Goodness Gracious

Written last night, Monday, October 25, 2021 in case you’re wondering.

Sometimes, sometimes, when you are my age, i guess, it just all falls into place. Or, at least, you think it does.

i experienced that falling into place thing tonight.

i’m not sure most people will understand. There was a time and place, a very small window of such for me tonight. Just hit it right.

Maureen, unlike me, likes to have the television on for background while she reads from her “kindle” (sounds like she is starting a fire to me but that thing is another electronic marvel i cannot abide, this one in particular because i like to feel and smell the paper when i read so the corners can get dog eared). That unattractive black screen was in living color on the Seattle-New Orleans football game, which neither of us was really interested. And then it was over. Neither of us cared to listen, even as background noise, and i mean noise, of the post game banal analysis of the talking heads. Somehow, i ended up with the controls. i went to streaming. As i was surfing, thinking i should just turn the damn things off — and i mean “things” as i had four of those remote thingies on the table, i increased surfing speed to mach 2. i caught a glance of something of interest to me. i backed up. PBS. Shows. “Austin City Limits.” Jon Batiste.

In the past, i have discovered some jewels on that show. Once, we caught Tom Waits when he was very young and relatively unknown, although i knew him because my shipmate, condo mate, the other “Booze Brother,” JD Waits, had introduced me to Tom’s music and revealed Tom was his second cousin.

So i checked Jon Batiste out.

i spent an hour enrapt, making connections.

The man and his band play my kinds of music, many kinds of my kind of music. Incredible.

The talent was amazing, enough just to enjoy all by itself.

i confess i didn’t even know who Jon Batiste is. i know now.

Not only did he wow wow me, he and his buddies and buddiettes (oh boy, that one is going to get me in trouble with someone) put a show on that stage that took me back to his and my roots…okay, my roots. i used to know all kinds of music, was a deejay, collected records, all sorts of music. Then i joined the Navy, went to sea back when you didn’t take much of anything with you, especially current music. i sort of got lost. Now, most of my music is my old stuff with a few more current artists one of my daughters introduced to me.

So Jon Batiste was new to me, but he took me back to old days.

There was the small table radio i put under the covers with me after listening to Big John R, Hoss Allen, Gene Nobles, and Herman Grizzard from nine until the wee hours on WLAC playing blues, real, gritty, soul, blues while i did my homework (ha, ha) in the upstairs room i shared with my brother on Castle Heights Avenue back home. i turned the volume down low and continued to listen as late as i could so i could order some great blues 45’s on Chess, Excello, and Nashboro labels from Randy’s Record Shop in Gallatin. Jon Batiste brought that back to me.

Then Jon sat down at the piano and did a bit of Beethoven and Gershwin like neither had heard before, and i marveled, wondering who the hell thought i should play a sonata at a recital at Peabody College in Nashville or a solo at the junior high graduation — oh i know who thought i had some talent: Mrs. Gwaltney, my teacher before i gave up the 88 for football, and my mother, of course; and i often wonder what my father thought of all that.

And then, Jon shifted back to stuff i knew and some stuff like hip hop i didn’t, but again he took me back, this time to the New Club Baron on Jefferson Street in Nashville where Cy Fraser and i would invade, taking along others, but the constant of Cy and I were always headed there when nothing was going on at Vanderbilt. White boys, honkies, red necks, jiving and being accepted by the otherwise black crowd while we listened to “Gorgeous George” (no, not the wrestler) with his revolutionary keyboard not a piano that looked more like an ironing board, and all sorts of other great acts, even Otis Redding after one of his big shows downtown at the Nashville Auditorium. We felt it.

Then Hurley’s on that side street in Newport, Rhode Island during OCS and while i was on the Hawkins, the destroyer across town at the Naval base. And Hurley’s immersed me in jazz and soul, real soul before it became some voice exercise, and i would listen to “My Satin Doll” until the cows came home.

And Jon played on and i was hearing Jimmy Reed and Eddie Floyd and Slim Hopkins and Sonny Boy Williamson…and Dvořák…and gospels…and Clarence “Frogman” Henry.

Jon Batiste. “Austin City Limits.”

i’m not to sure many of you will get where i was last night. It was damn near a religious experiment.

You see, i also heard Peace.

2 thoughts on “Goodness Gracious

  1. Yes, Jim. I too was a fan of John R, Hoss Allen, and Gene Nobles on WLAC. In the summer I would take a quilt out to the backyard with the radio sitting on the back steps tuned to WLAC AM radio, i would lie on my back looking up at the stars and let the blues and soul wash over me.

  2. Jim, I sang a duet with Clarence at his club in New Orleans in summer 1966. I was in the Academy’s choir and had enough range to match that girl and that frog ! He signed a post card with a nice comment for me. I found that card during our COVID clean. I can still stay close on those notes, but it’s good that I keep the car windows up.
    P .S. some news re Chuck Miller and Joe Mc Mackin. Better a private forum.

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