Did you pay your dues?

A discussion of the blues for blues lovers and fans.

RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby bosco » Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:44 pm

The other way of paying your dues, is to pay your dues in life. Everybody pays those. But I find these are even more important, because that's where you get the inspiration from to play your music or to write your songs. And the more of life's dues you pay... The better you understands this thing we call blues.

Sheer poetry. Nicely stated Smurf.
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby chick french » Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:01 am

Ok you asked for it. I don't know if these is dues but.......I was born in the Mississippi delta in 1951, outside of Arcola, Ms. My daddy owned 240 acres of the sorriest land God ever created. He refered to our little patch of land as "Po' Baby". We lived on a gravel road, along with my grandparents, my daddys sister & family and two families of black folk. Other than these people, I had very little contact with others.

We didn't have nothing, I don't even remember having a T.V. until I was 6 or 7 years old. All we had was a radio, we listened to the old comedy shows and the opry on saturday nites.

My cousin Larry and (Willie, a black kid) and I were all born within a month of each other. Us three were the best of friends. When we weren't working on the farm we were playing together. It wasn't until I started school that I learned prejudice. I heard some of the other kids use the "n" word. Hell, I didn't even know what it meant or the implications. One of my biggest regrets in life was when I called Willie a nigger. I was 7 years old and had no idea what the word even meant, but Willie did. To me it was just a word like knucklehead. Willie ran home as I was hollering at him to come back and saying I didn't mean it (whatever it was). I asked my parents about what I had said to Willie and remember my daddy telling me to never say that again. So at a young age I learned that prejudice is taught, you are not born with it. I apoligized to Willie and we continued to be close friend all through school, until I lost track of him.

I started playing guitar when I was around 10 years old, my daddy taught me to play the "Wildwood Flower". Man, I was hooked! I couldn't wait for the Grand Ole Opry to come on and listen to all the great pickers. My parents had a bluegrass band, so we were always at a picking party somewhere (thus my appreciation for bluegrass and country) Then came the Beatles, Rascals, Stones and Hendrix. I'd lock myself in my room and learn all the tunes by ear. It wasn't until I was around 15 or 16 that I discovered the blues. If I knew how good sex was at 15, I'd have to say the blues was at least that good.

By 1969, I'd had all the farming I could stand and set off to see the world. Well, at least as far as Washington D.C. I had a friend that was living in Arlington, Va. So I headed that way in a Volkswagon and wound up sleeping in the car in the middle of December for about 3 weeks until I found a part-time job and meet a guy from Georgia that let me sleep in his basement. He was a picker and we put together a little group and played a few clubs around VA and D.C. After about a year of bumming around D.C. I hitch-hiked (car broke) to Memphis and moved in with a friend. Good move, things were really buzzing in Memphis, hippies everywhere, orgies, drugs, plenty of gigs. I spent the next five years playing and drinking and druggin' in Memphis.

Next stop, Texas. I has a buddy that played steel guitar that talked me into coming to Mack Allen, Texas. He was playing with a western swing band and I needed a change. Everything IS bigger and better in Texas. Altho this was the most humbling experience in playing music I had faced. These guys were playing some serious stuff. No more fooling around, "lets see what ya got" We were playing 6 nites ah week and the clubs would be packed, ranging in age from 8-80. I remember doing a show with Alvin Crow and his Steel player at the time was Junior Brown. Junior went on to be somebody, I went on to be another nobody! Eventually everybody went different directions and the steel player and I came back to Mississippi.....

I guess I'm somewhere in the early 80's now. We put a progressive country band together and are playing all over Mississippi, got a big folllowing of homies coming to our gigs. Big partying, lots of drinking and druggin and whoring and fighting in these redneck joints. I can remember pissing off a bunch of locals one nite and backing them off with a .357 magnum. I was drunk and would have shot one of them redneck S.O.B's had they not backed down.

Ok, somewhere around 1985, I started playing with Mojo Buford, Mojo played harp with Muddy in the later years. Mojo really put my ass in place. He told me one nite "man, you is killing me, can't you play some honky tonk" as in Jimmy Reed. I gotta tell ya, that was a turning point in my outlook on playing. I started woodshedding and tried to forget everything I thought I knew about playing. I spent about a year re-learning to play guitar. I mean I was a hermit, worked day and nite listening to Lockwood, Reed, and Eddie Taylor etc.

I moved to Clarksdale, Ms around 1987 and met up with Sam Carr, Frank Frost and Big Jack Johnson. They took me in like an orphan. I practically lived at Sam's house. I learned more about playing from these guys than I had learned in the past 30 years. Sam grew up just down the road from Conway Twitty. He and Frank loved country music. They were always wanting me to do a country song. As some may know Frank passed away a few years ago. I swear, when he quit drinking his health started to fail, I think his body went into shock. Sam had a stroke and wasn't able to play for a while, but now he is back in form and playing great. We occassionally do a job now and then. I'm really wanting to throw a big appreciation party for Sam and raise some money so he and his wife Misses Doris can see a little light. Sam still works hard to make ends meet, mowing yards and hauling scrap metal.

So here I am, 2005, all the way from 1951. A friend of mine has a saying.. "you ain't s-hit, you ain't from s-hit and you ain't never gonna be s-hit"

dat's me!
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby lorilu » Thu Dec 22, 2005 5:42 am

Yeah, I forgot paying music dues. Wow, Chick, I really enjoyed reading that. A life in and of music. It's not my business how you think but not being sh*t, coming from it and never gonna be it I can't even agree with that. Maybe it's a way of keeping an ego in check but it's too hardcore for me in an already wicked enough world. More power to you, though. I hope now you have or will have love in your life, too.
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby chick french » Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:17 pm

Ok, I did it again. I gonna put a sticky right on the front of my computer in Big Red Letters saying.....

DONT DRINK & TYPE

And I have rediscovered life in my lovely wife and 11 year old son. I've finally got my priorities straight.I gave up on the selfish lifestyle of trying to play music for a living. So now its all for fun. Gimme that backporch picking!
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby spud camp » Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:26 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Dec-22-05 AT 10:44 AM (EST)]>DONT DRINK & TYPE


No, please dont I truly appreciate when people are honest and share their wins and losses, it is very inspiring to me.
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby nizer » Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:31 pm

>Ok, I did it again. I gonna put a sticky right on the front
>of my computer in Big Red Letters saying.....
>DONT DRINK & TYPE

Haha! good one - yes I've made that mistake. If I've been out socializing I try to avoid my computer when I come home - straight to bed or put some music on.

Great story Chick, I'm glad you spilled it. Nuttin' wrong wit dat. I still love Wildwood Flower. The saying, as I remember it, is "You gotta pay your dues if you wanna sing the Blues". You definitely qualify.
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby dcblues » Thu Dec 22, 2005 8:51 pm

Chick, let me know if you're ever going to be in the DC area. I'd love to have a beer with you and jam. I can take you to a place you'll love - a honky tonk a few minutes near my house where some great music (country, rock, blues, zydeco) is played several nights a week. The original owner is your namesake:

http://www.chickhallssurfclub.com
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby lorilu » Fri Dec 23, 2005 5:02 am

Yes, I love all the honesty and it makes me feel like it's ok to speak my mind and tell some of my truths too. I think this is the way life is really supposed to be. Really real.
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby lorilu » Fri Dec 23, 2005 5:03 am

P.S. Would going out with musicians count as paying some dues?
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby ricochet » Fri Dec 23, 2005 5:12 am

Sure could!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby bigdaddy » Mon Dec 26, 2005 3:03 pm

Paying dues? To me I think it was when I realized what I was and what I was was not what I dreamed of. My dreams were misplaced, not real. I saw the Beatles at age 8 in 1964 and wanted to be a rock star. Spent years pissing around that genre, to many years. Put together a couple of bands but did nothing. As I got older I found that I have to write songs. That was my joy. Working with bands was fun and still is but it's that new song being written that excites me. I came to realize that my gift is songwriting not rock starring. To let go of those silly dreams and accepting what I was and my contribution to music was when I stopped paying dues. My songs these days are mainly blues but are good songs. I will be 50 soon and I wrote my first song when I was 12. I have written hundreds since then. I have learned a lot about songs. These days I watch my songs, as myself and the band play them, get the crowd moving. I can't sing, can't play that well but I can put together a song. I played drums as a teen, learned guitar but do best on bass. Today I am a songwriting bass player in a gigging blues band playing dives for little money. Life don't get better. Today I know who and what I am and that's priceless.
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby mickeypainless » Mon Dec 26, 2005 4:33 pm

Awesome history Chick! Thanks for sharin that w/ us man!
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby bighollowtwang » Mon Dec 26, 2005 8:26 pm

Interesting thread.
I think the comment early on by Grady refers to a certain category of "blues fans" that always question a (white) performer's "entitlement" to play blues. "Did you farm chickenshit for 40 years on a plantation in Mississippi and have your wife leave you for a three legged horse who made moonshine?"
I can see why this would be irritating to some.

When I think of a band that hasn't "paid their dues" I think of some of these modern pop acts that get signed before they play their first gig, based on fashion and hairdos, and then get flown around from one industry shmoozefest to another in order to generate "hype" for their six-months-to-complete debut album (at a cost of almost a million bucks, and generating one very short-lived top 40 "hit-of-the-hour" promptly forgotten by all the very next week, when an indistinguishable and equally homogenous slice of corporate pablum disguised as "alternative" makes its chart debut).

To me "paying dues" means driving around the country in a rotting van with no floorboards or heating, in the dead of winter, kept warm only by the flatulence of your bandmates...for $50 or $60 apiece per night + merch sold and free beer...sleeping on some horny drunk chick's floor after the show, eating at a greasy spoon and driving to the next hole-in-the-wall gig with a big hangover...fueled by bad truckstop coffee and promoted only by a small group of cheap photocopied 'zines with a combined readership of 172 worldwide, and several college radio shows that no one listens to because they air at 4am.
Spending years living on skid row eating macaroni and cheese and working at "expendable" jobs you can abandon at any moment so that you don't miss the opportunity to do it as often as possible...is "paying your dues" to me.
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby ricochet » Tue Dec 27, 2005 12:27 am

>driving around the country in a
>rotting van with no floorboards or heating, in the dead of
>winter, kept warm only by the flatulence of your
>bandmates...for $50 or $60 apiece per night + merch sold and
>free beer...sleeping on some horny drunk chick's floor after
>the show, eating at a greasy spoon and driving to the next
>hole-in-the-wall gig with a big hangover...fueled by bad
>truckstop coffee and promoted only by a small group of cheap
>photocopied 'zines with a combined readership of 172
>worldwide, and several college radio shows that no one
>listens to because they air at 4am.

Man, I thought that was the glamour of life on the road! :)



"A cheerful heart is good medicine."
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RE: Did you pay your dues?

Postby grady » Tue Dec 27, 2005 2:38 am

>Interesting thread.
>I think the comment early on by Grady refers to a certain
>category of "blues fans" that always question a (white)
>performer's "entitlement" to play blues. "Did you farm
>chickenshit for 40 years on a plantation in Mississippi and
>have your wife leave you for a three legged horse who made
>moonshine?"
>I can see why this would be irritating to some.
>


That's EXACTLY what I meant Zak.
I knew that someone here would "get it".

No suprise that it was you Brother.
No suprise at all.
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