Beginner’s Guide to the Blues

 

At least a decade ago, someone sent me a list of ways to live the Blues. I read it, loved it, and immediately lost it.

This past weekend, I finally attacked some cartons marked “miscellaneous” that have been sitting in my office since we moved into our new house over a year ago — and there, buried in a huge stack of papers I’ve been schlepping pointlessly from place to place for years, was the Blues instruction manual. I’d apparently had the good sense to print it out before losing it.

I wish I could credit the author. If you know who wrote this, please say so in the comments. I pass it along to you in part because it’s too much fun to keep to myself and in part because if it’s here at Ricochet, I’ll remember where I put it. 

Here you go: The Beginner’s Guide to the Blues.

1. Most Blues begin with: “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 weigh 500 pound.

4. The Blues is not about choice: “You stuck in a ditch, you 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. 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 a alligator be chomping on it is.

9. You can’t have no Blues in a 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:

  • highway
  • jailhouse
  • empty bed
  • bottom of a whisky glass

      Bad places for the Blues:

  • Bloomingdale’s
  • gallery openings
  • Ivy League institutions
  • golf courses

11. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, ‘less you happen to be a old ethnic person, and you slept in it.

12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if:

  • you older than dirt
  • you blind
  • you shot a man in Memphis
  • you can’t be satisfied

      No, if:

  • you have all your teeth
  • you were once blind but now can see
  • the man in Memphis lived
  • you have a 401K or trust fund

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 a 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:

  • cheap wine
  • whisky or bourbon
  • muddy water
  • nasty black coffee

     The following are NOT Blues beverages:

  • Perrier
  • Chardonnay
  • Snapple
  • 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 are 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:

  • Sadie
  • Big Mama
  • Bessie
  • Fat River Dumpling

17. Some Blues names for men:

  • Joe
  • Willie
  • Little Willie
  • Big Willie

18. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, 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:

  • name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
  • name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.)
  • last name of a president (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)

For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jakeleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not “Kiwi.”)

20. I don’t care how tragic your life is: if you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues.

Image of John Lee Hooker via johannasvisions.com.

There are 39 comments.

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  1. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    “Where, where, are you tonight? Why did you leave me here all alone? I searched the world over, And thought I found true love. You met another and Phht! you were gone.”

    – a Archie Campbell/Buck Owens classic from Hee Haw

    Blues?

    • #1
  2. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    “Ain’t nobody leave this place without singing the blues!”

    Adventures in Babysitting

    • #2
  3. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    Judith Levy, Ed.:
    20. I don’t care how tragic your life is: if you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues.

    Then what in ‘tarnation are we doin’ here?
     

    • #3
  4. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    “If you don’t know the Blues, you don’t know <expletive starting with the nineteenth letter of the alphabet>.”

    – Mile Davis on playing jazz

    • #4
  5. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    I firmly believe Miles Davis was onto something. The Blues is what gives jazz it’s American roots sound. When players from other countries play jazz, they understand the history of jazz, what influences came together to make jazz music in America, but they play it as the end of a process that starts with familiar or traditional tunes and applies the “jazz” process to it. No surprise that it oftentimes doesn’t sound like jazz to the American ear. Understanding Blues is part of the process of understanding your music, America, the music you gave the world. Learn it. Love it. Live it.

    [by an amateur musician and student of jazz music]

    • #5
  6. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    More Blues cars? Old Datsun. Old Subaru. VW.

    The problem with those cars is they don’t likely make it to the American heartland. They might survive on the W coast because of benevolent whether, but they’ll never survive the abuse of the American heartland. No, I don’t think those are Blues cars. But maybe some foreign makes are. I can’t think of any at the moment.

    • #6
  7. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Gonna go downtown.   Gonna see my gal.   Gonna sing her a song.”, Blind Melon Chitlin.     If you’re not in the know here, well you missed out on Cheech and Chong.

    • #7
  8. Julia PA Member
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Woke up this morning, can’t get no Ricochet
    Said, Woke up this morning, I can’t get, no Ricochet
    Without my Ricochet, I’ll just have to go outside and play.
    and then there is Muddy Waters
    http://youtu.be/v6qjr5rnqeE 

    • #8
  9. user_525137 Inactive
    user_525137
    @AdrianaHarris

    Other fruits that may not be good for a blues name: kumquat, pomegranate, durian…the list is endless. Thanks for the laugh Judith.

    • #9
  10. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    I Can’t Stop My Leg

    • #10
  11. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Y’all just jivin’ us, chicklet.

    – Dead Man Java

    This is too good to not copy and save! Check #6, 12, 14, & 18. Priceless!

    • #11
  12. Stu In Tokyo Inactive
    Stu In Tokyo
    @StuInTokyo

    Trust me, you can have the Blues in Canada….

    • #12
  13. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I saw BB King playing with Tower of Power once. Good stuff.

    But I prefer blues 2.0. These guys played with John Lee Hooker, too.

    • #13
  14. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Logged on to Rico, to see what I could see.

     Said man I logged on to Rico, to see what I could see.  

    Wrote me a story.   Gonna get to that main feed. 

    Couldn’t  get to that main feed.  Cuz I didn’t have a clue.  

    Twernt no way baby.  

    There a story from Rachel Lu. 

    I got those main feed blues.   

    • #14
  15. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    DocJay:
    Logged on to Rico, to see what I could see.
    Said man I logged on to Rico, to see what I could see.
    Wrote me a story. Gonna get to that main feed.
    Couldn’t get to that main feed. Cuz I didn’t have a clue.
    Twernt no way baby.
    There a story from Rachel Lu.
    I got those main feed blues.

    Might be time for you to move from Reno to Memphis, there, DocJay. ?Got an old beat up guitar (or “GI-tar”).

    • #15
  16. Dr Steve Member
    Dr Steve
    @DrSteve

    Wait a minute. #2: “. . . unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, ‘I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town.'” 

    That’s not nasty. That’s just descriptive. Too descriptive, rather than ambiguously evocative. I saw a variant of these rules some years ago. The rule was the same, but the example was “she got the meanest dog in town.”  

    See? That sounds nasty. Even though you can’t really explain why. Not even clear enough to be a double-entendre. 

    New rule: if you can rhyme “double-entendre” it ain’t the blues. 

    • #16
  17. Susan in Seattle Member
    Susan in Seattle
    @SusaninSeattle

    Outstanding.  Thank you for this!

    • #17
  18. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    So are the ‘Blues Brothers’ even Blue?  Can’t tell.

    • #18
  19. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    This is terrific, love it!

    I guess it goes without saying that people who correct other peoples’ grammar can’t sing no blues.

    • #19
  20. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I was drunk the day my mama got out of prison

    and I went to pick her up in the rain

    but before I could get to the station in my pickup truck

    she got ran over by a damn old train!

    —David Allen Coe

    Blues?

    • #20
  21. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Aaron Miller:

    I was drunk the day my mama got out of prison
    and I went to pick her up in the rain
    but before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
    she got ran over by a damn old train!
    —David Allen Coe

    Blues?

     Nope, “the perfect Country and Western song”.  

    • #21
  22. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    These guys could do the blues!

    Allman Brothers — Whipping Post, Statesboro Blues, Stormy Monday.

    “They call it Stormy Monday But Tuesday’s just as bad. They call it Stormy Monday But Tuesday’s just as bad. Lord, and Wednesday’s worse And Thursday’s all so sad. The eagle flies on Friday, Saturday I go out to play. The eagle flies on Friday, Saturday I go out to play. Sunday I go to church, Gonna kneel down and pray. Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy on me. Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy on me. Though I’m tryin’ and tryin’ to find my baby, Won’t someone please send her home to me.”

    • #22
  23. captainpower Member
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    “Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

      –  Phil Robertson, Duck Commander, Duck Dynasty via GQ and Breitbart

    • #23
  24. Belt Inactive
    Belt
    @Belt

    You know, it just occurred to me that Blues lyrics are similar to haiku…

    Oh Lord, I’m walking a long hard road
    Oh Lord, I’m pulling a heavy load
    I’m pushing my luck, I’m piled with sin
    Oh Lord, I’m walking a long hard road

    • #24
  25. Pseudodionysius Coolidge
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    “I drove my Chevy to the Levy, but the Levy was wry.”

    • #25
  26. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Devereaux:

    DocJay: Logged on to Rico, to see what I could see. Said man I logged on to Rico, to see what I could see. Wrote me a story. Gonna get to that main feed. Couldn’t get to that main feed. Cuz I didn’t have a clue. Twernt no way baby. There a story from Rachel Lu. I got those main feed blues.

    Might be time for you to move from Reno to Memphis, there, DocJay. ?Got an old beat up guitar (or “GI-tar”).

     A real Bluesman knows it’s a guit-fiddle.

    • #26
  27. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Signs you might have the Blues:

    You have so few clothes, you’re sitting there wondering if a matchbox can hold them all
    Your little red rooster is too lazy to crow for day
    You gave your woman seven children, and now she’s trying to give them back

    • #27
  28. user_18586 Thatcher
    user_18586
    @DanHanson

    Ray Kujawa:

    “If you don’t know the Blues, you don’t know .”

    – Mile Davis on playing jazz

     You can’t really understand what he’s saying here unless you pay attention to the spaces between the words.

    Good weapons for the blues:

    Shotgun
    Shiv
    .38 Special
    Hammer

    Bad weapons for the blues:

    Pepper spray
    whistle
    Tae Kwon Do
    Fencing foil

    • #28
  29. Badderbrau Member
    Badderbrau
    @EKentGolding

    Play a country song backwards and you get your track back, your house back, your dog back, your wife back, your girlfriend back ( not at the Same Time!) etc.     What do you get if you play the Blues backward?

    • #29
  30. user_18586 Thatcher
    user_18586
    @DanHanson

    Sober.

    • #30

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