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Friday, May 4, 2012

5-04-12 Pictures of Tommy - a memoirist’s blog #5



(Disclaimer:  My apologies to you who’ve been enjoying the survival job entries -- and I will return to it in June -- but right now, I’m focusing on my memoirist work which I’ll call, simply, “Pictures of Tommy” -- all about my psychotic brother and his legacy.  It’s full of  pathos, humor, and old family photos. If so inclined, please tell me what you think. . . )


PAYING DUES

I had to face facts: my brother loved the blues.  We rock writers in the seventies made fun of the genre and called it “da blooze.”  Of course, there are greats in that genre like in any other musical genre (bluesmen Muddy Waters, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn to name a few -- and of course, Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin, two queens of da blooze).

The blues is as American as. . . anyway, it’s truly American in origin.  However, Tom liked his electric blues filtered through the Britrock legend, Eric Clapton.  I never quite got that; I mean, I never understood why he didn’t go to what I considered the real deal.  Tom played blues electric guitar, and he had various “axes” over the years, various Gibsons and Fenders.  He never had a classic ES-335 like BB King, but favored the solid body electrics -- like Clapton, of course.


[Above, a nice Fender Strat(ocaster), similar to one that Tommy had owned & played]

One time, when we were getting along and talking on the phone, I’d ask Tom if he’d heard of Robert Johnson.  The legend went that Johnson met the devil at the crossroads and the devil gave him an amazing sound in exchange for his soul.  The classic, “Crossroads Blues,” resulted.

“Yes, Laurie, Cream and Clapton recorded ‘Crossroads.’”  Of course!  That was a big Cream classic.  It barely resembled the original, but it was the same song.  So I asked Tom about other Robert Johnson songs.

“Uh, no, Laurie, I’ll have to look into that.”

Sure, there’s all kinds of recordings and blues compilations available with that stuff on it, I told him.  I wasn’t saying anything, period, about Clapton or Cream -- I was just kind of hoping he’d get over it and get into some REAL blues.

Then Tom floored me with a question.  “Laurie (pause) do you think I’ve paid my dues?  Do you think I have a right to play the blues?”

I felt a heaviness inside, and I felt so small and sad.  How could he wonder?

“Tom, if anybody has a right to sing the blues and has paid his dues, that would be you.”

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