Poetry Challenge #86: Riffing Chicago Style

On a flight from Chicago, munching Garrett’s Popcorn (the best part of O’Hare layovers), my bygone Chicago Blues popped into mind—specifically one night I heard Albert King play Crosscut Saw*. It’s nicknamed “that dirty blues song” but, it doesn’t have to be. That’s the challenge!

The Garrett’s Kiosk at O’Hare, opposite gate B8

The Garrett’s Kiosk at O’Hare, opposite gate B8

Poetry Challenge #86

Riffing Chicago Style

Chicago Style Blues started as musical improv, performers creating on the fly, riffing off each other, daring each other, challenging each other and themselves to come up with song verses that fit the pattern. A performer starts with one line that fits a beat. That line is then repeated. Then a third longer line finishes the stanza with a word that rhymes with the previous two. Simple as that—if you’re a smokin’ guitarist.

Here’s the opening stanza of Tommy McClennan’s Crosscut Saw as Albert King played it:

Crosscut Saw
I’m a cross cut saw, Baby/ just drag me ‘cross your log I’m a cross cut saw, Baby/ just drag me across your log I cut your wood so easy, you can’t help but say ‘Hot dog!’
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crosscut_Saw_(song)#Albert_King_version
Albert-King.png

It’s said, one reason the second line repeats the first, which is so much a part of traditional Blues, is to give performers creating on the fly, time to think of a rhyming last line. For fun, blues players toss the song around, challenging each other by taking turns coming up with new stanzas.  Let’s give it a try. Here’s a template to get us started:

I’m a something or other, name,  just doing something somewhere.

I’m a something or other, name,  just doing something somewhere.

I verb the noun so easy, I’ll say or do something that fits and ends in a rhyme

My Effort: 

I’m a green frog, Henry, just sitting on a rock. 

I’m a green frog, Henry, just sitting on a rock.

I’ll hop and croak so loudly, I’ll blast you off your dock.  

Now that you’ve set a pattern, try stringing 2 or 3 stanzas together—or 5 for your own blues song.

Grab your air guitar and get Bluesy!

Set the timer for 7 minutes.

Start writing!

Don’t think about it too much; just do it.

*From Wikipedia: "Crosscut Saw", or "Cross Cut Saw Blues" as it was first called, is a dirty blues song "that must have belonged to the general repertoire of the Delta blues".[1] The song was first released in 1941 by Mississippi bluesman Tommy McClennan and has since been interpreted by many blues artists.

*Cindy Faughnan and I began this 7-Minute Poetry Challenge 1100-ish days ago. We now take turns creating our own prompts to share with you. If you join us in the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge let us know by posting the title, a note, or if you want, the whole poem in the comments.

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