People ask me what is the blues, I say the blues is a woman you cannot have.

I met her in Tupelo, Mississippi, at a dance, she was wearing a red dress and waiting for someone but we leaned up against my car and talked. It was August. Her name was Francine. She was so beautiful I knew I didn't stand a chance with her and yet there we were, talking. I asked if she was hungry and she was so we went to a joint called Mom's and she ordered a salad, dressing on the side, and I ordered a hamburger, rare, with a raw onion and mustard. And a glass of gin and a raw egg yolk in a china cup with plenty of pepper.

I was earning my living with a deck of cards and a pool cue back then and I had just won $23,000 in a game of Roll Em so I was feeling flush. I tossed back the raw egg, chased it with gin, took a bite of the hamburger. Francine said, "What's your name?" "My name's Buddy," I said. "Where you going, Buddy? Soon as you finish that hamburger." I said, "I have no idea. I am a free man." She said, "I want to go be free with you." She said, "I never did anything like this before." I said, "Neither did I."

Francine and I got into my 57 Chevy and we headed north toward St. Paul. It was August, it was hot. We drove all day and by nightfall Francine had her head on my shoulder and her hand on my knee and the 57 Chevy was starting to boil over and we pulled into a garage called Mike's next to a ballroom called the Moonlight Club and I told Mike to check the water pump and Francine and I took a stroll next door to the Moonlight Club and we proceeded to dance, real close, her arms around my neck, saying sweet things I could hardly believe.

We left the Moonlight Club, arm in arm, and got in the 57 Chevy and headed for St. Paul, and five hundred miles later I said to her, "Would you like to go find a justice of the peace and get married in the morning?" She was thinking this over and then she let out a yell and she says, "I forgot my favorite lipstick in the ladies' lounge. Shameless Crimson. I can't do without it. We gotta go back, Buddy. Please. Turn around." I said, "Francine, I'll buy you a new lipstick in St. Paul." She said, "I pretty much like that Shameless Crimson." I said, "Francine, I would do anything for you but I am not going to turn around and drive 500 miles in the wrong direction for a lipstick." And she says, "All right, then let me off right here." And I pulled over on the side of the road. She was a girl who knew her own mind. I like that usually but not right then.

I pull over there beside a cornfield in Iowa and crickets chirping and off in the distance a train whistle calls out and she says, "Buddy, if you love me, you'll go back to the Moonlight Club for that Shameless Crimson lipstick that means so much to me. A man should do anything for the woman he loves." And I look out across the field and I say, "Francine, I will buy you a diamond the size of a peanut and marry you forever and we'll live in a house with white columns in front and a swimming pool behind, but I will not go fetch your lipstick. A man does that and pretty soon he is free no longer, and it was freedom that first drew you to me, if I am not mistaken."

I sat there smelling the corn and the newmown hay, and all the goodness of life, but when she opened the door on the passenger side and stepped out on the gravel, I couldn't do a thing about it. I could hear a bullfrog say, "Go back and get it, go back and get it," but I couldn't. She said, "Buddy, I am crazy nuts about you but I could never live with a man who wouldn't go against his principles as a favor to a lady." And she walked away. I heard her footsteps on the gravel and I saw the semi coming and he put on his high beams and hit his brakes and he stopped and opened the door and she got in and he took her away.

I drove to St. Paul and got in a game of baseball poker and in two hours I had lost the twenty three grand and the 57 Chevy, all I had was enough to buy me a hamburger, rare, with a raw onion, some mustard, a glass of gin, and a raw egg yolk in a china cup, and I looked in my shirt pocket for a smoke and there in the pocket was a tube of Shameless Crimson lipstick. And suddenly I could feel her arms around me and smell her perfume and feel her lips on my ear as she whispered things no woman had ever said to me before and nobody ever would again.

People ask me what is the blues, that is the blues right there.