I've been taking a well deserved break from listening to metal, have been on a literal 18 hour blues trip over the last month or so. From haunting Louisiana swamp blues to the devilish Mississippi delta blues to the searing Chicago blues all the way to the Texas country blues, the blues has taken a hold of my soul. Even modern rock/guitar driven blues has so much feel to it that it makes my soul sing. Blues is not new to me but as with all other genres of music, I periodically go out of touch with it, catch up with later and treasure all my new re-discoveries. This time around I have devoted more time to the acoustic blues that are home to the Mississippi delta and have discovered sheer joy in the wail of the harmonica. Of course, the Chicago blues are never far behind when it comes to the harmonica and I've enjoyed many a Chicago master too.
So, here is a short blues primer that I found somewhere on the net (can't remember where though). If you are familiar with songs from Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Big Mama Thornton, Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee (just to name a few), the following primer will bring a smile of recognition -
1. Most Blues begin, "Woke up this morning..."
2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."
3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes...sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, And she weighs 500 pounds."
4. The Blues is not about choice. You're stuck in a ditch, you're stuck in a ditch - ain't no way out.
5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train, blues NEVER go on the northbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. Walkin' plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.
6. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.
7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the blues in any place that don't get rain.
8. A man with male pattern baldness ain't the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cause you were skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg 'cause an alligator be chomping on it is.
9. You can't have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.
10.Good places for the Blues: a. highway b. jailhouse Bad places for the Blues: a. Nordstrom b. gallery openings c. Ivy League institutions d. golf courses
11.No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it for the last 6 months.
12.Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if: a. you're older than dirt b. you're blind c. you shot a man in Memphis Not if: a. you have all your teeth b. you were once blind but can see c. the man in Memphis lived d. you have a 401K or trust fund now
13.Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also got leg up on the blues.
14.If you ask for water and your darlin' give you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are: a. muddy water b. nasty black coffee
The following are NOT Blues beverages: a. Perrier b. Chardonnay c. Snapple d. Slim Fast
15.If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken down cot. You can't have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.
16.Some Blues names for women: a. Sadie b. Big Mama c. Bessie d. Fat River Dumpling
17.Some Blues names for men: a. Joe b. Willie c. Little Willie d. Big Willie
18.Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Debbie, and Heather can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.
19."Make your own Blues Name" Starter Kit: a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.) c. last name of a President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.) For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Pegleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")
20.I don't care how tragic your life: if you own even one computer, you cannot sing the blues. If you are reading this on a computer - maybe you cannot sing the Blues - but you sure can listen to it…