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Blues, with a feeling…

April 30, 2017

In the late 1980’s and  into the early ’90’s, my friend was in B.B. King’s house band at King’s bar in Memphis.

I had just been transferred to head of overnight shipping at the Molson’s beer factory in Barrie and he was our shunt man. A shunt man is the guy who brings the trailers from the parking lot to the warehouse doors in order for them to be loaded or unloaded.

One night, about 3 am, he came into the office while I had John Lee Hooker playing on a tape deck. I had just discovered the blues and John Lee and thought it was pretty cool. We had never spoke. I was management. He was union. That kind of factory bullshit.

“3 cord John,” he called Hooker from over his shoulder.

“Don’t get me wrong. He’s cool. But he plays a pretty simple mix.”

Then he took a shipping invoice off the wall and left.


One night after a lot of bourbon, maybe a month or two after that first encounter, we were at his house and he told his wife that he thought he would get his guitar out. Fine, she said. I’m going to bed. Until that moment I did not know he played.

Down in his rec room he pulled out an alligator guitar case and took out, what he told me, had once been one of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitars.

For the next hour he riffed – flawlessly – on Vaughn. I was stunned.

What the fuck are you doing in Barrie? Shunting trucks, for fuck’s sake!”


I’m moving to Memphis! I got an audition.

Get the fuck out!

I did, man. They said to come down. We decided to just go. See what happens. I’m not getting any younger. Fuck this job!


Sixteen months later, my university debts were paid off, i had stashed some cash, and I had been invited to visit the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. So I too quit my factory job, and drove to Memphis before heading out west.

For two weeks we toured through Mississippi searching for old blues master’s graveyards. Robert Johnson. Willie Brown. Muddy Waters. Sonhouse. So many of them died in poverty, in unmarked graves. We went to Rosedale. Where Robert Johnson says he sold his soul to the devil for fame and fortune. Talked to old Black men about pre-civil rights Mississippi. Toasted the future.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I was just turned on to the musician Orianthi. I watched one of her videos and was immediately transferred back to King’s bar in Memphis watching my buddy play the house down at the end of the night.

New versions of old feelings.




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