Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gotta Find My Baby -- Memphis Slim

I’m sure I wrote something in the past regarding my experiences playing in the blues jams back in the Twin Cities.  This is the story of my first time.  

I had played the drums ever since 4th grade.  I played in the Jazz Band from 5th grade to high school.  After high school I occasionally dabbled in it with my fraternity during a charitable event called Campus Carni.

I had been a few years out of college and I hadn’t played the drums in a while when I caught wind of these Monday night blues jams.  I kept putting it off because I was insecure about having not played in a few years and I didn’t want to suck in front of all those people.  However, I couldn’t NOT do it.  I sucked it up and made the decision to go, but I wanted some friends to come for moral support.  My roommates Bob and Pat and our frequent houseguest Craig were kind enough to indulge me but they weren’t terribly enthusiastic about it--which made me even more nervous.

Regardless, I was on my way to Whiskey Junction to play some blues.   I sat at the bar anxiously listening to others jam while I waited for my turn to take the stage.  No amount of bourbon could calm me down.  Finally my name was called.

I had no idea who the other guys were except for the guitarist who happened to be Lee Tedrow from The Minnesota Barking Ducks.  The others gathered around the drum set and we tried to decide what kind of tune we were going to play.  Was it going to be a slow blues, a jump blues, a funky blues a la Jr. Wells...?  Personally, I didn’t care what we played.

The decision was ultimately made by this guy who played harmonica.  The whole time I was waiting to go on, I couldn’t help but notice this guy.  He was strutting around the place like a rooster in a hen house.  He thought he was the man and it kind of bugged me.  He was pretty determined to play a song that would feature the harmonica because he was putting the make on two ladies sitting at the table in the front.

I’m copacetic, so when he suggested a swinging blues, I didn’t argue.  Harmonica Boy took on the role of band leader and got us started.  We went right into it and got into the groove right off the bat.  I looked down towards my friends who had been sulking most of the night and now they were smiling.  I could see others in the place tapping their feet and bopping their heads.  Two couples got up and started dancing. We were really cooking.  And you know something else?  That harmonica guy was pretty good.

We finished the jam and the crowd burst into applause.  The rules of the blues jam are that you get one song for free.  You have to pay for the second song with talent.  Needless to say, we were staying on for another go at it.

We finished that tune to hefty applause too.  I was bummed when it was time for me to give someone else a shot.  Regardless, I was revved up.  It was really fun.

Before we went to the jam, I tried to mentally rehearse for the gig by listening to blues records and air jamming along with them.  One of those songs was this one by Memphis Slim.  The first song we improvised at the jam, was very much like this one only with harmonica and guitar instead of saxaphone and piano.


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