Guitar News Weekly
Edition #77, February 14, 2000
Another Roadhouse Story, by Joe Medeiros
Joe the bartender had slicked back dirty blonde hair and eyes greener than any cat's marble I had as a kid. Every day, he wore a white button-down shirt and black pants to work, except on Sundays when we had a two o'clock jam session. Then he'd wear jeans and a T-shirt. About two months ago, he started wearing a Muddy Waters T-shirt he bought at a Muddy Waters concert he'd gone to in Philadelphia. Joe knew only one Muddy Waters song "I Got My Mojo Working". And the only reason he knew that is because he'd hear us do it every night. He must have liked it because he requested it every night.
As our drummer Johnny G sang the lyrics, Joe would sing along. When Joe got to the Mojo working part, he'd stop what he was doing, grab his crotch, and proceed to work his Mojo. He didn't know that a Mojo is just a good luck charm and really had nothing to do with his sex organ.
Joe went to the Muddy Waters concert just to hear that song. Muddy played it as his closing number. "Christ", Joe said to me. "I woulda shown up at quarter to eleven if Ida known he was going to end the night with it. I had to sit through two hours of nigger whining".
I never like hearing that word. It does something to my spine. And no amount of white suburbia, blue collar, redneck contact I have seems to cure me of it. It just drives it underground, so I don't give myself away as someone whom isn't really a member of the club.
From the time I was twelve until this year when I got this gig at the Roadhouse, I spent my summers working for my father pouring concrete. It was me, Dad and two black men B Willie and Sarge.
Sarge was about sixty and mumbled as he talked because he always had a mouthful of chewing tobacco. He wore the cap of a Confederate soldier and when he leaned on his shovel, he looked like an infantryman with his musket. You could always tell when Sarge had been drinking the night before - he'd come to work with his cap cocked to one side.
Willie would see it and say "Ol' Sarge's got his hat on crooked. He's gonna catch hell from your old man today". And then he'd laugh and light another cigarette.
Willie was always laughing and he and my dad had a running joke and called each other and everyone else "Will". The guy delivering concrete would be Will. The clerk at the 7-Eleven would be will. Even to this day he still calls me Will.
I guess it would make a good story to say that Willie and Sarge turned me on to the blues, But I don't remember us even talking music. I learned about the blues from listening to Eric Clapton.
From Sarge I learned how to use a square mouth shovel to grade dirt so that's level enough to set forms and pour concrete on. From Willie, I learned how to trowel cement so the stones don't show and you get a surface as smooth as glass.
One Sunday, my Dad came down the Jersey shore to see me at the Roadhouse and brought Willie with him. My Dad was separated from my mother then and living in a trailer park. He and Willie sat at a table in the back. My Dad had three beers in front of him so I kept my eye on him hoping he wouldn't say or do anything to embarrass me like calling Frankie the owner "Will" or making lewd comments to Phyllis the waitress about her ass.
But I don't think anyone in the place even noticed my Dad because every eye was on Willie. I caught Joe looking at him, then whispering something to Frankie and the both of them laughing. Willie knew what was going on and seemed to enjoy it. He sat there with his cigarette dangling from his lips and his arm draped across the back of the chair next to him, listening to us play. Every now and them he'd take the cigarette out, sip his Scotch and soda and nod his head to the beat.
At the end of the set I went down and sat with them. "You were real good, Will", he said. "Next time, play some Temptations. I can only take so much of that blues crap." After they left, I went to the bar just to hear if Joe had anything to say because I was ready with an answer.
"Gimme one of your famous free Cokes," I said.
He poured it and set the glass in front of me, then leaned closer. "From one guy to another," he said. "Watch what kind of friends you bring in here. It might start trouble." "Sorry. Didn't think about that," I said. "But from the way you were looking over there, I thought you recognized him."
"Why would I recognize him?" he said as if insulted.
"Because he's Muddy Waters bass player. You must have seen him in Philly at the concert. That's the guy who wrote 'I Got My Mojo Working.' "
"No shit," said Joe. "Why the hell didn't you introduce me?"
"I was going to but he had to leave. To make it up to you, we'll play "Mojo Working" as soon as we go back on."
"You're the man," he said to me. And so Joe now had a story about the time he'd almost met Muddy waters bass player, a story he'd use to try and impress the pants off every woman he wanted to work his mojo on.
NEXT >>> BAND BONDING >>>
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