Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why I Play Blues

That's a picture of Clifford Antone courtesy of Wiki. I wrote this stuff earlier knowing that may readers really don't care for - or even hate - the blues. I think the right answer is 'it's about the only thing I know how to do!'. I mean while playing guitar. Anyway, here's what I wrote earlier:


Whew, I broke out the old ax – a 1972 ‘Grenada’ Spanish classical guitar – and soon found that my hands and coordination were way out of shape. Lori says it was some mean blues but I need to practice those hammers, rolls, slides, and sevenths more. If you can’t play the blues with feeling I just don’t know if it’s worth it.

I grew up in the finger picking days of Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Leon Redbone, Jorma Kaukonen (Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane), and Eric Clapton unplugged. It was more like ‘white boy blues’ than the real black heroes like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Albert King (no offense to B.B.). Learning all their swag and grooves was really cool.

No, I don’t play commercially and I just jam out with friends of late at night when the sound carries. My singing sounds like geese farts on a hot muggy day (Leo Kottke reference) so I’ll just hum or whistle.

In the stairwell of a big building you don’t need an amp and one particular night I played against my own reverb. For four hours straight. Wow, it was like ‘Boogie Chillen’ all over again, that feeling that goes up your spine when things are good. It was one of my finer moments and I wish I had a recording, including the hoots from all the peeps on different floors.

Back when Stevie Ray Vaughn was younger I used to play some backyard parties up in Austin and show them rockers how to cut loose on a big one on just a rhythm guitar. They were somewhat baffled by my use of weird chords and couldn’t quite follow. Little Stevie (he hated being called that) finally took some lessons from a few greats courtesy of Clifford Antone and as we all know, Stevie Ray Vaughn went on to be the best rock/blues guitarist in his style. If you listen to Stevie in his later albums you can hear a distinct dissonant chord and a jazzy lick or two. And it rocked Carnegie Hall.

As to me, please never ask for a song. I’m a method player. I play the boogie until it plays itself out, however it sounds and whatever it is. I’m not very good but I like it … it is like catching a really good surfing wave sometimes. It's infectious.


Anonymous said...

Please Mr Bo Jangles Dance....or in this case Mr Blues Man play !! About no one plays good guitar anymore except for a good blues man. You ever notice at a large big city concert?? The croud is 20% black, 30% biker ( bikers love blues)and usually 65% over the age of 50. Seems like it takes time for people to learn how good the blues can be. I know I was over 40 before I learned. So called rocker wanna be could learn a lot from some blues!


SteveHopson said...

The photo is by Steve Hopson - please credit the photographer, not Wikipedia.