.C. Handy.  Handy had lived on the streets in St. Louis, trying to get some sleep in the winter, outdoors on the cold cobblestone.  The opening lyrics are “I hate to see the evening sun go down…”

Recorded in 1925, this version of the song is a collaboration between Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith.  Louis Armstrong came from the jazz scene and Bessie Smith was from vaudeville.   One of the reasons ‘St. Louis Blues” was so popular is that it worked as a dance song. The tango section in the middle of the song gave the track a cutting-edge. And this song made Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith two of the world’s first blues stars.

Listen to this documentary now!

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KEXP Documentaries are produced by Michele Myers, with help from Jentery Sayers and John Felthous. Executive producer is Kevin Cole. Made possible by the American Music Partnership of Seattle.  You can hear all our KEXP Docs, including series on soul, Latin music, punk, electronic pop, hip-hop and more in the On Demand section at

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