Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Blues music originated in the Deep South where it matured into a recognizable style, known as the country blues. Socioeconomic changes. in the 1920's and 1940's encouraged large numbers of blacks living in the rural South to migrate northward. Chicago, Illinois was a destination for many blacks from the Mississippi Delta region, and the country blues was similarity transplanted to an urban environment. In this new setting, the familiar music of the country began to change and a new style of blues evolved, urban blues. One way to better under5tand the links between the country and urban styles we ·Id be to look at the country and urban features in the lyrics of a performer who played in both styles, Howlin' Wolf. This study explores the country and urban features of Howlin' Wolf's music during the 1950s through an analysis of the patterns, themes, and imagery in his song lyrics. The lyrics are analyzed in the context of three theories: oral formulas in blues composition; the bluesman as fictional persona; and thematic patterns in blues lyrics. The thematic patterns in blues lyric theory proved to be the most useful in identifying the patterns, themes and imagery in the sample. The results indicate a nearly even split in the sample between country and urban lyrical features. The sample indicates that Howlin' Wolfs music did change after he migrated northward; but it retained many of the major features of the country blues style.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1995 Craig Edmundson.

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