I played music
with Doug B. on Saturday. Oh, we played and played.
I play bass these days, and Doug plays guitar and has been learning some blues by Robert Johnson and by Muddy Waters, so we worked on those. We played three train songs - Elizabeth Cotton's "Freight Train," Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," and Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans." I knew "Freight Train" on dobro, but hadn't played it on bass before. We played "Stray Cat Strut" and Dwight Yokum's "Little Sister" over and over; we couldn't help ourselves - it was as if we were stuck inside and couldn't get out. We played a Beatles tune which I forget the name of, which is essentially a 12-bar blues with a quick turn at the second measure. All the years I'd heard the song, and I didn't recognize it as 12-bar blues. That's part of the Beatles' genius, taking old forms and making them new. Again and again we played that old '60s instrumental, "Sleep Walking." We played that country song I love so much, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." I learned "Under the Double Eagle," including the key change to F. It had always sounded so complicated that I thought I'd never get it, but Saturday night I got it. Doug said it was the first song his Dad taught him on guitar.
Said his Dad was hitch-hiking once as a young man and had his guitar with him. A truck driver stopped to give him a lift, asked him, "Do you play that thing?"
Doug's father said, "Yes."
Truck driver said, "Can you play 'Under the Double Eagle?'"
Doug's father said, "No."
Truck driver said, "If you can't play 'Under the Double Eagle,' you don't play guitar." And he drove off, leaving Doug's father still standing there at the side of the road.
I played my 1965 Sears Silvertone the whole night, as opposed to either my cheap Fender electric or my flat-top acoustic R.W. Jameson which sounds so terrific plugged in. The Silvertone sounds pretty good with the blues. I want to get the action adjusted on the acoustic so it's a little easier to play up the neck, otherwise I'd play it all the time. I really like the way it sounds.
I'm not a musician, and you don't have to be a musician to play with Doug - he'll show you what you need to know. He's the musician, and a pretty good teacher.
We played in the basement, where Doug has the microphone and amps and the electronic drummer set up. We call the drummer Al and talk to him like he was a member of the band. You can do that when music encases you in such a basement space. We played down there a couple weeks ago, too. Being that we're in the basement, Doug's wife Geri is able to get away from the worst of the noise by retreating to her sewing room on the second floor. Geri's one unbreakable rule is: Tom cannot sing in the house. If you've ever heard me try to sing you'd know why she has such a rule. We can play loud, and we can sound awful, but if Tom sings, we're done. And I cannot blame her.
Doug has stressed his vocal cords over the years, so he has to keep drinking warm liquid between songs, to soothe the strain. His drink of choice is coffee. We played. We played some more. Doug refilled his coffee cup. Several times. I had to go up and use the bathroom once. Then we were playing again.
Eventually Geri poked her head down the stairs.
"What time is it?" Doug asked her.
We had been at it since 4:30 in the afternoon. Six hours. Our fingers were near to bleeding. It was a good time to quit.
Doug turned the amps off one by one. The basement powered down. That was it for the Saturday night music. At least for this week.