Like the American bald eagle, I am an endangered species. Not only have I lived the blues, I sing and play them—my way.
This suite of songs I called Mystic Blues because I have been called a mystic.
One of the pieces embodies the raw rare spirit of Memphis. I thought it was worthy of a listen because it marked the celebration of life and burial of one of the many over-looked jewels in Memphis—Prince Gabe—the blues saxophonist who fronted the Millionaires (three of the members backed me on “Running Scared”). Prince had a knack for calling me to the stage whenever I showed up at one of his performances. Prince wasn’t afraid to share the spotlight. He was the spotlight and this performance of “Running Scared” was a tribute to a courageous musical talent.
Another song, “Lying Still”, which I included as a bonus, was first written and published as a poem by my wife Carolyn in the book, "Homespun Images, An Anthology of Black Memphis Writers." I loved that poem and I could feel it and hear it as a song; so I added a few changes and this is what you get.
The idea to create this CD project was sparked when a record company label executive out of New York tracked me down to purchase the rights to “Note Due on my Cadillac.” However, the amount of money that he was offering, I considered it an affront, thus,the deal fell through. I thought, if this relic was worth something to someone else, why not gather all of my throw-a-ways and have a garage sale or put them together and make a CD.
Back in the 70s pimping was the generational fad—and the Cadillac was its emblem. It was a symbol of making it happen. Whether pimping on the streets or working legit jobs, I wanted to communicate the experience of those who were trying to hold on to their Cadillac in the face of hard times. I presented the song to Al Jackson, former drummer of Booker T. & The MG’s, and he loved it. He wanted to record it on Albert King. He arranged for it to be purchased by the Stax royalties department and allowed me to record the original demo in studio B at Stax Records. Shortly afterwards, Al was murdered and the song was put on the shelf. Before Stax collapsed into bankruptcy, I repurchased the rights to the song and recorded it on myself. In this recording session, I also recorded “Go to Memphis Town.”
“Go to Memphis Town,” is an upbeat vamp that captures the real spirit of Memphis. Memphis is famous for being the self-promoted “Home of the Blues” and the “Birthplace of Rock & Roll.” People come from all over the world come to hear this blues music in the clubs on the famous Beale Street. But, what they have to settle for is a commercial cookie-cutter showcase of this artistic and historic musical expression. If you look real closely, you can actually see the blues with your own eyes.
I wrote “Jailhouse Blues” while I was locked up in jail. I had a girlfriend at that time and I wrote this song to her. When I was finally released after sixty days, I had the fire and desire to record this song on myself.
The other song I recorded in this session was “I’ll Collect My Dues.” This song was my song of hope—hope that one-day that I would receive my pay-off for all the failed efforts of trying to escape the ghetto within my mind and surroundings by any means that I thought necessary. It also attempts to address the spiritual tug-of-wars I was experiencing within at that time.
“Apartheid Man” came about through my activism in the “Free South African” movement, but it also served notice to the apartheid conditions here in America.
I bit off of Steven Seguall’s movie “Fire Down Below” with the song “No Fire Down Below.” It is a story that captures the warnings I got from my mother that “little bad boys will go to hell instead of heaven.”
It was over thirty years before I was able to record this tune, but when I wrote it, it captured one of my most memorable heartbreaking moods—“Blackless Heavens” was that song. I came home to my live-in girlfriend one evening and all the furniture in the house was gone. She had cleaned house and vamped without leaving me as much as a note. All she left was my guitar and recording equipment. I was too embarrassed to go to any of my friends or back to my parents. So, I called a sweet young chick on the side that liked me to come take me to the bus station. I had to get out of Dodge for my own sanity—destination anywhere. As I stared out the bus window, I saw so many happy faces; but none of them looked like me—not one black face.
I love the beat and feel of “Crocodile Tears”. My experiences with women taught me that their greatest weapon is not the sex that they sometimes may ration out; but the false tears that they randomly shed when they cannot have their way. No man wants to see his woman cry and most will do anything to see her tears dry.
“Daddy Don’t Play (My Shoulder Sore)” is a song that reaches out to the Hip-Hop and rap generation to try to tell them that they should respect their elders. This generation has a hard time affording respect on general principles for those 20, 30, and 40-year gaps between them and their parents and grandparents.
“When You Got Married (Walking Dead)” is an attempt to put a bit of Shakespearian tragedy to the blues. The opening line, “when you got married on me the grave was my wedding bed,” conjures haunting images. I have seen many people desolve into zombies after the one they love marries someone else.
So there you have it, the back-story of a creative project that emerged from observing and participating in the life and times on mother earth. And through the same creative divine power that created all things, I found an enlightening and sustaining power that resulted in an epiphany---Mystic Blues. Simply put, I hope these songs puts you in touch with the hope of overcoming life in a hellacious state.