True Story By:
America's Blues Highway
(Thru The Eyes Of The Vagabond - aka, MistaBluesman)
Wow, where do I start? Fifty Five (55) Years of playing the guitar and most of them years slappin' out rugged blues, one tends to maybe forget some of the past and/or just plainly wishes not to remember some of the jams, scams, plans or rugged times. Regardless, of all that, I want to share a couple of treasured memories that I have with you and how I feel inside from the years gone by and miles I have spent chasing that dotted white line down the asphalt from jook joint to jook joint lookin' for places to learn more blues and/or just play my blues.
I would never claim to be a great and famous blues artists (guitarist/vocalist) but I will stake my hat (I love my hat, it's a Triple X) on the fact that out of all the great blues artists of today and the great blues artists of years gone by, none has or has had a greater love for the blues than I do. Maybe they could have had as much love but never a greater love!
In a few minutes you will be reading about a couple of the grand times I remember as well as some of the times I've had that were sort of scary, regardless, never forgotten. But, before I get started I want to take my hat off to any and all musicians (whatever genre) that have hit the trail on foot, rail car or just howeva' to play their music for the American peoples (or anywhere and any peoples as far as that goes). It takes a certain type of person (some say crazy, maybe lonely, maybe both or just plain ass wild) to do this and it's to them I say "THANK YOU" for sharing your talents!
I'll never forget the artists I have been so lucky to meet and play the blues with/for over the years. I love them all just as I do the folks that took their time to listen to my music! Mistabluesman thanks each of you from the very bottom of my heart! I also Thank Our Lord God in heaven for all he has allowed me to do and witness! So, now let's get on with a couple of lil' stories I recall, ok!
Year - 1955
Get up boy, get outta' that bed my Father (Buddy Quinn) said, it's time you start playin' your guitar! I was only six years old, didn't have a guitar and it was still dark outside. I jumped up, man I was as ready as a catfish searchin' stink bait. I had already been watching my father and mother play their guitars while they sang and was just itchin' to learn how to do the same. I replied, "but Dad, I don't have a guitar" and he pulled a Stella guitar out of a gunny sack and handed it to me and said, "now you do". It wasn't a big ol' Epiphone like my Mom played nor was it a big ol' Gibson like he played but, it was mine, all mine! He said, "when you are done with your chores after school everyday, I want you to be playin' this here guitar". I remember like it was yesterday, I said, "but I don't know how to dad", He said, "Oh yes you do boy, you know how to play it".
Well, that really had me goin' and I said, "when did I learn?" He said, "July 23, 1949, the day you were born, I just waited until this morning to tell ya". That worked for me and I ask, "well how do I get to playin'" and he assured me that he would help me with that part and, that he did! Buddy Quinn, my Father was not only my Father and best friend in life, he was also my mentor. He moved on to a better place on Oct. 14, 1989. He was a great guitarist, song writer, person and the best Father a kid could/would eva' pray or ask for.
It wasn't much later in my life my Father gave me that big ol' Gibson he had and that was a day I will never forget. I was scared that I would never be able to get the music out of it that he did and he wouldn't be as proud of my playin' as he had recently been. Man, was I ever mistaken, he was so proud of me that he told everyone about how I could play that Gibson just like he could. That made me feel really good and also made me really try my best to sound like him. He was a smart rascal for sure. He knew what he was doin' with all the talk about how good I could play that Gibson. He knew it would put me to the grinder on makin' things fit and gettin' clean sounds! He was a truck driver and when he was on the road in their efforts to keep me playin' and interested my mother (Lois Mae Quinn) would work with me on chords progressions and dexterity.
We seemed to move a lot in them years and my father would find places that he could get me in and set it up so I could play my guitar for the owners and or folks that were there. Most of these places he called jooks or bars. Whatever he called them was fine with me just as long as I could get in and play. Most of the time people liked my playing. Sometimes he would have to ask someone to pipe down so folks could hear and sometimes he had to get me out of there in a hurry before trouble started. Sometimes the trouble would start before we got out but he was good at takin' care of that end of things also!
I remember a joint called Rosalie's BBQ & Beer on "P" St. in Tulare, Ca.. One day, I was there playing my guitar, actually bending strings by then (bluzzy) when my Father told me he had to leave to pick up my uncle Ray and that I should keep playing until he got back and then he would give me a break for a bit and play some himself. Well, this joint was an all black folk jook and I'll admit, I was uneasy with staying there without him being there. I told him so and he said that Rosalie (the black lady owner) would keep an eye on me and that, The Hawk would make sure everything was safe for me. I'm thinkin', what's or who's The Hawk? Man, it seemed like he had just left when this cat came walking thru the door choked up tight in a gold pin stripe suit.
This cat walked over by me and shouted out, who in the hell is this white boy! Shit, that scared the hell out of me. He then looked at me and said gimmie' that guitar boy and I was tryin' to (right in his face) when this little old black man slipped over beside him real quick and CLICK, a long blade came flying out of a big ol' knife the little old black man had in his hand and as he moved it to that cats throat he said, let the white boy play his blues. Man, I'm shakin' in my shoes but wait, did that little old black man say I was playin' the blues, yes he did, he could tell I was playing the blues, that made me feel great.
Now that was the first of the few times I have seen a man put a knife to another mans throat but it was also the first time someone (other than my Father) knew I was playing the blues or at least mentioned anything about my guitar playing being the blues. I was thrilled to the bone man! But, I guess I wasn't as thrilled as that young cat was when that little old black man said he was goin' to let him live if he left the jook right now! I later found out that the little old black man's name was "Hawk". My Father was right, Hawk made sure I was safe!
Year - 1962
Time was flyin' by I reckon and I had stepped up to my first electric guitar, a new Fender Jazzmaster, wow man. I was the king of all guitar players, I'll never forget that my father told me that the Fender would be good to me when I played the blues but would be just so so when I played rock & roll, and country! But then he went on to say that many a blues guitarist would kill to have that guitar and I should lean towards the blues when playing it. There he goes again, with his sneaky ways of teachin' me to learn the blues.
Sometimes I would take all three of my guitars with me to the places he had for me to play cause he wanted me to play certain tunes with certain guitars. So I would switch at times. When he would take me to Mississippi, he would have me leave the electric in the trunk of the car and just take the Gibson and the Stella inside the jooks. I played all up and down that Delta for what seemed to be years. Seen a lot of real good guitarist and singers as well as played with some of them. Names back then didn't mean too much to me but as years went on I was blown away with the names of the blues cats that I had sat down with.
Back then I wasn't a good enough guitar player for many of them to remember me in later years but everyone of them treated me like I was their blood brother. Blues folks (and all musicians) in general are great Gentlemen and Ladies! That's how it is and will always be I reckon.
My Father had met up with some peoples out west and found this guitarist named Fred Thomas, (I always called him Freddie) that could naturally play the frets smooth off of a guitar! He smoked it and made it cry for help! After a few months of knowing Freddie, my Father ask him to lean on me with some blues until some of his style rubbed off on me. Well Freddie did, for over 30 years he did. Freddie was the band leader of his band, "Bobby & The Rialtos" - Freddie Thomas, Mike Nolan and Bobby Hollister, all of Tulare, CA.
When Freddie wasn't in the joint (Prison) he and I would play anywhere for anyone, location was not a factor. We would travel all day and all night for a $30.00 split gig! Sometimes it would be just kitty gigs and we might do better and then again, we might have to find a real job, fixin' flats, washing dishes, pumpin' gas and ect, to get the money to get back home. I loved that running the highways to play my blues. I got hooked on it real hard.
From them years on til today, I will go anywhere to play my blues for folks. Makes me no difference where it is or how long I'll be there. I have traveled the highways for over 38 years in autos, trucks, big trucks and scooters (Harley Davidson) teaching people how to play the guitar and/or just playing my blues for them.
Over the years, I have found that most folks in most places really dig the blues. They love the feeling they get from the blues music as well as seeing the real feelings the blues artist rolls out in front of them to see while playing from down deep with-in his/her heart and soul. See, that's how the blues is. The blues brings out not just some of what's inside of the artists and blues fans, the blues brings out all that's inside of you, from the tip of your toes to the brim of your hat and then some.
I love to be standing in front of a crowd with my eyes closed jammin' (not even knowing there closed) and when I open them seeing the folks sitting or standing there with their eyes closed feeling what I'm feeling. Man, that's what it's all about. When that is goin' on you're Sa' Mo' Kin' man!
I have traveled over 4 million miles (road miles) in my life, watchin' them dotted lines on the asphalt pass me by and not once have I ever thought about quitting the fans and/or the other artists I play the blues with or for!
I am sure that when I die, someone will be calling around to see if anyone knows me cause, I will be anywhere but at my house! My home is on the road playing my blues for the good folks out there that's wanting and needing to hear the blues! Did, you see where I said needing the blues? That's right, at times we need the blues to get us past whatever else it may or could be that has us feeling low down and out!
The best drugs in the world, the best liquor in the world, the best doctor in the world could never hold a candle to how many times the blues has healed a sad and/or sick man or woman! The blues is no doubt the best medicine there ever has been and the best medicine there ever will be.
If ya' see a Brother or a Sister on the streets or a small jook somewhere slappin' out a jam for the folks, walk up and introduce yourself cause, right there you're gonna' meet some good peoples! Leave them a $20.00 bill, they need it, trust me! There is no way I could ever begin to remember how many jooks, bars, clubs, street corners, jails, homes I've played in nor could I ever try and guess how many peoples I have taught to play the guitar. All I know is, it's not enough yet.
So look out Brothers and Sisters, if
you look down the road or rail tracks and see an old Bluesman carrin' a guitar it could be,
Doc in 1955 Doc in 2005
I Stand Up Tall For My American Flag!
Doc "Mistabluesman" Quinn - aka - "The Vagabond".
July 23, 2006