I do believe the blues has nine lives. However, I also think the people in the media just want to kill us off as quickly as possible. After all, it is much more fun to bemoan the death of the blues then to actually do a little research. Ah, but that is the life of the typical reporter. Even reporters in Chicago are not immune to the death of the blues. Serena at the Central Iowa Blues Society has a sharp eye and sends me some great articles from time to time. I am not sure if it is the same one that Karen wrote about on her blog Today's Chicago Blues. However, you can click HERE for the latest tome on the death of the blues from the Encore webpage.
It is the typical blue is dead article, and it follows the same story line. The old blues guys are dying, and no one is replacing them, and the old clubs are closing, and THE BLUES IS DEAD! This is pretty typical of the type of reporting that goes on about the blues these days. I am not saying that times are good, because they are not. The blues audience is getting older, but this has happened before. If you are lucky enough to catch film footage of the South side of Chicago and the blues clubs in the early 70s you would see that things were bad for the blues then. Most young people were listening to soul, funk, and disco. Blues was not even on the radar of anyone under 40 years old in 1970. Bands broke up, musicians quit playing, and record companies went out of business. It was bleak times, and yet the blues are still around. by the early 80s blues was popular again.
So why are things so bad now? First, young people are not into the blues right now. Give it time they always discover the blues. Second, certainly some of our beloved blues performers are gone, but they were not the originators of the music. The blues has been around since reconstruction, and has ebbed and flowed for over 100 years. If we take 1860 as a mythical starting date and consider every 20 years a new generation, then the current generation coming of age is the 6th generation of blues performers. I think it is safe to say that the blues is in pretty good shape. Third, lack of clubs. There are not a lot of places to play right now, but my old friends, Jimmy Pryor, and Rick Lussie, use to tell me what it was like in the 70s when no clubs played the blues. They would find a dive like Vickies Poor House and play for a few bucks. Then Jimmy to make money would play Country music out at the Pines, and slip in blues songs for his all white audience. Fourth, high gas prices. It is tough to make a living when you have to pay twice as much for fuel as you did a year ago. This is the real burden facing blues performers, because club owners are paying less for bands than they did 10 years ago, and gas prices are a lot higher then they were back then. Add up those costs, and the lack of venues and it is a bleak picture.
At this point I think the best solution is to support your local blues performers. Get out to their shows, and buy their cds. STOP STEALING THEIR MUSIC! I heard a first hand story from a local blues artist who was going to sell a CD to a fan, and the friend of the fan stopped them and told them they would burn them a copy!!!! RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE ARTIST!! Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, I don't mind you stealing from a large megalithic corporation, but a freaking small businessman, who needed that extra 10 bucks for gas to go home!!!!! Whats wrong with you people. BTW, all blue performers are SMALL BUSINESS PEOPLE! BB King, Eric Clapton, and a few select others have nice major label deals, but the rest of the blues cats that are alive and kicking record with small independent record companies that put a lot of blood sweet and tears into their music. When you download someones music off the net for free, then you are hurting the blues far more than some dumb reporter writing for some corporate newspaper.
There are a lot of young blues cats out there paying their dues, and their day is approaching fast. Just one or two of them catches the imagination of the college kids, and thing will improve quickly. I am doing my part by teaching college kids the history of the blues, and it has become one of the more popular classes on campus. You can do your part too. Turn on your kids to the blues, or donate your CD collection to the local library. Call up your local radio station and ask them what it will take to get a blues show. If you have a local blues show on radio, then call up the DJ and thank him for keeping the blues alive. If you have a local blues bar. Go down their once a week, and thank the bar owner for keeping the music alive even though it is probably driving him to the poor house, but he keeps on doing it because he loves the music. During bleak times it is up to you to keep the music alive. Don't let some corporate hack of a reporter tell you the blues is dead and accept it as fact. Let them know the blues is alive and well, and still kicking A$$!!!!