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In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . ..Number 9. . .September 11


Emotional Chaos
Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone

May 19, 2006


For the musician, there seems to be almost a romance in dying young. For some, like Buddy Holly, it comes too soon. For some, like Elvis, it comes too late. Still, dying young is often a good career move. Can any of us imagine a seventy year old Jim Morrison? Janis Joplin appearing as a judge on "American Idol", or Jimi Hendrix doing a guest shot on "Will and Grace"?

This was especially true with The Blues. It could have been the times in which they lived and the world that shaped them; poverty, segregation, Jim Crow, the hard life and temptations of the road, the torment of genius. But who can forget the legacy they left, unforgettable songs such as "I May be Color Blind but I Know I Got the Blues", "Scorned Woman With A Chain Saw", Broken Face Blues", "I Headed for Memphis but Ended up in Hell", "The Last Train to Chattanooga Done Run Over my Dog" and "Forcin' A Frenchman Down a Hole Blues" (which was banned in Alabama for being both "immoral and obtuse")? But, as the old saying goes, you have to suffer to sing the blues.

One of the last surviving musicians of the Golden Age of the Blues is Duncan "Cake" Hines. Best known for the classic songs "Faceful of Acid Blues", "Fixin' to Hemorrhage", "Groin Injury Blues (My Woman Kicked Me Hard)" and, of course, "My Woman's Like A Chicken Bone in My Throat", Hines played with the likes of Professor Longhair, Big Mama Thornton, T-Bone Walker, Son House and Willie Brown. Still performing despite being 89 years old, we spoke to the blues legend when he was playing a gig at Scullers Jazz Club in Cambridge with the great Blind Jellyroll Berkowitz ("I Got Two Glass Eyes But Still I See (How My Baby Been Cheating on Me)", "Downed Power Line on a Wet Road Blues", etc). We found him to be enthusiastic, passionate about his music and unfortunately, mad as a hatter. He was philosophical about the life of a bluesman.

"Sure, some of us lived to be old men; Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, B. B. King, T-Bone Walker, but we're rarer than albinos in politics. So many died too young. Just look at Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson. A lotta blindness, too, now that I think about it. Yes, sir. A whole lotta blindness..."

He leaned over and took a sip out of the Coleman lantern that stood on a table near his beloved guitar "Kierkegaard", the only instrument he'd played in his seventy-plus year career. "Lotta tragedy, too. It was a hard life. Look at Leadbelly, Tommy Johnson, Memphis Sadie, Big Papa Poe, Broken Neck Parker, Otis "High Cholesterol" Rupp, Elmore "Night Terrors" Brown, Bessie "Convulsing Molly" Doak, Bowel Obstruction Benson, Torn Rotator Cuff Coleman, Violent Mood Swings Turner... I remember my first side man, "Harpoon Through The Eye" Harper. He got that nickname doin' a stretch in Joliet for bein' a heroin addict. Funny story, but anyway, Harpoon Through the Eye died young, too. He got hit by a bus crossin' the street in Jackson, Mississippi. Bad depth perception. Sad, really sad."

He seemed to brighten a little when he noticed us looking at his famous guitar. It was worn with age, but looked smooth, mellow, the very soul of the blues. "You see this guitar? Willie "Bipolar" Jefferson wrote "Big Hot Mamma's Got a Small Cold Heart" on this very guitar. It was about Bertha "Sassy Mama" Buell, the singer Bessie Smith herself called, "The best woman blues singer since Lulu "Repetitive Strain Injury" Coolidge". I can't think of higher praise that that, can you? He gave it to me just before he died of the gum disease known as gingivitis. Yes, sir, if this guitar could talk..."

He caressed the guitar like an oddly shaped woman and took another drink. "Like I said, it was a hard life. You probably don't remember Lester "inflamed Lymph Nodes" Boone. When he wrote "There Ain't Enough Whiskey in Tennessee to Wash my Blues Away", he was being literal. They found him in a barrel at the Jack Daniels distillery. It was his request that they bury him in that barrel, which is good, 'cause it would be distressin' to be sippin' whiskey in a bar some night and find a cuff link in it."

It was finally time for him to take the stage and do what he had been doing for the better part of the 20th century, what he did best. He only stopped long enough to drop a bowling ball on his foot. "Like they say", he said with a wink, "You gotta suffer to play the blues!"



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Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
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Ginger & Shadow. ..Writer's Block.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics . Online Store..
In The Zone. ..Number 9. . .September 11