How to Play Soul-Blues Rhythm Guitar

(Image credit: Cindy Moorhead)

By the early Sixties, the blues branch of the popular music tree was rapidly thinning. One of the main factors contributing to its demise was rhythm. After decades of dance-floor popularity, triplet-based shuffles and swing grooves had started to be viewed as decidedly old-school, eclipsed by the straight-eighth-note-based rhythms of R&B and rock and roll.

Among the popular syncopated styles to emerge on the R&B side was southern soul (often called simply “soul”), which originated out of studios in Mussel Shoals, Alabama and Memphis, particularly Stax Records and its house rhythm section of Booker T. & the MGs. Soul singers such as Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding rose to stardom with hits like “Mustang Sally” and “I Can’t Turn You Loose” that borrowed nearly everything from blues and gospel tradition except the beat. The message, however, was clear: the future belonged to the funky.

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