10 Unforgettable Blues Rock Singers of the 1960s

Music styles converged in the 1960 producing new genres like folk rock and blues rock. Blues rock was the result of a fusion between traditional blues with the electrifying energy of rock ‘n’ roll. The new genre captivated audiences with its raw emotion and powerful instrumentation in groups like Cream and the Butterfield Blues Band.  The vocalists were an integral part of the band with their soulful singing and impassioned deliveries.

This article examines ten of the singers from that era who shaped the genre and left their indelible contribution for future generations in the annals of music history.

Jack Bruce

Jack Bruce was a pivotal figure in the late 1960s wave of British blues rock bands that took America by storm. He was born in Scotland in 1943 and demonstrated remarkable musical talent at an early age becoming adept on bass guitar, cello, and harmonica. Bruce met Eric Clapton when he was a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreaker’s for a short time. In 1966, Cream was formed with Jack Bruce on lead vocals, bass, piano, and harmonica, Eric Clapton on lead guitar and vocals, and Ginger Baker on drums. The band quickly gained fame for their psychedelic fusion of blues with hard rock through their virtuosic musicianship and Bruce’s soulfully expressive voice that added depth and emotion to songs like “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and “Spoonful.” Cream broke up in 1968 but Bruce’s career continued in other collaborations, reunions, and over a dozen solo album releases until the time of his death in 2014.

Paul Butterfield

Paul Butterfield formed the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1963 in Chicago with him as the lead vocalist and harmonica player. The original band was comprised of Elvin Bishop on guitar, Jerome Arnold on bass, and Sam Lay providing drums. Guitarist Mike Bloomfield joined the band in early 1965 and the band recorded their first two albums with him as a member. Butterfield was born in December 1942 in Chicago where he grew up surrounded by the city’s vibrant blues scene. The band’s early albums like its 1965 debut The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and East – West in 1966 established it as an important blues rock pioneer with Butterfield’s passionate vocals combined with top notch instrumental accompaniment. The Butterfield Blues Band broke up in 1972 and Butterfield released compilation, solo, and live albums until his death in 1987 at the age of 44.

Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker was born in Sheffield, England in 1944 and by 1961 he was singing for pub bands in his hometown. In 1966 he formed The Grease Band with keyboard and bass player Chris Stainton. Cocker’s debut album With a Little Help From My Friends was recorded in 1968 and released in 1969. It had over two dozen artists providing help on the ten songs including Jimmy Page and Steve Winwood to name some. His filmed performance at “Woodstock” backed by the Grease Band in August 1969 acted as a catalyst to springboard his unique vocals and charismatic stage performance into the mainstream. He continued to have a successful solo career until his death in 2014 at the age of 70.

Peter Green

Peter Green was born in 1946 in London, England, and by the 1960s he was a guitarist and vocalist for a number of bands in the British blues scene. After replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers he met drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass player John McVie.  He named Fleetwood Mac after the Fleetwood/McVie rhythm section when he first formed it in 1967. In the beginning, the band was a blues rock pioneer featuring Green’s high velocity guitar and passionate vocals along with slide guitarist and vocalist Jeremy Spencer. Green’s compositions and vocals on their early albums became hits for the band with songs like “Black Magic Woman,” “The Green Manalishi” and “Oh Well.” After releasing three albums with Fleetwood Mac because of personal struggles with mental illness exacerbated by psychedelic drugs he drifted in and out of music and mental clinics until his death in 2020 at the age of 73.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy was born in 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana where he was inspired to sing and play guitar as a teenager by music legends like B.B. King and Muddy Waters. In the late 1950s he moved to Chicago where he became part of the vibrant blues scene. Guy began releasing 45 rpm singles in 1958 but didn’t release a full album until 1967 when “Chess” put out I Left My Blues in San Francisco. His act was raw, intense, and innovative as he gained a reputation for having a charismatic stage presence as well as being a guitar virtuoso and stellar blues vocalist. His collaboration with artists from Muddy Waters to Eric Clapton helped bridge the gap from blues to rock by contributing to the musical evolution that resulted in the creation of blues rock into a distinct genre.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix’s reputation is usually centered on his phenomenal ability to open a previously unknown universe of possibilities for the electric guitar. However, his distinctive vocal style was an important element of his stage performance with its soulful intensity and emotive delivery. Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington in 1942 and became interested in music learning guitar and eventually playing in bands like The Rocking Kings, The Isley Brothers, and Little Richard and the Upsetters. In 1966 he was discovered by Chas Chandler, former “Animals” bass guitarist, who became a record producer and relocated Hendrix to London, England. Jimi Hendrix formed the “Experience” with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bass guitarist Noel Redding in 1966. They recorded three studio albums together with Hendrix singing lead as they toured the world and played at major festivals like Monterey Pop in 1967 and Miami Pop in 1968. After the “Experience” broke up in 1969, Jimi continued performing as a charismatic headlining artist with different band configurations at major music festivals like Woodstock in 1969 and the Isle of Wight in 1970 until his death at the age of 27 on September 18, 1970.

Bob Hite

Bob Hite nicknamed “The Bear” was the lead singer of Canned Heat from the time that it first formed in 1965 with Alan Wilson and Henry Vestine. He was born in Torrance, California in 1943 and was influenced by the blues. He along with Wilson and Vestine were all hardcore blues devotees of legendary artists like Son House and Skip James who were then still performing. Canned Heat gave credit where it was due so when they covered a song it wasn’t just co-opted and recorded but identified and performed in the same style and intensity as the original. After headlining at legendary festivals like Monterey Pop and Woodstock, Canned Heat was thrust into the limelight with Hite’s powerful, soulful vocals and charismatically imposing figure at the center. Hite continued as the lead singer until his death in 1981 at the age of 44.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1943 where she developed a love for blues and folk music. After high school she moved to Austin to attend college and began singing in local clubs and coffee houses. After moving to San Francisco in the mid 1960s she auditioned for Big Brother and the Holding Company through the influence of Chet Helms from Port Arthur who now managed the Avalon Ballroom. After recording two albums with Big Brother and headlining at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Joplin became the mother of blues rock. Her powerful and soulful voice along with her dynamically electrified stage presence catapulted her into stardom. After recording two solo albums she tragically died of a heroin overdose October 4, 1970.

John Mayall

John Mayall is sometimes referred to as the “Godfather of British Blues” and was born in 1933 in Macclesfield, England. His musical career began in the late 1950s where he honed his skills until 1963 when he formed the Bluesbreakers. That first incarnation of the Bluesbreakers was comprised of John Mayall on vocals, piano, organ and harmonica, Eric Clapton  on lead guitar, John McVie bass guitar and Hughie Flint on drums. The Bluesbreakers continued to be headed up by bandleader, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist John Mayall and played a significant role in popularizing the blues in the UK during the 1960s. Over the next seven decades, Mayall released over three dozen albums that became the breeding ground for legendary guitarists like Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor to name some.

Buddy Miles   

Buddy Miles was born George Allen Miles in Omaha, Nebraska in 1947. After dropping out of high school he became a drummer for Wilson Pickett and the Delfonics. In the mid 1960s Miles moved to Chicago where he joined Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites as the drummer and lead singer of pioneering blue rock band the Electric Flag. After a headlining set at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 the band toured until it encountered internal issues and Miles formed the Buddy Miles Express in 1968. He played drums, jammed and recorded with Jimi Hendrix and even sang lead on 1969’s Band of Gypsy’s album. His powerful and soulful voice articulated a distinct vocal style that gave him success as both a solo artist and a collaborator.  Over the course of his career as a singer/drummer he released two dozen solo albums and over 20 collaborations by the time of his death in 2008 and the age of 60.

Bob Gersztyn

As a teenager in Detroit, Michigan during the early 1960’s Bob Gersztyn saw many Motown and other R&B artists including Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. After his discharge from the army in 1968 he attended school on the GI Bill and spent the next 3 years attending concerts and festivals weekly. It was the seminal period in Detroit rock & roll that Bob witnessed spawning the MC5 and Stooges along with shows featuring everyone from Jimi Hendrix and the “Doors” to B. B. King and John Lee Hooker. In 1971 He moved to Los Angeles, California to finish his schooling where he became an inner city pastor promoting and hosting gospel concerts. He moved to Oregon in 1982 and began photographing and reviewing concerts for music publications. Since that time he has published myriads of photographs, articles, interviews, and contributed to 2 encyclopedias and published 6 books on everything from music to the military. His rock & roll photo art is available for sale on Etsy @: Bob may be contacted personally at

29 thoughts on “10 Unforgettable Blues Rock Singers of the 1960s

  • Rightfully put Gregg Allman on this list, then you have perfection!!

    • That’s true. He was an important and influential American Blues Rock musician

    • Exactly, Connie! Exactly what I was thinking!

    • Taj Mahal,Paul Jones,Stevie Ray Vaughan, gotta be in there somewhere.

  • Chris Youlden-Paul Rodgers- Long John Baldry -Steve Marriot-Dave Walker -Rory Gallagher-Alvin Lee- Peter Wolf-Robert Plant-Eric Burdon

    • Toward the end of Kim Simmonds long, but way too short run, he had a lead singer in Savoy Brown that sounded remarkably similar to Chris Youlden. Louisiana Blues still gives me chills 54 years after I first heard him play it.

      • Paul Rodgers deserves a mention

    • Without a doubt Chris Youlden !

    • All of them especially Eric Burdon still going strong

    • Good choice there my friend. I wondered where the schmazing Messrs Rodger’s & Gallagher were & of course Paul Kossoff??????

  • Paul Rodgers is one of if not the best Blues- Rock singers Great Britain has produced. He can still sing with perfect pitch.

  • Pingback: 10 Blues Rock Vocalists of the 1960’s | ♪Jesus♬Rocks♬The♬World♪

  • Once again you forgot Johnny Winter, especially since you put Janis Joplin on your list.

    • Totally agree mate Johnny is by far the most overlook outthere but he is one of the best

  • Pete McMahon from The Kingsnakes, Savoy Brown, Solo

  • Ha e t you guys ever hear of BB King❓????❗️

  • There are many great blues rock vocalists now for me Paul Rodgers is above all others he delivers effortlessly and with soul no one else comes close

  • Where youbhave left Eric Burdon?! One of the greatest blues rock legends vocalists of the sixties, having influenced lots of singers with his powerful and emotional way of singing, despite the fact that he and his group the Animals, rescue truly ancient blues songs like their superb and famous version of “House of the rising sun”, as well as “Don’t let me be misunderstood”, plus also well known originals on their own. Sometimes it’s hard to understand how and why some music critics, analysts or columnists try to overshadow some great artists, true living legends, singers in this case, like Burdon. On the other hand, the title seems to refer to singers that emerge in the sixties and Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters were already living legends at the time.

  • Was looking for Ry Cooder.

  • But Steve Mariott , Robert Page and Paul Rodgers have to be the top three, but then there’s also Stevie Winwood(Spencer Davis Group), Roger Daltry(Who), Eric Burdon(Animals),Dicky peterson(Blue Cheer), Mike Patto(Patto)…list goes on theres just too many.

  • Jimi Hendrix called Victor Brox his ‘favourite white voice’.


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