My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

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My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby gatorblue » Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:07 am

Last week, I got to work with Muddy's surviving band mates. Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Bob Stroger came into town for a corporate gig. I volunteered to provide the backline because I didn't want them playing on beat-up crap. They got in around 3 in the afternoon and we parted, after dinner, around midnight.

It was a magical afternoon and night. They played very, very well, as you can imagine. Pinetop, now at 97, is a little slow and only sits in for the last 30 minutes of the gig, but he still dresses to the nines and still gets a crowd excited. He was quite aware of all around him and I had the opportunity to sit and visit with him for quite a bit of time in the afternoon. I was talking to him about my trip to Mississippi and Memphis this past May---playing some clubs and jukes and he was very on point in the discussions. He and James Cotton have been living in Austin for the past 8 years or so, and that's my hometown, so we talked about many people we knew in common. At one point, I told him that during my trip, I took a detour off of Hwy 61 to stop in Rolling Fork, MS, Muddy's birthplace. I told him that I found Muddy's brother Robert Morganfield. He looked me right in the eye and said, "I remember Robert---he was a good gospel singer and guitarist." It was amazing because that's exactly what Robert had told me when we visited and, according to Muddy's bio, the one time he took Pinetop to Rolling Fork was around 1949, so Pine was recalling stuff from 62 years ago.

After the sound check, we sat in the alley on folding chairs---it was a cool afternoon in the shade--Pine was smoking and we were passing bottle rockets of Jack (except for Cotton who no longer drinks and Willie Big Eyes who had his own bottle rocket of tequila). They answered my questions about the old days, told stories, signed stuff for me, etc. One of the amps I had brought with me was my '37 Gibson EH-150 "suitcase" tweed. They really studied it, all remembered the model. I removed the snap-off back and showed them the autographs of Muddy, Buddy, BB, Lightning, John Lee, Willie Dixon, Gatemouth, Louisiana Red, Keb Mo, Memphis Jerry, etc. Pine signed it and told me that he use to play guitar. In fact, he said he remembered Cotton being a baby, sitting on his couch and listening to Pine play guitar and sing.

The gig was cool for me, but most of the corporate people in the audience didn't really, I think, appreciate who they were listening to. That part of it made me sad, in a way, but it was such a thrill, that I looked past that.

Cottton was the sweetest guy in the world. He reminded me a lot of Louisiana Red, from that perspective. Told me about being hired by Muddy after he ran off Little Walter. Cotton's wife, probably 30 years younger, was a very kind and nurturing lady--to all of the guys. As I got to spend more time with them, I realized how important she was to this group. Bob Stroger was also very, very kind and really appreciated the GK amp with the 6-10s I loaned him.

Willie Big Eyes was the real kick of the group. Still a very dynamic drummer and terrific singer. A great sense of humor, and really spry for 78. I remember thinking that he could probably outrun me if we had a footrace. One story about Willie I have to tell you guys. It's 11 when we finish and they want to go eat some New Mexican food. I tell them and it's a weeknight and all the Mexican restaurants are closed. They insist they want Mexican food. I then remember the Frontier, a restaurant on the drag in front of the UNM campus that stays open til 1 am. We jump in the Hummer Limo and head down Route 66.

Unbeknown to me, the university had held a women's volleyball tournament that day for teams from 3 states. The tournament had ended at 10:30 and the Frontier was full of probably 60-70 tall young women between the ages of 18 and 23 in t-shirts and those short,tight spandex shorts. So, here's the picture. We pull up right in front in Hummer Limo, we step out --one old white guy who is 60 and 4 black guys, 80-97, all "dressed to impress" in classic blues suits. We go strutting into the Frontier like we belonged there.

They were all staring at us, with no idea who we/they were, and the guys were all staring at the girls. Willie is walking next to me, he leans over with a big grin and says, "Shit Gator, I ain't seen this much fine young pussy in one place in 40 years!" It was a blues moment to remember.

I'm sorry---this is supposed to be a review. Let me just say that the music was great with fine dynamics, lots of give and take, and lots of "Memphis-late" timing, which I love. They are still one of the best blues bands anywhere and wonderful people. I think that they realize that a lot of people don't really understand who they are and how important they have been to the entire blues culture, but they have seen so many ups and downs that they don't care---they keep doing what they do.
It was one of the truly great experiences of my life.

--Gator
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby wanderingyankee » Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:45 am

Very cool. I'm jealous.
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby Buffalo_Bill » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:52 am

“The gig was cool for me, but most of the corporate people in the audience didn't really, I think, appreciate who they were listening to. That part of it made me sad, in a way, but it was such a thrill, that I looked past that.”
Lucky you!
Myself, I wasted 20 years of my life in a corporation, I'll never get that back. However, somebody powerful in there did really dig the Blues, because they brought all those legends in for a show.
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby wanderingyankee » Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:02 pm

I was lucky enough to see The Legendary Blues Band back in 1985. It was Pinetop and Will "Big Eyes" Smith along with Jerry Portnoy (harp) and Calvin Jones on bass. I dont remember who the guitar player was.

They played 90% Muddy material.

I remember talking with Jerry Portnoy just before the show. He was very patient with me and my friends as we had a lot of dumb questions about playing with Muddy, Johnny Winter, etc..
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby tinsmith » Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:05 pm

That IS extremely cool!
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby maxx england » Mon Sep 06, 2010 10:09 pm

Gator, I don't normally envy anyone and I'm trying not to now.

But I think we're all so glad you were there, for yourself and for them.
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby dcblues » Tue Sep 07, 2010 6:50 pm

wanderingyankee wrote:Very cool. I'm jealous.


Me too! Please post any pictures you might have of the volleyball players! :P
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby gatorblue » Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:56 pm

I didn't have pics of any of the volleyball players, but here are some pics of the guys.
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in the alley with Cotton
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby gatorblue » Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:57 pm

Here with Pinetop --backstage watching Willie Sing
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby gatorblue » Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:58 pm

With Willy "Big Eyes" near the jail bars in the alley (I had a bottle rocket of Jack, he had one with Tequila)
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Re: My day/night with the Muddy Waters Band

Postby gatorblue » Fri Sep 24, 2010 10:00 pm

One last pic with Buddy Guy who was here last week with BB. Got to spend a little quality time
with the coolest bluesman alive.
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