So today Google’s front page is saluting B.B. King, blues legend and businessman extraordinaire. Rightly so. But being from Texas, I also wish to salute one of our own blues legends, of whom there are many, such as going way back, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and of course known to many, Stevie Ray Vaughn. I lived close to the neighborhood the Vaughn bro’s grew up in, and just recently lived in Houston on the main street that was the stompin’ ground of my own favorite blues man, LIGHTNIN’ HOPKINS.
The title of today’s post is that of one of his cuts:
Like most of Lightnin’s tunes, this one ends with a humorous line. I like that, turning that which can give us the blues into the strength to laugh in its face, whatever it may be.
Around 1972, give or take a few, my late wife, who was a jazz, blues and soul singer, and I caught one of Lightnin’s shows in Austin. After the show I said to her, why don’t you go back stage and meet him. I could have gone but I’m not usually comfortable with being the adoring fan. She did go back stage, and after a while I started wondering as some time had gone by, and most of the audience had left. Then here she comes down the stage stairs, with Lighnin’ behind her, and she brings him to where I was waiting in the back. They both were laughing and she introduced me, and we shook hands. Lightnin’ had a bottle in his hand, asking me if I liked Salty Dog, and it was obvious they had been sharing the bottle, as my wife was already tipsy.
Now some men may have gotten a sudden case of the blues over this, right? Your woman getting drunk out of sight with another worldly man? But I knew my wife, and knew how musical artists relate. No blues for me, just so glad to meet this blues man I had been a fan of since I caught him when a freshman in college, also in Austin. The first time I saw him I marveled at his style and unique playing.
Years later, my wife commissioned a famous Dallas artist friend to paint a portrait of Lightnin’ for me, for my birthday. It now rest next to my bed, along with other memorabilia. More recently, when we moved to Houston for a couple of years, we lived right off the main street that was his old stompin’ grounds, a few blocks from where a bronze placard memorializes him. I think he and I have some good karma together, way back. Anyway, he’s my favorite.