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What The Heck Are Hokum Blues? [VIDEO]

(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Hokum Blues are basically songs that have a sexual overtone with lyrics containing double entendres To put it more simply, song lyrics that make you think of one thing, when they could just as well mean something else.

Hokum Blues have been around a long time, from the 1920’s on thru the late fifties. Originally done by r&b performers for adult black consumers, the early songs had lyrics that were understood mainly by the black population. A white person had very little clue as to what they were saying. As Hokum Blues became popular with white audiences, the sexy lyrics were tamed down quite a bit in favor of lyrics that cleaned up and more easily understood, with a little comedy thrown in for good measure.

All though Hokum Blues were always intended for adult audiences, teenagers in the early fifties were fast becoming fans, and groups such as Hank Ballard & the Midnighters became extremely popular. In fact they put out a whole series of “Annie” songs, the most famous being Annie Had a Baby, and Work With Me Annie. The Dominoes had a great one in Sixty Minute Man, Big joe Turner in Shake Rattle & Roll (before Bill Haley & the Comets) and Bull Moose Jackson doing 10 Inch Record, to name a few.

Eventually Hank Ballard was blackballed as he refused to change the lyrics on his songs. Fortunately for him, although his songs were no longer played on radio, kids were buying all the Hank Ballard records they could get their hands on, and he still managed to make quite a good living. As time passed however, and society became more tolerant, Hokum Blues faded from the scene. Nonetheless, Hokum Blues played a big part in r& b and early rock and roll as well.

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