Skip to main content
Blues is for true connoisseurs of life and has clearly defined rules. | Photo: Tim Mossholder (Unsplash)
Blues is for true connoisseurs of life and has clearly defined rules. | Photo: Tim Mossholder (Unsplash)
mbx -

Top 5 Rules of Genuine Blues

You can find blues origin and inspiration in just about every modern musical genre. The proverbial blues pentatonic and the twelve-bar form are ubiquitous to this day and serve as the basis for many a musical hit. As a distinct musical genre, the blues originated in the mid-19th century in the southern states of the United States, where it served as a lament for the cruel fate of people who would be uprooted from their native land, enslaved and reduced to labouring instruments for picking cotton or other physically gruelling and dangerous work. It is the music of Africa and the music of the nascent American continent, and it encapsulates the bittersweetness of life. Today, we're going to look (with a light dose of hyperbole and slightly inspired by a viral list) at the Top 5 rules of genuine blues, which in some cases can feel almost like a parody of their authentic source.

1. Life is a struggle

Most blues begin with "I woke up this morning..." But that's where all the good news ends, and from that point on, there's only room in the lyrics for doom, gloom and depression. The blues is very straightforward in this respect. Once you get the first line right, repeat it and then add something that rhymes. For example, "I woke up this morning, but my baby's not here". Repeat the phrase with a variation of "Yeah, you hear right... I woke up this morning, but my baby's not here" and then continue with the misery "I have cancer anyway, I'm going bald, and nothing's going to change that." Blues isn't about options or solutions. You're stuck in a hole, you're up to your neck in mud, you're sinking to the bottom. You're in deep s*** and you know it – there's just no way out.

2. Get proper means of transport

You've got to get everything right. If you're singing about the road, you need a ride. Suggested brands of blues vehicles are Cadillac, Lincoln and Oldsmobile, you can get away with Chevrolet and Ford, and preferably rusty, write-off vans. Bluesmen don't drive a Skoda, a BMW or even a Mercedes. Forget a Ferrari or a Lambo right now.

The next acceptable means of transportation is a bus (ideally the American Greyhound) or train going southbound if possible. No planes, trams and trolleybuses – they don't have the right cachet here, and anything using electricity to get around is completely taboo. Bluesman on an electric scooter? Sacrilege! Good old-fashioned walking and a lifestyle that is all about basically preparing for death and atoning for sins play a major role in the blues.

3. Choose well the place of your suffering

The blues may take place in New York, but not in the Bahamas or anywhere in Europe. Canada is also on the blacklist of locations. Hard times in a place like Los Angeles or Seattle are probably only temporary, and therefore unsuitable for real blues. Memphis, Clarksdale, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Kansas City and of course New Orleans on the other hand are perfect.

London, with its typically British rainy weather, might be acceptable, as might other places with challenging living conditions, such as the North Pole or the Siberian taiga, but you probably feel that other genres of music reign supreme there. In the desert, you may be miserable as a result of heat stroke or dehydration, but there's too much sunshine for blues. Also, you can't have the blues in the office or the mall. You're better off going out to the parking lot or sitting right next to a dumpster. Recommended places for the blues include the highway, a prison, an abandoned bed, or the bottom of a whiskey glass. Inappropriate places for the blues are gallery openings, golf courses, gyms and Starbucks.

4. Look

No one will believe your blues if you're wearing a tracksuit with stripes, designer trainers or a t-shirt with a crocodile on it. The outfit is very important and the shabbier the better. Hat yes, cap no. A chunky gold or silver ring is a must, however, skip the massive chains around your neck. That's where other guys are already in charge. You have to have the style of a dandy who spent the previous night in the ditch.

You have the right to sing blues if you're older than the Republic, blind, shot a man in Texas or perpetually disgruntled. You don't have the right to sing blues if you've got all your teeth, miraculously got your vision back, the man in Texas finally survived or have your investments spread out in your portfolio. Modern blues is not about the colour of your skin. It's the degree of unhappiness. Are you ugly, old, poor and sick? Blues approved!

5. And the death is waiting at the end

Teenagers can't sing the blues. They can't know anything about death yet, and they're certainly not about to die. It is the adults who sing it. In the blues, "adult" means you're old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Texas. A bald guy is not the blues. A bald woman with a limp is. Breaking your leg when you slip in the bathtub is not the blues. A leg in two pieces because an alligator bit it off is the blues.

The manner and place of death is also important. The ideal way to leave this world is to be shot in a cheap motel or shack. Another acceptable manner of death is a stabbing by a jealous lover. The electric chair, overdosing on an illegal drug or dying alone on a broken bed are also on the list. It doesn't count as a blues death to choke on a pretzel, freeze to death while applying the Wim Hof method or drown in a mini-submarine.

Tagy TOP 5 Blues just for fun

If you have found an error or typo in the article, please let us know by e-mail

Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.