¡Sounds Like Burning: We’re Going Back! How Far Back? Way Back!

A few years ago, in San Juan de Pasto, Southern Colombia, I was thrown into the back of a van by some seriously strapped soldiers. They confiscated my camera. Earlier that day I discovered that Colombians were the kindest folk I had ever met, so I wasn’t very worried alone in the back of an unmarked van. I thought of my new friends at the bakery and barbershop as we swerved through the city. For some reason, I was allowed to keep my backpack. I opened it, grabbed my headphones and ipod and Booker White did what he always does.

The van tore through the streets. The suspect in back was moving with Booker: “I was at my mother’s grave, when they put my mother away.” One dark-skinned soldier tapped the other and they turned to look at me. I felt like I was watching something fascinating unfold. Where were we going? What was my crime? Soldiers armed to the gums deemed me a threat with my t-shirt, sandals and scruffy beard. I watched them and hummed a little more. Then we got to the jail.

I was “interrogated” for several hours. My California ID got me free. I walked out of that jail the way I walked in: humming a tune.

Usually I like the sounds of new cities, but at that moment, I wanted something else: I stopped, reached back, got the headphones and Booker T. Washington White. Bruises be damned, there we were, on the streets of Southern Colombia, smiling because… we didn’t need a reason. We never do. I felt like singing. So we did, “I’m a stranger at this place, and I’m looking for my mother’s grave.”

Booker White “Strange Place Blues”

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I’m a stranger at this place and I’m lookin’ for my mother’s grave
I’m a stranger at this place and I’m lookin’ for my mother’s grave
Well it seems like to me, ooh ooh well, some of us goin’ to wail
I was at my mother’s grave, when they put my mother away
I was at my mother’s grave, when they put my mother away
And I can’t find no one, ooh ooh well, to take her place
I thought after my mother was put away, I thought my wife would take her place
After my mother was put away, I thought my wife would take her place
I’ll show you the difference ‘tween a mother and a wife, ooh ooh well, my wife done throw my away
I wished I could find someone to take my mother’s place
I wished I could find someone to take my mother’s place
And if I can’t find no one, ooh ooh well, well you’ll find me at her grave
I’m standin’ on my mother’s grave and I wished I could seen her face
I’m standin’ on my mother’s grave and I wished I could seen her face
I’ll be glad when that day comes, ooh ooh well, well when it be to drive me away


**¡Sounds Like Burning is about psychos, angels and psychotic angels. Who else deserves mention?

Bill Hicks condensed the first law of all the Arts: Play From Your Fucking Heart!

The performances to be aired here are rigodamnediculous. The biblical scholar Bon Scott once commanded: Let There Be Light. And There Was Light.

Can one make the unknown known? Tune in and Trip out.

Previously on ¡Sounds Like Burning:

8 thoughts on “¡Sounds Like Burning: We’re Going Back! How Far Back? Way Back!

  1. Great story CT! It just proves that the old adage is true.

    “You can’t lose with the blues!”

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBLzTD2wTzg

    CT, not to get into a my big brother can beat up your big brother contest, and I dig the blues from Lightning Hopkins to Bobby Blue Bland to Clifton Chenier, it’s all good man. But could there possibly be any better blues than Smokestack Lightnin with Howlin Wolf (at the top of this post),pouring it out there with all the passion and soul and emotion that the African American experience consists of?
    My favorite blues, and when I hear it I have to get up and move.

  3. DQ,
    As usual, interesting comments. Remember when they asked Muddy about The Blues and he said, “Man if you have to ask…” It’s just Life, no? And incredible Music. Strolling through Souther Colombia was intense but so is almost everywhere. Booker White was there for a reason.

    Francisco,
    Thanks much for this clip. It’s just a movie but that was intense. I know of August Wilson, but not of this movie. I will look for it. Interesting that they sing of Parchman Farm. In fact, Booker White, the topic of this post, did time there and recorded some of his greatest songs there. Here is his beautiful “ode” to that prison.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9XyWA_mkDk

    Gustavo,
    I agree. To me, it sounds like more than one person. It also sounds very percussive. It’s just heavy in every way. Imagine him busting out those guitar movidas in the 30’s!

    Michael in LA,
    I was more angry than scared. When the first soldier kicked me in my back (in public!), I was pissed. When I was surrounded by 10 of em (was it more?), I knew I was going down to Gotham. But, like I mentioned, I was high from the kindness of the people. They were SO hospitable. They were pissed when they found out I was “interrogated.” That is another story. I found their generosity shocking. What does that say about me?

    DQ,
    I have no Big Brothers so you win. You mention Bobby Blue and he is one of my favorites. His “I’ll Take Care of You” always takes me to my past loves in Mexico. All 2 of em. Here it is, you probably know it, but why the hell not…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeqn8nFcItU

    Hopkins and Chenier, not too fond. But, then you mention Mr. Wolf and I remember when I first heard “I’ll Be Around” I was in disbelief. His SOUND was huge! It’s an assault, and then he’ll be the most soulful voice 2 syllables later. That slow, plodding bass drum is the center of the universe!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NIn2Bnw4cA

    Then I heard “The Natchez Burnin” and I realized he was one of the greatest voices I had ever heard. Here are two clips if you haven’t seen em:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ou-6A3MKow

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C1lMLxOtss&feature=related

    I always liked hearing the “controversial” Sam Phillips of Sun Records discuss music. He called Howlin’ Wolf his greatest find and Elvis Presley the second. This is attributed to him: “When I heard him, I said, This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.” Maybe that’s what I hear when I hear Howlin Wolf. I would even say his voice goes beyond the “African American” experience. Man, thanks for making think about this beautiful voice.

  4. CT! Yeah a kindred spirit who digs the blues as much as I do, but it’s not surprising at all because the blues have always been popular on the LA Eastside.
    I dug the description of the blues by Howlin Wolf that was included in your U tube contributions, “The blues is when the rent is due and you ain’t got no money, when you ain’t got no money and no food and your thinking evil, you got the blues.
    Or from the great Dinah Washington “The Blues Ain’t But A Woman Cryin For Her Man”
    The Blues, if there was ever a music form that is universal the Blues is it!

    Yea Bobby Blue Bland’s album “Two Steps From The Blues” it was in every Eastside Chicano/Chicana’s collection and could be heard everywhere back in the early 60’s
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNrxz-A19WY

    Another blues guy that was extremely popular with Chicano/Chicana’s was Jimmy Reed, who was a staple on the Eastside and who’s guitar licks (along with Bill Doggetts Honky Tonk), were usually the first attempts to play by young Chicano guitar players.
    I will never forget the night, as a teenager jamming in the backyard with a few other vatos, the varrio legend “Fat Rudy” on his lira playing Jimmy Reeds tune below. My old Jefito was in the house watching TV, but hearing Rudy playing and everyone singing along he got the spirit and came outside with a hair comb and some tissue in it and jammed along with the rest of us, good memories.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pVvQIMlSDI

    Another of my favorites, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who started as a very young guitar playing gospel singer, then performed with the big band jazz/blues orchestra headed by Lucky Millinder. If one listens closely the roots and beginnings of early rock and roll can be clearly heard.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7lN1R2LP-4
    Trouble in mind
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzRm4K7NZm0

    Thanks CT! Maybe you should develop a post with a name like “The Blues On The Eastside”, or in Bogotá for that matter.

  5. DQ: Like Otis Spann sang, “Everybody wondering, where the Blues came from… Way back in the lowlands… right off my country farm. When you in trouble, Blues is a man’s best friend… Blues ain’t gonna ask you where you goin and the Blues don’t care where you been.” It’s just the real deal!

    Now that I think about it, when I discovered Ecuadorian popular music, I immediately remembered the Blues. Not to mention, pining for Marisol at 3 am on a bus from Ecuador into Southern Colombia with my teary-eyed head bouncing off the cracked window I was leaning on. That is definitely a different story. Now, it seems funny. In fact, Freddie King, man, all the Kings (yup, even Earl) were part of that Trip. So, DQ, when you say it’s universal, I can only agree. How can I be humming Tampa Red’s “Things Bout Comin My Way” after a disagreement with my Mari, then taking that tune into Quito then into Bogota then back to L.A. Kinda universal, no? But we know it’s more than music.

    Yeah, Bobby Blue, man, those early songs. I saw him at CSULA a few years back. Was too fun. Ah, Mr. Q, then you link up my second fave of his. I think that’s Wayne Bennet doing those crazy riffs. Man, he needs more press, that guy could play, even though he didn’t consider himself a blues player. “That’s what I want you to do… and think of all the lonely nights…” Oh man.

    Funny you mention Jimmy Reed. My uncle used to do those lazy blues riffs. I know exactly what you mean, like the beginning of “Hush Hush” or “Found Love.” That sound is awesome. It is so simple, but you still gotta make it feel!! I like that story that as he got older, or he just had a bad memory or too often drunk, his wife (who handled all the finances) used to whisper the lyrics into his hear in the studio and that on some tracks, you can hear her. Here is my fave Jimmy R song. I wish it was 777 minutes long! Since it isn’t I just put it on repeat and get dreary with em for a spell. One youtuber wrote, “This is just flat out heavy music, I don’t gave a fuck what anyone says.” i agree with him/her.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO8blq8i3L4

    I know very little of Sister Rosetta except for “Can’t No Grave Hold Me Down” and some others and that she’s always mentioned in those early Rock N Roll years. BUT, I had never seen that video. BLEW my mind. If you don’t mind, Im gonna use that in my Sounds Like Burning Series later down that road. It was mindblowing on so many levels. I’ll explain in that future post. I had thought about a Blues musical post series but thought just use it under SLB series, based on who I think are artists of the first order. Speaking of, hope you like these…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cyMLTWWVNo

    and

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8RtayjqqIw&feature=related

    Again, thanks for sharing and jarring some of those memories. That is never bad a thing, even if they “blue.”

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