The first time fortune set me on the same stage as Willie Murphy was a long time ago. We’re talking when the Viking Bar was still open. David Daniels dragged me down for a round of reasonably priced drinks, on him, to sit around and shoot the shit. The band had finished warming up and Dave introduced me to this cat, John Beach, who’d been up there playing piano. Guy was reed thin, with a friendly visage. Skeptic, though. Beach sidled up to the bar. Asked a challenge: “So, what can you do?”
My general response, having downed a few, would be, “Bang your girlfriend like a drum.” To anyone, anyway, who hadn’t just got finished tickling the ivories within an inch of their lives. Warming up. Gave him what I hoped was a casual, “I sing.” Then next words are lost to lack of memory. Downed the beer chaser and figured the best way to impress this guy was to cut dyed-in-the-wool blues. It don’t get any more dyed-in-the-wool than Blind Reverend Gary Davis’s “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” When I hit the low note, Beach grinned, sipped and smiled at Dave. When I got done, he bought me a beer and said, “You’re on the next set.”
Just like that, was sitting in on an open mic with Willie Murphy. Had been perched on that bar stool, while Murphy tore the damned building down. This being my first time hearing him, I was amazed they played blues guitar this good outside Boston. While gigging there, I’d caught some hellified cats. This guy burned their shoes off. My turn at the mic went well. Sang that old Barrett Strong-Berry Gordon chestnut “Money” and Snooks Eaglin’s “Rock Me Baby.” Proud as hell to hold my own with a guitarist like that, not to mention John Beach doing a beautiful job on piano. September 15th, won’t be jamming with him but, yep, will be on the same stage. Kiss my grits.
Never forgot Chris Shillock introducing me to the music of Lenor Barry. A couple CDs he had laying around at his crib. Fascinated the hell out of me. Struck me as not a singer-songwriter but a true vocalist and songsmith. Truthfully, a siren.
Got the chance to write a few reviews. Nope, never sat in with her. Got a message yesterday about her producing-hosting the gig and would I—get this—be willing to get up on stage. Twist my arm. Figure I’ll do “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.”
Anyhow, it’s this coming Sunday, September 15, at 1318 East 23rd St. in South Minneapolis (612) 201-8975. There’s a $10 cover, because Barry has bills to pay on her own.
To be real, $10 is a bargain for the opportunity to catch Willie Murphy and Lenor Barry in person.
And I get to be on bill? Kiss my ass if you don’t like it.