Really The Blues
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"Really The Blues" is the story of a white kid who fell in love with black culture, learning to blow clarinet in the reform schools, brothels and honky-tonks of his youth. Drawn by the revelation of the blues, he followed the music along the jazz avenues of Chicago, New Orleans, and New York, and into the heart of America's soul. Told in the jive lingo of the underground's inner circle, this classic is an unforgettable chronicle of street life, smoky clubs, roadhouse dances, and reefer culture.
First published in 1946, Really the Blues was a rousing wake-up call to alienated young whites to explore black culture and the world of jazz, the first music America could call its own. Their spiritual godfather was Mezzrow, jazz cat, bootlegger, and peddler of the finest gauge in Harlem. Above all, Mezz championed the abandon available to those willing to lose their blues.
Citadel Underground's edition of Really the Blues features a new introduction by Barry Gifford, author of the novel Wild at Heart and co-author of Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack's Kerouac.
"Really the Blues, read at the counter of the counter of the Columbia U Bookstore in mid-forties, was for me the first signal into white culture of the underground black, hip culture that preexisted before ny own generation". -- Allen Ginsberg
"Milton Mezzrow was, is and shall always be the single most important figure in the history of marijuana in America. Like Leary, the Mezz turned on a new generation to a new drug...Mezzrow was 1) the first white Negro, 2) the Johnny Apleseed of weed, 3) the author of a great American autobiography, Really the Blues, the finest eyewitness account of American counterculture everpublished. The book is, likewise, the master-piece of the counterculture's most characteristics literary medium: the slang-laced, jazz-enrhythmed, long-breathed and rhapsodic street rap and rave-up". -- Albert Goldman
"Really the Blues appeared at a fundamental moment in American history, wh
that brain which hasn’t been working for a long time. If the rain ever struck the back of your neck, that hair [which has been smoothed down with hair-grease] would roll up again like a windowshade, you conceited, unenlightened dope from down South, you look like an old Southern mammy with a handkerchief over her head, you don’t amount to anything. You went crazy long ago. [Obviously, when you’re like Jack the Bear, you ain’t nowhere, because for a good part of the year a bear is just huddled
next record Tommy yelled “Vive la France!” and James P. fell off the piano stool. They both wobbled out of the studio and we tried to make a side with just the five of us, but it didn’t work. In one short and frantic afternoon, we’d relived the bloody musical battles of a full quarter of a century. It was a history lesson, and it taught us plenty. The best remark I ever heard about these records was made by Bubbles, of Buck and Bubbles, when he first listened to the test pressings at my house.
creations seep back into them to infuse their aesthetic essences; that the social all but floods the aesthetic. In Negro music and dance, assuredly, the profounder truths are more often sociological than aesthetic. That is precisely the cramping limitation of all pariah culture, especially of that intended for export across caste lines. For its content is ultimately the creation of its intended audience, and the apparent creator is most typically only a middleman between the white as tyrannical
horn and yelled, “Hey there! Anybody home? You got some cash customers!” until those two shriveled-up ghosts in gingham dresses came tottering out. When we gave them our order one of these apparitions took a shovel and hobbled out to the fields to dig up some of the gallon jugs of corn they had buried there. We laid in a real supply of that poison, at two bucks per crock, and cut out fast. On the way back we ran out of gas, so all the guys had to get out and push the car home. Bix cussed up a
but he loved Paris so much he wouldn’t budge. It was from these two great artists that I first heard collective improvisation in the classical world, because they would start fooling around while they were tuning up and then Nitza would knock out a rich chord progression and Constantinoff would pick it up quick and get off some riffs that always ended up on the note that was out of tune, and they were gone. What kicks I got when I loaned Constantinoff my records of Louis Armstrong’s West End