I found this somehow,
1) Most Blues begin, "Woke up this morning..."
2) "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, 'less you stick something nasty in the next line like, "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."
3) The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes. Sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and she weigh 500 pound."
but when I went to put it into the blog, I didn't remember where. So I asked Google, "How to sing the blues". Google said there were about 1,930 sites. The first few I clicked to didn't match up with my visual memory of the original site--but I noticed there were differences between the sites on the wording. So I went back methodically, paying attention to the similarities and diffrences.
The top ranking page for "How to sing the blues" on May 19, 2003 was analogman's. [this version had the header: by Lame Mango Washington (attributed to Memphis Earlene Gray with help from Uncle Plunky, revisions by Little Blind Patti D. and Dr. Stevie Franklin)]
Analog Man is Mike and Howard (Mick) Davis; Analog Man is a business: one of the larger Vintage Guitar Effects dealers in the world, with customers from Australia to Japan to Europe. Even so, we are small and try to treat everyone like a rock star.
Their version is numbered. Item 14 includes The non-blues beverages are: a. mixed drinks b. kosher wine c. Snapple d. sparkling water
The last item in this version is number 20: 20. I don't care how tragic your life: you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues. You best destroy it. Fire, a spilled bottle of Mad Dog, or get out a shotgun. I don't care.
The second ranking page was from Rich Siegel's page of humor. SCI also operates the www.hospitalityupgrade.com Web site. Rich also has a 50 percent interest in Hospitality Internet Media LLC, the parent company of www.hotel-online.com , the hotel industry's #1 news Web site which also produces a daily worldwide e-mail of hospitality-related headlines.
Later, when I discovered the provenance of The Blues Instructions, I had the thought: You'd think a guy in publishing would be more sensitive to copyright issues.
This version is also numbered, to 20. Item 18, persons who cannot sing the blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis, include Sierra, Sequoia, and Rainbow. Item 20, required destruction of your computer, includes: Maybe your big woman just done sit on it.
The third ranking page was from The Hangover Guide. This version reads pretty funny. It's presented in a bulletted list, not numbered (the bulletted version is I think inherently funnier than the numbered one), and is illustrated by a photo from Cat Ballou--the drunk and the drunk horse leaning up against the wall.
The fourth ranking page was Jimmy Vivino's who ought to know better. Stealing somebody's chops is still stealing, man. Jimmy has played, produced, arranged and/or orchestrated the music for artists as diverse as: Laura Nyro, Phoebe Snow, Cissy Houston, Al Kooper, The New York Rock and Soul Revue with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald, Johnnie Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, Shemekia Copeland, Joe Pesce, and Painted Blue (A blues tribute to the Rolling Stones.) For the last 14 years he has been Al Kooper's guitarist and music director.
This version is also missing some funny bits. For example, his #13 is
Neither Julio Iglesias nor Barbra Streisand can sing the blues.
13) Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the blues.
Vivino does have a PDF of The blues family tree
The fifth ranking page finally reveals the true authorship of the list.
Subj: "How to Sing the Blues"
Date: 5/11/00 7:16:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: email@example.com (Judith Podell)
How to Sing the Blues is copyrighted material and I own the copyright because I wrote it. It was published first in Wordrights Magazine in January , 1997 and subsequently ripped off without my permission and sent flying around the Internet, with a few but not many embellishments. Proof provided upon request. I would appreciate you removing it from your website.
Sincerely, Judith Podell
David Saum is the president of Infiltec Air Leakage Control. He has a little section of his industrial web site devoted to photos and web funnies. He seems like a standup guy, so if you need assistance in solving radon mitigation or building air leakage measurement and control problems, call (888) 349-7236 or (703) 820-7696 and ask for Dave.
Wow. If Podell is the author, this "How to sing the blues" thing (meme? I don't think so) has been zooming around the cybersphere for 3+ years. However, I wasn't quite sure if Podell was on the up-and-up, so I kept looking. The sixth-ranking page sends us off on strange ramblings:
The site has a banner saying "under construction". The page comes up, though, with some strange alterations.
First, it claims: (This text was generously given to me by Mr. Alan B. Thomas - please don't mess with the content and don't leave out his credit - thanks, CN Alan Bennett Thomas).
Then, it has a strange conflation: numbers 4 and 5 in what I am thinking of as the ur-text are:
4) The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch--ain't no way out.
5) Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motorpools ain't even in the running. Walkin' plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.
Morphs into one, number 4 (yes, this version is numbered):
#4 The Blues is not about limitless choice - for instance, cars are always Cadillacs or Chevrolets, never Escorts, Metros or Volkswagens. Greyhound buses are acceptable transportation but not London buses or trolley buses. Trains are always "south-bound" - "north-bound" lacks an internal rhyme. "Walkin' the tracks" is a major part of the Blues life-style.
Then, as you read down, comes a real shocker.
#6 You may have the Blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn, Queens or California. Hard times in Vermont or North Dakota are just ordinary depressions or recessions. There are no suitable Blues locations in the U.K. except perhaps Llanfairfechan which, correctly pronounced by a Welshman with ill-fitting dentures and a nasal polyp, fits very well the Blues poetic meter. Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City are still, however, the best places to have the Blues.
compare to the ur-text:
7) Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the blues in any place that don't get rain.
And another shocker:
#10 Suitable names for women are Sadie, Big Momma or Bessie but not Penelope or Fiona. For men you have, Joe, Willie(Big, Little or plain) or Lightnin'. Nigel or Justin cannot sing the Blues no matter how many men they shot in Memphis.
Compare to the more authentic:
16) Some Blues names for women: a) Sadie; b) Big Mama; c) Bessie; d) Fat River Dumpling
17) Some Blues names for men a) Joe; b) Willie; c) Little Willie; d) Big Willie
So I decided to take a detour to look up the shameful Alan Bennet Thomas, who would expropriate an authentic expression of American culture and bend it into some bizarre United Kingdom pastiche. First pass on Google got to, the original So the first thing I do is start truncating the url, which gets redirected to the website for this Danish guy, Claus Nymark who is living in [I think] Portugal--most of his site is in Portuguese, and I barely can make out Spanish--he's a musician, a trombonist?
So what is the connection between Claus Nymark, Alan B. Thomas, and "How to Sing the Blues?". I don't know, The only thing left to do is to Google "Alan B. Thomas" There are about 488 sites when I Google, one's a hand surgeon class of 2001 from Washington. I don't think so. Searching within "-hand -surgeon -M.D." Ooh, there's an English man that looks promising but there's also a man from Manteca (spanish for "lard", hmnnn, that's another issue).
So I searched within results for "-"san joaquin" -manteca -golf". That dropped it to 418. Still too many. I'm not going to chase the English guy yet. There's an Alan B. Thomas who is interested in some form of early Greek, maybe it's him? Or not.
It might be this guy Alan B. Thomas teaches Organisational Behaviour and Research Methods, and has been director of both the Executive MBA and Doctoral programmes at Manchester Business School. He has been involved in management education for over 25 years. He holds a doctorate in educational technology from the Open University of Great Britain.
I concede defeat on locating the right A. B. Thomas, and turn back to my search for the definitive, or at least funniest, version. Site number seven on the chart hit some pay dirt
Here's the whole story. Or the whole page, anyway:
"In early 1997 Judith Podell, writing as "Memphis Earline Gray", published an essay on How to Sing the Blues in Wordrights Magazine. Subsquently, and without her permission, someone transcribed it and began mailing it around the Internet. Some changes crept in during this process; the set that I recieved included some additions from "Uncle Plunky" -- Hank Sapoznik -- and I've seen a few others since. When I saw it, I couldn't resist the temptation to return it to its roots, and rearranged and reworked the material into a 20-bar blues.
"None the less, the original essay was copyrighted material and remains Ms. Podell's intellectual property, and my lyrics are very definitely a Derivitive Work. Thus, any use of them requires her permission as well as my own.
"Judith has been very gracious about this, and I've seperately obtained permission from Hank Sapoznik to use any of the additional material he contributed. I hope we'll be able to repost the lyrics soon.
"Rights to the tune remain with Joe Kesselman.
"If you already have a copy of the lyrics, please do not perform or redistribute them until Ms. Podell and I have worked out a revised permission. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated."
Uncle Plunky?!?!?! I HAD to go find out....Google for "Hank Sapoznik" got me to an interview
"Henry Sapoznik is a record producer and performer of traditional Yiddish and American music. A child of Holocaust survivors, he grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home. A pioneering scholar and performer of Klezmer music, Henry Sapoznik founded the first archives of Yiddish recordings as the Director of the Archives of Recorded Sound at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research from 1982-1994. Spearheading the renewal of interest in Klezmer music with his group, "Kapelye," Mr. Sapoznik is co-founder and Executive Director of "Living Traditions" and sponsor of the internationally acclaimed Yiddish cultural event "KlezKamp: The Yiddish-Folk Arts Program." Mr. Sapoznik has authored several books on Klezmer music and is a Grammy-nominated producer/performer of historical and new recordings of Yiddish instrumental and vocal music. He is the author of the book KLEZMER: YIDDISH MUSIC FROM OLD WORLD TO WORLD MUSIC (Schirmer Publications) and co-producer with David Isay of "On the Air: Yiddish-American Radio 1925-1955," to air on National Public Radio in 2000."
and a fabulous site--go look! Here's a little taste:
"As the swing era faded in the 1950's so did klezmer, until by the 70's the old tunes were rarely heard. Young Jewish musicians were strongly represented in the fields of folk, American old-time and bluegrass (often calling themselves Jewbillies!) to such an extent that the Appalachian fiddler Tommy Jarrell is said to have asked Harry "Hank" Sapoznik-"Don't you people got none of your own music?". Intrigued, Sapoznik decided to find out whether indeed they did or don't (!), and his process of rediscovery of Jewish musical roots was a key part in what has proved to be a widespread and sustained klezmer revival. "
O.K., calm down, don't get lost in the interesting forest, we have to get back on the "How to sing the blues" path. By now my interest has changed some. My attitude towards things is changing. Here's this nice funny lady who has written an essay, and it has been stolen, by people who should know better. Something that long and funny has been written, that is to say, someone probably owns the essay.
Number nine turned out to be the first time that the site didn't have anyting to do with what may be Judith Podell's intellectual property:
Elgin public school students will be singing the blues next week. Along with 21 other Ottawa schools, Elgin will bring blues musicians to its classrooms, in a program dubbed Blues in Schools.
Terry Davies, the principal of Elgin Street School, credits blues musician Maria Hawkins for inspiring the school to apply for the program this year. "She came here out of the goodness of her heart and did a workshop. The students loved it and the teachers thought it was great," says Davies. "Music is one of our focuses and this is an excellent opportunity for enriching students.
Michelle Armstrong's Grade 2-3 class got a taste of Blues in Schools through Hawkins' 45-minute presentation last year. It included information on black history, the way blues music developed from slaves calling to each other in the fields and how they brought the music with them to Canada on the Underground Railroad.
Then Hawkins brought in her bass player as well as her guitarist and showed the blues to the students.
Wait a minute. If Podell is the Professor of blues, she wrote:
7) Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada.
Well. Hmmn. Guess SOMEBODY'S wrong.
I better keep looking for "How to Sing the Blues"
This is google hit page ten: and here: https://www.gumbopages.com/fridge/blues.html--with some modifications that make it less funny...
It is numbered. And instead of the funny version of #13, it's the stupid one:
13. Neither Julio Iglesias nor Barbra Streisand can sing the blues.
On the other hand,
The Gumbo Pages are worth knowing about. The Gumbo Pages (est. January 1994) are the World Wide Web's first and friendliest site devoted to the food, music and culture of New Orleans, Louisiana and that region of Louisiana known as Acadiana, or "Cajun country".
But Chuck Taggart, honey, you shoulda known that a neat piece like that had an author. You otta make good now, shouldn't you?
Now, I could have stopped at 10 sites. I should have stopped at 10. But I didn't. I decided I'd quit at 15, and the very last one.
Site number eleven on the Google search for "how to sing the blues" was close to the ur-text. Site number 12 was a duplicate of the second-ranking page. Site number 13 is really shameful. Whoever it was, takes Podell's essay, tweaks it slightly, and posts it as original. Shame on you, Recallmusic! Site number 14, Bobby Nathan just straight-ahead rips it off. But what would you expect?
In 1979 Bobby Nathan and his partner/wife Joanne opened Unique Recording Studios in New York City. Immediately hit records were pouring out of the studio which set the trend for the sounds of the 80's. Hip hop music was invented and created at Unique Recording Studios....In 1983, Bobby opened the worlds first midi recording studio known as Midi City. This set the trend for all music recorded today.... Bobby was the first to sample James Brown's screams and Led Zeppelin's drums into a sample....In 1991 Bobby formed The Memphis Soul Review a group that recreated the sound of last 60's early 70's.
acknowledges Ms. Podell, but posts one of the less-funny variations. Site number 16 claims the author's unknown. Site number 17 credits Memphis Earline Gray Site number 18,and we're back to the weird Norwegian/Portuguese/blues connection.
I finally found a place to stop.
Item 21 on the list: Epitaph on a Blues musician's tombstone: "I didn't wake up this morning."
What did I learn on this adventure?
- If something funny comes in the mailbox, chances are someone wrote it
- It's pretty easy to find out who wrote a given piece
- Maybe you should think about paying for some of that persons' work.
- Even with cut-and-paste, people are going to mess with humor.
- Wikis just make this process more visible and more bearable.
- Next time something funny comes through, I'll try to find the author.