Saturday, June 18, 2011

Can't Be Satisfied-- and I Just Can't Keep From Cryin'

I have been lucky to see lots of my musical heroes in my lifetime. Chuck Berry lots of times. Bo Diddley many times. Same for B. B. King. Bob Dylan several times. Miles Davis twice. Paul McCartney. And lots of people whose music I love. Billy Preston. Roland Kirk. Sonny Rollins. Taj Mahal. Freddy Hubbard. Dizzy Gillespie. The World Saxophone Quartet. Cecil Taylor. It goes on and on.

Sometimes I was just in the right place at the right time. J. B. Hutto got stuck in Seattle for a couple of months and I kept seeing him in small bars. Albert King opened a show at the Memorial Auditorium when I was a kid. So did Freddie King. When I was in college I went into a small coffee house on campus and saw the blues pianist Dave Alexander.

And there was a time in Seattle, just after I returned from three years in Africa, when many of the best African and reggae musicians came through town. I wrote about them for local papers and got to see most of them for free—Tabu Ley Rocherau, Fela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Kanda Bongo Man, Alpha Blondy, Sonny OkossunsThe Bhundu Boys, Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, Mutabaruka, The Mighty Diamonds and Burning Spear.

Once, in Paris, my brother and I sat three feet from Memphis Slim during a show at a small but luxurious show there. (We were accidentally seated next to two beauties from Israel.  When they went to the bathroom Memphis Slim complimented our taste.  Once he'd established our incompetence he moved in for the kill and left with both of them.)  The next night we saw Nina Simone at a bigger club, and we saw the Gil Evans orchestra perform at night, outdoors, in a beautiful square in Italy.

I am a cheapskate, but a lucky one. At Jazz Alley in Seattle the shows used to be free with a two drink minimum. It cost me $5 to see and hear musicians like Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner and Abdullah Ibrahim, to name only a few of my favorites. (When it first opened I sat a few feet from Earl “Fatha” Hines—a close up glimpse of jazz history.) In Sacramento I saw Queen Ida Gilroy and L. C. “Good Rockin’” Robinson at a free outdoor blues festival.

More cheap treats: For 6 weeks one summer I worked at a Lake Tahoe Casino. We were given drink tokes with our check to get us in a spending sort of mood. But I was thrifty. Two drink tokes and a tip got me into the free lounge, where, on different weeks, I saw Bobby Bland and B. B. King.

Seattle’s labor day music festival, Bumpershoot, also used to offer an unbelievably inexpensive (cheap) (subsidized!) way to see and hear great music-- $5 a day to hear people like Miles Davis, B.B. King, Taj Mahal, Wilson Picket, Little Richard (he essentially lost his mind on stage), Smokey Robinson and Ornette Coleman. I didn’t see him (I was in Afrcia at the time) but Chuck Berry once played there and evidently was a huge success. Years later I saw Johnny Johnson do a show at Bumpershoot with an audience of many hundreds. Pretty amazing to me that I got that opportunity.

The list goes on and on. I’ve seen various rock and roll acts. Some passed through the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium—Van Morrison, Elton John (a new guy—tiny crowd), Tower of Power and Buddy Miles. I saw Elvis Costello on his first tour (he was obnoxious), and Bruce Springsteen on one of his early national tours.

There are a lot more people if I could make the brain work.

So I have been lucky. And I need to keep this luck going.

But the reason I’m writing this is that I’ve been reading Robert Gordon’s biography of Muddy Waters, “I Can’t be Satisfied,” and I’ve been supplementing that reading by listening to as much of his music as I can find and even trying, in my lame-ass way, to play some of it. (I ask your forgiveness Muddy. As you used to say, I cannot send that message. But I like trying.)

Then, this morning, I see the website, which includes a great list of his final tours. And I see that the great Muddy Waters came to Seattle several times while I was living here, and I didn’t go.

I wonder if I saw those notices? I wonder if I drove past the clubs or theaters and saw his name in lights and just ignored them?

I’ll admit—in those days my Muddy Waters collection consisted of a few songs on compilations. I didn’t know his music well enough. I was an ignorant fool when it comes to Muddy Waters. I knew Hootchie Cootchie Man, and Mannish Boy.  But that should have been enough. 

Besides-- I was a Chuck Berry fan—and that should have got me to buy a ticket.  Muddy Waters pointed the way for the man I idolized.

I want to kick myself, even today.

And think of it now—how many others I am missing today, too ignorant to know, or too lazy to buy a ticket.

Well baby I can’t be satisfied, and I just can’t keep from cryin’.

(Actually, I'm blessed.  And blessed by youtube.  Here's a great version, recorded live, at a show that I missed!)

Song Lyrics: I Can't Be Satisfied
Written & Recorded by Muddy Waters (1948)

Well I'm goin' away to leave
Won't be back no more
Goin' back down south, child
Don't you want to go?
Woman I'm troubled, I be all worried in mind
Well baby I just can't be satisfied
And I just can't keep from cryin'

Well I feel like snappin'
Pistol in your face
I'm gonna let some graveyard
Lord be your resting place
Woman I'm troubled, I be all worried in mind
Well baby I can never be satisfied
And I just can't keep from cryin'

Well now all in my sleep
Hear my doorbell ring
Looking for my baby
I couldn't see not a doggone thing
Woman I was troubled, I was all worried in mind
Well honey I could never be satisfied
And I just couldn't keep from cryin'

Well I know my little old baby
She gonna jump and shout
That old train be late man, Lord
And I come walking out
I be troubled, I be all worried in mind
Well honey ain't no way in the world could we be satisfied
And I just can't keep from crying

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