A blues lawyer is guitar slang for high-income hobby guitarists who buy expensive guitars, amps and accessories, and then play the same old blues and classic rock they’ve been playing for the last 30 years without improvement. It’s like the musician version of “ok boomer”.
A blues lawyer is typically a doctor, and engineer or yes, a lawyer, who doesn’t play shows, but has a room in their house where they keep their $10k Martin, a couple of $3k to $8k Gibson Les Pauls, maybe a couple of classic amps, and use them to play some basic blues solos. Their walls are probably adorned with framed concert posters of Joe Bonamassa (the patron saint of blues lawyers), they probably have a couple of Gibson bar stools, and a corner with five or six “case queens”, aka expensive guitars that are owned to be owned but never played (maybe don’t even see a string change from one year to the next).
So… we hate them, right?
See there are two schools of thought on blues lawyers (other than the sneering which really is just par for the course with guitar communities.
Some say that blues lawyers are bad for working musicians because they pay crazy amounts of money for every more elaborate versions of workhorse guitars, such as the Gibson Les Paul or the Fender Stratocaster. So the argument goes, Gibson then ends up chasing this market by raising the price on their newer models to make them appear more exclusive than last year’s models, which has the effect of pricing guitars out of the hands of working musicians.
However, some say that the blues lawyer is a good thing for the industry, because they pump money into the industry which can then be used to produce more high quality guitars for less money.
Why do blues lawyers even exist? Cheap guitars are good now.
These days, budget-minded guitarists have an amazing range of affordable guitars to choose from. Not to sound like a blues lawyer here, but back in my day, any guitar under about $600 was typically junk. Nowadays you can get a very decent guitar for $300, and you can easily follow some YouTube videos and turn a $150 guitar that plays badly and sounds iffy into something you’d be comfortable gigging.
However, when Blues Lawyer was a kid, they played all those crappy Sears Catalog guitars and dreamed of the day they could have a shiny Gibson Les Paul Custom to call their own.
So now they’re pulling six figures and yeah, they could get an amazing Epiphone Les Paul Custom for about $600 that would play and sound about 95% of the way there to the Gibson, but this is their life’s dream, right?
So instead of say, spending $5000 on lessons and becoming an amazing guitarist (something that involves the kind of patience and dedication they don’t have time for, what with their high pressure six figure income job), they spent that money on a beautiful guitar, plug it into their $1500 Fender Tweed, and do the blues lawyer noodle (aka five licks in a minor pentatonic).
The Guy Every Blues Lawyer Wants To Be
Anyone who’s looked at guitars on Instagram for a few hours (who hasn’t) has probably seen one of the most iconic Gibson Les Pauls of all time, the “Kossoff Burst”.
At a show the night before Free broke up, Paul Kossoff threw his 1959 Gibson Les Paul into the air and let it fall to the stage, breaking it’s neck. Backstage, he saw a goldtop he liked the look of and made the trade.
Fast forward 40 plus years and the guitar made it’s way to it’s current owner, a roofing contractor so famous for his music room he was profiled by Guitar Magazine, Kris Blakely, aka Fried Okra.
Okra has been collecting guitars while on the road with his father’s roofing company since he was in his 20s, and his collection includes a wide range of ultra expensive and rare instruments, from the Kossoff Burst to a rare 1934 Gibson L-75.
His music room, Fried Okra’s Lizard lounge, is so famous it has it’s own merch, and his Instagram is a who’s who of blues and classic rock guitarists who stop by to gaze on his collection. Look at the comments and it’s not unusual to see the Bob Dylan of Blues Lawyers himself, Joe Bonamassa, just hanging out chatting.
So hold up, is Okra a blues lawyer?
Well, not quite. For one, he’s not a lawyer (can you be a blues roofing contactor?), and for another, he’s not some rich dude buying expensive guitars with his crazy salary. Blakely has been finding, buying and selling guitars for decades. When it came time to put down the money for the Kossoff Burst, he literally had a dealer friend come and “fill up the van” with guitars from his collection to cover the tab.
So why does Blues Lawyer want to be him?
Simple – he has a killer guitar collection, he regularly has guys like Jared James Nichols coming by to play said collection – all while getting up at 5am every morning to go to work.
Truly, the blues lawyer’s dream.
Will I become a blues lawyer some day?
Well, first you’ll need to make a ton of money, so there’s that hurdle.
However, maybe the blues lawyer of today becomes the Prog Lawyer or Black Metal Lawyer of tomorrow. Maybe in 30 years someone’s gonna sneer Periphery Lawyer at you and you’ll ban them from your PRS Facebook group for being rude, before realizing “damn, I’m Blues Lawyer!”