Fancy Ray and the Travelin’ Moburys


Despite it being Friday the 13th, Corner Coffee goes well. Not without a hitch or two, but all goes well.

I show up and, stepping in the door, the first thing in my face is Laura Moe’s delightful, sunshine smile. Bill Travers, though, and Sir Francis Duxbury III are nowhere to be seen. Shouldn’t surprise me. I only sent them the exact address. A couple times. Didn’t even give it to Laura. Some things it just takes a man to get wrong. Special guest, buddy-cat David Daniels the Rasta Bard made it on time, wearing that perennial cat-that-swallowed-the-canary grin of his. I introduce him to Laura. Then, when he strolls in, Daniel Sullivan. I love Dan but really wanted his wife Faith Sullivan to come down. She’s engrossed in writing a new novel. Oh, well. Still no Bill and Francis.

We sit at a table, chit-chatting about this, that, one thing and another. A topic comes up several people around town are concerned about. Jazzy J, the cat who founded Twin Cities Radio and has been a strong believer in indie artists, isn’t doing nearly as well against cancer as he’d thought. His latest treatment showed promise but, it turns out, hasn’t taken. Word is he hasn’t got long. I never knew the man well, just to talk to from time, but can tell you this. He’s got friends who love the hell out of him and it’s gonna break their hearts.

Showtime. I look at Laura, who just smiles. She probably ain’t even surprised, since she’s used to operating around those two. I go get up onstage and start: the guys’ll get here when they get here and that’s all there is to that. While playing, it dawns on me. This noon crowd is not a night crowd. They’re not dropping in to wind down or on their way across town. They’re not passing idle time before going on to whatever they’ll do next. These people, most of them, are on lunch. Their minds are back at the job and, if they sit, it’s to feed their faces, have a little small talk, then beat it back to the grind. They’re a considerably less than ideal audience for spoken word. I’ll have to talk to Dave. He’ll understand and, instead of wasting his time today will simply join me when next I’m back for a Friday night.

I’m three or four songs into it when the guys get there. Bill gets out his guitar and, as we’re arranging mikes, gets disgruntled. See, I’ve got a tin ear and don’t hear it when my low E chord drops a half-step. Which it always does. I can rehearse fine at home, but when I show up to play, the only one I’m in tune with is me. He makes a gruff, gracious offer to tune the thing. Fine. That done, we sit down to make some music. And have a damned good time doing it. The guy, I have to say, plays some tasty guitar.

Long as Bill, Laura, and Francis a.k.a. the Travelin’ Moburys are all here, they may as well do a set. So, after a couple more songs, I get off, go sit down and can’t believe my eyes. That rascal Fancy Ray “The Best Lookin’ Man In Comedy” McCloney has finally come down to see me sing. Probably so he hear the end of me naggin’ him. He’s at the table with Dave, wearing his usual bright expression of being pleased with the world. As the Moburys are on their way to the mikes, they take a minute and meet Fancy Ray, whom they’ve seen on TV. I assure them that good as he is in those commercials, you have to go to the bathroom before you sit down at a club and see his stand-up routine. Otherwise, you’ll pee on yourself.

Me, Dave, and Fancy Ray catch each other up on what we’ve been doing. Then, Ray, in mid-sentence—I’ve never seen this happen before—actually closed his mouth and stopped talking in order to check out Laura Moe singing lead on Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluah.” I’ve seen her sing it a couple times and am always hit by her clarity and the warm feeling she gives the song. Ray’s never heard her before in his life and is fascinated.

All right. Enough of these big-time hotshots taking over my stage. Laura and Francis step down, join Dave and Fancy Ray at the table. Me and Bill do “All Along the Watchtower,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” couple other things, including Bill really letting loose on blues numbers “Know You Rider” and “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” I’ve got this one of mine, “Mary Jean,” that we do together when I make it over to the Travelin’ Moburys’ open mic at Minnesota Music Café. We’ve got pretty comfortable playing it and right after the first verse, all I gotta say is, “Bill, take it” and all sweet hell breaks loose. That man was born to play guitar.

Show’s over. Time to call in the dogs and piss on the fire. Glad hands all around. Everyone wishes everyone else well and gets it on the road. Fancy Ray gives me a lift home and, as we always do, we get into it about his boy Barack Obama. Fancy Ray’s a fan. I’m not. Some things you just agree to disagree on.

At the crib, put the guitar away. Feed Butch and Sundance, highly indignant felines who think I have some nerve strolling home in the middle of the day when they haven’t eaten since breakfast. Then, it’s knock out this blog and maybe have time to tinker with the book manuscript. Papyrus Publishing—the only black book publishers in Minnesota, I’ll have you know—is pushing to have Something I Said in print by winter. Cool, if my CD Angels Don’t Really Fly is still up on the racks, at least I can try to sell a few books when I play somewhere.

Meanwhile, it’s all right. Hangin’ out, making music, enjoying good company. Should be even more fun next time.

May 31, singer-songwriter Dwight Hobbes at Acadia Cafe, 8 p.m., 329 Cedar Avenue South in Minneapolis, invited to perform at the Local Independent Music showcase.