Saturday, February 02, 2008

"And He Sang This Little Song to Me"

Junco Partner
The first time I heard "Junco Partner" was in Abilene, Texas, the year of somebody's lord (a property owning Englishman, right?) 1950, in the fall, like September, and I was sitting on the carpeted floor of my brother's apartment, a tiny prefab adjoined ranch in a development that had been built during WWII to house officers and their wives from Camp Barkeley, a large army training base southwest of town, 40,000 soldiers trained there at the height of its operations, and the US Army Air Force's Tye Air Force Base located just across the Capps Highway from Camp Barkeley, Tye a training airbase, pilot training and mechanic training, that sort of thing, and my dad was a warehouseman with what was called the Civil Service, civilian military jobs, at this airbase after signing up for the service at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, where my dad was a paint and glass salesman with Sherwin-Williams Paint and Glass, a big nationwide chain of paint, wallpaper, and glass stores--their logo was, to me, cool, a colorful globe of the earth with a giant bucket of Sherwin-Williams paint being poured over it with the slogan under it, "We Cover the World"; most of these stores, and the one in Enid did, had huge neon signs with this big bucket turned up then gradually turning down and then pouring out a slushing of neon-lit paint all over the big globe--oh that sign, what a joy it was for a kid like me. And the government sent my dad from Enid to Abilene, which, hell, was our hometown anyway. I was born there; my brother was born there, raised there, and went to college there and was then sent off to WWII from there--but I was just a kid in Enid, fascinated by this new "place" I'd suddenly found myself existing in, a natural-born existentialist, observing and reasoning on what I was seeing, and as a mere kid seeing and reasoning and definitely puzzled by most of it--like why couldn't I, a little white boy, play with the little black girl that lived next door to us? They called black folks "Negroes" in those days; that's what black folks wanted to be called, "black" being a term of put down to blacks same as the N-word in those days. Only during the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle against racist plantation-thinking whites, when Negroes thought, why the hell is it OK and polite to call a white man a white man but denigrating to call a black man a black man? That didn't make sense to me from the get-go. In fact, nothing I saw and began reasoning about in those early day made much sense to me. Like why when I was around little girls did I want to look up their dresses; in fact, I reasoned, why do girls wear dresses and not pants like boys? And then, why can I take my top off and it's cool and cute yet if a little girl takes her top off it's taboo? None of that made sense to me.

So we left Enid, Okie Homer, and landed back in Abilene, Texas, my dad working for the Air Force, my brother in the US Navy, and me left alone with my parents and then in a great new house, a duplex, a brick duplex, with a vacant lot on the south side of it that my parents owned and in which was a huge tree and that became my playland, my own amusement lot, and my parents rented out the other side of our house to what they called "tenants" or when really pissed at them "renters," like the time my mother saw a whiskey bottle in the tenant's garbage can that was way out in the alley that ran behind our house and down which the garbage men came twice a week in their big open-back dump trucks, one guy up in the truck, the other dude jockeying those galvanized garbage cans around to grip 'em, lift 'em, and then heave the hell out of them up and up towards the dude up in the back of the truck who'd then catch the cans and dump them and then whip them back down to the dude on the ground, who might be there to catch the empty or maybe he was already up at the next can waiting for the truck, the just-emptied cans lolling around lidless on the ground where the top dude had flung them. The truck had a driver and all he did was drive. That's the garbageman job I would aspire to as I sat in our backyard watching these guys go about their business--I wanted to drive the truck. That was easy looking work; besides, you got to drive a big truck and as a little boy I was fascinated by big trucks.

Yep, one whiskey bottle in the tenant's garbage was enough to set my mother off describing "renters" as the scum of the earth, hard drinkers, fornicators, why, hell, she bet they even went to the "movies." My mother was a kind of a hypocrit because she used to go to the movies. Her brother owned three movie houses around Texas and when they were young my mom and dad went free to the movies in my uncle's movie house in my hometown. That brother, my uncle, even started his own movie company, with a real motion picture camera, a huge thing he mounted on the back of a special truck he had built, and he had a dude who drove his truck for him while he and his partner rode up ahead in my uncle's big new Packard. This guy, a dapper dresser, too, always had a big new Packard; he put down cheaper cars and said he wasn't comfortable in any car lesser than a Packard, and in those days Packards were right up there with Cadillacs and LaSalles and Lincoln Continentals as THE prestige cars--hell, President Roosevelt had as his official car a Packard touring car--I still have, it's over there on my apartment wall now, a photograph of President Roosevelt ridin' high-class in his Presidential Packard, taken by my brother in Philadelphia when my brother was stationed there during WWII at the Philly Naval Hospital where he was training to be a Medic!

It's ironic, and damn I love irony, I'm a writer remember, that after I left home I became a renter and am one to this day when nearly everyone else is sunk into deep debt trying to OWN their apartments. Yep, I'm still renting and I'm still thought of as a scumbag by landlords who hate renters. Now in New York City, new renting guidelines put forth by our little-man billionaire development-mad mayor makes it impossible for someone like me to rent any longer in NYC. Now in order to rent an apartment in New York City, you have to give the landlord proof that you have a job, your latest tax returns, your W2 statement for the past year, your savings acount, any worth you have in stocks, your Social Security number, and you have to pay up to $75 for the landlord to run a credit check on your ass! Good luck, pals, renting an apartment in New York City from now on. And if you're buying, bring a hell of a big suitcase full of Euro dollars--I don't think our new-breed of foreign building owners and their henchmen managers want US dollars anymore--wouldn't that be an irony to beat all ironies, landlords refusing to take US dollars for rents. You know something, I'm an elder now and I still can't reason this existence shit out. Why's the fucking beautiful world gotta be so fucking difficult to exist in?

Does anyone still remember the American tune "Junco Partner"? I know a horrible British band, looking for obscure American roots music to ride to fame on, I think the Clash, covered "Junco" in the 80s. I've heard it. It embarasses the hell out of me.

The first time I heard "Junco Partner"--on the floor of the apartment of my brother and his new hot wife--god, she wore shorts tighter than a drum and her naked legs drove me crazy, though being still a pimple-faced neophyte I hadn't reasoned out why a woman's naked legs drove me nuts, made my "little thing" rise up ("to get erect") much to my excitement and my fear, the fear instilled in me by my Bible-thumping parents who constantly read the forbidden sins to me, especially the ones that covered what little boys should or shouldn't do especially when it came to their little hard weinies. My mother beat the crap out of me one time when I was in the bathtub and my little thing got roaring alive and I exhibited it to her with a big smile on my face--first she smacked me across the mug--then she made me get out of the tub and then while I was standing there naked and shivering cold, she switched my ass enough it made me cry. Still, that incident only made me more curious about why my little thing getting hard as a rock so bothered my mother that she was reduced to the point of beligerency and chastisement; I wondered if such a demonstration of my little manhood in front of my father would have bothered him just as much? Aha, I hear old Herr Doktor back there taking notes like a madman, hollering "Eureka!" ever few scribblings--"Sorry, Doc, you're wrong in this case. Such reactions merely magnified my male power--aha--oh shit, now you're writing even faster."

At one time my parents went to movies, danced and drank--my mom and dad were supposed to be one of the hottest local hotties on the dance floor, my mom a blonde and cute as pie and my dad a Clark-Gable lookalike who loved sharp clothes, silk shirts, tailormade suits and slacks, even special-order cravats from A. Sulka in New York City--and my dad had once smoked Lucky Strikes, but then my mom got preggers and had a second son, between my brother and me, and this son, named after her grandfather, lived only 6 months--he was a "yellow baby," a jaundiced baby, easily remedied these days but fatal in those days, and from the day he died on for a year or more my mom went bitterly nuts and searched for a real man, my father having let her down by giving her a second sickly son--my living brother had been born "black" and the delivering doctor had declared him dead and thrown him over on a pile of newspapers from which my grandmother retrieved him and suddenly declared to the world that he was not dead but just holding his breath--IN FEAR--the birth our most traumatic event ever in our lives--and after my second brother died, my mother couldn't cope with everyday life and she turned to charletons and hucksters and naturopaths to give her comfort and tame the fever in her brain--and somehow out of this bad time for her she found Jesus, superman Jesus, the man of perfection who all women secretly dream about--all cultures really have these dreamy supermen dieties that women fall head over heels for--so as a "bride of Christ" my mother flipped out and fell over into the arms of Christianity--no more booze, no more dancing, no more Devil Music played in our house! Aha!

My family visited my brother all the time after he was married and settled down and I'd bike over to his place a lot, too, on my own, but this time I was with my family and they were jivin' around the dinner table when my brother said, "Hey, Wolfie Boy, come into the living room, I want you to hear something Jimmy the Ace sent me." Jimmy the Ace had been my brother's best friend ever in his teen years and then they had gone to war together, Jimmy the Ace turning out to be a highly decorated pilot in WWII, and after the war, Jimmy the Ace, who was a good-looking dude, too, got a job as a disc jockey up in Lubbock, Texas (where Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Wayland Jennings and Mac Davis were from) and soon he was sending my brother big boxes of 78 rpm records--wax recordings--"shellacks" they were called then--"spinnin' wax" is what the disc jockeys did--then these records became known as "platters" and disc jockeys were shortened to DJs, and they were called "platter spinners," and soon we had r and b groups called the Platters and the Spinners.

My brother took me into the living room. He was excited as he pulled a couple of 78s out of a box I knew right off was a box of platters from Jimmy the Ace. "This is the one I want you to hear." And he put this Flair record on his turntable and then he put the needle on it. It was "Junco Partner." Wow. I listened to it. Then I wanted to hear it again. We ended up playing it over 6 or 7 times. "Down the road/Down the road/Came Junco Partner/He was loaded/Loaded as a man can be/He was knocked out/Knocked down loaded/And he sang this little song to me." I couldn't get enough of it. I read the label. It was "Junco Partner." It was by Little James Wayne, a Texas musician who'd ended up over in New Orleans, his first LP after LPs took the place of 78s, being called From Texas to New Orleans, put out on a Dutch label first if I'm not mistaken.

And that "little song" stayed with me for all these years. And when I lived in New Orleans and started singing "Junco Partner," down there--before Dr. John got hot, by the way, before Tipitina's, when there were blues players but they were modern blues players, like Snooks Eaglen or Johnny "Guitar" Watson--and I was there back during the Clarence "the Frog Man" Henry's rule, the days of Ernie K. Doe, Bobby Marchon, Huey "Piano" Smith, Laverne Baker, and the rising up of the great southern Louisiana black Cajon bands like Clifton Chenier--that was the New Orleans I was in while learning about life and all the sweet sounds coming out New Orleans that had attracted me there in the first place--and when I sang "Junco Partner" down there and talked about Little James Wayne I was told, "Hell, son, that song's been around Nu Or'luns forever. I know Longhair sings it." Longhair? Who the hell was Longhair? I didn't even know where the blues clubs were in New Orleans when I lived there, maybe the College Inn out by Tulane was one--I think it was?

Later after I left New Orleans, I was at a hang down in lower Manhattan at a place John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd had bought together after they were the King Kongs of Saturday Night Live and making money off that show--before they hit it big in Hollywood--before they dared attempt to play blues--nothing gripes me like watching Dan Ackroyd make a fool out of himself playing the harmonica and trying to be the Blues Brothers all over again--it pains me--but I have to give him his dues when it came to promoting American blues and r and b musicians when they were being ignored by the majority of the American music audience--but back in these days when I saw Dr. John down at John and Dan's joint they weren't showing off Hollywood like that.

I got the drunkest I've ever gotten in my life down there one night--I was with this California Valley Girl, from the Valley, yes she was, same place as Frank Zappa came from, like Sun City, anyway, I was with this redheaded L.A. girl and the beer was free and the drinks were cheap at one of their "constant" parties so me and this Valley Girl got so friggin' high and drunk we passed out together and met and made love in our own beermares. The next morning I was knocked awake with Dan Ackroyd kicking at my shoes--I was passed out with my head against their side door to the building and my feet sticking straight out across the sidewalk, on Dominick Street, in case you're wondering were this place was and whether I'm not writing fiction or not, though like I've always said, everything in life is fiction to me, fiction from which I try and lure out my own known truths, whatever truth is--a boiling down of lies? Anyway, the place was on Hudson and Dominick streets in the BLOHO section of downtown Manhattan--and the night I was there when Dr. John, he had turned back into Mac Rebennack (John Malcolm Rebennack) by then and was pianist in that early Howard Johnson-led Saturday Night Live band, sat down at the piano and started playing and how surprised I was when he started playing and singing "Junco Partner." I was drunk. I was dancing with Greg Morris's sister from Philadelphia when Mac started playing "Junco" and I pulled away from this beautiful woman and went over and sat and stared up at this man, and, yes, I did know he was Dr. John then. And when he finished the song, I told him my story, and how I'd first heard it done by James Wayne, and the Doctor said he'd first heard it done by James Booker, a New Orleans pianist who wore an eyepatch and played an old-timey r and b piano, pre-Huey "Piano" Smith-style, more a boogie pianist than a shuffler like Huey, a 12-bar EZ glider--James Booker was more of a showboat, houseparty, can-man pianist--but anyway, Dr. John did know James Wayne's version--it was a southern Texas and Louisiana hit--and then later here in NYC, I heard Professor Longhair's version--but then I found James Wayne's version back in the eighties and damn if I didn't prefer that original version I'd heard so long ago in Abilene, Texas, to the Professor's--that old record gave Little James Wayne writing credit on it, too--back there that day on my brother's livingroom floor.

One thing, Wayne's words were different than the Professor's, the version I used when I later started doing "Junco" in my blues act; ironically, I never learned James's words--where he sings about makin' millions and owning tobacco farms and breweries, the one I sing near that is the verse that talks about being as " as Rocky-feller/With friends for miles around."

I can say with pretty clear conscience that I was the guy who introduced "Junco Partner" to the early blues scene here in NYC, just a few years before Dr. John came to make NYC his home--especially to the guys who used to hear me sing it at old Dan Lynch's blues club on Second Avenue here--a club that was made to look like the Checkerboard Lounge, the famous blues bar in Chicago back in those days--one of whom still to this day sings it--he stole it from me, dammit, and we did it together on an album (a cassette tape) put out by Global Village Records. Ironically, and if you know me, you'll know why this is ironic, this tape sold well in London--we got high praise from several Euro music rags but, of course, we never saw one thin dime of royalties--boo hoo, another musician versus the industry story.

Scary Stuff About John "Failed Flyboy" McCain
--his great-grandfather was Wild Bill McCain who fought Messkins with Pershing's US Army--remember when Pancho Villa attacked Columbus, New Mexico, right under Pershing's elitist nose?
--his grandfather was an Admiral of the Navy during Fearless Teddy Roosevelt's floating of the "Great White Fleet" around the world to scare hell out of any little stick carriers out there who might be thinking of challenging our mighty might! He also led the rather disgraceful attack on the Philippine Insurgents back when we were trying to overtake our Motherland England as the imperialist champions of the world--we occupied the Philippines and then made them one of our "commonwealths"--aha, another Brit thing! God how white folks still love the Brits!
--McCain's old pappy was also an Admiral of the Navy--the second father and son to become Admirals of the Navy in US military history. John's old Pappy was a hidebound military nutjob into "honor" and "the fleet"--John says his old Pappy never told a lie (Yeah, John, we've heard that legend before). For awhile, John's nutjob Pappy was in charge of the goings on in Viet Nam; yep, Johnny's daddy was in Viet Nam! During "Big Balls" Johnson's presidency, Admiral McCain led our attack on the Dominican Republic. I lived in Mexico City at the time and damn how that pissed Latin Americans off--a preemptive attack on the Dominican Republic--why? because it was going commie--yep, finally some brave soul shot Dictator Trujillo's lights out (Trujillo, of course, was America's darling before that brave soul shot his filthy pompous ass) and the country was getting free elections but hey they were voting overwhelmingly for the commie candidate and "Big Balls" Johnson and his "military" attitude couldn't stand that so he sent in old Admiral McCain and the gyrenes--these pansy-ass presidents regale in their "commander in chief" roles even though that doesn't allow them to wear a military uniform nor give a direct order to troops. They can't even declare WAR! But they can cause what Hairy Ass Truman called "a police action"--it led to the Korean War--our police-action war--we still have troops in Korea, by the bye, 55 years after that war was ended.

The Vietnamese won their war against us, so we don't have any troops in Vietnam. Vietnam is the only country America has divided into norths and souths that has reunified after warring with us.

John "Sailor" McCain went to Annapolis where he, like Georgie Porgie Bush, was a fuck up, drinking beer and dating strippers, and as a result got out by the skin of his ass with a C average. When VietNam came along, Johnny Boy's military geek father said, "Hey, sonny boy, McCains go to war when there is one--so, son, where's your balls, in your corps spirit or hiding up your ass?" So Johnny Boy became a flyboy, a Navy flyboy. John's first fuck up as a Navy pilot came when he fucked up a landing on the USS Forestall, an aircraft carrier, his plane crashing, John leaping out just as his plane exploded and started burning like hell--45 (?) sailors were killed due to that fuck up. Then Johnny Boy's second fuck up was when he got shot out of the skies over Hanoi--we bombed the shit out of Hanoi every friggin' day--killing thousands of men, women, children, and destroying a lot of the old city, a beautiful old ancient sort of Asian city--and Johnny Boy got his ass shot down, he was captured, and, yes, he was brutally tortured for 5 years during which he courageously endured it until he could endure no more and then he collapsed, confessed, and made a film in which he admitted the US was wrong in this war and that the US was a war criminal--oh, but you don't hear this shit, do you? And this bastard still defends using torture to collect information--either that or was Johnny Boy telling the truth on those Hanoi tapes?--that's what I think--he was telling the fucking truth then.

So finally Johnny Boy's released and he comes back HOME but not to Arizona but to Washington, District of Corruption, where his father and mother live, his father being a big shot on the Beltway. Johnny Boy loves the District of Corruption and he tells his Pappy he wants to become a politician. Johnny Boy then divorces his 1st wife and marries his 2nd wife, his current wife (she was wearing go-go boots when I saw her on teevee the other eve), whose father was the Bud distributor for all of Mariposa County, which is the city of Phoenix, very rich, and very powerful in Arizona politics. John in Washington sees where an Arizona congressman is retiring and John tells his new wife to buy a house in this guy's district--then John launches his political career. He wins. Then after Barry "Right-of-Right" Goldwasser retired, Johnny Boy went for his seat with the support of his daddy-in-law and a guy named Charles Keating--did'ja ever hear that name before? A clue: Lincoln Savings and Loan! Or how about Neil Bush's Silverado Savings and Loan--oh no, you mean the Bushes are connected to Charles Keating, too! So by spending the largest sum in the history of Arizona politics with the help of a beer hustler and a savings account robber, Johnny Boy McCain the Flyboy became an Arizona senator. And Johnny Boy is author of a campaign spending bill now--how hypocritical is that!

--John's Pappy was called "Mr. Seapower" and for a while he went across the country lecturing on how "weak" the US Navy was and how powerful the Soviet Navy was--and blah, blah, blah, we need a powerful navy!! And John's Pappy believed in the US's world supremacy and that we had the right to militarily attack any god-damn country we pleased, pro-WAR, pro-WAR, pro-WAR. And John McCain is PRO-WAR--he can't help it; he has a whitewashed, brainwashed, military dupe's mind--this little weasel may be even stupider and more "evil" (in the religious sense) than Georgie Porgie Spoiled Rich Boy Bush!!! Think of that!!

--Did you know John McCain has two sons, one of whom's in Iraq?

--I've heard McCain is scoring big among anti-War Repugs and Independents and not among the diehard Repugnicans--which is real scary. That means some Dumbocrats and War-Minded Libertarians might actually be lured into this jerk's "myth," as the guy that wrote John's biography called John's life--Destroying the Myth of the Maverick (sic). John is simply a warmonger and with him president not only will we be slammed further back into historical dark ages, regression, but we'll also be doomed militarily to a never-ending military presence in the world and a threat to most of the rest of the world and also a challenge in terms of attacking us in our own beds. John McCain is a Military ELITIST! Surely we're all tired of the spoiled brat little elitist rich boys leading us over a continuing set of brinks, one that will eventually lead to the end of the world.

for The Daily Growler

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