Tales from a Bluesman: The Introduction

“Woke up this morning” da dun da da………..hey, not so fast..

My sister used to work at Maxwell’s Plum in downtown Halifax way back when, maybe the early 90’s.  I used to go in there a lot and got pretty chummy with some of the bartenders.  One day I was sitting at the bar listening to some music, having a cold one, when Stuart the bartender asked me if I wanted to hear some blues. I didn’t really know much about the blues back then. In my mind I was cringing, the last thing I wanted to hear was some old guy signing about how he got up this morning, bla, bla, bla.. I said “ahhhh, maybe not, Stuart, it all sounds the same to me” to which he very calmly and politely responded ” no, no, no”.  He handed me a CD, and said “take this home and listen to it carefully.  It really doesn’t all sound the same, so be patient, and give it an honest listen”.  So I did and that’s how I became hooked on the Blues.

I know, you’re probably doing the math and wondering about Stevie Ray Vaughn, right? I mean I was into Stevie Ray Vaughn and even went to see him on April 15, 1988 at The Halifax Metro Centre (got the ticket stub to prove it), but Stevie was the guy that broke into popular radio because he played those leads on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, and China Girl.  It was because of this and his talent he got played on the radio, and trust me we heard it. Me and my buddies at the time loved him; we recognized his supreme talent, but we didn’t go flocking to the blues just because of him, for what ever reason I don’t know why, we just didn’t.

But back to Stuart the bartender…..

The gem he handed me was an Alligator Records “Sampler” called Genuine House Rockin’ Music Vol IV.  It started with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown banging out a few chords, kinda funky, then started into plucking some sweet licks like I had never heard on the radio before (or saw on Much Music at the time). He took this blues, mixed it with some Cajun and Jazz, and it really “rocked”.

It got me thinking, because, by this point in my life i was quite familiar with Dire Straits, Van Halen, ACDC, The Stones, Pearl Jam’s 10, Guns and Roses…..all serious guitar stuff, but maybe that was the key word, serious.

This had something the others didn’t have.  What I heard was fun. I thought I knew it all about guitar music, but what the fuck was this?  It was infectious, it was happy, and it was done so dam well, like the best meal you ever had. There was a smoothness to the playing, but it was loose and there was clearly talent, but no ego, wow!  Should I go to the next song, or just go back and listen to “Got My Mojo Working” again?  What song got you??



About the author