The blues calendar did not start with the birth of Stevie Ray Vaughn.
August 9, 2010 5:03 AM   Subscribe

These are actually pretty good!

About the SRV clause. Making the SRV "Brink of Ejaculation" face does not make anyone a better guitar player. Buying a Fender SRV guitar does not make you play like him. I've been to a number of blues jams in Chicago and could count on at least two and sometimes three players sporting an SRV guitar and the signature fauxtee. Most of them couldn't play rhythm worth a shit but when it came time to solo, oh my god, a cascading waterfall of notes would melt your face off.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:30 AM on August 9, 2010

Re: way 2, people who have trouble following this "way" don't have it because no one has ever told them this before. In fact, they're usually the ones telling it to others.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:32 AM on August 9, 2010

It's "Vaughan."
posted by swift at 5:36 AM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Blueshammer doesn't pay attention to that list, and they play authentic delta blues.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:40 AM on August 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

Went to see a relative's band recently, and they killed #4 and violated its corpse (in some ways the author describes and in other ways I won't get into). The most enjoyable aspect (though they were ok) was the lead band who hung around and viscerally hated their guts.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:40 AM on August 9, 2010

People generally disregard what a fantastic rhythm player SRV was. In fact, I'd say his right hand was his strongest and that his unique sense of rhythm was his greatest strength. My favorite example of this is the solo in Empty Arms.

Also, he was fucking loud all the time.

Also, yes, please don't even try to imitate him - you will fail.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:22 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

swift: It's "Vaughan."

The blues calendar did not start with the birth of Stevie Ray Vaughn. (sic)
posted by three blind mice at 6:28 AM on August 9, 2010

You play in a Blues band? Ten ways to keep it real.

Way #1: Don't say stuff like 'keep it real.'
posted by jonmc at 6:29 AM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Our band almost broke up because of Rule #5.

A WEEK before we were supposed to on tour, our (now-ex) bassist told the lead singer (via TEXT! of all things….) “If I can’t wear shorts on stage, I’m quitting the band”. This was not some punk kid, he was a grown-ass man!

The lead singer was pissed, the drummer and rhythm guitarist were sympathetic, and I just found the whole thing mildly amusing.

Eventually, the bassist conceded, but that was just the beginning of a very stressful trip.
posted by chara at 6:37 AM on August 9, 2010

No shorts on stage? Hey, if it's good enough for Angus Young....
posted by jonmc at 6:39 AM on August 9, 2010

I vaguely remember a TV interview with an old blues master (I think it was B.B. King) and the question came up about young players and what he thought about them. He mentioned SRV, saying he was was the real deal, even if "he always played like he was breaking out of jail".

I also think a good rule to add would be: At least look like you're having fun; that you like each other and enjoy playing together.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:46 AM on August 9, 2010

Most of these would work for any type of band.

As for #3, there are some bands that just don't seem to get that's it's possible to sound like your amp is cranked without cranking your amp, and those bands make sound-people cry.
posted by drezdn at 6:47 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dear Angus Young,

Please start a band with Bob Weir.


Blind Lemon Grocersapostrophe
posted by mintcake! at 6:49 AM on August 9, 2010

No shorts on stage? Hey, if it's good enough for Angus Young....

Angus gets a pass. I think the author was speaking more to guys who like to show up at gigs in cargo shorts and flip-flops thinking that their Jimmy Buffetness will somehow win over the mom-ladies.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:51 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Love him or hate him, Jimmy gets a pass as well. he does after all, sing about beaches and stuff a lot, so it'd be silly if he dressed like Rob Halford or something. Although my friend Mooch did play bass in a speedmetal band and he wore shorts all the time, but he also had hair like Slash.
posted by jonmc at 6:53 AM on August 9, 2010

Blueshammer doesn't pay attention to that list, and they play authentic delta blues.
posted by Astro Zombie

I have Blueshammer's song on my ipod, and it comes up in random play with terrifying frequency. And every goddamned time, I have to stop what I'm doing and laugh my ass off.
posted by COBRA! at 7:00 AM on August 9, 2010

Overall, this is pretty good advice. I wouldn't argue too heavily (if at all) against any of these points.

they misspelled decimated, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:04 AM on August 9, 2010

Love him or hate him, Jimmy gets a pass as well.

Put me in the neutral group. I just never got him I guess but I can't deny him his formula for success. I think I had Eric Clapton more in mind. The last few times I've seen him on T.V. or live, the guy dresses like he simply doesn't give a shit anymore. All of his blues credibility and charity work aside, every time I see him, I'm all "Dude, at least throw on some jeans and loafers - whatever.... you're not 14."
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:08 AM on August 9, 2010

"Many great arrangements have been descimated by some egotist ..."

Decimated, and it used to mean losing 1 in 10 warriors. Now people just use it to mean destroyed.
posted by bwg at 7:11 AM on August 9, 2010

Bright suits with padded shoulders and wingtips more often than not means your frontman is an idiot with more ego than talent.

I worked with a harp player in Denver who loved zoot suits and slicked back hair when he played. You'd never know he was a sales manager at Allied Storm Windows by day, authentic blues legend by night.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:11 AM on August 9, 2010

Get rhythm, get rhythm when you get the blues
Get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock n' roll, feel it in your bones
Tap on your toes and just get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues
posted by bwg at 7:17 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The above message brought to you by Mr. Johnny Cash.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:20 AM on August 9, 2010

If you are unlucky enough to have to suffer dealing with a soundman... who almost always suck...

Hey, as I soundman, I have to say that this is exactly what a dumb-ass new-blues musician would say. NO I CAN'T TURN YOUR MONITOR UP ANYMORE ASSHOLE! It is up all the way and you are too deaf to hear it and you aren't even standing anywhere around it! Furthermore, I'm SSSSSOOOOOOOOOOO sorry that I can't suspend the physics of sound and make microphones work the way YOU want! Oh my apologies for not cutting your hand off you so wouldn't change the goddamn volume on your amps AFTER the sound-check! I guess my psychic ability to know exactly what you want isn't working today.

I CAN"T GIVE YOU ANY MORE REVERB ON YOUR VOCALS!!!!!! You sound like you're singing from the bottom of a well and you're a high note away from unstoppable feed back, oh for god's sake SING INTO THE MICROPHONE not around it. Do you even know how a microphone works? Oh, my bad, I can't make you sound like you do on your over-produced auto-tuned four-track demo that your uncle's friend helped you record, and I'm SO sorry you don't sound like that in a small venue over a live soundsystem. I guess I don't know anything about what I've been doing for the past few years, and since you looked at a mixing board once and your mom thinks you're good at everything you must know better than I.

I said your monitor is up all the way. You sound great to the audience, fucking spectacular... oh, I am so terribly sorry, I guess I got obsessed making the mains well-balanced and free of feedback or reverb that I forgot that y'all are the only people interested in listening to your music. Also, it is my bunx that I didn't memorize all your songs to help you with your dynamics, because you viewed the sound-check as a waste of your precious time.

What's that? You showed up three hours late with no cables at all? Sure, no problem. By the way, it was all my fault that you didn't give me a tech rider. Anyways, I'm the soundman and I'm busy trying to plug in all your cheap broken instuments so feel free to ask me for beers, or to get you something, or anything so long as it's not in my job description to do and it will waste my time. I know it's my responsibility to make your terrible band sound like a professional band (after all, I'm being payed whole pennies for being here today!) and I really failed to make y'all something that y'all ain't.

Also: I'm pretty sure I read a nearly identical article but by a jazz musician. It was longer, not in list form and eloquently written without being snarky or dismissive of anyone, but I guess amateur blues musicians have to have things in list form and no more than one paragraph per point.

Well, I guess I'll let you get back to that 12 minute guitar solo, and then afterwards you can talk about how you don't like prog-rock because it's too "wanky."
posted by fuq at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2010 [43 favorites]

Speaking as a musician, let me say that that was an admirable little rant there, fuq. Kudos!

And can I get a little bit more me?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:46 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a former sound guy, fuq, all I can add to that is: "Could you repeat that? Into my right ear?"
posted by Floydd at 7:50 AM on August 9, 2010

Number 7 should be number 1. Your own shitty lyrics over a standard 12-bar shuffle does not a blues song make.
I like BB King's advice about number 5, though. He always said it's important to dress just for the show. Even if he wore a nice 3-piece suit to get to the gig, he would change into a different 3-piece suit before going on stage.
posted by rocket88 at 7:56 AM on August 9, 2010

fug, can I get just a hair more backing vocals in my monitor? Hey, thanks, man. Just a hair more...
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:57 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

More blues-related tips. "You can't have the Blues in an office building or a shopping mall; the lighting is all wrong. Other bad places for the Blues: Kmart, gallery openings, and the supermarket."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:05 AM on August 9, 2010

Hey Soundman, I've got lots of what I DON'T need...
posted by Trochanter at 8:22 AM on August 9, 2010

Mr. Bad Example, thank you for those excellent tips!

Everyone, I would now like to be known by my Blues name, Low-Down Persimmon Fillmore.

Thank you.
posted by Naberius at 8:32 AM on August 9, 2010

Henry Owning's book The Rock Bible: Unholy Scripture for Fans and Bands is chock full of good advice like this. Some of it's tongue in cheek, but it does have a lot of stuff that should be taken to heart.

The whole 'Thou shalt not wear shorts on stage' bit kinda shocked me, but I'm taking it to heart.

Another one just came to mind: If thou wishes to be respected as a serious musician, thou shalt stay at least 50 yards away from anything calling itself an 'open mic'.
posted by daHIFI at 8:38 AM on August 9, 2010

I'm working on a new form of the blues. It's not as brassy as the urban blues, and not as twangy as country blues. I call it suburban blues, and I will be performing under the name of Slow Blind Driveway.

posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:41 AM on August 9, 2010

Depends on what kind of gallery or what kind of art we're talking about. I've seen blues played at an art show opening with funky and self-taught/folk art around, and it worked here. With an old blues guy with only an electric guitar NOT played in blues-rock style, however.
posted by raysmj at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2010

Blind Lemon Grocersapostrophe

Glad someone else caught that, too. It drives me nuts.

As for the list, I have no doubt that there are some competent blues cover bands (redundant?) out there, and I have seen a few, but there is just something about a genre whose modern practitioners tend to be such fanatically wonky gearheads, that I can only imagine Robert Johnson spinning in his grave when some rich white kid blows $4000 at Guitar Center to get that 'authentic' blues sound.

Your favorite genre sucks, I know. Off to get some coffee. Also: run-on sentences are not authentic blues! Grrar!
posted by joe lisboa at 8:47 AM on August 9, 2010

11. Be my dad.

My dad, the whitest whiteboy to have ever lived, has been playing in blues bands since he was in high school. He has played with pretty much EVERYONE you can think of, and a lot of people you can't. He's played festivals in Europe with Wallace Coleman, he was friends with Robert Jr Lockwood (Mom & I have been ON HIS CASE about writing a book -- my god, the STORIES he can tell, coupled with all the photos my photog mom took at shows over the years?), I mean, DUDE. He has done nothing but keeping it real since, like, 1969. He is awesome. The end.
posted by at 10:52 AM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

11. Grow a goatee.
posted by Fizz at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2010

#1 (SRV) is the only one that's specifically about the blues. The rest is just good advice for anyone in a band.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:19 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The blues is over. Has been for years. It was a historical movement about a time in our history. Blues bands today are reenactors, they remind of those college dixieland bands with the red vests and straw hats.
posted by charlesminus at 1:06 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

The blues is over. Has been for years.

posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:20 PM on August 9, 2010

This here is Shakey Lyman. He's probably breaking at least one of the rules in that post, but man, he's good enough to let it slide.
posted by SansPoint at 1:26 PM on August 9, 2010

I second Benny Andajetz -- ???????????

Having grown up around blues musicians (some of my first allowance money was earned "roadie-ing" for my dad at band practice...we suspect the reason I am so loud today is that I spent much of my childhood yelling over amps), I disagree with you, charlesminus. The blues is very much alive. It is eternal and evolving -- a living art form.

How can you compare this to historical re-enactors? Jesus.

(My dad is the handsome bastard with the giant Santa beard on the right side of the screen. Not that I'm, you know, biased or anything).
posted by at 2:27 PM on August 9, 2010

Sanspoint: I remember watching blues players on Maxwell street in Chicago in the late
fifties playing through old radios they had rewired to use for amps. I saw Muddy Waters
playing in South Side dives with 50 people in the audience. I saw Reverend Gary Davis
playing on the sidewalk. Magic Sam, Jimmy Rogers and plenty of others whose names
I never knew. The music was so urgent and real it hurt. No disrespect to your dad, but
that time in history is over and you can’t go back. But if you enjoy it, go ahead on.
posted by charlesminus at 3:02 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite], I hung with with charlesminus, I knew charlesminus. charlesminus was a friend of mine., you're no charlesminus.

Now, don't get me wrong, I see where you're coming from, charlesminus. I mean, who could argue that the people you mention were exalted luminaries of the art form? I certainly envy you for seeing so many of the greats: you were in the presence of giants, as you well know. And indeed, as you say, that time in history is over and you can’t go back. But many folks around today who play the blues are not, contrary to your inference, trying to "go back". They are simply carrying on a tradition, and for them it's a living tradition. And some, in their own little ways, are bringing the tradition forward. Or, at the very least, entertaining a roomful of people on a Saturday night, and ain't a damn thing wrong with that.

Your easy dismissing of their efforts, characterizing them as worthless in the face of the legends who've gone before, smacks of that certain tiresome elitism that crops up in many discussions of music: 'I was there when the real guys were doing it, kid'. And while I know on one level that you're right, I also know that this is an attitude that shuts itself off from recognizing the potential of the present and the future. Which is, you know, not good.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:42 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry, that should read: "who could argue that the people you mention weren't exalted luminaries..."
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:44 PM on August 9, 2010

Look, you can listen to Lawrence Welk if you want to. I don't care. I am only saying that art forms appear at historic moments and express something about that moment. Next moment requires something else. I know of people who play saxophone exactly like Charlie Parker. there are people w ho can paint exactly like Monet. But it is not the same. I'm not an elitist, I'm saying that if I want to listen to Charlie Parker, I got lots of records. Learn how to play like Charlie Parker or Robert Johnson, but then go play something new that talks about today and not your nostalgia for an unrecoverable past. I look forward to hearing what you come up with.
posted by charlesminus at 4:54 PM on August 9, 2010

So the example of how blues is evolving and modern is a song I used to hear on Dr. Demento?

Blues music is awesome, as is bluegrass, swing, big band, rock and roll. But their times have passed. Charlesminus is right. It is an artform that is ably practiced by many people, but they are just caretakers of it. Being of a different time doesn't denigrate them, it just states a fact: the blues arose out of particular cultural times, in different ways in different places. It solidified as a style, and ceased to evolve. That's why we can recognize it as a style.

The people who wrote those 10 things are most assuredly not keeping it real. It sounds more like they are trying to maintain their version of purity. Because if you are keeping it real, you aren't following rules (or copying anyone). I guarantee you, the people who actually created the blues didn't give two fat fucks what anyone was wearing on stage. Because there probably wasn't a stage. Or about whether anyone was tipping their waitresses enough.
posted by gjc at 5:20 PM on August 9, 2010

Or, to put it another way, blues did evolve. Into rock and roll.
posted by gjc at 5:23 PM on August 9, 2010

charlesminus, that'll be a no thanks on the Lawrence Welk.

I look forward to hearing what you come up with.

Well, I ain't no Muddy Waters, but, since you're looking forward to it and all (thank you!), here's a few tunes that I've come up with.

note: I'm fully prepared for you to hate these! See Muddy Waters disclaimer above! At any rate, as concerns the blues, most of the material above takes is inspirational cue from North Mississippi hill country style, not Chicago blues.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:52 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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