“Black Coffee” – Peggy Lee
“Cigarettes” – Slim Harpo
“Cigarette Blues” – Little Toby Walker
“Ashes In My Ashtray” – Michael Burks
“Down In Louisiana” – Bobby Rush
“Louisiana Blues” – Muddy Waters
“Louisiana Blues” – Clifton Chenier
“Sun Risin’ Blues” – Big Joe Turner
“When The Sun Comes Out” – Charles Brown
“Time For The Sun To Rise” – Earl King
“Forty Cups Of Coffee” – Danny Overbea
“Burnt Toast And Black Coffee” – Mike Pedicin
“Coffee House Blues” – Lightnin’ Hopkins
“Black Coffee” – Guy Davis (with Fabrizio Poggi)
Black coffee and cigarettes. For someone under the influence of the Blues, those things can often be considered as a suitable substitute for food.
Fair enough, I’ll agree, cigarettes are a bane of modern society – and a habit best to be discouraged. But without a consistent supply of black coffee, this Cultural Detective Agency, for a start, would struggle to maintain it’s enviable standard of professional efficiency. When it comes to Java, I drink a lot of it. Black. No sugar. And always strong.
It seemed like coffee would make a logical thread to follow. We soon found that coffee and cigarettes – are the typical default for someone with the Blues – even for a woman left lonely, amidst a jungle of suburban sprawl.
And yeah, there’s bound to be someone who’ll argue that a singer like Peggy Lee has no place in a Blues show. But honestly, can you listen to a song like “Black Coffee” and say that it isn’t a Blues? There are many versions of that song, including those by Bobby Darin and Julie London. Bobby’s take of the song was good, but it takes on an entirely different shape when sung by a woman. (If we’d chosen Julie London over Peggy Lee, however, then there would be a valid point of contention.)
Likewise, there’s bound to be someone who’ll suggest that we’re actively promoting a deadly habit simply by touching on the subject of cigarettes. But that would be wrong, too. History doesn’t change when someone finds it unsavoury.
I’m a detective. Evidence and facts are the currencies I deal in. And in the Blues, the evidence is not always pretty. Life is just the same.
In future editions, we’ll look at subjects like drugs and slavery. Just like coffee, cigarettes, drunkenness and cruelty, these things too, are integral in the history of the Blues.
Also in this edition, we’ll dip into the rich cultural diversity of Louisiana Blues. And we’ll take time to appreciate another sunrise, no matter what it may signify for the day ahead.
And yeah, I understand the confusion. How can we possibly fit all those cups ’n’ coffee beans, cigarettes and smokers, the dawning of a new day – and – the great state of Louisiana, into a single hour of entertaining Blues radio?
Pour yourself another cup of mud – and press the Play button above to find out.
As always, thanks for listening.
Gideon Rhyme – Cultural Detective