King, who has a part in the upcoming Ray Charles biographic film Unchain My Heart, calls The Blues series "an exciting celebration of the music and the artists. They don't try to put it in a museum or build some big graveyard for the blues."

Bill Wax says that King's music "isn't all for me, but every artist takes risks. That's how the next generation is born. And let's face it, you're not going to beat Muddy Waters. We had one Muddy Waters, thank God. The younger artists need to take what they hear in Muddy and take it on to what they think it should be."

Producer Alex Gibney emphatically agrees. "I hope this series ignites a passion for this music. The more I get into the blues, the more I discover how modern and contemporary the music is. And you know something? My son, who usually plays Green Day and Rage Against the Machine, has been playing Blind Willie Johnson lately."

artist and photographer marc yankus has worked with tiffany & co., the new york times, and the saturday evening post. he recently photographed whoopi goldberg for the broadway show ma rainey's black bottom poster.

blues 101
want to build a blues library? here's some advice, and our humble recommendations (all records available at large music stores or on

the classics
old-time blues artists typically recorded a song or two at a time, rather than entire albums. those single tracks were later catalogued into "best of" compilations.

robert johnson
king of the delta blues (sony) and the complete recordings (sony)

muddy waters
his best: 1947 to 1955 (mca) and at newport 1960 (mca)

howlin' wolf
his best (chess 50th anniversary collection)

skip james
the complete early recordings of skip james (yazoo)

lightnin' hopkins