Monday, March 19, 2012

note three c, Ken Murphy

We nod and walk past the guys standing at the door. We enter one large dim room. Chairs line the wall to our right facing a row of old wood booths then a wall with a drum set, a microphone and men plugging in guitars to large speakers. There's Garry, I say to you, and Dex. This is gonna be great. You wanna a beer.

Yeah, that'd be good, you smile.

People are coming up to Willie but I hollar at him as we head left, You want something to drink, Willie?

I'll get mine, Shea.

The woman standing next to a refrigerator on the south wall tells me the beer are two dollars each. I buy two of the lukewarm ones, turn around and hand you yours. We get a booth and Willie sets up his tripods. He makes it look easy as if he is certain where the best shot will be. He is.

I look at you, You've been pretty quiet.

I thought we were going to Beale Street, you say and we both start laughing.

There's Duwayne, I see him walk in the door.

The guy you and Willie described as dangerous?

I chuckle, Dangerous like Kimbrough, like his Daddy, like Elvis. You'll see.

Who's his Daddy?

Oh man, I didn't realize you didn't know. RL Burnside is the Daddy of Dex behind the drums, Garry over there tuning that guitar and Duwayne.

The Burnsides?


This is gonna be good.

Yeah, it is.

I look back at Dex who I figure is the most business minded of the bunch. He's thick and serious, doesn't like his picture taken. Then I notice it, a Woodstomp sticker on the drum set. Oh shit, Charlie and Connor must be here.

Who are Charlie and Connor?

I don't know how to explain other than to say tonight is your lucky night.

The room begins to fill, more tuning, Dex is still hitting the drums and making adjustments. A familiar tune starts playing through speakers. Four women dressed in bright party attire walk in and begin taking over the room. Willie sits next to me in the booth and has to yell over the music, Garry says Charlie and Connor are here. They went to town but they'll be back.

Yeah, I saw Charlie's drums.

It looks like it's turning out.

I point at you, I told this one he's in for a treat.

Willie looks at you and smiles back at me, Why hadn't you got your camera ready?

Just taking it in, I guess.

You better get ready, Willie says then he's off.

Before long Charlie and Connor are there and the band begins. I take my camera out of the bag, set it on our table pointing at you and take a shot then adjust and repeat until I have the light I need. There is no more talking. People are watching. One song into the set and the four women begin dancing. I look at you and you're mesmerized.

Soon one of the women takes over the center mic and is belting out All Night Long. Duwayne walks over to her and charms possession. Charlie looks up at him and grins. Dex and Garry just shake their heads and Connor never even notices. Duwayne starts by talking to the crowd while the guys play. He gets some hollars and more people on the floor. Then he starts and we watch. It's his Daddy's music and he sings it with a seduction that'll make you blush. I take a few shots then reach across and touch your arm. I put the camera in the bag, pick it up and motion for you to come with me. You follow me out to the car and I put the bag in the trunk.

What are you doing? You ask.

I don't want to take pictures tonight. I just wanna dance? You dance?

Sure, you say.

Ken Murphy's third book is called Mississippi: State of Blues, and I have yet to open it. 
I think I needed to write before I did.

Grateful for juke joints, music which celebrates survival and the musicians who continue to play it.


Chantel said...

RL Burnside is as much a staple in my home as whiskey....especially on warm summer nights.

Loved this. (slightly jealous)

Young at Heart said...


Shea Goff said...

Oh yes, Chantel. Or keep the warm summer night and the whiskey but throw in a hard rain and play some Kimbrough loud on a back porch. It's so good to know you're out there.

Thanks, Young at Heart. So is London through your eyes.