In Olde English, The Keep was a castle within the castle, a stronghold within the fortress. The word survives today with a modified meaning: to hold safe or to hold strongly. To hold for one's self, not surrendering. This post will relate a kernel of that meaning to playing Blues Harmonica, thus...
Keep the Fire Burning
Learn the music. Learn the music as fully, completely, literally, exactly, as you are able. Don't cut corners on your understanding. Learn the difference between The Walters, The Sonny Boys, Jimmy, Junior, SuperHarp and Memphis Charlie, Gwen Foster, DeFord Bailey, and all. Learn to quote them chapter and verse (not their words, their music). What's that? You don't think that's necessary? I'll tell you what: There's not a Top Level harmonica player today that can't do exactly that. You need to know the vocabulary. Learn it by heart, by ear, commit it to memory, refer to it often.
Keep It Up
Stay positive about your life, your music, your vocation, your instrument of choice. Life is good. It sure as Hell beats the alternative. The best way to meet adversity is with a smile on your face, a gleam in your eye, and The Fire in your belly. Laugh, grin, laugh some more.
Keep It Down
On the bandstand, play what must be played. Play succinctly. Play with conviction, determination, a full heart, but mostly with brevity. Don't give your listeners the idea you're getting paid by the note. Listen to the band. Leave some air around your notes so they're not strangled to death. Lay out sometimes.
Play 'The Devil's Music' like you mean to conjure Old Scratch himself to the Joint. Don't just talk it. Don't pretend. Play from the soles of your feet, from way down deep. Mean it!
Keep Em Clean
Take care of your instruments and they'll take care of you. A filthy instrument, mic, amp, or other piece of gear, does NOT make you look road-weary and authentic; it makes you look like a slovenly pig. Clean your shit up and keep it in tune and operating correctly. Show some self-respect. (Take a shower while you're at it!)
Keep Em Close
Don't walk away from your gear - keep a sharp eye out. I know more musicians who have lost something irreplaceable because they took their eye off it 'for just a second'. Remember that not everyone at or near the Joint is your friend or even your fan. There are hunters and scavengers all around, and they're often hard to spot. Don't sustain them.
Keep Em Warm
Play your instrument(s). Every. Single. Day. Without fail. PLAY.
Keep it to Yourself
Living a hard life? Landlord throw you out? Broke? Your partner leave you? Keep that shit to yourself, don't bring it to the gig. Smile. Don't bring that RBF to the gig either.
Keep It Going
Don't quit. DO NOT quit. Never ever fucking quit, never stop playing the music. This music is a gift, born from circumstances and history we in this century will never really understand. It deserves a revered place in American culture more than most of it's current practitioners. Honor it. Preserve it. Keep it.
Keep It Real
Don't try to fool yourself (cause you sure as Hell ain't fooling me). Don't be a poser or a minstrel. Don't 'Ape it'. Stick to Karaoke and Open Mic Night if you're a hobbyist. If you don't feel it, don't try to 'fake it 'till you make it'. Keep it fucking real.