How To Sing the Blues

Judith Podell ("Memphis Earline Gray")
Wordwrights Magazine, 1997

Most Blues begin, "Woke up this morning."

"I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, 'less you stick something nasty in the next line, like "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."

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. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher — and she weigh 500 pound."

The Blues are not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain't no way out.

Blues cars: Chevys and 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 an' state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. 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 shoot a man in Memphis.

Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in St. Paul or Tucson is just depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the Blues in any place that don't get rain.

A man with male pattern baldness ain't the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cuz you skiing ain't the Blues. Breaking your leg cuz an alligator be chomping 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:

Bad places:

No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be very old, and you slept in it.

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

No, if:

Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the Blues. Gary Coleman could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the Blues.

If you ask for water and Baby give you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are:

The following are NOT Blues beverages:

If it 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 getting liposuction.

Some Blues names for women:

Some Blues names for men:

Persons with names like Sierra, Sequoia, Auburn, and Rainbow can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

Make your own Blues name (starter kit):

  1. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
  2. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi,etc.)
  3. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)

For example, Blind Lime Jefferson, or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")

I don't care how tragic your life: you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues. You best destroy it. Fire, a spilled bottle of Mad Dog, or get out a shotgun. Maybe your big woman just done sat on it.