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Blues for Beginners

inital copyright 1997 by Judith Podell a.k.a. Memphis Earlene Grey in WordsWrights!

(attributed to Memphis Earlene Gray with help from Uncle Plunky)

additions based on anonymous versions via e-mail

  • Most blues begin with "woke up this morning."
  • "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line. "I got a good woman — with the meanest dog in town."
  • The Blues is simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes. Sort of. "Got a good woman / with the meanest dog in town. / She got teeth like Margaret Thatcher / and she weighs 500 pounds."
  • The Blues is not about limitless choice. "You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in ditch; ain't no way out."
  • Blues cars are Chevies and Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Other acceptable Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Blues won't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools aren'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. Adults sing The Blues. Blues adulthood means old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.
  • You can have The Blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens, let alone Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Tucson or Vermont or North Dakota are just a depression. Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, and Nawlins are still the best places to have The Blues. You cannot have The Blues in any place that doesn't get rain.
  • A man with male pattern baldness isn't Memphis, and Nawlins. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg skiing is not Memphis, and Nawlins. Breaking your leg because an alligator be chomping on it is.
  • The following colors do not belong in the blues:
    • violet
    • beige
    • mauve
  • You can't have the 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:
    • the highway
    • the jailhouse
    • the empty bed
    • bottom of a whiskey glass
    Bad places
    • ashrams
    • gallery openings
    • weekend in the Hamptons
    • Ivy League institutions
    • golf courses
    • Nordstroms
  • No one will believe it's the blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old black man and you slept in it.
  • Do you have the right to sing the blues? Yes, if:
    • your first name is a southern state—like Georgia
    • you're older than dirt
    • you're blind
    • you shot a man in Memphis
    • you can't be satisfied
    No, if:
    • you were once blind but now can see
    • you're deaf
    • you have a retirement plan or trust fund
    • you have all your teeth
    • the man in Memphis lived
    • you have a 401K or trust fund
  • Neither Julio Iglesias nor Barbra Streisand can sing the blues.
  • Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Gary Coleman and Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also have a leg up on the blues.
  • If you ask for water and baby gives you gasoline, it's the blues. Other blues beverages are:
    • cheap wine
    • whiskey or bourbon
    • muddy water
    • black coffee
    Blues beverages are NOT:
    • any mixed drink
    • any wine kosher for Passover
    • chocolate Yoo Hoo
    • Snapple
    • sparkling water
    • Slim Fast
    • Topo Chico
    • Almond Milk
  • If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is a Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse, being denied treatment in an emergency room and dying lonely on a broken-down cot. It is NOT a Blues death, if you die during a tennis match or liposuction.
  • Some Blues names for Women
    • Sadie
    • Big Mama
    • Bessie
    • Fat River Dumpling
    Some Blues names for Men
    • Joe
    • Willie
    • Little Willie
    • Big Willie
    • Lightning
  • Persons with names like Sierra, Amber, Sequoia, Heather or Muffy will not be permitted to sing The Blues, no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.
  • Other Blues Names (Starter Kit)
    • Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Asthmatic, Lame)
    • Name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi)
    • Last name of a President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore)
    For example, Blind Lemon Jefferson, or Deaf Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi" or "Deaf".)
  • I don't care how tragic your life is: if you own a computer, you cannot sing The Blues. You'd best destroy it. Use fire, a spilled bottle of Mad Dog, or get out a shotgun. Maybe your big woman can sit on it. I don't care.
  • Soon you too will be singing The Blues.


— 10/12/04 additions contributed by Bob Turner

— 11/3/09 additions contributed by Larry Gilmore

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