THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUTH:

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

“THERE AIN’T BUT THE ONE THING MAKES MISTER JOHNSON DRINK”

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I fell in love with the music of ROBERT JOHNSON in the late 1970s, and played it frequently during the early 1980s while hanging out with THE LEAGUE OF SOUL CRUSADERS in my “Liquidated Youth” (some people have a “drinking buddy” but I had a “drinking gang”). I owned both of the 'KING OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS' albums, and though Vol. 1 had Robert Johnson's most revered Blues masterpieces, including his great “devil” tunes, I always preferred Vol. 2 because I felt it contained more sonic variety. Even my Ma loved “They’re Red Hot” because of all the changes in pitch that Johnson’s voice assumes in that cut.
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I played the hell out of Robert Johnson in those days, and the other Soul Crusaders became infected with the Blues as a result. They eventually learned the words to 'Love In Vain' and we’d sing it while driving to the next watering hole.
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By now, everyone’s heard that Johnson sold his soul to the devil for his prodigious musical talent. (What’re ya tryin’ to do, cast doubt on one of the great stories in the history of American music? Why ya blasted commie, I oughta --- a-Woo-Woo-Woo!) And hopefully you know that Led Zeppelin ripped off Johnson (and Wolf and Muddy) shamelessly with their first two albums. (Remember that line from Led Zepp II, where Plant sings, “You can squeeze my lemon ’til the juice runs down my leg”? Stole it directly from Robert Johnson. But R.J. wasn’t always so crude with his “seckshual” references; he could also be funny. In 'From Four Until Late' he sings, “A woman is like a dresser; some man’s always rambling through its drawers.”)

I have myriad Robert Johnson/Booze 'N' Blues memories intertwined throughout my personal history to keep me company in my sober, old age. When we League Of Soul Crusaders were in an energetic drinkin’ mood we’d often play Springsteen’s 'BORN TO RUN', 'MORRISON HOTEL' by The Doors, or 'TOO-RYE-AY' by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. When I was in a more mellow, contemplative mood, I’d drink to Van Morrison’s 'ASTRAL WEEKS', 'PIRATES' by Rickie Lee Jones, or 'SMALL CHANGE' by Tom Waits. (Of course, when we were in a Country-Western frame of mind there was just no substitute for the album 'MY BABY BUSTED MY HEART BUT I’M CRYIN’ 'CAUSE I SLICED AN ONION' by Yoey O’Dogherty And His Corn Liquor Boys.)

But at 3:30 AM, when all the other Soul Crusaders were passed out, me 'n' Twinkie would head for his bedroom. I know what you’re thinkin’, and it wasn’t like that at all! Despite his nickname, Twinkie and I were both manly men – like lumberjacks, Jack! And we were just going into his bedroom to listen to Robert Johnson. One night, we experienced a Liquidated Magical Moment: We simultaneously heard an R.J. lick that was literally “IMPOSSIBLE” for a single guitarist to play. Our heads snapped, and we looked to each other, both of us slack-jawed. We never could find that exact same spot on the album again when in a sober state, so it was just one more of those mysterious “thangs” that happen when Boys 'N' Booze meet (you rummies know what I’m yakkin’ 'bout).
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Twinkie’s real surname was “Johnson”, and borrowing the lyric from 'Kind Hearted Woman Blues', we used to sing out “Now there ain’t but the one thing makes Mister Johnson drink” every time he was having female troubles. (And he was ALWAYS having female troubles, so he did a lot of drinking. I only drank when I didn’t have a woman to give me trouble - meaning this lonesome boy also did a lot of drinking.) And Robert Johnson even inspired me to write my own Blues song, 'Devil On My Coattail Blues'. I’d sing it for ya, but I like ya too much to do that.

The best performance of R.J.’s 'Love In Vain' that the Soul Crusaders ever gave was the night an angry Napoleon (aka Nappy), my brother (The League’s 5’ 6” “enforcer”), decided to stumble home from The Music Machine dance club when a smart woman declined his request for a dance. It would have been about a 12-mile walk, so we went looking for him shortly after he stormed out. Meanwhile, Napoleon had entered a bar to buy a cigar for the walk home, when some "big, fat feller with some artificial hair" started some crap with Nappy just because he was only 5’ 6”. Well, Nappy – never one to take any crap – reciprocated with some lip o' his own and then left the bar with his cigar.

Fat Feller, figuring he would show his bar buddies how tough he was, went out after little Nappy and took a swing at him. (Ooooh, big boo-boo, Fat Feller! Ya just don’t antagonize “Little Mad Guy”). With freakish quickness, Nappy flicked a left jab to set Fat Feller up, and immediately followed that with the right cross. Now ordinarily, Nappy’s right cross is enough to send ANY man to the next lunar cycle, if not to the Moon itself. But in this case, being in the “100-proof condition” that he was, Nappy’s punch merely succeeded in putting Fat Feller’s head into the full-speed Linda Blair Exorcist-Spin Cycle. By the time the headlights of our van flashed upon the two combatants squared off with each other in the street, Fat Feller’s head was just coming to a stop, his toupee was lying in the dirt in the next county, and all of the fight had gone out of him (who knows where it went, but it was later reported that something with its tail between its legs was seen yelping Westbound on Pico Boulevard, moving with great haste toward the Pacific Ocean).

We hustled Napoleon into the van while apologizing to Fat Feller (Nappy was involved in this altercation, so naturally we had just “assumed” it was his fault), but undoubtedly Fat Feller couldn’t hear the apology because of the ringing in his ears. And we drove off singing, “Ooooh-Ooooh, all my love’s in vain!”
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When I converted my Robert Johnson albums to compact disc, I bought 'The Complete Recordings' but the thing gave me the blues because I didn’t like the fact that all of the alternate takes were placed back-to-back with their released versions, so that unless I wanted to take time to program the player first, I was hearing many of the songs twice in a row. So I later sold that set and acquired 'KING OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS Volume 1 and 2' separately, and I’m much happier now. 
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Whether you need a soundtrack for drinkin’, fightin’, cryin’, or just general 'carrying on' - or need great Blues just for listenin’ to 'cause that’s the kinda guy or gal ya are – 'KING OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS' is the real deal, the genuine bust-head article, true Blues for the true you! Buy it today and start creating your own intoxicated Robert Johnson memories.

But whatever you do, don’t listen to 'KING OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS' while in public, especially while you’re driving, or you’ll have M.A.R.J. (Mothers Against Robert Johnson) madd at ya, and that’s even worse than having Napoleon madd at ya!
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

21 comments:

  1. I reckon we all associate music with various events and times in our lives. It'd be interesting to consider whether we select music to reflect an already-existent mood, or if the music we listen to tends to dictate it. i.e. Do people listen to blues or angst-filled music like Nine Inch Nails because they're feeling low, or does listening to it make them feel that way...?

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    1. SUSAN ~
      To me, Blues is not really sad music. It's more like a deep groove thang.

      And the only way I'd go for Nine Inch Nails is if I were a carpenter... but then again, no. Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      Delete
  2. I know that this wasn't the point of this post, but sometimes I read your stuff and think, "That guy is really a terrific writer. He sets the scene so well, tells the story in a way that you feel like you are there, and creates visuals that make you laugh." Really outstanding.

    I know it's not much, but it's the best I can do. My gift is my comment and this one's for you.

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    1. GIRL WONDER ~
      Oh, wow, Dudette, what a lovely gift! Stellar (by starlight), just absolutely A-list. I thanks you so much! [By the way, for the last hour and a half I've been listening to this great Cannonball Adderley album which includes the track 'Stella By Starlight', so THAT'S how that sneaked in there.]

      That last line of yours literally made me laugh out loud. Way to pick up the thread and run with it!

      When the acting dream died, the writing dream took its place. (Well, truth is, I have ALWAYS written, even when I was trying to build an acting career. And in fact my acting buddy Marty told me he thought I had more of a writer's mentality than an actor's mentality... and as far as I know, he wasn't alluding to the boozing;-)

      But the writing dream died too, and was replaced by the bloggin' dream which was sorta kinda fulfilled in a half-empty way.

      This piece was actually written in 2007 but everyone hated it so I removed it from the Internet. But with F-FFF on its last legs, that ol' rebellious spirit in me rose up and I got the idea to post this thang again as a sort of middle-finger salute before the "Adios".

      I wasn't even sure if I had saved a copy of it in a Word File but did a search last night and was happy to find that I'd not also deleted it from my computer file.

      As is the case with a lot of what I write, there are a bunch of little winks and nods and random things tossed into this record review. There's an allusion to the Three Stooges, a little known martial arts B movie (probably more like C or D movie), a lyric line from a very funny Hank Williams Junior song and God only knows what else.

      Thanks, Robin, for making my day.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      Delete
  3. At the risk of admitting I don't know if your eyes are green or blue... a very entertaining story! And I agree about the storyteller's skill.

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    1. Thanks, BROTHER MARTIN.
      Actually, they're usually a pretty shade of 'bloodshot'.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      Delete
  4. I have to agree with the previous two comments and add that I have always thought you’re a good writer. You tend to cloak these reviews in your memoirs and although the review might be the impetus for revealing so much about your friends, family and inglorious past, I personally don’t need the review, just give us more stories.

    You, my friend, are the one who has a story to tell and you also have the ability to tell it well. Think of the many people who might get a laugh, a sigh (you know me, and I mistakenly typed sign here at first – I went back and changed it, but thought maybe I shouldn’t have. Just sayin’!), maybe even shed a tear or two, and potentially be inspired by your life story. That McBuddy just might be ‘the message’.

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    1. What're ya yakkin' about?
      My past was... GLORIOUS!
      G-L-O-R-I-OUS, that spells Harrigan - that's me!

      And I'd rather have a massage than a message.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      Delete
  5. Robin (Girl Wonder):

    That's what I'VE been saying since I first read Stephen's stuffs - this guy is one of the best writers I've ever read. And I mean, ever. (StMcC: turn away from the screen! Do NOT read this or your James-Dean-like noggin will jump from a 7 to 9 hat size.)

    He has his own style, and I've never read anything quite like it. It is filled with far more references to a wide variety of things than I can ever pick out, though I can still pick out plenty. Most people fill their prose with nothing, let alone fun allusions that require knowing something more than the average reader! He never cuts a corner in his writing. He is never rushed, never afraid of making something too long. Now, that is not a "back-handed compliment" saying he's long-winded. On the contrary, most people do not take the time to extract the essence of a subject... to get to what really matters. Our mutual friend here does.

    I suggest, if you have not done so, read the tribute to Linda Haley.
    http://xtremelyun-pcandunrepentant.blogspot.com/2011/07/some-fuckery-in-memory-of-my-friend.html

    I just hope that Stephen can be convinced to not give up his blogging!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. SHEBOYGANBROTHER SIX ~
      Wow! I'm so embarrassed.

      I'm so embarrassed that I would delete your comment if not for the fact that I appreciate its accuracy.

      Unfortunately, I could never be a professional writer because I don't know enough big words. Hell, the biggest word I know is 'ginormous', and that's just not big enough.

      Well, that's not entirely true.
      I do know one bigger word:
      supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

      But overusing that word is really quite atrocious.

      In all seriousness... I really AM embarrassed... but also grateful for such over-the-top, kind, A-list compliments.

      Not to worry SBB-6 - we'll always have the Band Battles. (I intend to keep 'BOTB' alive as long as people are interested, and I have a list of future song match-ups to get me to the year 2525, if man is still alive.)

      My thanks to all y'all (sincerely, from the bottom of my constricted, pea-sized heart).

      I gotta start thinking about brushing my teeth and getting into my jamas now. Tomorrow’s going to be another working day and I’m trying to get some rest. That’s all, I’m trying to get some rest.

      Yak Later, Good Peoples.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      POSTSCRIPT: Six, have you lost weight? You look to be about six hundred and sixty pounds lighter than the last time I seen ya.

      Delete
    2. Six,
      I didn't know Linda Haley but StMc linked that post for me a while back so that I could read it. Yes, it is lovely. I hope that when I go he says half as many nice things about me!!!

      StMc,
      It is my fervent hope that you will continue to blog beyond BOTB. I have faith that our government will continue screwing the pooch and you will feel compelled to write about it:) That isn't really funny when you think about it (and not worthy of a smiley face), but you know what I mean.

      As for writing in general... even the Expert Writers say that it is better to use the $5 word than the $10 word, so you can't dissuade me with the excuse that "I don't know enough big words." It isn't about that... not remotely.

      In fact, the made up words you use are extremely clever and speak a great deal to your personality. I enjoy them enormously and envy the creative mind that comes up with that stuff. I think I told you already that I can't even make up nicknames very well. It's just not a gift that I have... sigh. cry. sigh.

      If you ever change your mind about writing that book, consider me the first in line to as a Critique Partner. Yeah, I just really want to read it first and free... but I promise to offer up suggestions, which you are likely to ignore. I think I better come up with something more appealing when you get off your duff and actually do this thing. Maybe I will be a grammar expert by then and can help you with your commas. Everyone needs help with commas:)

      Delete
  6. GIRL WONDER ~
    Dang! That's scary. I don't even remember ever linking you to the Linda Haley tribute. Let this be a lesson to everyone: If you allow Jim Beam to stay in your house, he'll steal your memory as soon as your back's turned!

    Unfortunately for you, I'll undoubtedly 'exit stage right' before you do. But if not, I promise to write nice things about you too.
    :-)

    The bit about "big words" was totally facetious. In fact, having been a voracious reader for most of my life, I have a pretty decent vocabulary, but prefer to keep it simple.

    Many years ago I came across the following two quotes and took them to heart. (You'd find them on my collection of Favorite Quotes at the old 'Stuffs' blog).

    http://stephentmccarthysstuffs.blogspot.com/2009/01/favorite-jokes-n-quotes-n-stuffs-part-1.html

    I never write "metropolis" for seven cents because I can get the same price for "city." I never write "policeman" because I can get the same money for "cop."
    ~ Mark Twain

    Some of what has still to be learned by the West may appear to be almost absurdly simple and elementary, but it is important nonetheless. For example, never to use a long word where a short one will serve equally well, never to write with the idea of proving one's own erudition but rather in order to ensure that one's ideas shall be made as understandable to the reader as possible.
    ~ Douglas Hyde
    (from his book "Dedication And Leadership")


    Well, I still have a major 2-part blog bit to write for closure here at F-FFF. And there's still a massive essay I've been intending to write about the U.S. military. So, who knows, maybe someday I'll scratch that itch.

    So, I ain't sayin' "Never." Someday I may even surprise myself by returning to F-FFF and starting this whole mess up again. But fer now, I knows I needs a break from it. (However, I'll always respond to comments left on this blog.)

    I really dig 'BOTB', so I'll always be found there as long as that series maintains its popularity with the peoples. After all I AM a man of the peoples.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  7. When I read your stuff, I wax and wane between the thought that you are truly psychotic or a genius. I rarely settle in between the two extremes.

    One thing is for certain: you're an original and originality will always have a following (well earned).

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    1. CHERDO ~
      Ha! Now I'm in a quandary. I don't know how to take your comment. Do I go with what's behind Extreme Door #1 or Extreme Door #2?

      Well, I think it's probably possible to be BOTH. So we'll just say I'm... geniotic.

      Tiny Tim said "Originality is the key to success". He also said, "Don't be discouraged. Tiny Tim made it." He said a lot of other things I also like. ("If your name isn't helping you... change it." I know my friend Robin would like that one.)

      THANKS!

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Geniotics Association'

      Delete
    2. I'm leaning toward the genius camp, but I don't want success to change you, ha ha.

      Delete
    3. No need to worry. At 55, I am completely set in my ways. Ain't nuttin' and no one gonna change me now (regardless of how badly I need changing).

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      Delete
  8. Yep, to echo the others and swell that head a few more sizes (from 9 to 11 now? Yes, of course we turn it up to 11...) the writing on this was fantastic. THIS is how you tell a story. And I'll tell you what, I just don't think there's anything better than when great music becomes a truly memorable experience with friends.

    Also, you know how I know Nappy is a badass? No, not just because of all the stories you've told of him knocking deserving chumps out, but because he needed a cigar just for a walk home. That's just the most macho thing I can picture - a man walking down the street with a cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth. And call me crazy, but if I saw a guy like Nappy strutting down the street puffing on a cigar, I'd probably know well enough to leave him the eff alone.

    ~6B

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    1. 6-B ~
      Well, SOMEBODY had to... "turn it up to eleven". HA! One of my all-time favorite lines, and I'd bet that I never go more than two weeks without finding some way to use it somewhere.

      GREAT CALL on the CIGAR! [;-)}
      That never even occurred to me. Tough guy with a cigar... shades of Max Cady, eh?

      Awright, I'm fixin' to go to bed purdy soon, but before I hit the sack I'm-a send you a quick E regarding the next TRT. (Mo' Robert Mitchum? Sure!) And the rest of it I'll address a little later.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      POSTSCRIPT:
      Did you catch the Paul Simon lyric I tossed into a comment jus' 4 u?

      Delete
    2. Yes, only shades of Max Cady, though, because I'm sure Nappy didn't have to hike up his pants to looks tough. Probably still doesn't.

      And I must be short of attention, got a short little span of attention and wo my nights are so long because I completely forgot to mention the Paul Simon lyrics in that last comment. But maybe it's just because I got way too preoccupied when I ran off with that roly poly little bat faced girl.*

      ~6B

      *I'll be damned if that isn't one of my favorite lyrics of all time, I mean, is that not the most vividly unflattering thing you could call a girl? Every time he sings it I can picture this girl perfectly... and then I immediately regret picturing it.

      Postscript: I do have to say though, kudos to dropping a Rhythm of the Saints reference in there, too. It seems that people either love that one or hate it, but ultimately as time passes have been quick to forget it. I still listen to that album regularly.

      Delete
    3. >>... kudos to dropping a Rhythm of the Saints reference in there, too.

      Uhm... yeah... sure... no problem.

      [Walks away muttering to himself:
      "'Rhythm Of The Saints'? ...'Rhythm Of The Saints'? ...Hmmm... I wonder what he was yakkin' 'bout. ...'Rhythm Of The Saints'? ...Did I say something about New Orleans? ...'Bout Drew Brees? ...Hmmm..."]

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      Delete
  9. A couple of things I wanted to tell you and I know that eventually you will read this comment.

    1) I want to read all of your old Stuffs post (as time allows) BUT it is very difficult for me to remember where I've commented. I know that is what that nifty Send It To My Email box is for... but, here's the thing. The email I set up my blogger account with is more or less defunct. I don't use it anymore. I am not even sure I remember the password on it. Bah. Seems like a long time ago I tried to divert it to my current email and No Dice.

    2) So... I have no way of knowing when anyone comments on on my comments. If you REALLY want me to see it, I strongly suggest copying the link and emailing it to me. Pain in the butt. I know.

    3) When I read your comment on my old blog I couldn't help but look and see what else appeared that month (and went mostly unread). Turns out I wrote one about my brother. And it seems fitting to post the link here since Nappy did get a Large Mention. Remember what I said about brothers and buttons? Well, this better illustrates that picture.

    http://yourdailydose-robin.blogspot.com/2010/02/living-with-boogeyman.html

    ReplyDelete

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