After a handful of days in Phuket I found myself recording radio ads for the Phuket Blues Fest and hanging out with legendary blues man Charlie Musselwhite on the upstairs porch at 91.5 Phuket FM Radio. Charlie was recently inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and Dan Aykroyd says Charlie was his inspiration for his role in the Blues Brothers. [bxA]
Charlie’s eyes are as blue as the Phuket sky and he’s about the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet. I wasn’t thinking it when he walked up, but the minute we started talking I was totally excited that he’s American. I’m never around Americans and I spent Christmas in Thailand which means I’m totally freaking homesick.
And so, for me, hanging out with Charlie in the tropical paradise of Phuket was mostly about feeling connected for the first time in a long time to my roots, my country, and most poignantly, my past.
Rockefeller's Hall (formerly Rockefeller's), 3620 Washington Ave., Houston, Texas
Charlie told me great stories about his migration from Mississippi to Memphis to Chicago, where he got snubbed for ordering a glass of ‘wurder’ on the posh side of town, but moved to the South Side where people 'loved the same music and same food'. And by ‘people’ he means guys like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. Then we tried to figure out if he ever played Rockefeller’s, the best little jazz/blues club in Houston (circa 1979-1997) and a big huge fat gigantic chunk of My Life Story (but I didn’t bore him, promise). I remember seeing his name scribbled on a manila file in the metal file cabinets of the third floor business offices at the club, but could have been a promo file, not a contract file. Charlie remembers playing Fitzgerald’s on the other side of Interstate-10.
I could have talked to Charlie for hours but he was whisked away to do an on-air interview......after which we said goodbyes then I was whisked into the sound booth to record the ad for the concert.
And so began a month of convergence of all things from the continuum of my past to my ever uncertain future. The afternoon with Charlie flooded me with memories of about a decade of my life built on the foundation of a bankrupt jazz club…a time that delivered me into nearly a decade of a pretty cushy banker life. Meanwhile, the four Millennium girls (who climbed aboard a sailboat set for Madagascar this time last year) converged on Phuket for a reunion of sorts. Then, about halfway through the month, my high school best friend killed herself, leaving me profoundly sad over a bunch of happy memories of yet another almost-decade of my life (circa 1984-1993).
Charlie said something about how people think listenng to the blues is about being sad, but for him the blues is about the music making you happy.
I definitely had the blues in February.
“When I was sixteen I was pretending to be Charlie Musselwhite.