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Really the Blues

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  320 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
The story of Milton Mezzrow--a white kid who fell in love with black culture. First published in 1946, "Really the Blues" was a rousing wake-up call to alienated young whites to explore the world of jazz, the first music America could call its own. Told in the jive lingo of the underground's inner circle, this classic is an unforgettable chronicle of street life, smoky clu ...more
Paperback, 424 pages
Published December 1st 2001 by Citadel Underground (first published 1946)
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Jan 06, 2011 Stephen rated it really liked it
"Really The Blues" demonstrates how it's good to have something to do.

Talk about alternative paths. Milton "Mezz" Mezzrow blazed one through the jungle of conformity, "went black," lost time to drugs, fomented early 20th century jazz, became too familiar with jail, but remained focused on a vision.

Were it not for the journey New Orleans jazz made up the Mississippi to Chicago in the early paces of the 20th century, Milton Mezzrow would have had, like all of us, a story to tell, but no audience
Aug 14, 2011 Janis rated it liked it
Really the Blues is the story of Milton Mesirow, a Jewish kid from Chicago possessed by jazz and black culture, as told to Bernard Wolfe. With its hip jive-talk and descriptions of clubs, dens and prisons, it captures an important time and place in American music. I could’ve used an introduction that offered context and, as a piece, the book was a little long (and Mezz kind of a self-promoter). I loved best his experiences in my home town of Chicago, his observant descriptions of musicians, and ...more
William Wirths
May 25, 2013 William Wirths rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-time-faves
This is my favorite book, ever. Huge, major, innsabely big influence on my life and world view.
As I write this, I am beginning to get more than just a little wig fried out by the fact that he and I have had some very similar lives.
- We both discovered a music that changed our lives.
-We hve both devoted most of our lives toward promoting and playing what we consider to be "the real stuff."
Mezzrow and myself have both experienced the horrors of drug addiction.
We both sing the praises of Marijuana,
Jul 31, 2008 Wally rated it it was amazing
Great book- wonderful historical insight and great tales- even though most of it probably isn't true!
Nate Jordon
Apr 07, 2008 Nate Jordon rated it liked it
for thesis research...

Published in the late 1940s, this book had to be a huge influence on the Beat Generation writers - and yet, that comes as a surprise because who's heard of this man or his book? Presented here is the life of Mezz Mezzrow - "the guy, behind the guy" in the Jazz world. Drug addict, drug pusher, and good friends with - and musical director of - Louis Armstrong, Mezz tells the story behind the scenes of the jazz explosion of the 20s and beyond. Written in Harlem vernacular, you
Aug 06, 2010 Harold rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, bio-autobio
Gotta love Mezz. A true character from the earlier days of jazz. It's a very enjoyable and entertaining book. Mezz was around when it all happened and made some records with many jazz greats of the era - but truth be told - he was there mainly as a source of marijuana to musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet, etc. They tolerated his playing and he kept them high. Many of the older musicians got a kick out of this book,but viewed it as an attempt at self promotion. With all that jus ...more
Peter Landau
Mar 07, 2017 Peter Landau rated it really liked it
REALLY THE BLUES is the story of Mezz Mezzrow, one of the first hipsters, white negroes, cultural appropriators, whatever they’re calling it nowadays. A Jewish ghetto snipe from Chicago, he was introduced to dixieland jazz on a stint in prison as a boy and never looked back. Though a decent clarinet player and professional musician of some renown, he’s more infamous as a pot dealer, and the book can be read as a love poem to getting stoned. But it’s also a lexicon of hip slang of the time, the d ...more
Orville Jenkins
May 14, 2014 Orville Jenkins rated it it was amazing
The Blues Backstory

This review is from: Really The Blues (Paperback)

This is Mezzrow's own account of his early life, musical influences, bands he played with and led, and the development of blues/jazz from his involvement in the early days. Mezzrow represents a huge gap in my knowledge of the development of jazz and blues.

Mezzrow was a Polish-American Jew who became fascinated with the creative sounds arising out of the Southern black cultural music we know as blues, now loved around the world.
Michel-olivier Gasse
May 22, 2013 Michel-olivier Gasse rated it really liked it
Malgré que ce soit tiré par les cheveux de temps en temps, ce livre porte malheureusement bien son titre français un peu ringard, "La rage de vivre". Magnifique portrait du Chicago south-side et du Harlem des années 20-40, au travers de la passion d'un juif blanc pour la culture noire. On y croise Bix Biederbecke, Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa, Sidney Bechet, et de magnifiques compagnons de prison. À recommander aux fans de New Orleans et aux fervents d'Henry Miller.
Michael Todd
Aug 03, 2010 Michael Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A rare historical document of the blues musician during its golden age. Mezz grew up in the streets during the '20s and he describes life as a musician isn't a bed of roses. In addition to the musical history lesson, this book is peppered with the hip lingo that cool jazz cats used back in the day.
Jul 31, 2009 Becky rated it it was amazing
Formed my character.
Sep 09, 2008 Jody rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of all time!
Konrad Lenz
Jul 25, 2012 Konrad Lenz rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the greatest book about music ever.
Jan 22, 2010 Orlandoraskal rated it it was amazing

"Music School? Are you kidding? I learned to play the sax in Pontiac Reformatory." Mezz Mezzrow.

One of the best books about jazz I've ever read. Mezzrow, born in 1899, was a sax and clarinet player, arranger and marijuana dealer who worked with and sold to many of the great early jazz players including Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter and Fats Waller.

A white Jewish kid from Chicago, Mezzrow claims to learned from playing on the street and then honing his skills from
Aug 15, 2013 Ken rated it liked it
An entertaining and informative 'rave up' that comes across like one, long spoken jazz riff.

The book is an autobiography first released in 1946 about Mezz Mezzrow, a white kid from the north-side of Chicago who not only loved jazz and blues, but felt strongly attracted to the entire Black race. It looked like he might spend his entire life behind bars for pointless and absurd crimes, yet his love of music and the people that made it seemed to offer him hope. At that time in American history, hi
Jul 08, 2013 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to learn about jazz, but also want an entertaining and vibrant look at the era, this is the book.

I read this as a teenager when I asked my Dad what book I should read to learn about jazz. Without a fraction of a second of hesitation, he said "Really The Blues" by Mezz Mezzrow.

Name the figure you want to learn about from the truly gritty and heady part of the jazz scene. Now go pick this up and read it.

Opening line: "Music school? Are you kidding? I learned how to play sax in Pontiac
Apr 16, 2011 Oakley rated it it was amazing
Damn this Mezz is hip. This is his life story and it's full of funny stories, characters and a commitment to spreading the gospel of jazz and blues. He hung out with some heavy hitters including Louie Armstrong, Al Capone, James P Johnson and became a fixture in Harlem. Pretty cool and unique for a white guy in the 1st half of the 20th century. His dedication to jazz and writing this book actually did change the world.
Jan 29, 2008 Lisaavery rated it really liked it
A fellow Tom Waits' lover recommended this book to me because Tom cites it as one of his favorite books. I have had so much fun with this book on so many levels. I've learned a new language, discovered new jazz musicians, learned about jazz in its coming of age, all while reading a fantastic story of a passionate Jewish kid making the jazz scene. I'm taking this one slowly as I simply do not want it to end.
Floyd Webb
Oct 09, 2011 Floyd Webb rated it really liked it
A really great look at the jazz scene in Chicago in the 1930s, through the eyes of a first generation Russian American Jew who decide to become a "voluntary Negro." Good friends with Louis Armstrong, a musician in his own right and chronicler of Jive language, Mezzrow was probably the most famous distributor of Cannabis this country has know , from the time it was still legal.
Steve Leach
Nov 08, 2010 Steve Leach rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jazz, biography
A whole bio written in jivey hepcat talk? That may sound pretty dang annoying, but I truly love this book. It's an anomaly, written by an anomaly, a white musician who "went black" in the thirties and forties. Great jazz milieu anecdotes told like it's late at night in the dressing room. Or in a car full of reefer smoke.
This book made a huge impression on me when I was about 13 years old -- early 1960s, suburbs of NYC. It taught me something about the world of jazz, but more importantly, that the clean suburban life was not the only reality. For better or worse, this was a life forming book (along with On The Road and other beat prose and poetry).
Mar 13, 2008 Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A hugely enjoyable exercise in shameless self promotion. Lots of the claims Mezzrow makes for himself, he'd struggle to verify but its none the less entertaining for that.I can see why Waits (who I'm also a big fan of) likes it so much, I think its also the source of his lyric "Jim Crow's directing traffic with them cemetery blues"
Jan 25, 2008 Evan rated it really liked it
Very entertaining first-person account of jazz's infancy by one of its seminal players (although I did get a little weary of Mezzrow being impressed with his own authenticity, and with his refusal to let jazz evolve).
Jen Kiper
Apr 18, 2013 Jen Kiper rated it really liked it
Enjoyable read. Found it through Keith Richards' bio Life where he cited it as his early introduction to blues music and culture. Loved the glossary of terms as well. Worth reading and fun.
Aug 08, 2010 Robert marked it as to-read
On the recommendation of former bandmate and friend of 50+ years, I'm adding this to my to-read shelf.
Eric Denny
Feb 01, 2011 Eric Denny rated it really liked it
Read this on Keith Richards's recommendation from his autobio. Great book on early jazz, Chicago, Harlem, and marijuana. Had to request it from library storage.
Savage Moffitt
Aug 10, 2011 Savage Moffitt rated it it was amazing
essential reading. excellent book.
Jean-denis Crouhy
Jul 27, 2011 Jean-denis Crouhy rated it it was amazing
Mezz Mezzrow, clarinetiste oublié aujourd'hui, nous fait revivre les premières heures du Jazz et le Chicago d'Al Capone !
Dec 14, 2008 Joshuaburkett rated it it was amazing
still great document of the underground music/drug scene of the 40's...includes glossary for the intense&thick/ street-slang.
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NYRB Classics: Really the Blues, by Mezz Mezzrow & Bernard Wolfe 3 15 Feb 24, 2016 12:30PM  
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Milton "Mezz" Mezzrow was a jazz player.
More about Mezz Mezzrow...

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