10 Classic Blues Albums Rock Fans Need to Listen To Source:

It’s no secret that the blues informed rock and roll; the earliest iterations of the latter can be traced to the former, from Chuck Berry to Elvis Presley. While rock and roll is a mainstay on the radio and has inspired millions of youth worldwide to pick up an instrument and make some noise, the machinations and methodology of that art form are most often inspired by the classic blues musicians of old. With that in mind, we here at Goliath have researched and listed 10 influential blues albums that played an immeasurable role in the development of the rock and roll we know and love today.

10. The Definitive Blind Willie McTell (1994) – Willie McTell

This collection features the defining works of one Blind Willie McTell, a hugely influential artist who counts Bob Dylan and Jack White amongst his biggest fans. A pioneer of fingerstyle and slide guitar, Willie McTell was fundamental in the development of the ragtime blues genre, a genre which combined rhythmic, gospel qualities with intricate finger picking to create complex melodies. McTell’s influence on a variety of artists cannot be overstated, with his track “Statesboro Blues” being covered by both the Allman Brothers and the White Stripes, with the White Stripes going so far as to dedicate their album De Stijl to McTell. The listed collection features the best McTell has to offer and is a must-listen for any rock fan looking to delve into the musical foundation of their chosen genre. Source:

9. All Night Long (1992) – Junior Kimbrough

A more recent addition to the historical catalogue of the Blues, Junior Kimbrough had a grand influence on the re-popularization of the genre circa the mid to late 1980s. His most famous album, All Night Long, has become famous for its importance to a number of musicians, not the least of whom have been The Black Keys, a band who would later release an album entirely composed of Kimbrough covers to pay tribute to the late bluesman. All Night Long, which features a stripped down blues approach and some quality vocal performances from Kimbrough, might as well have been torn from the heart of Mississippi, that’s how authentic is sounds. Give it a listen, it’s well worth your time. Source:

8. Moanin’ in the Moonlight (1958) – Howlin’ Wolf

Here’s one that could easily be higher on the list. The debut album of blues phenom Howlin’ Wolf, 1958’s Moanin’ in the Moonlight would go on to have untold influence on a generation of musicians that came after. Full of anger, fire and zest, this album features Howlin’ Wolf’s signature track, “Smokestack Lightning,” along with a full complement of other legendary blues riffs, songs and solos. A Chicago blues legend, Howlin’ Wolf is often cited as one of the first guitar players to incorporate rock and roll sensibilities into a pure blues sound, leading to the indomitable fusion of the two genres and paving the way for thousands of young bands to come. A pioneer of Chess Records, the famous recording label that popularized Chicago blues, Howlin’ Wolf will go down as one of the most respected and most influential blues musicians of all time. For his best work, check out this album. Source:

7. Born Under a Bad Sign (1967) – Albert King

A definitive blues album, Born Under a Bad Sign (1967) has been cited as a major influence by guitarists as talented and varied as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton. Recorded in Memphis and oscillating between classic blues sounds and a more contemporary approach, the album was a massive hit and one that will surely be identified as a landmark album for years to come. Similar to Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ in the Moonlight, this album mixed traditional blues sounds with the more upbeat sensibilities of rock and roll to produce something wholly unique that was defined not only by the inherent sadness of the blues, but also by the immediacy of rock. A great listen, it’s guitar riffs and solos have been drawn upon by all manner of musicians (not just the famous ones listed above) for inspiration. Source:

6. Texas Flood (1983) – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

While many of the albums on this list can claim to be influential, important or just plain awesome, none of them “saved the blues” like Texas Flood (1983), the debut album from guitar prodigy Stevie Ray Vaughan and his accompanying band, Double Trouble. Commonly cited as the most important album in the late-eighties blues revival, Texas Flood thrust Vaughan into the mainstream spotlight and branded him as the most important guitar player since a man named Jimi. Showcasing Vaughan’s distinct brand of fire-spittin’ rock and roll inspired blues, Texas Flood featured standout singles “Pride and Joy” and “Love Struck Baby,” songs which would help to increase attention in the now-popular genre of “blues rock.” Vaughan, a founder of this genre, would tragically pass away just four years after this release. Source: YouTube

5. Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues (1991) – Buddy Guy

Eric Clapton has called him “the best guitar player alive.” Jeff Beck has guest appeared on his albums, namely the one mentioned above. He’s the heart and soul of Chicago, a blues player so influential you can’t name a rock and roll guitarist nowadays who hasn’t in some way been inspired by one Buddy Guy. As a young man, he learned from one of the greats in Muddy Waters (more on him later) and he’s since become one of the most accomplished and respected blues musicians on the planet. Buddy Guy’s Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues (1991) features some of the best work by the man, with both the title track and “Mustang Sally” becoming blues staples almost instantly. With a guitar tone that can go from soft and intimate to exceedingly ferocious in the span of two or three notes, and a rasping howl that so purely communicates what it means to sing the blues, Buddy Guy is an unavoidable stop on the road to learning how the blues influenced rock and roll. Source:

4. Live at the Regal (1965) – B.B. King

The recent passing of this titan has made listening to albums like 1965’s Live at the Regal a tad bittersweet; after all, it’s a great tragedy that the warm, soaring tones that made B.B. King’s sound so distinct have left this world forever. But in every tragedy there’s a silver lining, and here it’s that King left behind so many memorable and influential albums that it’s difficult to pick just one. Live at the Regal showcases not just King’s monumental success as a blues guitarist, but also his exceptional generosity and showmanship on stage. The definition of a gentleman, King was the kind of guitarist who made a living with less, often using fewer (rather than more) notes with great effect. His influence on both the blues and rock and roll cannot be overstated, and he’s a necessary listen for anyone looking to isolate the heart of the blues. Source:

3. The Great Twenty Eight (1982) – Chuck Berry

If there’s one man on this list most responsible for the epic fusion of blues and rock and roll, it’s this guy. Before there was Elvis, there was Chuck Berry. From the immediately recognizable (and hugely influential) opening riff of “Johnny Be Goode” to the lesser known classics on this album like “Let it Rock,” this greatest hits compilation features the best Chuck Berry had to offer in terms of speed, style and song writing. Perhaps the earliest iteration of pure rock and roll, Berry’s hits paved the way for many of the great rock and rollers of the 1950s and 1960s to make their mark on the music industry, with bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones covering his songs. It’s been said if you can’t play Chuck Berry tunes, you can’t play rock and roll; there’s no statement more illuminative of his influence on the genre than that one right there. Source:

2. The Anthology (2001) – Muddy Waters

If we’re speaking of greatest hits compilations that influenced the trajectory of rock music, then there’s very few compilations more important than this one released by Chess Records featuring the best blues tracks of the legendary Muddy Waters. With exactly fifty songs compiled over two discs, this anthology states the tracks are sampled from the years 1947-1972 and represent the absolutely essential Muddy Waters recordings. Nicknamed “the father of Chicago blues,” Muddy Waters penned legendary blues hits like “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and was a huge influence on an innumerable number of young guitar players, several of whom have been included on this list (Buddy Guy played in studio with Muddy Waters while they were both at Chess Records in Chicago). Specifically, Waters’ use of amplification with his electric guitar had huge ramifications for the development of rock and roll, as it was the first time playing the blues through an amplifier was a commercial success. Source:

1. The Complete Recordings (1990) – Robert Johnson

Containing almost every track ever recorded by founding blues father Robert Johnson, this compilation exists as the epicenter of all that is blues. Whether you ask Eric Clapton or Keith Richards, Jimmy Page or Lindsey Buckingham, there’s almost a unanimous agreement that Robert Johnson is the most important man to ever play the blues. His influence on the style, from its revolutionary roots to its musical evolution as an off-shoot of gospel and delta music, cannot be overstated; in fact, his legend has grown so immense that it now includes a parable suggesting Johnson once sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his advanced guitar techniques. While this story remains just that, a story, Johnson’s shady biography and his overwhelming influence on both the blues and rock and roll contribute to the mystery of a man whose entire musical catalogue contains just 29 tracks, tracks that will undoubtedly be measured as some of the greatest ever produced by a blues musician. Source:
Jim Halden

Jim Halden

Josh Elyea has been writing about movies and TV for Goliath since 2015.