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August 06, 2003

Rolf's Ramblings 8-6-03

MO RATS ME OUT

The gates to the Redwood Outdoor Theatre and Sonoma County Blues Festival were barricaded and the early arriving attendees were standing at the front entrance trying to get in. As usual, Mo was at the front of the line with her large 'mom' size cordura lunch bag (she might have to feed a staving blues band or a teenager), a blanket, a lawn chair (Mo never sits down), a denim sun hat, and a coat.

As usual, she was organizing the situation. This time she was working on the security guard to let her in. In years past Mo would set up her site in the benches and then go look at the fair. She really hates to have to wait to set up. She sees all this security stuff as an imposition on freedom. She's convinced that if she can talk to anybody they'll see it her way. Since she's terminally friendly and warm it usually works.

Arriving at my favorite side entrance I said hello to two fellow members of the Sonoma County Blues Society who had a bunch of stuff with them. They turned to the side entrance, and the security guard let them in to do the table setup. Since I was standing with them I went in with them. Pleased with my opportunism I spread my jacket across part of the front row and did a quick fade out the side to let Mo and friends know I'd saved us a space.

I'd reckoned without Mo. In full persuasive mode with the young security guard she said "Hey, how come Rolfy's getting in? You're letting them in and we're out here! That's not fair!" The young security guard went down and talked with his boss and made the SCBS people move their jackets off the benches and he collected mine.

Meanwhile I approached the front gate and brightly told Mo "I saved us some seats!" "Uhhhh" said Mo. The head security guard brought me my jacket and gave me hell. We got to sit in the front row anyway. Mo offered me some pizza from the bag.

THE SHARECROPPER WHO BELIEVED IN HIMSELF

By the standards of his rural Mississippi world 25 year old McKinley Morganfield was a success. Holder of a full size tenant farm with his grandmother and a fully employed plantation wage earner on the new tractors revolutionizing plantation life, Muddy Waters was the operator of a successful weekend juke joint. He had a jukebox and live music, partnership with the local bootlegger, and moneymaking crap tables in back. And he was a recognized musician throughout the greater Clarksdale area playing many gigs. He'd been taught by the great Son House and had been a sideman with Robert Nighthawk and Big Joe Williams ("He fired me 'cause I got all the women"). He was a lead musician in his own right and with the Son Sims Four.

And still he had nothing. In a good year he'd clear $300.00. All he had to look forward to was years of the same thing. In his mid-twenties he'd climbed as high as Jim Crow Mississippi would allow a black man. But he wanted to be a musician, a leading musician.

In the summer of 1941 the little white man with recording machines in the back of his Ford showed up at Muddy's house. He said Son House had recommended Muddy and he wanted to record Muddy. Muddy was disappointed to find out that Alan Lomax worked for a library and could only offer him $20 and the promise to send him two of the records he made. Muddy did it any way. He was surprised at how good he sounded on record, as good as some of his heroes. Two months later the little white man kept his promise and the records arrived. Muddy put them on his jukebox and watched as people played them on Saturday night. He was proud of the response they got. But his discontent grew.

In the summer of 1942 the little white man showed up again and recorded Muddy even more. And the records sounded good. Muddy became very discontent. The Stovall plantation owner went away to the war leaving an abrasive overseer in charge. In late spring 1943 Muddy went to the overseer and asked for a raise from 22-1/2 cents an hour to 25 cents. He and the overseer argued--dangerous in Mississippi. He went home, talked with the grandmother who raised him, and the following morning took the Illinois Central out of Clarksdale and north into the future. Five years of hard work lay ahead until one day "I Can't Be Satisfied" hit like a bombshell. "I wanted to be a known person."

SONOMA TUNES & REALITY

With time it's become clear that there are occasionally unrealistic expectations of Sonoma Tunes. This is a volunteer site that makes no money and is largely supported by Donna. Donna is the webmistress responsible for the large amount of time required for site. She does the calendars too, a real chore. Maureen writes reviews, often of out-of-town venues. Nobody covers the scene like Mo. She talks to everybody. I write reviews and copy for the site. Sometimes Terri does posters and artwork. Sometimes Stephanie Serra helps out and, along with Mo and Terri Louwaert, puts up posters for our non-web fans. Mo has been invaluable in getting new bands interested in performing at 2nd Saturday Blues. Mark Weddle helps when and where he can and has been invaluable on events. All of this is completely volunteer and unpaid. And it all takes large amounts of time.

I receive requests for reviews and other writings frequently. So do others. While I'm sympathetic to the information vacuum that musicians are under, I am a volunteer and it's hard to write without motivation. I have to be enthused about a band to write very well about it.

I urge musicians to learn to market and book themselves. We are happy to encourage the scene but we are not a marketing organization. If we were we'd make some money doing this. This site and its events have lost money very often. Donna has had some fun with it but she doesn't like taking the loss.

We try to have some leadership but we are not a substitute for people showing leadership of their own. We are not responsible for the blues scene in Sonoma County or elsewhere, we did not create it. We are not interested with being appointed to do tasks that others should do, especially when they created the task.

Whatever I say in a review is not the revealed truth direct from above. It's my opinion. "If you don't like my reviews write some of your own." We've had a hard time finding other reviewers. As soon as I suggest to someone that he or she write for us I get no more emails from that person.

Criticism of our views and opinions is of course justified--on the basis of opinion. We've had comments that seem to imply that people don't understand that reviews are opinion and not promotion. Mo has just about stopped writing since she's received criticism for having opinions. None of the people criticizing has stepped up to write reviews of their own. Some people have been very supportive, other people appear to want us to do this---as long as it agrees with their own agendas and they don't have to do the work.

Since we are a volunteer group we reserve the right to like who we like, book who we like, write about whom we like. We reserve the right to do about as much work as we are able within our busy lives and jobs.

SO ROLFY, HOW COME YOU WEAR A TIE?

I get asked about it. I dress for Saturday night. I grew up down home and I don't like to wear work clothes on my night out. I wear work clothes all week and don't see that I need to do that to be authentic or rugged. Baseball caps and dirty jeans clash with the shine on a tenor saxophone. Why would being grubby be cool? I ain't all that flashy.

Most of all I owe the blues and soul guys who rescued me from a dull life. They were up from a hard life and they liked to look like someone. They liked to look sharp. It was a way of laughing in the face of uncertain fate.

I Love The Life I Live
By Willie Dixon

"I see you watching me just like a hawk
I don't mind the way you talk
But if you touch me something's got to give
I live the life I love and I love the life I live

"My diamond ring and my money too
Tomorrow night they could belong to you
The girls move me at their will
I live the life I love and I love the life I live

"I may lay a hundred on a bet this time
Tomorrow night I can't cover your dime
Next week I could be over the hill
I'm just trying to tell you people how I feel

"You see me rocking as I pass me by
Don't talk about me 'cause I could be high
Just forgive me if you will
I live the life I love and I love the life I live

"I may lay a hundred on a bet this time
Tomorrow night I can't cover your dime
Next week I could be over the hill
I'm just trying to tell you people how I feel

"You see me rocking as I pass me by
Don't talk about me 'cause I could be high
Just forgive me if you will
I live the life I love and I love the life I live"

...Rolf

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)