Thursday, September 21, 2006

Strange Things Happen Every Day

Great Videos
l hat sent me the following videos he found on metafilter, among them Sister Rosetta Tharpe singing "Down by the Riverside"--it's a hell of a revivalizing experience--what a pro Sister Rosetta was--a star with a guitar--and the good Sister doesn't boogie on that guitar here like she could though she does show some being ahead of the guitar-playing game in the second chorus of her solo when she BB King's the end of the phrase ending it on a quavering zinging squeeze out long high note. Go ahead though; this site is definitely the cat's meow when it comes to historical American music early-day music videos:

metafilter is a great site; I should link it, but, heck, you know how utterly all thumbs I am when it comes to taking time to fight with the many parabolic monsters happening to me everytime I enter the cyberspace of the computer Gestalt--I can swallow it whole, but I can't stand it crushed up into soluble chunks. Note: the Howlin' Wolf video on this site is what Chester (Burnett, aka The Howlin' Wolf) called "Dog shit" music--this was when the Rolling Stones or some Brit American copycat group brought the Wolfman (the Howlin' side of the Growlin' family) over to England and they made an LP with him; the Wolfman singing and playing in front of a mostly white-Brit band, and, yes, folks, it is dog shit music, just like the Wolfman said.

One Aside Before We Go to the Rose Garden
When I was seven years old, I lived in far East Dallas, as I like to call it. It was straight out east of downtown Dallas, straight over the Fair Grounds, straight over Schepps Dairy, straight over Longview Drive and right up to the front porch of 6217 Fair Vista, later changed to Belgrade--why, I don't know since the Fair Vista name fit it like a tee; standing in my front yard and looking west the whole Dallas skyline was open to you, spread wide and handsome across that wide horizon you confronted--a wonderful time when a purple and yellow red sunset would be exploding behind Big D's edificial best. Just down the hill from my house, and then about 2 miles across a bottomland, over off Second Avenue, was a large black section of Dallas, South Dallas-- the Second Avenue of South Dallas, the main street of beer joints, million-item stores, Dave's Hot Tamales stand, whorehouses, moonshine and corn liquor dealers, junk yards, used car crooks, rib joints, steaks and chops joints, hamburger stands (a lot of Lotta Burgers), voodoo doctors, and three or four dozen black churches.

My dad, a very good looking man who attracted women of all varieties, had a partiality to hanging out with black folks, especially going to black churches on Sunday nights after being faithful to his white church Sunday mornings. White Sunday morning services were boring enough, but forget about those Sunday night services. My dad loved the day-long excitement of a black church, first the music--he loved the music; then the sermons, which, really, were music, too, black preachers able to singsong their messages in an electrifying way throughout their congregations clear out the open front doors of their churches and out across the roads and and in through the homes spilling right on out onto that evil Second Avenue, where there was always a good craps game going on in a back alley, or maybe even a good cockfight, if you knew which door to knock on. Black churches, especially their Churches of God in Christ, were true religious beauty in action; even I, as a child atheist, could have fallen under the spells spun out by these black reverends, men or women, boys or girls, those mighty choirs, and swinging church bands. I've seen them all following my father around to the black churches on Sunday night. Mother? Well, my mother played the piano at our church and my mother loved being on stage and she played the piano with syncopation--her speciality in the secular world being the music of W.C. Handy, of which she knew every one of his very popular blues--so she went to our church and played the piano.

Dad even picked up a black newspaper on his way home from work once a week and pored over the church listings in it. One Sunday morning after church, while mother was cookin' up some fried chicken, my dad got his 78 rpm records out and put one on. It was Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Up Above My Head, I Hear Music in the Air." Boy, did it swing. I was dancin' around the living room like I had ants in my pants. The old man was looking in his black newspaper.

"You wanna go hear Sister Rosetta tonight, son?" Damn right I did. "Yeah, she's preachin' over at Reverend Cauliflower's church up on Dolphin." Reverend Cauliflower, her real name I think was Caldweller or something like that but everybody called her Reverend Cauliflower, wasn't a bad looking black woman and I knew, too, even as young as I was, my dad had a little "some thing" going on for this straight-haired reverend with the Lord heavy in her well-endowed bosom and slender body except for her magnificent booty that brought up her adorable rear, though I must admit to conjecturing here since at that time I wasn't into booties, though I did know that breasts were something special that men went for big and heavy.

It seems like from what I gathered about it as a kid, Sister Rosetta was on a tour with Marie Knight, I know now for sure she did tour with Marie about that time, and was stopping off in Dallas to do a favor for her friend, the Reverend Cauliflower. The notice in the black newspaper said Sister Rosetta would preach a sermon, which she occasionally did in those days since she was the daughter of a Church of God in Christ minister back home in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, the Reverend Katie Bell Nubin, who preached evangelically and used her daughter, Little Rosetta Nubin, as a singer entertaining the faithful at four years old. Then Little Rosetta married the Reverend Thomas Tharpe and became Rosetta Tharpe--so preachin' was in her blood. "You can go to college, you can go to school, but if you don't know Jesus, you're an educated fool...."

We drove in the Oldsmobile* down across the hollow and then up to Dolphin Road where he then turned down a rutted dirt drive to the white clapboard church building with the huge wooden sign lighted by four bentover spotlites, a large frame structure sitting up on four concrete block posts with a crawlspace underneath it.

Dad parked the Olds out front of the church and then asked me if I wanted to go in or just sit in the car. I was scared. Too timid to go inside so I opted for staying in the car. The Reverend Cauliflower came out to the car and called my father by his first name and then invited him to come on in, but he declined pointing at me saying I'd rather stay in the car so he'd stay with me. She impressed me as a pretty woman, with long black straight hair that hung way down her back. She was wearing a scarlet silk robe and a white collar just like the high-class white preachers I'd seen at the Episcopal church I went to sometimes with my best friend, the little boy artist of Urbandale. The woman said well alright, he was welcome to come on up front and join in the service it was going to be a "heavenly" affair she promised, then looked over at me but didn't say anything. I was shivering I was so scared. The woman handed my dad a program and then returned to the church. [To think now how I turned down a chance to sit at the feet of Sister Rosetta Tharpe that night--just because I was a scared child--yep, scared of the blacks; yes, that's right, but not afraid of them, just scared of the different environment, down deep really loving it and so happy being there no matter how scared I was. My dad, however, had no problem acting naturally at home around blacks.

We sat there not saying anything. From the car we looked right down the center aisle of the church right down to the platform and the pulpit and in one corner the band, an electric guitar, drums, and piano.

Soon four lanky black kids, teenage looking, came out and started playing the instruments. Damn, they were playing rhythm and blues--that's all. Yep, black music. Wow. Swinging. Boogie. Then just plain old-fashioned rock. One of Sister Rosetta's big hits from the 40s was "Rock Me," and that's what black music really was, rock music; the first rock and roll, whether the British tell you this or not, was black music. Robert Johnson used to sing about rocking and rolling. Rocking back and forth. Rolling toward the finish line. Sexual or not, what do you think? Damn, I was awed. I was seeing the music I loved played by a bunch of black teenagers, and they were rocking, even though the guitar amp was staticky as hell and the piano was kind of out of tune, but, man, they were rocking. Then the Reverend Cauliflower took over and she preached a bit then a woman wearing a kind of blonde wig, a fine looking healthy black woman carrying a cream-colored electric guitar came from behind the stage, from behind the baptistry. The audience of hundreds it looked to me like went wild, clapping, rocking back and forth, and shouting all over the place.

"That's Sister Rosetta," my dad said. "The woman that sings about hearing voices high up in the sky?" I asked. "That's her." Wow.

Sister Rosetta took the mic. She had a powerful speaking voice. She took her guitar and sat down in a chair one of the musicians brought out for her. He then plugged her guitar into the guitar player's half-ass amp. She hit a chord. "Turn it up, honey," she said to the musician who had plugged in her guitar. She hit another chord. It rang throughout the church and reverberated all around the trees off to the side of the parking lot.

"I was down in the East Texas piney woods last night, Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, and, my friends, I saw the Lord working in powerful ways down there, powerful beyond power, powerful beyond intelligence, powerful beyond human capability." The congregation was getting into it. "Amens" were cruising around the rafters. "Yes, friends, and as the spirit of the Lord drifted around that church and glory was ringing in the air, a man came running into the building, flailing his arms, shouting 'mercy' all over the place. 'My wife's head's been cut off!' he shouted. 'Please bring the Lord to her. She's still alive. She's still alive!' The preacher down there, and we had had quite a service, hundreds of folks were there praising the Lord and believing in miracles, asked me to come along and help him with this unusual request; he had never heard of this before; what a chance; me, too, I wasn't sure I wanted to see a woman with her head cut off but I agreed to go with the preacher and check out this whooo big problem for the Holy Spirit." She had lowered her voice as if telling a scary story. "So we went way down into the woods there to this small cabin out there. It reminded me of the cabin I was born in over in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. I've seen the Lord's spirits in those old woods. Like the foxfire, like the wood spirits, I've seen the Lord in those woods, you know, angels walking through those woods to protect the believers, and Jesus coming through the hollow there at night passing blessings over the houses of the poor, for the poor shall inherited the wealth of the Lord and live in mansions not cabins when we all get to heaven." She hit another chord on her guitar and then began singing, "When We All Get to Heaven," a tune I knew from the white church, except Sister Rosetta swung it hard, and then she played the guitar and soon she was up and dancing around the room, the congregation clapping in time to her music and some of them dancing, too, and the heavy sisters in the far Amen Corner was wailing away with praise and sanctified shouts. Then Sister Rosetta hit a big chord, sat back down, and continued, "And, folks, let me tell you, when I entered that coaloil lamp-lit cabin chills went up and down my spine; I could feel the Devil himself sitting on that well-made and clean little bed in the corner on which lay that headless woman. Oh, yes, folks, a headless woman was laying on that little bed. Lord'a mercy, the room was cold as ice; cold as frozen Hell. The preacher said for us all to bow our heads and then he asked the husband to take the woman's head and put it back on her shoulders. When the husband brought the head out from under the bed, I was suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit and started humming my song 'Strange Things Happen Every Day,' whooo, Praise the Lord, and I looked into that woman's eyes; they were open; and it was like she was looking right straight back at me, praying, praying for life, praying through her praying eyes for the Lord to make her whole again." The crowd went wild at that point. Lots of serious shouting. "Then the husband gently put his wife's head on her shoulders. The preacher went over and put his hand on the head and then he prayed a prayer that even put my head on stronger, a powerful prayer, and the power was strong in the room. Strong. And then the preacher suddenly said, 'Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah,' and he rose up dancing and singing in tongues, hopping around that tiny cabin room, 'her's head is back on, attached to her body, it's a miracle, my God, it's a miracle, my God in heaven, Praise the Lord on high." It didn't surprise me, folks, because the Lord works in mysterious ways..."

I was not very old now, but that impressed me. What a storyteller, what a woman. She was power herself, her presence just taking over the whole church and filling it with awe. Nobody could take their eyes off Sister Rosetta Tharpe that night, especially me.

Now I can't prove to you folks that that was really Sister Rosetta Tharpe. My dad said it was and later when I saw her on television it was her. I remember her wedding sometime in the fifties and 25,000 people attended it in D.C. I think, if I remember correctly, and who knows how correct their memories are? Memories are a source of great fiction. But I have never gotten that holy picture of this great woman out of my head after all these fast-passing years. Sister Rosetta died in 1973 at 55 years of age. It's too bad some believing preacher couldn't have brought her back to life. A true star this woman was, a commanding star, plus she could play the guitar, too.

*[a Daily Growler footnote--see * in above para] Remember when Accuras were good ole American Oldsmobiles? What advertising nutjob came up with that name for a Rocket 88?--and then why did going-broke General Motors accept changing the name of one of their top cars?--What will Buick become? The Emaculate? What will Cadillac become? Pontiac? The last two are names of Michigan cities so maybe when the Japanese by them out they'll become the Osaka and the Kyoto. There were men named Buick and Olds; same with Chevrolets, but who the hell in his right mind would change the name of Chevrolets--one of the popular songs in Cuba these days is about a "My Chevrolet."

for The Daily Growler


In the Rose Garden
The following is a very scary Gene Lyons column. Give it a good read; you won't believe what our "president," the defiant nutjob, is up to. He's nuts, folks. It's time to straitjacket him and carry him off the Saint Elizbeth's [but first, why not put him out in an open yard in a chicken pen like place, like the Army did Ezra Pound when they arrested him in Italy after WWII?]. Read this column, man; you've got to:

And here's a scary opening paragraph to a story, too:

WASHINGTON - The House voted Wednesday to require Americans to show proof of citizenship in order to vote, and the Senate moved to build a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border as Republicans sharpened attacks on illegal immigration before the midterm elections.

How Long Do You Think Chavez Has to Live?

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took his verbal battle with the United States to the floor of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, calling President Bush ``the devil.''

``The devil came here yesterday,'' Chavez said, referring to Bush's address Tuesday. ``He came here talking as if he were the owner of the world.''

The leftist leader, who has joined Iran in opposing U.S. influence, accused Washington of ``domination, exploitation and pillage of peoples of the world.''

``We appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our head,'' he said.


for The Daily Growler

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