John Cephas and Phil Wiggins perform “Baby, What You Want Me To Do?” and “Walking Blues” at the White House, Washington, DC, July 28, 1999. Introduction by Della Reese.
Cephas & Wiggins was an American acoustic blues duo, composed of guitarist John Cephas (September 4, 1930– March 4, 2009) and harmonica player Phil Wiggins (born May 8, 1954). They were known for playing Piedmont blues.
The Piedmont blues (also known as Piedmont fingerstyle) is a type of blues music characterized by a unique fingerpicking method on the guitar in which a regular, alternating-thumb bassline pattern supports a melody using treble strings. The result is comparable in sound to a ragtime piano.
Cephas and Wiggins were both born in Washington D.C. They first met at a jam session at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife in 1976 and played together in Wilbert “Big Chief” Ellis’s band. When Ellis died, they decided to continue as a duo.
Blues is a musical genre known as the folklore of African-American musicians. Its origins are associated with the southern states of the USA, that is the region conventionally called the “deep south”. The very name of the genre (sadness, despair) is related to its nostalgic form, also in the textual layer. Blues pieces touch male-female relationships as well as feelings and emotions (love, loneliness, faithfulness, jealousy). However, blues performers often sing about freedom, work and travel. The songs also feature social criticism relating mainly to racial inequality and political issues.
Many artists are inspired by blues music and combine it with other styles. In this way, such musical mergers as punk blues, soul blues or blues rock. The popularity of this genre in the USA has led to the emergence of regional varieties, such as Louisiana, New Orleans, Texas and Detroit blues. There are also factions characteristic of other countries – British blues and African blues.