Tip 4

There I was standing at Robert Johnson’s grave. It had taken me forty years since I first heard his music to make it to this place. And, if the truth were known, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that this was where I’d end up. It was August 8, 2011, my 56th birthday. It was my third day on the road.

Yeah sure I thought I would be some sort of “Rock Star” when I was sixteen but who knew it would end up like this? I have made a decent living playing guitar….this is a fact. I have fed my family, paid for a home and bought cars and raised a son with the money I have made playing guitar. Damn! This is cool! Coming down here to pay my respects made it all the more real. I felt like I had reached my life’s goal.

Less than an hour before I had stopped at a small radio station just out of Greenwood Mississippi to ask directions to the gravesite. I met a man named James Poe. It turned out he was the DJ and part owner of the station. After a short conversation he invited me to play “live” on the radio….interviews and such….right place, right time, huh? I took a deep breath and stepped up. I played three songs. One of Robert’s best known songs (Sweet Home Chicago) and two of mine. It went pretty good. Poe seemed pleased and asked me to send a CD copy of my stuff and he’d put me in rotation. It was a cosmic experience!

The adrenaline from playing added to the emotions I felt as I drove the half mile or so to the graveyard. It was midafternoon, 100 degrees, and not even the slightest breeze was blowing. My truck didn’t have air conditioning so needless to say I was hot. My shirt was completely soaked. Sweat was dripping down from the band of my hat and getting in my eyes so I couldn’t say if I was crying or just wiping the sweat out of them with my bandanna.

And it was quiet. I mean so quiet I could hear my heart beat.

The Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church sits in the only little patch of woods I had seen since I left Greenwood. Everything else was soy beans or cotton fields that stretched to the horizon in all directions. The grave yard was grown up in weeds and some kind of short, dry, bristled, grass that crunched when I stepped on it. Most of the graves were unmarked or barely marked. One grave that got my attention was marked with two pieces of aluminum siding made in to a cross. It was sad to think of the person in that grave only leaving behind such a fragile, temporary marker. Then the thought of that grieving person that left this here for someone they loved was even more of a heartbreaker. That’s real “Blues.”

Robert’s grave was in a shaded area toward the back of the graveyard. There were a couple big pecan trees that blocked most of the sun’s rays. The effect made the ground look spotted with alternating bright and dark places. The immediate area around the grave was very dry, cracked, bare dirt. I don’t know if this was because the many people visiting kept the ground too packed for grass to grow or if someone had sprayed to keep the grave clearly visible and “clean.” At first look the tombstone was fairly plain looking, although it was fancier, by far, than anything else in the cemetery. As I looked closer I began to see that it was an amazing, but subtle design. The face of the stone gently curves forward, but due to some trick of perspective the engraving appears to be on a flat surface. It is truly a work of art.

I can’t put what I felt that day into words. All I can say for sure is I will never be the same. I took off my sunglasses and left them on the stone….it was the least I could do.

Until that moment I thought I would be spending a few more days in the delta. I had a pretty good money roll, I still had five or six days of vacation left, but when I got back in my truck and pulled out my spare sunglasses all I could think of was getting home as soon as I could…I needed to practice, I mean really practice….learn to play these blues.

So here we go with the story…..I’m not famous or even well known…I’m just another guitar player….just like you….or just like Robert was during his life time. The guitar is my interface with this world and my connection with the other world. It is the vehicle that has carried me through life and the beast of burden that has provided for my needs. It has been my best friend and my most challenging companion. I am one of those lucky ones that although I am not that talented or greatly gifted in any way I have been able to live the life and call myself a musician.

I turned north on Hwy 7 at Greenwood thinking that I could hit I-55 North at Grenada and make it back up to Memphis by nightfall. It would be a four or five hour drive. That was cool with me….I needed time to think. The last couple days had been a blur.

The whole trip started out as a whim to take a few days off work and drive around and see what I could see. It’s good for the mind to get out and get away from the familiar surroundings and enjoy some mental space. The last time I had taken one of these “walk abouts” was August of ’07. I was way overdue. The first step was to set the date. I chose the first full week of August. That would include my birthday. I started telling my students at the end of June I was taking off a few days to travel and of course their first question was, “Where are you going?” I would answer with some silly remark like, “I don’t know, I’m just going to follow my hood ornament and see where I end up. Did you know Toyotas don’t have hood ornaments?” (That always got a laugh!) But the truth was I didn’t have a clue until about a week before it was to start.

Sometime near the end of July I bought a used book for five dollars. It turned out it was the best five dollars I ever spent. I didn’t look at it much at the bookstore, I just saw the price and thought I would add it to the bookshelf of music/bios/ guitar stuff I already had….and I liked the title: “Chasin’ that Devil Music” by Gayle Dean Wardlow. I was vaguely familiar with the author’s name. I knew he was one of those crazy Blues historians that knew everything about the old players. I had seen him in John Hammond’s Robert Johnson Biography: “The Search for Robert Johnson.” What I didn’t know was how big a fire this book would spark in me.

I started buying a lot of music related books like this one way back in the early 1980’s. Biographies and autobiographies, basic blues histories like Robert Palmer’s “Deep Blues” were already part of my collection. I probably had about a hundred of these so this new book was no big deal, right? It kind of looked shabby too. It was one of those mid-sized (6”x9”), perfect bound paperbacks that show wear quickly. The cover was already dog eared and smudged and the page edges were discolored from being handled repeatedly. And something that would have caused me to put the book right back on the shelf: it had several paragraphs highlighted with red marker….and I hate that! It was a good thing I didn’t look at it too closely at the book store or I would have never bought it. But as it turned out, those underlined passages were the inspiration for my trip down to the delta. They were the most obvious points of Robert Johnson’s life. The myth, the mystery, the story of the original “bluesman” in half a dozen paragraphs. I decided if Wardlow could go down to the delta and see the sights, I could too.

By the time I made it to I-55 it was really sinking in that I had done it! It was only three days ago that I left my home town of Somerset, Kentucky at 4:00 in the afternoon. I had a couple changes of clothes, my guitar and two pistols (a .22 derringer and a stub nosed .38) with me. I picked up a quart of George Dickel whiskey in Bowling Green so I could have a drink or two after I got settled in for the evening. I drove until about 9:00 before I began to get tired. I thought I could make it to Memphis but I decided that Jackson, Tennessee was far enough for one night. I got a room just off the interstate on the southwest side of town. I watched signs along the freeway to find a cheap place. You could tell the vibe by the quality of sign. I wanted low end. I wanted to get down to where the real people lived.

Once I had checked in I went into the edge of town and found a Dollar Store, got a case of bottled water, some ice for the cooler and some canned food and crackers. Although I was rollin’ big enough to eat at any restaurant I wanted, or stay in any of the high-end Motels, it didn’t feel right to go that route. This was, after all, a journey to find “the blues.” It had to be funky.

And the place was funky. Across the alley from my room was a Hip-Hop club. A lot of the other motel occupants were obviously club people…..party time! They also had a lounge down stairs by the main desk. I checked it out but decided not to stay…there was a cover band playing weak R&B stuff and the clientele was, how can I say this?...colorful (self included.) I went back to the room to have a shot or two, read that book and take a good look at a map of Mississippi.

After about four or five shots I ended up with the guitar in my hands. It didn’t matter that I had already taught guitar all day and then drove for five hours. I needed to play. The noise from the adjoining rooms sounded like everybody was doin’ alright for the night….those two girls next door were really doing it up! The thump, thump from the club across the way just added to it all. I played as well as I ever had that night. Slept like a baby.

The next morning I was up and moving early despite being a wee bit blurry from the whiskey. I hadn’t had a drink in about six weeks so I was out of practice. I packed my stuff and went round to the office to turn in my key. At that moment I knew I was on the trip I was supposed to be on. The girl at the front desk was the most beautiful young black woman I had ever seen. I was almost speechless. Her smile was priceless. I got a cup of coffee and hit the road.

I made it through Memphis just after noon. I saw the signs to Graceland and Beale St. but I didn’t want any part of that tourist kind of thing. Maybe on the way back I could swing by Beale St. for a while…..maybe not. I tried to find Hwy. 61 South but missed it. I took I-55 to Batesville and then took 278 over to Clarksdale. Now 278 merges with Hwy 61 just north of Clarksdale so I came to the intersection of Hwy 49 and Hwy 61 just after 3:00. This was the famous “crossroads”….or at least its modern day location. I stopped under the underpass. There had been light but steady traffic all day but when I stopped and let the old Ford that was behind me go on past that was it. It was totally silent for the ten minutes or so I was there. I got out of the truck and walked around looking for a suitable little stone to take home with me as a souvenir. Once I found a stone I got back in the truck and drove the five miles or so on into Clarksdale.

It took close to a half hour of driving around to get a feel for the layout of Clarksdale. I just followed my nose at first. That took me straight to the “Ground Zero” club. It is right next door to the Blues museum but I didn’t recognize the museum for what it was. It looked like a doctor’s office or something. Just down the street was the “Club Vegas.” Now this had the look and vibe of a real blues joint. I noticed the derelict Cadillac limo parked beside it was exactly the same year model as the tricked out one parked behind “Ground Zero.” I guess old Morgan Freeman is smart enough to have a “parts car” nearby. I’d almost guess he had some hook-up with “Club Vegas” as well as owning “Ground Zero.”

I found a motel that looked like a place I would be comfortable staying just a few blocks away. It was called the “Uptown Motor Lodge.” This is where the trip started getting a little bit strange. I went to desk and checked in. The cashier barely spoke. I think all he said was, “That will be forty-two dollars. The room is around back.” The front of the motel looked nice, there were a few tourist looking cars parked around the lot…it had a homey like vibe. The back side was a different story entirely. It looked rough. There were no cars anywhere….and somehow the room I got was behind the dumpster on the bottom floor. As I unloaded and started get my stuff situated it became apparent that this the room that they gave to white blues people to let them get a taste of the life….or maybe set them up for a mugging? The door had been knocked off the hinges and barely put back together. There were loose wires hanging from the wall. I guess that was cable? I know I could have gone back to the desk and asked for another room but since I was only going to spend one night and since I was trying to fly below radar I just accepted the situation and moved my stuff in.

I had to go back out and get supplies about the time it was getting dark. There were still no cars around. And walking between the wall and the dumpster to get to my truck was a little nervy. I was well armed so I figured I could handle whatever happened. Still, it felt strange. I couldn’t find a “Dollar Store” but I found a store called “Fred’s” that was close enough. I got some canned stuff and some more ice and two big yellow delicious apples. I drove around for a while before I pulled in to a “Sonic” drive-in. I got a coney and a slushie with onion rings on the side. I was splurging big-time!

When I got back to the motel it was pitch dark. The place wasn’t lighted all that well and there were still no cars….Mmmmm? I went in, put the deadbolt on and then put a chair in front of the door so any intruder would make a lot of noise trying to get in. I put the .38 on the nightstand a got myself a big shot of whiskey to settle my nerves. It was going to be a long night.

The TV was pitiful. There couldn’t have been more than five or six channels and the signal was bad on all of them. I got a little local weather information (storms on the way) and put it on some classic movie channel. It was the Three Stooges….seemed about right.

I planned to go to the Blues Museum first thing in the morning and then head on down to Greenwood after that. I spent most of the evening getting a good shower, beard trim and sprucing up my clothes. When all of that was done, and I’d had several shots of whiskey, I got out the guitar. The S.O.B. wouldn’t play! Anyone who is a guitar player knows what I’m talking about. There are times when it just won’t work. That night it was as bad as I have ever felt….I sucked! That started me to question why I even called myself a musician. The more I tried the worse it got. I tried reading some of “Chasin’ that Devil Music” and that really did it. I started to question myself. Who was I to pretend to be a bluesman? I was living in the wrong age, born in the wrong place and I was the wrong color! Why in the hell was I here in Clarksdale in this cheap assed motel? What was I trying to prove? I couldn’t answer any of those questions so I just put up the guitar, turned off the TV and turned out the lights.

About half passed 3:00 I was jolted awake by a thunder clap that shook the ground. Then the rain hit. It might have been a normal thunderstorm in Mississippi but to my Kentucky thinking this was a monster storm. The rain was coming in waves that sounded to me like the ocean. There was thunder clap after thunder clap. I could see lightning flashing around the curtains. And then the door blew open. Since I had placed a chair in front of the door it only came open about two or three inches, but believe me, I was totally awake! I grabbed my .38 and slowly approached the door. Nobody there….an empty parking lot with two inches of standing water and lightning and thunder like I’d never seen. My heart was pounding! I half expected to see Old Scratch standing there, string tie and all….but he wasn’t.

I turned on the table light and took a big swig right out of the bottle. Sleep was out of the question, at least for a while. I switched the TV back on. The Al Pachino movie “Scarface” was playing. It was about half way through. Now was that timely or what? I just sat and watched it, taking a swig every fifteen minutes or so. As the movie neared the famous final scene I picked the guitar back up and to my surprise it just about played itself. With the rain still pouring and the thunder rumbling I played things I had never played before. It was like watching someone else’s hands move over the fret board. I don’t remember going back to sleep.

When I woke up it was close to 10:00. The TV was still on but the lights were off. The bottle had a pretty good dent in it. My guitar was lying next to me on the bed like a sleeping lover. It’s funny but I got up and went to the bathroom while trying to be as quiet as I could as if I afraid I would wake my companion. I checked the parking lot. It was, for want of a better word, steaming. I suppose that is normal after a thunderstorm in Mississippi but it certainly looked strange to me.

I packed up quickly. I was at the Blues Museum in less than an hour after waking up. I’ll have to admit I was a little blurry from the whiskey and tired from the lack of sleep but I was on a mission. I was going make it to Greenwood this afternoon one way or another. I spent about an hour at the museum. I was the first patron of the day. In fact I was the only patron until just as I was leaving a family of real tourists came in. They were “real” tourists too….khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirts and all. I had to move on, but not before I dropped $100 at the gift shop. I bought tee shirts and souvenirs for the folks back home and I bought a video for myself: “Warming by the Devil’s Fire”

On the way out of town I passed back by the Crossroads and took a picture. Then it was Hwy 49 all the way to Greenwood.

It’s about sixty miles from Clarksdale to Greenwood. Hwy 49 passes through Tutwiler and Webb as meanders through the rich delta farm land. The size of some of the soybean fields blew my mind. I grew up on a farm that had some big fields by Kentucky standards but down here fields could be several miles across. The machinery matched the size of the fields. A tractor was as big as a barn but given the amount of land they had to cover it would still take days to plow or plant one plot. I didn’t get to get up close to one of those tractors but I did get to see a crop duster in action. He had a big yellow plane and seemed to be just having a ball doing what he was doing. Some of those maneuvers had to be just for fun.

As drove on south I saw a sign that said Emmett Till museum. That started me thinking about racism. How in the world could it have ever been as bad as it was back before Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s? I mean I was born in 1955, just a couple weeks before the murder of Till. But by the time I was aware of race I was already into music so much that a person’s color didn’t matter. I was more concerned with what brand of guitar someone played. But after I thought about it for a while I began to notice the difference in what were obviously the land owner’s houses and all the other houses. Then I started noticing the different kinds of cars I saw. Yeah those big four wheel drive trucks were always driven by white folks….and they were all driving faster than the speed limit and crowding up to my bumper before they passed me. If I met them in the oncoming lane they seemed to hold their lane mighty aggressively as well. Ah, maybe that was my imagination?

It was approaching 100 degrees and since I didn’t have air conditioning I had the windows down. That dried me out pretty quick so I stopped at a little grocery store/gas station to get something to drink. I pulled right off the highway into the gravel parking lot without thinking much about where I was. The place was a little run down. There was an old 70s ford car pulled up by the door. The wooden framed screen door screaked as I opened it and clacked as it closed behind me. There were three people behind the counter. It looked like a grandmother, a mother and granddaughter. The grandmother was plaiting the child’s hair into the most intricate little corn rows. They looked up at me like I was the devil himself. Uh oh….this was a black store…white folks didn’t stop in here. I said some nice things to the little girl, smiled at the grandmother as I bought a creame soda and a pack of Kools from the mother. Once they realized I wasn’t going to be a problem (or a jerk) they were nice to me. There was a little small talk and I was back on the road.

I don’t know for sure but a think the prison I passed was the back side of the famous Parchman Farm. It certainly was big enough to be famous. It must have been a mile long. At one place there was a crew clearing the right of way. There was an armed guard with a shotgun watching as they worked. Made me think about where I was once again and how crazy I was for being here. Right then a State cop pulled right up on my bumper. He tried that old crowd and then back off and then crowd again trick. I’ve been a musician my whole life and have been pulled over my share of times so it was nothing new. But as I did a quick inventory I knew this was a tight spot! My bag was in the front seat, the guitar was propped against it with the bottom of the gig bag sitting in the floorboard. The bottle would be the first thing seen when the bag was opened and the .38 would be the second thing….and if I got searched any deeper than that I would be in the deep stinky. Damn! My heart was in my throat for sure. When I looked in the rear view mirror I just about panicked….the cop was white….and that freaked me out. It was a good lesson in racism. For that few seconds I felt the fear that a black bluesman would have felt in these circumstances. I could imagine the cop asking if I was some kind of hippie nigger-lover. But it didn’t happen. After about three miles of crowding up and falling back he passed me like I was sitting still. I guess he had bigger fish to fry.

By the time I regained my composure I was at the edge of Greenwood. It was nothing like Clarksdale. It was shopping centers, stop and go’s and big four lane highways. I stopped at one of those quick marts to ask directions. The cashier was a young black girl. She started giving me directions but was immediately interrupted by the fat, white manager. He was a jerk. He glared at her with a, “Get your ass back to work.” look and then addressed me like I was a ten year old. I nodded at the girl as I left…she gave me a little smile that let me know she didn’t put me in the same category as the jerk.

After a couple wrong turns I found Money Road. I could see why it was named that. The houses were all mansions! They set back off the road with all kinds of fancy landscaping. One of these houses was the weirdest pink color and if I hadn’t know better I would have thought the grass had been painted green. Most of the yards had sprinklers but you could still see the effects of a long summer drought. It was August and the grass looked a bit brown. As I now know that weird house was one of the main houses in the movie “The Help” and the grass could have really been painted green by the movie people. The road was more like a boulevard it had a strip of huge trees right down the middle. And this went on for three or four blocks at least. When the road went back to normal two-lane there was a bridge. On the other side of the bridge was farm land. It was a night and day difference. You could see where the money was and where it came from.

After a few miles of no houses and no traffic I decided that I would ask directions from the first person I saw. That happened to be Mr. Poe.

From Grenada to Memphis the landscape changes drastically. It is progressively hillier and more like Tennessee. Trees and cattle….no more delta panoramas. I was driving north but it also felt like I was driving up hill. I guess I was to some small degree but what I was feeling was a different kind of thing. I felt like I had to push harder on the gas pedal and the whole motion of the truck was strained. I should have been on top of the world with what had just happened to me. It was anything but that. I did a play by play of my career. I questioned the future. I knew I could maintain myself as a performer but didn’t feel any ambition to do that. If anything I hated the thoughts of having to live that social side of being a musician. Yeah, I can do it. I just proved it on live radio. It seemed like I had been doing it forever. I did a radio interview back in the spring that really sounded like the “bluesman” was in town. (The Greenroom 106.3 FM March 5, 2011) and I was currently involved with a band: “E.B. Street.” I was the primary lead vocalist and the only writer. The players were great. We could go anywhere we want to with it. But I had warned everyone back in March that this was a one-time dance…one record, one show and that’s that! I planned to stick to it. It would take two more months to finish it all up but after that I’m solo again. But I wasn’t even sure I wanted to pursue that.

The closer I got to Memphis the more I thought about it. There are two ways to think about music. One is doing it because you love it and the other is doing it because you love being seen doing it. Most people I have encountered in my forty years of playing are of the second type. You don’t meet many people that play, and play well, that are not attention hogs. You have to be to aggressively competitive in the world of professional music. On the semi-pro level it is even worse. Players will spend $5,000 for equipment to play shows for free just so they can feel like stars for an hour or two. This was so not like the old days. Maybe I’m a romantic but I’d like to believe the old blues players played first because they loved it and second to make a dollar some way that was easier than farm work. If I was totally honest with myself, I became a musician because I didn’t want to have a day job. And I totally loved the music and I was willing to work at it. The idea that I was “special” just because I could play guitar, or somehow better than my audience was lost on me. I just do what I do.

I checked in to a nice motel right as the sun was going down. Off to the west the sky was growing dark and ugly so I opted to eat the rest of my traveling food rather than go to a restaurant or get fast food. That was a good call because rain started to fall just as I made the last (third) trip to the truck. When I got unpacked, I turned on the TV. The first thing I saw was a thunderstorm/tornado alert. After the big storm last night I was already aware how vicious the weather can be down here. Storms freak me out normally and thought of another delta sized storm didn’t make my mood any lighter.

I did an inventory of the food. In the cooler was three or four bottles of water, two Bubba Colas and a Milkey Way candy bar. The dry foods bags had a tin of sardines in oil, crackers, two granola bars and one of those yellow delicious apples. I was good to go…. and I still had nearly half of that bottle of whiskey left.

The room I got was a nice one. There was a sitting area with a coffee table, love seat and chair in addition to a king sized bed and a holly wood bathroom. There was even a coffee maker with high end coffee in a foil pack. This is about as good as it ever gets for a traveling musician/bluesman. I thought back to all those hundreds and hundreds of rooms I’ve stayed in over the years. By eighteen years old I was used to getting a room and sleeping a few hours then getting up a driving again. I’ve slept in places so bad that I would keep my clothes on and sleep on top of the covers wrapped up in my coat. I’ve also slept in rooms that had little candies on the pillow for check-in….and fresh flowers! Yeah, if you are a performer you travel. That’s just how it is.

By the time I had showered and changed to a tee shirt and sweatpants the weather was raging. There was thunder, lightning and wind gusts that were at least fifty miles an hour. I was on the second floor so I could look out on the parking lot see what was happening out side. It looked rough. The TV was all lit up with severe storm warnings. I figured it was about time to have a shot or two.

I got a bottle of water from the cooler and muted the TV. I put the .38 on the night stand and cracked open the whiskey. I needed to figure out what was going on with this “music thing.” I make a good living teaching guitar. Why do I get so distracted about this live performance stuff? It’s not like I haven’t done it enough to prove that I can. There is a part of me that would have been happy being an old time mountain man. I like solitude. The most enjoyment I get from music is sitting by myself and feeling a song come together. Playing live is a different kind of energy all together. I can’t say I don’t like performing but I definitely don’t like schmoozing and all that “fan” stuff afterwards. And I don’t like to travel much anymore. Going out on the road for a few days is one thing but being on the road all the time is another thing. After three days I was beginning to get tired of it.

In moments like this the guitar has always been my anchor. I’ve been through some hard times and the guitar always makes it better. Tonight was no exception. I picked it up and played very light finger picking. My playing was like a mantra. It gave my mind something to do while I worked on the bigger problems. It just played itself. I was an observer in this little movie. After an hour or so I fell into an open tuned delta riff…..something I’d never done before. This was the thing I had been looking for….new ground! Yeah, I’m right where I needed to be. This guitar will show me everything I need to know if I listen.

It was well after midnight when I put the guitar down and drank the last shot of whiskey. I turned the sound back on the TV to get an update on the weather. The storm system had passed on to the east. Another bit of news caught my attention. It would seem that “Neil’s Bar and Grill” down on Beale Street had burned down around 3:00 in the morning last night. That was exactly at the time the motel door had blown open. Is that a coincidence or what? Seeing the footage of the Beale Street area and hearing interviews from the tourists just confirmed to me that I didn’t need to go there. It was not what I wanted from this trip. I wasn’t looking for that show-biz side of the blues….anything but!

I dug into the food. It was good. I finished off everything I had. As I sliced that big yellow apple open I remembered a similar apple from my childhood. There was an orchard a hundred yards or so from the house I grew up in. It was out behind the tobacco barn. I spent many a childhood hour out there playing with a stick or piece of bailer twine. These were the only real toys I had to play with. It didn’t matter; I had a great imagination. I mostly imagined I was an Indian (or Tarzan) so the stick was my spear and the string was the rope Tarzan used so well. It was heaven! There were originally fourteen trees in the orchard but one of them was gone before I got there. That is my reference to thirteen trees in the song, ”The Other Side.” The line “garden by the sea” was referring to the way the fields of barley or rye looked when the wind blew across them…looked just like the ocean to my young eyes.

One summer when I would have been about six years old the last tree on the right had an apple at the very top that looked just like the one I had now. Big, yellow, perfect and so beautiful. The only problem was it was out of my reach. Try as hard as I could I couldn’t knock it down. I wasn’t strong enough to throw my old piece of tobacco stick that high. After a day or two of that I picked up an apple that had fallen on its own and threw it with all my might. I hit it! The apple was mine! Just as the sun was going down I ate the best apple I had ever had. So sweet, so juicy and so, so good. I felt like I could accomplish anything. That was one of those moments that I will never forget as long as I live. I realized I could achieve my goals.

As I bit into the apple in a motel room in Memphis fifty or so years later I felt the same thing. I have accomplished the goal of being a musician. I don’t have to do anything else to prove it. I am content with my place in life. I can play when I want, where I want and what I want. My teaching will feed me. I don’t have to chase that elusive performance life style. I don’t want to do it anymore….and I don’t have to. Damn, that apple was good.

The next morning the sky was as blue and clear as I’ve ever seen it. The temperature had mellowed some too. It was just in the upper 80s. It was a great day to travel. I skirted around the south side of Memphis and headed back toward Nashville. I half thought about getting a room there and spending another night on the road but I decided that there was nothing in Nashville I had any desire to see or do. I wanted to get home and really start practicing that finger style blues I had found the night before. This was the missing link in my connection to old blues players like Robert Johnson and the rest. I was excited about the music again!

It took a little over six hours to make it back to Somerset. The whole way I left the radio off. There was nothing on that interested me in the least. Pop music…not my thing. I sang to myself, played imaginary guitar and had great time thinking about the blues. I made up some lyrics that eventually became “Clarksdale/Bob’s Blues.” Yeah, I was right where I needed to be. I thought about the blues recordings I had. There were some gaps in my collection. I planned to fix that as soon as I got home. I had a pretty good money roll still left and I couldn’t think of anything more important than building a library of the blues. Over the next few months I would acquire twenty or so CDs and read well over a dozen books on the subject. The trip to the delta was a success. I was happy with myself and my place in life….and I would never be the same….I had been to the “Crossroads.

Learn to Play Guitar with
Book 1 & DVD
Symbols, Shapes, and Patterns

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