Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Wolf Man's Jazz Stories, #1 Full Read!

"A Guy Called Whitey"
The 1st Take
"It never don't bother me none if it's called jazz. It's just the music to me. It's just the music to me like you white guys got your music, you know, Perry Como, those dudes, that's white music to me, but, hey, it don't make no matter to me if you call Perry Como jazz, dig?"

I sat in the 9-out-of-ten spot by W.L. Lee, that's Washington Lincoln Lee, as he drove his big Detroit-iron Cadillac at about 80-rolling-coaster-miles-per-hour after I had bussed down from Santa Fe to meet W.L. in Roswell and we were now barrel-assing out of Roswell on 285 heading for Midland over in Texas where W.L. Lee and his Advance Quartet were booked to play in the Downtowner Inn there, in the Flame Lounge, at 9 o'clock showtime and it was 6 o'clock when we left Roswell; I had gotten there on time, W.L. though had a lot of trouble gettin' out of Roswell, his home, you know, like he got us all in the Caddy and he got in and it looked normal like he was startin' the engine and, you know, hittin' the road, but then he said, like, "Did I turn that oven off after I made breakfast this mornin'? I sure better go see 'bout that." And he got out of the Caddy and ambled into the house and he was in there so long the other members of the band, they were sittin' in the Caddy's backseat, started jokin' about when's he comin' back and what else will he have to check before we finally get out of here.

I was delegated by the rest of the Advance Quartet to ride in the 9-out-of-10 seat--the front right seat, called "ridin' shotgun,' 'cause that's the seat on the old Wells Fargo and Butterfield stages that the guard carrying the shotgun sat in, up there at the right of the driver in case the stages were attacked by banditos or Indians, which they were all the time, and the outlaws and the Indians knew to kill the shotgun-carrying guard right off the bat; therefore it became known as "ridin' shotgun" in the dead man's seat--and then that was carried over into ridin' in automobiles and then after automobile causality statistics started coming out showing that people ridin' shotgun were killed 9 out of every 10 wrecks so then "ridin' shotgun" meant you were riding in the "9-out-of-10 spot," the dead man's seat, and these two other members of the band, Carmine Pico the drummer and Little Johnny Speed the guitarist, had quickly piled into the backseat of the Caddy sayin', "White boy, you rides with Washy up there in the 9-out-ah-10 spot--that's where white boys ride in a black man's Cadillac." And then they were laughin' like Cheshire cats and slapping each other's palms. Then W.L. came back finally from checking to see if he'd left his oven on, got in the Caddy, acted like he was starting it up, sayin', "You boys ready to do some travelin'?" and, by God, it looked like we were finally movin' but then all of a sudden he says, "Damn, son of a bitch, I'll be damned if I didn't leave the fridge door open" and out of the Caddy he climbs again and he ambles back into his house. The boys in the backseat were laughin' their asses off again now between sips of whiskey. "Whooo boy, there goes old Washy again. Man, is that cat paranoid. We'll be here another hour just you wait." These guys were calling W.L. "Washy" because of his name being Washington; I, like the white boy I was, thought it was odd W.L. was named after Lincoln and Robert E. Lee, though, of course, his last name being Lee probably was a coincidence--his mother and father thinking more in terms of George Washington and Abe Lincoln than they were that their last name was the same as the Confederate commander in chief--I guess I was assuming black people got to choose their last names, too, when they were freed. When I posed this subject later to the other Advance Quartet members, they laughed and said, "Damn, Whitey, who told you the black man was freed? Who told you that? You think I'm free? No sirreee, boy, I ain't free, you's the one who's free, you free, white, and twenty-one, baby, and that's what being free in this country means, white boy." Then they went through the palm slapping ritual again accompanied by the great round of guffawing.

We finally got to rolling a little after 6. We had 200 miles to go. It was gonna be tight, I was thinking, until I realized W.L. was driving like I'd heard Chuck Berry drove his Caddies with the pedal to the metal. I mean that big clumsy Caddy was going so fast the highway was ribboning up at us, coming toward us just like riding on a roller coaster. It didn't bother me; I was used to driving fast; at that time back in Santa Fe, I drove a 1962 Jaguar Mark VI sedan--and I always tooled that Jag along these wide-open New Mexico-West Texas highways around 80 mphs--so W.L.'s doin' 80 and 90 didn't bother me a bit.

"By the way, Whitey," one of the guys in the backseat yelled, "if the cops waylay us, you're drivin', dig?" W.L. laughed at that one but he didn't say anything. He'd been exceptionally nice to me and since I was the only white man in this band, I kind'a leaned on him for support. I was sure I wasn't gonna get any support from Carmine and Speed; hell, they hadn't even offered a drag on their bottle, man. W.L. finally told me to open the glove compartment (what the hell are they called now--I've never thought of it 'til this minute) and take a nip out of his bottle I'd find in there. It was 151 rum. I took a long sip and damn, it almost blew my stack--"Holy shit," I cried, "that's the demon rum alright." The boys in the backseat liked seeing me takin' a slug of that rotgut rum like a man and they eased up a lot on me before we zoomed into Midland with time to spare, by golly--like we hit town a little after 8, amazing.

I had heard of W.L. Lee up in Santa Fe when I first moved there and got to hangin' out in the Santa Fe main scene, which at that time was The Forge in the Inn of the Governors in deep downtown Santa Fe. This was before Santa Fe was invaded by the California and Texas rich farts and the money-grubbing white developers when Santa Fe was a relative peaceful town, turistas out the ass, yes, but they had limited places to stay around Santa Fe so the really rich stayed up at Bishop's Lodge and the regular tourists hung down in the downtown area and the Inn of the Governors was just a nice modern phony adobe-style motel--a Holiday Inn with vigas and farolito hanging lamps and serapes and Navajo blankets mounted on the walls of the lobby on into the main lounge that was called The Forge. They had a piano bar in the Forge and my first night living in Santa Fe I looked in the paper and saw that starting a long-run engagement at The Forge that very night was a guy I knew from my hometown, a piano player and singer who'd gotten his musical training at Howard University, then in the US Army, and then later working as an intermission pianist on 52nd Street in New York City during the height of the golden age of jazz that happened on that street--now taken over by a huge lummox-like building that was originally built by the Equitable Life Insurance Company, though they did memorialize the old jazz street by putting plaques all along the sidewalks in front of that Equitable Building (I think someone else puts their brand on it now)--plaques honoring Diz and Bird and clubs like the Onyx or the Three Deuces or the Embers--Birdland was around the corner on Broadway, directly across from the Alvin Hotel in which the great Prez lived his last days sitting in front of his hotel window drinking his famous gin and port wine drink--his "up and down" as he called it--and smoking his muggles while staring down at the Birdland neon sign and lit-up marquee--Lester Young was a kind'a bitter dude who never thought he got his just rewards as a jazz innovator--he would say sometimes, "That club should be named 'Prezland' not Birdland." So my friend from my hometown had gotten to play intermission piano--in the Embers and he talked about meeting Marian McPartland in there and that's where her trio played for years; plus he'd gotten kind of palsy-walsies with Cannonball Adderley and his brother Nat in there, too.

As a result of this chance meeting--I had not seen Jimmy Boland in at least 15 years before that night--and then thanks to Jimmy, I got to hangin' in the coolest Santa Fe scene going at the time and then Jimmy and I started jam sessions at The Forge on Saturday afternoons and these became the hottest ticket in town and we had marvelous jams for several years and I got to sittin' in on piano during the jams and then I took up learning to play the flute, too, which to my amazement Jimmy knew how to play and taught me the tricks of correct fingering and how to tune it--by twisting the mouthpiece around until you registered the right key--and soon thanks to JimBo I got pretty good on the flute, good enough that I started sittin' in on flute at the jams and not playing much piano at all.

So it was JimBo who'd first told me about W.L. Lee and then W.L. came to one of our jam sessions, he and the pianist Freddie Redd showed up together from Albuquerque, and, damn, he was a fine bass player, reminding me very much of Mingus in the way he played--you know, cuttin' times in half or doublin' 'em up suddenly. He'd complimented me on my flute work--and believe me, I wasn't really a good flute player but I'd learned several melodies and I could improvise fairly well on those tunes--"It Might As Well Be Spring" was my showpiece--that's the one I had down the best. But while W.L. was still up jammin', JimBo had to go to the phone so I took over the piano and damn if I didn't cool out double-cool with W.L. behind me. We slapped palms and traded skin afterwards. After that jam, I never saw W.L. again though I heard he was workin' on a motel circuit and was out in Southern California giggin' around.

One afternoon JimBo called my house. "My man, you in'trested in a gig?" "What'cha talkin' about?" "W.L. Lee called me last night. He lost his piano player and he offered me the gig but I can't do it and I reminded him of you and he said OK would I ask you were you int'rested." "What's it involve?" "He's workin' Highway 80 startin' in Midland, Texas, and endin' up in Southern California, L.A., I guess. It's six weeks of gigs with a guaranteed $245 a week, 'cept you gotta chip in on the gas and pay you're own room rents and get your own meals." "What kind'a music, man?" "Come on, Wolf, you can play anything they play--bop, shit, then mostly
r & b. He's got a guy who sang with the Hi-Los or some group like that, an L.A. Spanish cat, so you might have to learn 'Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries,' shit like that, but hell, man, you know the Circle of Fifths, you can fake those things--besides, W.L.'s probably got sheet music and fake sheets and shit. Get you away from your old lady for a spell." "Yeah, so you bastards can hit on her while I'm on the road." "Hey, you take your chances when you're a workin' musician--besides, don't worry, there's plenty of strange to be had on these gigs."

That's how I got the gig. W.L. called me the next night with the details--"We'll be hittin' the road this comin' Friday--you gotta get to Roswell by 4 0'clock--we got a 9 o'clock gig in Midland, Texas, 'bout 200 miles from Roswell. It's a cool lounge--we play for rich whiteys--so it'll be cool, man." So I gave my word I'd be in Roswell by 4 pm Friday.

The 2nd Take
By the time we got to Midland, W.L.'s big blue Caddy was smokin' and getting sluggish. "Washy," Carmine said, "did you forget to change your oil again?" "Lord'a Mercy, Wash Man, look at this bitch...shit, man, look at that oil light, blinkin' red, ain't that bad shit?" We chugged our way into downtown Midland and found the Flame Lounge. W.L. pulled the smokin' Caddy into the motel parking lot. He got out of the car and walked around it, dropping his large bulk down every now and then to look under the car. "Why ain't he checkin' under the hood, man?" Speed asked. Carmine and Speed acted worried but in a snide, jive manner. "How the hell we s'pose to get to El Paso by tomorrow night in this piece of shit?" "Don't worry," Carmine said, "it always seems to work out with this cat." Finally, W.L. stuck his head in the door and said, I'll go in and find out where we unload--let's see, we've got 30 minutes--hell we can go on fifteen of 'em late, who the hell's gonna know." "Right, 'sides, niggahs is always late," Speed jived. "CPT, baby," Carmine chimed in. "Hey, Whitey, ain't niggahs dumb?" "I never said that," I weakly defended my indefensible whiteness and its inherent racism. "No, but you thinkin' it, boy, you thinkin' it."

W.L. came back and said we could unload on back around in the alley behind the joint. He drove us around there and sure enough there was the kitchen door. "Goin' through the kitchen again. We always goin' through the kitchen," W.L. said as he pulled the Caddy up by an overflowing garbage dumpster. We all bounded out of the smokin' Caddy. I hadn't noticed but Speed had his guitar case with him in the backseat. Then I saw him haulin' W.L.'s electric bass out from the backseat, too. Carmine's drums, it turned out, fit perfectly in the trunk of the car including the two amps for the guitar and bass. "Come on, Whitey, help me with these drums, piano player, you bastard, never have to carry an instrument." "I will soon as these electronic pianos and keyboards catch on."

We carried the instruments in through the kitchen. The kitchen staff was all black except for a little white fat man wearing a chef's hat and he was wheezing like hell around that kitchen, cursing, hollering; a mad house it was. We banged our way out to the club area, a small intimate space, about 20 tables and a long bar behind the tables, with a tight little stage sat in one of the corners of the place. All behind the stage were windows that looked out onto Highway 80 that flowed alongside a string of railroad tracks just to the north of the Highway.

I helped haul in Carmine's drums, him bitchin' all the way, "Hey, Whitey, careful with that snare, man, that cost me an arm and a leg." Or, "Jesus, Whitey, that's my best cymbal, dammit, careful with that."

Once in the club, I noticed the piano. An old Baldwin console that looked to be in pretty good shape, just off to the deepest window side of the little bandstand. "Help me set my drums up over here, Whitey," Carmine called from the other side of the stage. "Fuck you," I hollered back at him, "I ain't your god-damn roadie." He didn't say anything. I was just pissed. So what if my instrument was already at the club. Fuck him. Then Speed hollered at me as he was prancing in with his guitar to set it up on the stage, "Hey, Whitey, drag my amp outta the Caddy will ya?" "Fuck you, too," I crabbed at him, "I ain't your roadie either, man." "Hey, Whitey, take it easy, cat," Speed hollered back. "Yeah, take it easy, Whitey, we just jivin' you, man," Carmine hollered from settin' up his drums--not a full set, I noticed, just a snare and a bass drum with a hi-hat and a big ride and that was about it, no floor toms, or if there were, I hadn't seen him put them up yet. I couldn't believe how much shit they'd gotten in that Caddy and I hadn't noticed how much stuff they had jammed into that backseat. My concern throughout the trip down was had I made a mistake taking this gig because these guys seemed to hate my ass, resent me being white, and were being openly rude to me, openly meanly jivin' me--not just jive, I can take a little kind-hearted jivin', but this was cold jive, see?

I went over and tickled the ivories on the Baldwin. Not bad. Seemed tuned OK. Keys were all working, no stucks, no missing keys, no "ivories" missing, not bad at all; I thought, shit, I think I can handle this baby easy, and then the devil in me said, 'Unless they call all their tunes in E-flat or B-natural or something,' but the jazz in me said, 'No, man, this band's lead instrument is the guitar and I don't know any guitar players who don't usually play around E or G, never F, and they all could always play in C or A and I could hold my own in those keys--the less accidentals the best, as the beginners all say. Then I was suddenly feeling good and cool and like, hey, dudes, I'm the piano player in the W.L. Lee and His Advance Quartet, check me out!"

I went back out to the Caddy to get my clothes bag. The clothes bags had been piled high in the back window of the Caddy; mine was on top. I'd brought a pair of black slacks, a white shirt, a tie, and a cool light blue sport coat I'd just bought; damn it looked cool.

W.L. came out and I asked him where the restrooms were so I could change into my gig clothes. "Did you bring black?" W.L. asked me. "Black slacks, yeah...." "Damn, Whitey, I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you we wear black, solid black, with black shirts even, white ties--I forgot to tell you, man, I apologize." "Shit, man, I've got a white shirt, a black tie, but a blue sport coat." "Hey, man," W.L. jived, a good jive, you see, "You gonna stand out like a sore thumb in there." He chuckled. That was the second time he'd laughed since the trip began. "By the way, Whitey, I hope the boyz ain't buggin' you too much. They ain't worked with no white man since joining me. My old pianist was Sleepy; did you ever know Sleepy Frank?" "Sure, he's been up to our jams a lot, especially when he was workin' the Coach and Six in Albuquerque last summer." "Yeah, that gig's why he quit me." He took a flask from his inside coat pocket and handed it to me. "Heah, man, take a slug'o this...and don't worry, man, this is class shit...the little 151 rum thing was just some...." "I dig, W.L., don't worry 'bout it." I took a slug from the flask. "Whoaaa, is that smooth." "Four-star Remy Martin, baby." "Remy Martin?" "Yeah, a new cognac outta France." "Damn, now that's booze." "Damn right it is," W.L. said, offering me his palm up. I slid him some skin and felt suddenly really damn sweet and cool and relaxed and wondering when Carmine and Speed would break out the muggles so I could have a couple'a viper hits on the muggles stick 'fore we went on--and shit, we were on in a minute or so, damn, it was 9 then. W.L. said, "Don't worry, cat, black dudes are always late to gigs--the white man expects it."

I changed into my contrasting clothes in the men's room of the Flame Lounge. When I came out and went into the club the band was no where to be seen. This young punk stopped me and asked me if I had a reservation and I said I was with the band and he looked at me like I was crazy and said, "The band has to stay in the kitchen or out back 'till the show starts and the show ain't startin' ever on time when those damn niggers play here, but, hey, they're good and draw the crowd, man." Then he skipped off to check something else and I headed for the kitchen. The club was packed. I was excited. I found the boys out in the alley--just finishing a doob--"Damn," Speed let out a swoosh of smoke, "Whitey, you a snowflake in a coal mine here, look at you, dude!" They were all smiles. Then W.L. came from around the corner of the building from parking the Caddy and pulled me aside. "Whitey, we got a problem." "Wha's that...and, hey, can I have a hit off that joint?" W.L. continued as I took a drag off what was left of the joint--it was a solid roach by then, "No, Whitey, I'm serious. Mister Charley says you can't appear with us; he don't allow it." "What?" "He don't want a white boy playin' with a bunch of niggahs, cat, that's it." "Where's the motherfucker, let me talk to him." "Naw, man, don't cause no scene, this is a good gig, man, so let's see what we can work out."

The 3rd (and Final) Take
So W.L. rolled his big frame off back through the kitchen to go and check with the bossman about me playing with them that night. I was pissed about this whole thing. Really pissed. I ripped my tie open. I went up to Speed and said, "I need a fuckin' drink." "Wha's'a matta, Whitey?" "My name's fuckin' Wolf, dammit." "Well 'scooze my ass, Whitey." "OK, OK, call me what the fuck you want to, I don't give a fuckin' shit." "Shit, Whitey," Carmine hollered over at me, openly taking a slug off a hooch bottle as he did, "what the fuck's up y'ur ass?" "Come on, Motherfucker, give me a drink out'a that bottle." Carmine handed me the bottle. "You shure you wanna drink after a niggah, Whitey?" "Fuck you." I took a long drink out of the bottle and I didn't even wipe the top off either. God I was pissed. "Thanks," I said to Carmine. "So why you so pissed, Whitey?" Carmine asked me. "These motherfuckers don't want a white boy playin' with you guys." "Yeah, we talked about that before we came here, about whether they'd like us bringin' a white boy in here to Midland, Texas. There's a whole bunch'a white supreemists in this town. Whitey, you know this is the richest city in the USA. Everyone of these motherfuckers is a millionaire, even the bitch cleanin' out y'ur room, brother." I checked that; I caught he called me "brother." I'd been puttin' Carmine down in my mind, you know, his acting like he really was a black man bugged me. I was thinking, shit, he's a Mexican from Los Angeles, hell, Carmine Pico; yet, he was black, too, black as Speed who really wasn't that black at all, more light tan, though neither one of them were as black as W.L. who reminded me so much of the blues singer Howlin' Wolf, tall, he must have been six-three or -four, and broad, a real cool kind'a big man, like a lot of bass players, big dudes, big enough to handle the big sounds of a bass, even though W.L. played an electric bass, a Fender Jazz bass as I later discerned, those electric bass strings were heavy metal even in those days, as heavy as the metal strings on an upright acoustic bass.

I didn't tell Carmine I was born and raised just 30 miles back east down Highway 80 from Midland, Texas. Yes, I knew Midland had more millionaires than any city in the US; in fact, only the oil-rich Arab nation of Kuwait was said at that time to have more millionaires than Midland, Texas, which was also oil-rich from the Permian Basin days, the Permian Basin one of the richest oil discoveries in US history--glutted by the floods of oil exploration and leasing companies that hit the area and eventually overdrilled it and overproduced it and dried the huge field up, except it still left plenty of producing wells and the rich of Midland had stayed rich and famous and stayed in Midland. Midland's first Republican-ever politician to get elected to eventually Congress and eventually to become president was George Herbert W. Bush, but I said nothing about knowing all of this or that I had wooed a Midland girl one time, a rich oil-man's daughter, and had shot my wad in Midland on many an old teenage evening of unbounded pleasure and fun, right there in Midland, by God, Texas. But boy was I mad as hell at Midland that night standin' in that alley behind that motel where I thought I'd be playin' the piano with W.L. Lee and His Advance Quartet to a fucking packed house and instead here I was standing in this alley drinking booze straight out of a bottle having sucked hard on a doob roach, high, a little whoozy from the booze, pissed as hell, gettin' crabby and vicious, thinking, "fuck this shit, I'll just hike my ass over to the Greyhound station and head on back to Santa Fe, to my hot little Tex-Mex wife and my hot little bed...." I was pissed. And then here came W.L. back out of the kitchen. It was already fifteen after nine. CPT, I supposed.

"Speed, Carmine, y'all go on in and sit and then Johnny L's gonna bring us on," I heard W.L. talking to the other cats. "Hey, what about my ass?" I hollered. Boy was I pissed but out of respect for W.L. I cooled it as he came over to me. "Whitey, look, man, the boss is thinkin' it over. He wants for us to go on on and he'll let me know after he consults with the big boss about whether he gonna let you play or not. Sorry, man, but this here's your people." He stood there. "So, what the hell do I do, W.L.?" "First of all, straighten your tie up, look good, cat, always look good. Comb your hair, straighten up, stay cool, and then come on in here." And he headed back into the kitchen.

When we got through the kitchen to the kitchen door that led into the club area, I could see the lights were down in the room, it was dark. "OK, Whitey, now you just stand right here firm, you see? Don't move. Don't go off hot headed. Let me get the show goin' then the boss'll know by the end of the first number--we just be startin' off with a up tempo thing, you dig? So just stay here, man, and cool out and we'll see. If the boss don't allow you to work, then I'll understand if you ready to bail on me fo' the rest of the circuit, OK? Trust me?" "OK, man, I'll be patient." "That's the way I like it, man." And he was smiling, dammit, he was smiling big time. "Hey, Sweetheart," he then said to one of the female kitchen workers, "give this white boy a piece o'fried chicken, you got a wing or somethin', help calm the boy down; he's nervous." And then he went through the door and off into the club.

This cute chick did bring me a piece of fried chicken, a breast, huge, and I told her thank you but no thank you I wasn't hungry and she laughed and said she understood and went back to her work. Then I saw a spot come on in the club and a white dude in a red sportcoat hit the microphone and I heard "Ladies and Gentlemen, a big howdy welcome to all of you to the Famous Flame Room and tonight's entertainment. Let's get on with the show, Ladies and Gentlemen, without further adieu here's one of your favorite bands, brought back here to the Flame by popular demand, Double...Uuuuuu...ellllllll...Lee and His Advance Quartet...." And the joint went wild; raucous applause and Texan whistling and yahoooing; and the backlights came up and W.L., Speed, and Carmine were then playing "Chicken Shack"--and they were good; they were rockin' with just the guitar leading and playing the lines, and Carmine was a hell of a drummer, too, and W.L.was...shit, they were swinging pro pure and I was standing there wantin' to play so bad--dammit I knew "Chicken Shack" like the back of my hand and it sounded like they were playing in E--my natural key is F so I'm pretty good at remembering what E sounds like--no, I don't have perfect pitch but I played with this alto player one time who had perfect pitch and told me there was nothing to it, it was just memorizing the note sounds based on your natural vocal pitch key, mine's F like I said, and you memorize the other keys off that. Yes, it's hard to memorize all the keys, 88 on a piano, but it's possible; at least I think I can tell if a band's playing in E or F or G or F# or E-flat, too; whatever, I guessed they were playing in E; besides, like I knew, too, guitar players don't like playing in F, but they don't mind G or E, but especially E, which is like playing in C on a piano for them.

At the end of the tune I started applauding--then I heard applause coming from behind me; the kitchen workers were up close behind me; they'd been diggin' the scene through the kitchen door with me. "Damn, the boyz are hot tonight aren't they?" one of the kitchen guys said. "Yeah, but where's that piano player they had last time?" "Yeah, man, they ain't got no piano player, I just noticed, damn."

After the thunderous applause died down, W.L. lummoxed up to the mic. "Thank you, thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen of Midland! Yes, we love Midland, and we especially love playin' here at the Fabulous Flame and for the fabulous Mister Charlie Barnes--let's give a big hand to the Flame's on boss of the entertainment world here, Charlie Barnes...take a bow, Charlie."

A thin rather rakish looking white guy stood up right center stage at a table full of men wearing Western clothes and three very hot babes, one a black chick...whaaaaaa! Wait a minute, I'm thinkin', that son of a bitch won't let me play with these black dudes yet he's sportin' around town with that black chick. I assumed, white like, she was a whore. That excused her. Shit I was mad; shit I wanted to be a part of this show--I was supposed to be out there gettin' my star to shinin', too, dammit, and damn I was getting really pissed again. Then W.L. went on.

"Now I'm shure y'all noticed I have no piano player tonight." A big question came up from the crowd, you know, like moans, groans, and yeahs, and one "Yeah, where's your piano player?" "Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm about to take care of the situation. I've got a treat for you all tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, all the way from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where's he renown for his flute playin'...." My heart got stuck in my throat. Motherfucker, I suddenly thought, this son of a bitch, those sons'a bitches, those motherfuckers.... "Ladies and Gentlemen, the newest member of the Advance Quartet, the Wolf Man! Put yo hands together for The Wolf Man."

Sweat was pouring from under my arms tackying up my new blue sportcoat as I ran out on stage. I hadn't noticed the piano was set up so the audience could see me and was mic-ed, too, damn, I hadn't noticed that. And the joint was standin' and clappin' and shoutin' and Charlie Barnes was clappin' and smilin' and the black chick with him, I swear, was diggin' me right into my eyes, the pretty thing, Jesus. And soon W.L. called "Night Train" in C, and I was off; I was wailin'; I was showboatin'; and the first set went on for over an hour and at the first break Charlie Barnes invited the band over to his table and I heard the first champagne cork going off as I sat down by the black chick who introduced herself to me and holy shit she was a singer from Dallas I knew in college, she was workin' with some guys, one a close friend, I knew from college over at another Midland club--holy shit...suddenly I felt right at home.

After the show, W.L., Speed, and Carmine, Carmine had hooked up with the cutest little cowgirl I'd ever seen, started laughin' big time at my ass, with Speed going, "Lord, Whitey, we fooled your dumb white ass, baby, you gotta admit it." "Oh yeah, that's one of the best ones Washy's ever come up with." "Whoaaa," I said, taking my arm from around the waist of the black chick, "you motherfuckers, W.L. set my ass up?" "You got it, Whitey. We set you up. You white folks are so full'a guilt around black folks you lets yourself git gull-a-ble." I looked over at W.L. He was full of total smiles, laughin', jawin', drinkin'. "You motherfucker," I thought looking at him, "you crazy good ass Motherfucker. What a ball I'm gonna have from now on; I'll show your ass." And then the black chick said we were all going over to her room at another motel and we were gonna party the rest of the night..."Unless...." she said, winking at me as we went out and piled in W.L.'s smokin' Cadillac, except the Caddy didn't smoke at all when he fired it up; in fact, it purred like a kitten--like Z.Z. Hill sang in his "Shade Tree Mechanic." Plus, damn, it had been washed, I just noticed that as we pulled away from the Downtowner parking lot and headed up Highway 80.


No comments: