Fattening Frogs For Snakes

Doctor Blues

for Jerry Brock

Roosevelt Sykes,
better known as The Honey Dripper,
played the piano & sang
like few men who have ever lived—

all the way from his home in Helena, Arkansas,
& down in New Orleans with the piano professors,
in the logging & turpentine camps &
jute joints throughout the Deep South,

with the slick characters & big shooters
in Memphis & St. Louis & Chicago,
from the early days before 1920
until his death on July 17, 1983. Roosevelt says:

”Well,
in the first place,
the blues is a talent.
Blues is a talent,

you can’t learn that.
Nobody teaches it,
there’s no schools for it.
Nobody can teach it to you.

”You see,
God gives every man a talent—
it don’t come in schools.
It’s just something you born with—

can’t nobody give it.
You have it,
you can’t buy it,
you can’t give it away.

You got it,
so it’s something you born with.
Blues is a part of a man.
It’s the way he feels.

Now,
some people don’t understand.
They think a blues player have to be worried,
troubled,

to sing the blues. That’s wrong.
It’s a talent. If every man with a worry
could play the blues, why—
another guy

worried to death
& he can’t sing a tune.
You ask him to sing the blues,
he says he can’t sing it.

”You have to work hard.
It will come to you.
It’s there for you.
Lots of folks got talent;

they don’t even use it,
but do better sleeping
than another fellow
could do it woke.

”So blues is a sort of thing
on people
like the doctor.
I’ll put it this way:

There’s a doctor,
he has medicine,
he’s never sick,
he ain’t sick,
but he make the stuff

for the sick people.
See, you wouldn’t say,
’Call the doctor.’
’I’m the doctor.’ ‘Oh,

you’re a sick man?’ ‘No,
I just work
on the sick people.’ So
the blues player,

he ain’t worried & bothered,
but he got something
for the worried people. Doctor,
you can see his medicine.

he can see his patient. Blues,
you can’t see the music,
you can’t see the patient
’cause it’s soul. So I works

on the soul
& the doctor works on the body.
Both are important, they all mixed
to one. Two makes one.”

— Detroit May 6, 1986/
New Orleans
November 13, 1995