Blues music not about bringing people down

“The blues ain’t nothin‘ but a good man feelin’ down.”

That line is directly from the movie Crossroads, but it’s a saying that goes back decades. As does the special music which that movie was about.

The blues traces its roots from Africa, through the southern plantations in the Mississippi Delta and eventually up to the smoky bars of Chicago.

The latter is where I first encountered and grew to appreciate it.

Growing up in Chicago and being a blues fan is like being a cat let loose in a tuna factory. For little more than the cost of a cheap harmonica, the Chicago blues fan can see the legends and legends-to-be on a nightly basis.

Being in DeKalb and running into blues fans who have only heard on vinyl the acts I saw regularly in person makes you appreciate the Chicago blues scene even more.

Albert Collins, Albert King, B.B. King, Son Seals, Junior Wells, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Robert Cray, Lonnie Brooks, Magic Slim, the Kinsey Report, KoKo Taylor, Buddy Guy, Kenny Neal, etc. etc.—all made for memorable nights on their regular visits to the Windy City.

And then, after the show, retreating to my friend Willy’s (of the semi-successful Willy & the Sinners, the more successful Bluerocks, and the still-trying Showdown Band) basement for nights and early mornings filled with blues emanating from scratchy records, Miller Genuine Draft, tequila shots and talking about problems—usually associated with the fairer sex.

For the uninitiated, I heartily recommend a visit to one of the many fine Chicago blues emporiums for a sure-fire way to instantly become a fan.

I’d recommend going to Willy’s place afterwards, but his neighbors have been complaining about the noise recently.

All this brings up the question, can a white man have the blues?

I don’t know. But after listening to Willy (who’s white) bend the strings of his Stratocaster until the sun rises, and after repeatedly being treated warmly as the only white face in a southside bar, I get the feeling the blues is colorblind.

Inevitably, there is an attempt to produce one’s own blues. So far, I’ve only been successful in that whenever I pick up my guitar, everyone in the room turns blue pretty fast.

But being just a listener is more than enough. The day that Little Charlie & the Nightcats are coming to Chicago has been circled on my calendar for over a month.

Whenever I get worn down, I think about that day and immediately get a lift.

Which brings up the biggest problem the blues has: People don’t understand it.

The blues isn’t sad music, it’s music that, at least temporarily, makes you forget your troubles.

Which is why, to me, a better definition for the music than the one offered in Crossroads is:

“The blues ain’t nothin‘ but a good man feelin’ good.”