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You are here: Home ~ Amusements ~ How to Write & Sing the Blues

How to Write and Sing the Blues

Use this information as a “road map” to help guide yourself through the process of writing and singing the blues. Please Note: Before attempting to sing or write any blues, we suggest you go through the following guidelines to check your qualifications.

You ARE qualified to write or sing the blues if:

You ARE NOT qualified to write or sing the blues if:

  • You shot (or stabbed) a man (or woman) in Memphis.

  • Your first name is the same as a southern state, such as Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and so on. Other acceptable names for men are Joe, Willie, Little Willie, or Lightnin’. Women may use the names Sadie, Big Mama, or Bessie. If your name is Sierra or Sequoia, you will not be permitted to write or sing the blues, no matter how many men (or women) you shot (or stabbed) in Memphis. For more information, see Supplemental Naming Information, below.

  • You're blind (or at least no better than 20/400 vision in one or more eyes).

  • You just can't be satisfied.

  • You were blind once, but now you can see (whether through corrective lenses or divine intervention).

  • You're deaf.

  • You have a trust fund.

  • Your house has more than one bathroom.

  • Your name is Julio Iglesias or Barbra Streisand.

NOTE: Teenagers are not permitted to write or sing the blues. The blues is an adults-only situation. By adult, we mean that you must be old enough to disregard the electric chair if you shot (or stabbed) a man (or woman) in Memphis.

If your qualifications meet the guidelines listed above, then you may proceed to the following topics for more information on how to write and sing the blues.

Opening Lines

Most blues songs start with the line, “I woke up this mornin’.” Note that the line, “I got a good woman” is incorrect unless this line is followed by, “With the meanest dog in town.”

The blues are, and should be kept simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Follow this second line with a blues-compatible situation and then expand upon that situation. For example:

I got a good woman.
Oh, I got a good woman,
With the meanest dog in town.
He’s got teeth like Margaret Thatcher,
And he weighs five-hundred pounds.

Blues Lifestyles

There must be a specific aura surrounding the successful blues writer/singer. The blues are not about limitless choices. For example, only certain forms of transportation fit the blues. A Chevy or an old Cadillac fit the blues. A Greyhound bus, a southbound train, or walkin’ play major transportation roles in the blues lifestyle. So does “fixin’ to die.”

Location, location, location

You can write or sing blues songs about New York City; however, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island probably will not fit into a blues framework. Most areas of the Bronx should be OK.

“Hard times” in Vermont or North Dakota are sometimes mistaken for the blues; this is, in fact, closer to simple clinical depression. You can’t write or sing about the blues in the following places:

  • Shopping malls (the lighting is wrong).

  • Your cubicle or office (the target audience is too narrow).

  • Ashrams.

  • Gallery openings.

  • Weekends in the Hamptons.

The following locations are considered ideal for writing or singing the blues:

  • The highway.

  • The jailhouse.

  • A chain gang.

  • An empty bed.

  • Chicago, St. Louis, or Kansas City (except for the corner of 12th Street and Vine).


Unless you are a very old male Negro, it's best not to wear a suit while writing or singing the blues. Even very old male Negroes will not be able to pull off a convincing "blues" aura in an Armani or Brooks Brothers suit, so it's best to stick with an old collared shirt and neat (but casual) slacks or overalls. Avoid any articles of clothing with small alligators or any hint of "golf" about them.

Blues compatible accessories include pork pie hats, sunglasses worn at night, suspenders, pocket bandanas, and shoes with noticeably worn soles.

Patchy facial hair and/or several days stubbly growth are always a plus (unless your name is Sadie, Big Mama, or Bessie).


If you ask for water and your baby serves you gasoline, it's a good bet that this is an authentic blues-compatible situation. Other blues-compatible beverages include:

  • Cheap wine (white or red only; rosé is NOT blues-compatible).

  • Cheap whiskey (any nationality or origin, the cheaper the better).

  • Muddy water (from the Mississippi river ONLY).

Non blues-compatible beverages include:

  • Any mixed drink (other than whiskey with Mississippi mud water).

  • Any kosher wine (with the possible exception of Mad Dog 20/20; the jury is still out on that one).

  • Any diet or low-calorie soda pop.

  • Sports drinks (Gatorade, Surge, and so on).

  • Clear spring water, sparkling water, or Perrier.

  • Yoo-Hoo (all flavors).


The following is a list of acceptable blues-related causes of death:

  • Shot (or stabbed) in a cheap motel or hotel (especially in Memphis).

  • Shot (or stabbed) in a shotgun shack (especially in Memphis).

  • Shot (or stabbed) by a jealous lover (especially in Memphis).

  • The electric chair.

  • Through substance abuse.

  • As a result of being denied treatment in an emergency room.

Any deaths that result from complications experienced during liposuction treatments are not considered blues-compatible and should therefore be disregarded.

Supplemental Naming Information (Nicknames)

The better blues writers/singers usually employ a catchy nickname. The following is a list of topics that may prove helpful in determining a blues-compatible nickname:

  • Physical Infirmities
    Examples of this genre include Blind, Crippled, Asthmatic. Infirmities that do not lend themselves to blues-compatible nicknames are Pigeon-Toed, Color-Blind, Hearing Impaired, Tone Deaf, Poor Sense of Direction, or Itchy Skin Rash.

  • Fruit Names
    Examples of blues-compatible fruit nicknames include Lemon, Lime, Melon, and Peach. Fruits such as Pineapple, Kumquat, Passion Fruit, and Seedless Grape just will not convey the proper blues state of mind in your listeners.

  • Presidential Last Names
    Presidential last names are an unusually rich source of blues-compatible nicknames. However, you must select the proper name. Blues-compatible presidential last names include Johnson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Cleveland, and Roosevelt, just to name a few. Non blues-compatible presidential last names include Taft, Eisenhower, Ford, Hoover, and Harding.

To sum up, a blues-compatible nickname might be Blind Lemon Roosevelt, whereas a non blues-compatible nickname would be Pigeon-Toed Seedless Grape Eisenhower.

I hope this information has in some small way helped you along the road to writing and singing the blues.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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