I have played in 2 rock and blues bands – Blue Dynamos and Smokin’ Joe and the Wolves. We have covered a lot of blues songs and I have written a few of my own. The question is; which are the 3 best traditional blues songs of all time? Here is my list.

I suggest that the top 3 are:

  • Hellhound on My Trail

Robert Johnson is considered by some to be the greatest bluesman of all time. It is hard to choose which of his songs is the best as there are so many great ones. It is reported that Johnson “sold his soul to the devil” for the ability to play the blues. This song is representative of his life as Johnson never permanently settled down and is rumoured to have been poisoned to death by a jealous juke joint owner. Robert had a habit of consuming alcohol and picking out a female patron and staring at her during his performances. In this case, the female was the wife of the bar owner and he was pouring the drinks. A bad match for Robert! This song was the first song on Robert’s second and last recording session and was released as a single. Eric Clapton has travelled to the locations of borh of Johnson’s recording sessions and has tried to replicate his sound. It proved impossible but the 2 Cd’s and the DVD that resulted from these sessions are worth the price of acquisition for any lover of the blues.

  • I’m a King Bee

Written by Slim Harpo and released in 1957, this song contains all of the elements of the form of blues found in many negro clubs in America. That style of blues was highly suggestive and this song is loaded with double entendre. Recorded by many artists including the Rolling Stones on their 1964 debut album, the song is probably Slim’s best and most recognized recording. Slim received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2008

  • Midnight Special

Huddie Ledbetter aka “Lead Belly” was convicted of carrying a pistol for his first offense, of murder for his second offense – was pardoned by the Governor – and for attempted murder for stabbing a man in a fight as a third offense. Although both a folk singer and a bluesman, this song is one of his most memorable and certainly resonates with elements of Leadbelly’s colourful life. This song was really rocked up by the American band Credence Clearwater Revival and introduced to a whole new audience, many of whom had never heard of Leadbelly. Had it not been for folklorists John Lomax and his son Alan, Huddie would most certainly have remained in jail for the remainder of his life. The author is unknown and is likely to have been learned by Leadbelly during his time in prison. It has been recorded by numerous bluesmen.

Whether or not you agree with my picks, there can be no argument that these are some of the best Woody Guthrie traditional folk songs of all time. If you like folk songs you might also like to check out Smokin’ Joe Wiseman He has covered traditional folk songs and writes his own. Click here to download a copy of his latest single for free.

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