I once had a slightly tipsy singer approach me at a show and ask in all seriousness how I could possibly be such an accomplished Blues singer since I have never been an alcoholic and had never taken drugs. Though my shows often turn into Mr. Kool’s House of Blues, I had to explain that substance abuse is not what the Blues is about. I will expand upon that scenario to lay bare the true facts on how to sing the Blues.
The literature of lyrics on the development of Blues may help explain some of the prerequisites for, and the importance of Blues to the development of popular music. According to legend, a famous philosopher (and Rock star) Richard Starkey wrote, “You got to pay your dues if you want to sing the Blues, and you know it don’t come Easy”. Yes this does indicate that the Blues finds its beginnings in hardship and deprivation.
The Blues musical style was the spawning ground for much of Modern music. The great commentator and Blues singer Muddy Waters wrote, “The Blues had a baby, they named the baby Rock and Roll”. Rock got it’s start in the Blues style of the 50’s. Many famous Rock artists such as Elvis, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin all started out doing Blues. The term R&B originally stood for “Rhythm and Blues”, not “Rap and Bad-lyrics” as it does today.
You don’t have to write Blues songs in Ebonics, but it helps. With that as our opening thought, let me s’plain how you too can be “singin’ the Blues”. Most Blues begin with: “Woke up this morning..”. Something happy like: “I got a good woman” is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something depressing in the line like, “I got a good woman but she got PMS”. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes.sort of.
“Got a good woman but she got PMS”.
“Yea, got a good woman but she got PMS”.
“When she gets mean,
she scares me half to death”.
The Blues is not about choice. “You stuck in a ditch… you stuck in a ditch… ain`t no way out… better love that bitch.”
Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken down pickup trucks. Blues don`t travel in BMW`s or Sport Utility Vehicles. Often Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and company cars ain`t even in the running. But walkin` plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin` to die.
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 “shot a man in Memphis”. Memphis by the way is the birthplace of the Blues. Ain’t nothin’ closer to Blues then “Walking in Memphis”.
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 seasonal depression. Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans 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. And we all know, “it never rains in Southern California”.
A man with male pattern baldness ain`t the blues, you got to be completely bald. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg `cause you went skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg `cause an alligator chomped on it is.
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. Good places for the Blues: Karaoke bar, Highway, Jailhouse, empty bed, bottom of a whiskey bottle. Bad places for the Blues: Nordstrom`s, gallery openings, Ivy League Institutions, Golf courses.
No one will believe it`s the Blues if you wear a suit, `less you happen to be an old ethnic person and you slept in it… for two weeks. Best clothes for the blues is torn overalls, or a prison uniform. And of course you should be wearing a Kool Blues hat. Blues instruments are Harmonica, Blues Guitar and Saxophone. A Xylophone, Chimes and Violin won’t cut it.
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 get no satisfaction”, You a “Back Door Man”, You named your guitar after your ex-wife who left you for your best friend. No, if: You have all your teeth, You “once was blind but now can see”, The man in Memphis lived, You have a 401K or trust fund.
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. If you ask for water and your darlin` give you poison, it`s the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are: Ripple, Whiskey or Bourbon, Muddy Water, nasty black coffee. The following are NOT Blues beverages: Perrier, Chardonnay, Snapple, Slim Fast or Diet Coke.
If death occurs in a cheap motel or a “rundown shack by a railroad track”, 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 (but it’s not a requirement), 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.
Some Blues names for women: Sadie, Hanna, Big Mama, Bessie, Fat Bottom Dumpling, and Caldonia. Some Blues names for men: Joe, Willie, Joe-Willie, Little Willie, Big Willie, Muddy, and Leroy. People with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Tiffany, Brooke, Brittany and Heather can`t sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.
If you want to sing the blues you need a good Blues singers name. You may adopt one. First take the name of a physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) Then add the name of a fruit (Lemon, Melon, Cherry, Tomato etc. Yes tomato is a fruit, and a health food to boot). Then tack on the last name of a President (Johnson, Jefferson, Bush, etc.) For example: Blind Melon Jefferson, Jakeleg Lemon Johnson, Killer Tomato Bush, etc. (maybe Horny Cactus Clinton?).
Now that you are dully indoctrinated into the fine art of Blues singing, here is a little Blues tune to practice on:
“I got a woman never could be true”
“I got a woman she never could be true”
“plays jokes on me,
then hollers APRIL FOOL“.
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DJ Kool Karl has been a Disc Jockey and KJ for over ten years. His articles have been published in Karaoke magazines and on various internet disc jockey sites. He can be found DJ-ing at clubs and private parties around Orange County California. To get your own Kool Karl articles, DJ/KJ shows, parties or special events call 714-544-2614
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