Messin' With the Kid: The Story Behind the Blues Classic
When you hear the opening riff of "Messin' With the Kid," you know exactly what's coming next. The song is a blues standard, a staple in the genre that has been covered by countless artists over the years. But where did it come from? Who wrote it? And what makes it so special? In this article, we'll explore the history and significance of "Messin' With the Kid," from its origins in the blues tradition to its enduring popularity today.
Origins of the Blues
The blues is a genre of music that originated in African American communities in the South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is characterized by its distinctive style of singing, often accompanied by guitar or other instruments, and its emphasis on personal experience and emotion. The blues grew out of a rich cultural and musical tradition that had its roots in African music, as well as in the work songs and spirituals of slaves. It was a way for African American musicians to express their pain, their joy, and their hopes, and it quickly became a powerful and enduring art form.
One of the most important elements of the blues is the 12-bar blues progression. This is a chord sequence that is used in countless blues songs, and it forms the basis of "Messin' With the Kid." The 12-bar blues is made up of three four-bar phrases: the first phrase uses the I chord (the tonic), the second uses the IV chord (the subdominant), and the third uses the V chord (the dominant). This simple structure is the foundation of many great blues songs, and it has been used by countless musicians over the years to create some of the most iconic music of all time.
The Origin of "Messin' With the Kid"
"Messin' With the Kid" was written by blues guitarist and singer Mel London in the late 1950s. London was a prolific songwriter and producer who worked with many of the great blues musicians of his time, including Little Walter, who recorded the song in 1960. Little Walter was one of the most important blues musicians of the 1950s and 1960s, and he was a master of the harp (harmonica). His version of "Messin' With the Kid" is one of the most popular and enduring recordings of the song, and it helped to cement its place in the blues canon.
The song is a classic example of the 12-bar blues, with a driving rhythm and a memorable riff that is instantly recognizable. Its lyrics are simple but effective, telling the story of a man who is warning a woman to stay away from his son, who is "out to have some fun." The song has a playful and upbeat tone, but there is an underlying sense of danger and menace that gives it an edge.
The Legacy of "Messin' With the Kid"
Over the years, "Messin' With the Kid" has become one of the most popular and iconic songs in the blues genre. It has been covered by countless artists, from the Rolling Stones to Buddy Guy to Junior Wells. It has been used in movies and TV shows, and it has been the subject of numerous scholarly studies and articles. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its timeless appeal and its importance in the history of American music.
But what makes "Messin' With the Kid" so special? For one thing, it is a perfect example of the 12-bar blues form, with a simple but effective chord progression and a memorable melody that sticks in your head. Its lyrics are catchy and relatable, telling a story that speaks to universal themes of love, jealousy, and desire. And its performance is electrifying, with Little Walter's harp playing and vocals capturing the essence of the blues in a way that few other musicians ever have.
"Messin' With the Kid" is a true classic of the blues genre, a song that has endured the test of time and become a beloved part of the American musical tradition. Its simple but effective structure, memorable lyrics, and electrifying performance have made it a favorite of musicians and fans alike, and its legacy continues to this day. Whether you're a lifelong fan of the blues or just discovering it for the first time, "Messin' With the Kid" is a song that you won't soon forget.