Stations of the Axe

Opening Medley; Prologue: Cutting Heads; Peter Green’s Charitable Christ; Carlos Santana’s Rainbow Warrior; John Lennon’s Latin Lord; Eric Clapton’s Pieta; Roy Buchanan’s Blues Messiah; Epilogue: The Tao of Nommo and Logos Manifest in a Harmonic Cadence.

Opening Medley: The Seeker / Who Are You

I looked under chairs I looked under tables
I’m trying to find the key to fifty million fables
They call me the seeker I’ve been searching low and high
I won’t get to get what I’m after ’till the day I die

I asked Bobby Dylan I asked the Beatles 
I asked Timothy Leary but he couldn’t help me either 
They call me the seeker I’ve been searching low and high
I won’t get to get what I’m after ’till the day I die

I’m looking for me you’re looking for you
We’re looking at each other and we don’t know what to do
They call me the seeker I’ve been searching low and high
I won’t get to get what I’m after ’till the day I die

Who are you?  Who, who, who, who?

Prologue: Cutting Heads

The guitar is called an “axe” because you went out to the “wood shed” to practice so you wouldn’t disturb others, and used your “axe” to learn your “chops”.  Woodshedding on your axe led to cutting heads or a guitar duel.  Combat between two chords, major and blues, deus et diabolus in musica.  Jesus: “the axe is laid to the root of the trees.  Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Mt. 3:10)  “Shall the ax boast over him who hews with it?” (Is. 10:15)  

Phil Carson: “If and when the going got rough – a concept young Leroy [Buchanan] of course would not grasp for some time yet – a man with a solid-body Telecaster could wield his instrument by its neck, like an axe.” (American Axe, 17)  Ed Montini relates an incident from a gig on Yonge Street in Toronto in 1960: “’The guy is getting madder and madder….he starts after Roy….Roy takes his Telecaster by the neck, like an axe, and hits the guy over the head with it.  Down he went, man, like a ton of bricks, and the cops hauled him away.’” (63) 

Joachim Berendt: “It has been said that the Beatles and Bob Dylan changed the musical and social consciousness of a whole generation.  In this context, it is important to realize that this change of consciousness is based on the blues and would have been impossible without it.  British guitarist Eric Clapton made this very clear when he said, “’Rock is like a battery.  Every so often you have to go back to the blues and recharge.’” (The Jazz Book, 214)  The blues chord contains a tritone, as between B and F in a G7 chord.  Berendt: “The musical standards of the world of popular music demolished in the process were the symbols of the moral, social, and political standards of the bourgeois world that had created the old pop music.  These standards were the real target of the new movement.” (214)  The cadence, an aural symbol of spiritual regeneration whereby the blues chord resolves to the major chord, was demolished.

Peter Green’s Charitable Christ

The major key instrumental Albatross was inspired by Santo and Johnny’s Sleepwalk, and appeared on the 1969 Fleetwood Mac album titled The Pious Bird of Good Omen, a phrase from Coleridge’s poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  As the song topped the charts the band’s material success became an albatross around guitarist Peter Green’s neck.  On tour he’d take to the stage in white robes with a crucifix and then stay up until dawn in motels trying to convince his mates to become a charity band.  “I’d just feel much better about playing this music if we could give what we make to the poor.  There’s so much poverty.  Maybe we could make a bit of difference.  Let’s give it ALL away!” 

His mates rejected his proposal so Green left the band, but not before recording The Green Manalishi, based on a nightmare in which he was tormented by a green dog, symbolizing money.  “It scared me because I knew the dog had been dead a long time.  It was a stray and I was looking after it, but I was dead and had to fight to get back into my body, which I eventually did.  When I woke up, the room was really black and I found myself writing the song.”  Green was unable to record Robert Johnson’s ‘Hellhound on My Trail’ following the incident, having conflated Johnson’s hellhound with the green dog of his dream.  The Green Manalishi was covered by Judas Priest.

Now when the day goes to sleep and the full moon looks
The night is so black that the darkness cooks.
Then you come creepin’ around makin’ me do things I don’t want to do.  

‘Cause you’re the Green Manalishi with the two prong crown.
All my tryin’ is up, all your bringin’ is down.
Just taking my love then slip away leaving me here just trying to keep from following you.

Onstage, with Eric Clapton and George Harrison in the audience, B.B. King said: “I’ve got to say that, I’m sorry, Peter Green is the best.”  Drummer Mick Fleetwood stated: “Peter is a hero to so many guitarists….Santana told Peter how much his most requested song, Black Magic Woman, had influenced him and that he’d not be the player he is today if he’d never heard Peter play guitar.” (Play On, 57-58) 

John Lennon’s Latin Lord: Give the Prince of Peace a Chance

Mick Fleetwood: “The Beatles loved Albatross and recorded Sun King as a tribute to Peter Green.” (Fleetwood, 75)  George Harrison on Sun King: “At the time, Albatross was out.  So we said, ‘Let’s be Fleetwood Mac doing Albatross, just to get going.’  It never really sounded like Fleetwood Mac, but that was the point of origin.”  Lennon on the lyrics: “We just started joking, you know, singing ‘cuando para mucho.’  Paul knew a few Spanish words from school, you know.  So we just strung any Spanish words that sounded vaguely like something.”  The guitar riffs of The Ballad of John and Yoko have a Spanish flavor.  These Spanish elements in songs that have a Christ-like quality suggest to me that Lennon imagined a Latin Jesus.

Steve Turner: “Ignorant of Holy Writ, which could bear deep textual analysis, a generation had trained its spiritual curiosity on pop culture, asking it to offer enlightenment and guidance as well as entertainment.  Artists like Bob Dylan and John Lennon, who hadn’t taken up music with any intention of becoming spiritual leaders, were unqualified for the responsibility.  They were too aware of their own inadequacies and their own need to discover the light.” (The Gospel According to the Beatles, 170)  Turner: “Letters written from Hamburg to a fan named Lindy Ness in 1962 included cartoons of the crucifixion.  One showed an electric guitar nailed to a cross.” (91)  

Lennon, from Skywriting by Word of Mouth, an autobiography written in 1978: “I’d always had a fantasy about a woman who would be a beautiful, intelligent, dark-haired, high-cheekboned, freespirited artist (a la Juliette Greco).  My soul mate.  Someone that I had already known, but somehow had lost.  After a short visit to India on my way home from Australia, the image changed slightly – she had to be a dark-eyed Oriental.  Naturally, the dream couldn’t come true until I had completed the picture.  Now it was complete….I finally met Yoko and the dream became a reality.  The only woman I’d ever met who was my equal in every way imaginable.  My better, actually….Someone to leave home for!  Somewhere to go.  I’d waited an eternity…. Since I was extraordinarily shy (especially around beautiful women), my daydreams necessitated that she be aggressive enough to “save me,” i.e., “take me away from all this.”… Yoko…gave me the inner strength to look more closely at my…marriage….To the Beatles, which was more stifling than my domestic life.  Although I had thought of it often enough, I lacked the guts to make the break earlier.

My life with the Beatles had become a trap.  A tape loop….the Beatles had decided to stop touring….even then [1965] my eye was already on freedom.  Basically, I was panicked by the idea of having “nothing to do.”  What is life, without touring?  Life, that’s what.  I always remember to thank Jesus for the end of my touring days; if I hadn’t said that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” and upset the very Christian Ku Klux Klan, well, Lord, I might still be up there with all the other Performing fleas!  God bless America.  Thank you, Jesus.”

In an unreleased 1969 interview with the BBC he discussed his views of Christianity while a member of The Beatles–“It’s just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ.  Now I wasn’t saying that was a good idea, ‘cos I’m one of Christ’s biggest fans.  And if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ’s message, then that’s what we’re here to do.  If the Beatles get on the side of Christ, which they always were, and let people know that, then maybe the churches won’t be full, but there’ll be a lot of Christians dancing in the dance halls.  Whatever they celebrate, God and Christ, I don’t think it matters as long as they’re aware of Him and His message.”

Lennon’s first independent single was Give Peace a Chance, co-authored by Ono during their ‘Bed-In’ honeymoon in Montreal.  Knowing their March 20, 1969 marriage would be a huge press event, John and Yoko decided to use the publicity to promote world peace.  They spent their honeymoon in the presidential suite (Room 702 – later renovated and became 902) at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel for a week between March 25 and 31, inviting the world’s press into their hotel room every day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.  After their other stunts, such as the nude cover of the Two Virgins album, the press were expecting them to be having sex, but instead the couple were sitting in bed—in John’s words “like angels”—talking about peace with signs over their bed reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace”.  After seven days, they flew to ViennaAustria, where they held a Bagism press conference.

During April 1969, John and Yoko sent acorns to the heads of state in various countries around the world in hopes that they would plant them as a symbol of peace.  For eight months, the couple was not granted a single visit with any world leader.  Their marriage (“You can get married in Gibraltar near Spain”), the first Bed-In (“Talking in our beds for a week”), the Vienna press conference (“Made a lightning trip to Vienna…The newspapers said…”), and the acorns (“Fifty acorns tied in a sack”) were all mentioned in the song “The Ballad of John and Yoko“.

Turner: “His boyhood friend Pete Shotton told of a meeting John called in May 1968 [17] to tell Paul, George, and Ringo that he was Jesus Christ reincarnated.  He wanted an authorized statement to that effect put out….By the end of the sixties John was, like Che Guevara, a bearded Christ figure for the counterculture.  His line ‘They’re gonna crucify me’ in ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ evidenced the degree of identification.” (The Gospel According to the Beatles, 17-18)  The song was banned by the BBC and most US radio stations for this reason.

Lennon may have regarded Ono as a Madonna figure.  Woman hold me close to your heart, or “woman, what have I to do with thee?” (Jn. 2:4)  Turner: “Yoko discouraged John from theistic religion, arguing that our need for saviors and spiritual leaders resulted from inadequate parenting….’They want to rely on their father,’ Yoko said of those who sought leaders.  ‘It’s not just learning the rules, which is very crude – it’s adoration.  There’s no difference between that and adoring Hitler.  It’s a very dangerous game to play.’” (Gospel, 161)

Not long after the song was released, Lennon explained: “When I get down to it, I’m only interested in Yoko and peace, so if I can sing about them again and again and again – its only like I’m going through my blue period as a painter.  It’s like he’s gonna paint this cup for a year, you know, to get into that cup.  So maybe I’m doing that.”  Geoffrey Guiliano: “It was ironic that a man who campaigned so passionately for world peace was himself so often guilty of inflicting pain and injury on others.  Lennon spoke directly to the dichotomy between his grand words and his actions.  ‘That is why I’m always on about peace, you see,’ he explained.  ‘It is the most violent people who go for love and peace.  Everything’s the opposite of what it is!’” (Lennon in America, 21)  Lennon’s murderer Mark David Chapman acted on this dichotomy in Lennon’s character.

A few years later Lennon got into a different cup – one filled with transubstantial red wine, as Turner describes in The Gospel According to the Beatles: “he enjoyed watching some of America’s best-known evangelists—Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, and Oral Roberts.  In 1972 he had written a desperate letter to Roberts confessing his dependence on drugs and his fear of facing up to “the problems of life.”  He expressed regret that he had said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus and enclosed a gift for the Oral Roberts University.  After quoting the line “money can’t buy me love” from “Can’t Buy Me Love” he said, “It’s true.  The point is this, I want happiness.  I don’t want to keep on with drugs.  Paul told me once, ‘You made fun of me for taking drugs, but you will [187] regret it in the end.’  Explain to me what Christianity can do for me.  Is it phoney?  Can He love me?  I want out of hell.”

Roberts sent him a copy of his book Miracle of Seed Faith and several letters explaining basic Christian beliefs.  In the second of his letters Roberts said: ‘John, we saw you and the Beatles on television when you first came to America.  Your talent with music was almost awesome and your popularity touched millions.  Your influence became so widespread and powerful that your statement-the Beatles are more popular than Jesus- might have had some truth in it at that moment.  But you know, our Lord said, I am alive for ever more.  People, the Bible says, are like sheep and are often fickle, following this one day and something else the next.  However, there are millions who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and have been filled with the Holy Spirit.  They love him.  To them He is the most wonderful and popular man who ever lived because he is the Son of God and His name endures.

I thank God that you see this, John, and finally regret thinking any man or group could be more popular than Jesus. Jesus is the only reality.  It is Jesus who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  So, you see, your statement that because of your hard background you’ve never wanted to face reality is actually really saying you’ve never wanted to face our loving Lord.  What I want to say, as I tried to say in my other letter, is that Jesus, the true reality, is not hard to face.  He said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  You said, John, that you take drugs because reality frightens you.  Remember as you open your life to Jesus, He will take all the fear away and give you peace.  Peace that passes all understanding.’

This correspondence and his exposure to TV evangelism didn’t appear to have any effect until he suddenly announced to close friends in the spring of 1977 that he’d become a born-again Christian.”  Geoffrey Giuliano specifies the time of the conversion: “On Easter Sunday John took Yoko and Sean to a local church service.  Watching The 700 Club (evangelist Pat Robertson’s television ministry) had recently inspired Lennon to re-explore Christianity. [131] While viewing the Sir Grade-produced Easter Jesus series on Robertson’s network the previous Palm Sunday, Lennon was so moved that he fell on his knees in tears, declaring himself saved.

For the next four months John believed.  Constantly reading and re-reading the Bible, he peppered his conversation with phrases like ‘Praise the Lord,’ ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ and ‘Jesus saves.’  He even attended church meetings and took Sean to a Christian theater performance at the Riverside Church.  John also tried to convert friends…and was keenly disappointed when the tarot reader refused to embrace his new beliefs. 

John became convinced he was receiving divine communication from the Lord.  He called The 700 Club prayer line on several occasions to seek help for his failing eyesight, troubled marriage, and various addictions.  Lennon even recorded a tune that he never especially liked, ‘Talking with Jesus,’ and was further inspired to compose several other unrecorded Christian songs, including a musical version of the Lord’s Prayer, called simply ‘Amen.’” (Lennon in America, 132)

Guiliano: “Not surprisingly, Lennon’s conversion concerned Yoko.  At first she refused to even discuss the subject.  She worried that John’s new faith would clash with her own ideas about spiritualism and thus threaten her iron old over him.  John was now condemning Yoko’s interest in the occult and encouraging her to do the same.  Her resistance to his efforts triggered several passionate arguments between them.  John complained when Yoko refused to watch Pat Robertson, Billy Gra-[132]ham, or Jim and Tammy Raye Bakker on television, and speculated that satanic forces were preventing her from receiving the truth.” (132-33)  

Turner: “In an unpublished song, “You Saved My Soul,” he spoke about “nearly falling” for a TV preacher while feeling “lonely and scared” in a Tokyo hotel.  This must have referred to a trip to Japan at the end of May when he stayed at the Okura Hotel for over two months while Yoko visited relatives.  Feeling isolated because of the language barrier, he locked himself away in his room for long stretches of time.  At night he suffered terrifying nightmares.  According to John Green, who makes no mention of the born-again period in his book, John told him, ‘I’d lie in bed all day [in Tokyo], not talk, not eat, and just withdraw.  And a funny thing happened.  I began to see all these different parts of me.  I felt like a hollow temple filled with many spirits, each one passing through me, each inhabiting me for a little time and then leaving to be replaced by another.’

The image was remarkably like one suggested by Jesus and recorded in Luke 11.  It’s hard to imagine that John was unfamiliar with the passage.  Jesus was warning of the danger of merely ridding oneself of evil spirits without taking in the good.  He says that an unclean or evil spirit, finding nowhere to rest, will return.  “And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.  Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

Whatever happened in Tokyo, it marked the end of his personal interest in Jesus.  “You Saved My Soul” said that he “nearly” fell for the TV preacher, but that Yoko “saved me from that suicide.”  So the salvation of the title refers to being saved from God, not by God.  Yoko had again become the captain of his soul, the mistress of his destiny.  Yet his life didn’t improve.  He sank into a depression, concerned that his creativity had deserted him and that he had no real purpose in life.

His life was out of his control.  He worried about his health and his eyesight, about making the right investments with his money, about his personal safety. [189] The only way out, as far as he could see, was to pay for the services of people who claimed to see into the future.  But then, which ones could he trust? If the advice of the tarot card reader contradicted that of the astrologer, which should he follow?  Instead of the freedom he wanted when he broke away from the Beatles, he was now completely enslaved.  He couldn’t travel anywhere without advice from a directionalist, do deals with anyone without knowing their star sign, or make plans for the future without consulting the I Ching.

In January 1979 he and Yoko traveled to Cairo, having heard that there was a major illicit archeological dig taking place. Both of them believed that ancient Egyptian artifacts contained magical powers, and Yoko had dedicated one of the rooms in their apartment to Egyptian artifacts. “I love Egyptian art,” she said. “I make sure I get all the Egyptian things, not for their value but for their magic power. Each piece has a certain magic power.” They stayed at the Nile Hilton and toured the pyramids, but when word got out about their intentions they were prevented from visiting the dig.

By the time Frederic Seaman became John’s personal assistant in February 1979, John’s main interest was reading books on religion, psychic phenomena, the occult, death, history, archeology, and anthropology.  Specific books Seaman can remember him asking for included Rebel in the Soul: An Ancient Egyptian Dialogue Between a Man and His Destiny, by Bika Reed; Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, by Margot Adler; and Practical Occultism, by (Madame) H. P Blavatsky.  He also listened to a thousand dollars’ worth of taped lectures by Alan Watts.

Vacationing in Florida in the spring, he again watched Jesus of Nazareth on its by now regular Easter showing, but his reaction was completely different from the one he had had two years before.  He kept joking that they should just get on with it and fast-forward to the crucifixion.  Seaman, who was present with John’s sons, Sean and Julian, recalled, “John began working himself up into a tirade against Christianity, saying that it had virtually destroyed what was left of pagan culture and spirituality in Europe-a great loss to civilization.”  He then announced that he was now a “born again pagan.”

Bob Dylan’s Soulful Señor

Later in the year Bob Dylan recorded Slow Train Coming, a gospel album born out of personal experience.  Dylan told Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times that he’d recently accepted that “Jesus was real … I had this feeling, this vision and feeling.  I truly had a born-again experience, if you want to call it that.  It’s an over-used term.  But it’s something that people can relate to.”  Hilburn asked him what “born again” meant.  “Born once,” he answered, “is born from the spirit below, which is when you’re born.  It’s the spirit [190] you’re born with.  Born again is born with the Spirit from above, which is a little bit different.”

Slow Train Coming was a direct and challenging album.  Unlike most gospel recordings, it didn’t simply praise Jesus but attacked opposition to him, whether that was religious syncretism, false saviors, or lack of commitment.  It was addressed to people like John.  In “Precious Angel,” the first single, Dylan sang, “Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.’  In the title track he sang of “Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan.”

Dylan’s transformation took John completely by surprise.  After all, Dylan had been the Beatles’ only peer and remained someone whom he deeply respected.  What made it particularly galling was that everything Dylan sang about on the album was delivered with a confidence that had always seemed to elude John.  Dylan seemed certain that his sins were forgiven, his eternal security was assured, and that God was actively involved in his life.

When asked in 1980 about his response to Dylan’s conversion, John was less than honest.  He said he was surprised that “old Bobby boy did go that way,” but “if he needs it, let him do it.”  His only objection, he said, was that Dylan was presenting Christ as the only way.  He disliked this because “There isn’t one answer to anything.”  This is why he favored Buddhism.  It didn’t proselytize.  In what can now be seen as an allusion to his own born-again period, which hadn’t yet been made public, he said, “But I understand it. I understand him completely, how he got in there, because I’ve been frightened enough myself to want to latch onto something.”

His private feelings about the conversion were expressed in his songwriting.  He was particularly incensed by the track “Gotta Serve Somebody” because it opposed his view that there was no single truth.  The song said, as bluntly as possible, that whatever your station in life, you were either serving God or the devil. This wasn’t an avoidable choice.  John wrote a riposte titled “Serve Yourself,” arguing that no one can save you.  The only person you have to serve is yourself. “He was kind of upset [about Dylan’s song] and it was a dialogue,” said Yoko in 1998.  “He showed his anger but also … his sense of humour.” (187-91)

Turner: “In 1980, when asked why the Beatles would never reform, his reply alluded to at least three Gospel stories.  ‘Do we have to divide the fish and the loaves for the multitudes again?’ he said.  ‘Do we have to get crucified again?  Do we have to do the walking on water again because a whole pile of dummies didn’t see it the first time or didn’t believe it when they saw it?  That’s what they’re asking.  ‘Get off the cross.  I didn’t understand it the first time.  Can you do it again?’  No way.  You can’t do things twice.’” (Gospel, 17)  Dylan: “Being noticed can be a burden.  Jesus got himself crucified because he got himself noticed, so I disappear a lot.”

Dylan introduced the song In the Garden, from the album Saved, at a concert in Boston in 1987: “I’m going to do a song about my hero.  Everybody’s got their own hero.  I don’t know who your hero is.  Maybe Mel Gibson, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen.  I don’t care nothing about any of those people.  I have my own hero.  I’m going to sing about my hero now.”  “When they came for Him in the garden, did they know….he was the son of God?  Did they know that he was Lord?”  

The aabcaa structure of the stanzas of Dylan’s In the Garden recalls the aaba structure of the Negro spiritual Were You There?  Lerone Bennett Jr. comments on this spiritual: “The implication here is that the slave was there, that he knew something about Jesus that no man who did not stand with him, or near him, could possibly know.” (The Negro Mood, 68)

Roy Buchanan’s Black Messiah

Note: I originally conceived of this musical drama as a separate work titled The Greatest Unknown Guitarist in the World, the unofficial title of the PBS documentary that it is derived from.  However, my adaptation is about thirty minutes long, so I thought it would make a fitting conclusion to Stations of the Axe.

Entrance Music: Son of a Preacher Man

On highway 99, between San Francisco and L.A., lies the little old town of Pixley.  I was real nervous about going home again.  People told me things change, but things hadn’t changed one bit, and I was kind of happy about that.  Like I say, I was scared.  I thought maybe I’d changed, but I don’t think anything had changed. 

In the Beginning

I ran away from home in 1955 when I was fifteen.  My dad, he was a preacher and my mom, she taught Sunday school.  I found something at church I don’t believe I could quite explain – a feeling inside of myself that I can always turn to.  It’s kind of a sacred feeling that I think shows in my music.  Once you get it it’s hard to ever change it.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Country Preacher

Cannonball Adderley introduced this song, Country Preacher, saying: “Brothers and sisters, all over the country we’ve been preaching about black music, and how it’s all the same thing.  We got the word from the country preacher, Reverend Jesse Jackson.  He told us: ‘When you have real change, everybody’s thing begins to change.  Preacher begins to preach a new sermon and the musician also tries to capture the new thing, so that we might have melody and rhythm as we do our thing.’

The thing I remember best about church was the music and the general overall picture of the message that they usually taught in church, which was love your neighbor, love yourself.  I thought the best way for me to show that I did love my neighbor was to play my music, because everybody, especially the church people, seemed to enjoy it.  I don’t know what my mother and father would have done without the comforts of church.  It gave them a reason to live and die.  That’s their whole life.

The Story of Isaac

The door it opened slowly, my father he came in, I was nine years old. 
And he stood so tall above me, his blue eyes they were shining and his voice was very cold. 
He said, “I’ve had a vision and you know I’m strong and holy, I must do what I’ve been told.”
We started up the mountain, I was running he was walking, and his axe was made of gold.

We lived quite a normal life in a strange sort of way.  We picked a little cotton and baled a little hay.  It was a happy time in a sad sort of way.  The reason I left home was, even though you love something you wonder sometimes what else you can do with what you learned, and even though I love this place and it’s beautiful and you can have your solitude, it’s also lonesome and I guess I left the place because I had something to do, something to prove to myself.  And this place here, I learned the other side of life, but I had to get away, so I could learn different styles and the way other people played their music. 

I always liked any kind of music.  I wanted to play it all.  I try a little jazz, a little country, a little blues.  Anything I could hear I’d try a little bit, and I tried to work it all into one thing, and I think that’s one of the reasons that people notice my playing. 

Wayfaring Pilgrim

The first place I went to was L.A.  I played around there when I could in different clubs.  Finally, I got a group together.  We went to Texas and played mostly blues bars in small towns, mostly for colored people back then.  They were about the only ones digging it.  We toured through Oklahoma, Texas, and finally to Canada in 1960, when I joined Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. 

Back then you couldn’t talk about a lot of things that I liked to talk about, so Ronnie didn’t know if I was super intelligent or just out of this world.  Now he thinks I fit in just perfect.  Ronnie was very strict about how he was backed, and one of the Hawks, Robbie Robertson, would either overplay or underplay.  He’d be playing lead when Ronnie was singing and it just wouldn’t work out.  So I showed him how to do it, because that’s what I was really into, backing up people and making them sound good.  When Robbie asked where I learned my licks I told him I was half wolf.

Country Boy

I’m a little country boy running wild in this big old town
The girls are crazy about me, they love what I’m putting down

I woke up this morning, ooh, my head was bad
I just can’t tell you about that good time I had

I’m a little country boy running wild in this big old town
When I make love to my baby I don’t want a soul around

When I travelled I usually scraped up enough money to catch a bus.  I can remember sleeping in fields.  I can remember sleeping in bars.  I was lucky if I could sleep in a bar – talk the owner into it.  I’d usually make enough money to eat.  There were a few times I couldn’t do that.  I remember one time in Chicago I got stranded.  I can remember some lonesome times.  I think the lonely thing is kind of born inside of a person.  That’s what makes him play.  Your soul seems to be completely someplace else from other people – lonesome feeling.  My dad used to call it the blues.  I think he was right. 

Roy’s Bluz

Going down to the graveyard
Gotta see my baby one more time
She done sold her soul to the devil
I’m just about to lose my mind.

The train is always gone
Always leaves at 3:09
I’m going to tell a whole lot of people
It’s always left Buchanan behind.

My soul it died last friday
But it rose again today
I think I like life better
I might even decide to stay

I was always quiet.  I usually stayed alone most of the time, because I had a different way of thinking.  I didn’t seem to fit in too well.  I got very discouraged about three years ago in 1969.  I’m kind of ashamed of it, but I got kind of messed up on dope.  I took an overdose and I wound up in the hospital and said, ‘I got to get myself together here.’  So what I did, I figured I would just kind of hang around a different area of the country.  So I became a barber.  I cut hair for over a year and got myself together and hid away, but after about a year I started wanting to play again, so I started back into it again. 

If 6 Was 9

If the sun refuse to shine I don’t mind
If the mountains fell in the sea let it be, it ain’t me
‘Cos I got my own world to look through
And I ain’t gonna copy you

Now if 6 turned out to be 9 I don’t mind
If all the hippies cut off all their hair I don’t care
‘Cos I got my own world to live through
And I ain’t gonna copy you

The Black Messiah

Cannonball Adderley introduced this song, The Black Messiah, saying: “Y’all hip to what the Black Messiah is all about, I’m sure.  The last time the messiah showed up he was cool, but he wasn’t black.  Some folks have been waiting thousands of years for any kind of messiah to show up that they can deal with, you know.”

I had dreams in this place here, dreams that most people don’t understand.  A dream to do something I wanted to do.  And I did what I wanted to do.  I played what I felt like this place was – it became me, like it was a closeness.  It used to be so quiet out here you could almost find God within your own self.  You can get some real strange feelings out there.  You can learn yourself.  I wrote a song; I had this place in mind.  I called it Messiah Will Come Again, but instead of using this place I generalized the whole world the way I think, because the whole world is kind of like this place to me, and I think when you hear the song you’ll know why I think the way that I do – about this place, about every place, about everybody. 

The Messiah Will Come Again

Just a smile, just a glance, the prince of darkness, he just walked past.  There’s been a lot of people and they’ve had a lot of say, but this time I’m going to tell it my way.

There was a town, a strange, lonely little town they call the world.  ‘Til one day a stranger appeared and their hearts rejoiced, and the sad little town was happy again.
But there were some that doubted, they disbelieved, so they mocked him and the stranger, he went away.
Now the town that was sad yesterday, it’s a lot sadder today.  I walked in a lot of places I never should have been, but I know that the messiah, he will come again.

To come home again was like stepping out of a dream, stepping into reality, or stepping out of reality and stepping back into a dream – you’re not quite sure.  It’s like a big dream.  It’s unbelievable, it’s really great to come back here after I saw what I wanted to see, and I don’t believe this place will ever change.  It wasn’t meant to change.  I don’t think this place will change until I do.  It’s going to be a long time.

Exit Music: Thank You Lord