Saturday, May 28, 2016

*****I Hear Mother Africa Calling-With Odetta In Mind

*****I Hear Mother Africa Calling-With Odetta In Mind


Sam Eaton, nothing but the son of a son of a son of an old swamp Yankee, that’s a Yankee fisherman, a small tradesman, a farm hand and those who had, or their forebears had, come across the ocean not under some city on the hill dream but to escape the poor house, the debtors prison or the hangman and wound up doing some indentured servitude before getting under some high Brahmin's fist who did things like yeoman’s military service under General Washington against the bloody British when the call came for brave men to come and help in freedom’s fight and who later forged his way, family in tow, to struggle with the rough stony New England land which fought him and his every inch of the way almost as hard but for sure longer than those bloody Brits, tumble rock fought him down in Carver in the southeastern corner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where he tried to eke out an existence against the grim fresh breast of earth and marsh as a “bogger,” a man who worked the dreaded cranberry bogs for which that town was once famous, worked in harness raking the damn berries for some benighted Thanksgiving dinner, so yes, a swamp Yankee as against the Beacon Hill Brahmins who reaped the benefits of the bloodstained freedom fight without the risks and settled into a quiet life of coin counting and merchandise buying, had been puzzled at the age of fourteen at a time when he first heard a blues song, Howlin’ Wolf’s How Many More Years on a fugitive radio station down in Carver one night in the late 1950s (a song that later, much later, seemingly a technological millennia later, he would see done by Wolf on YouTube taken from a performance at the Newport Folk Festival in the early 1960s where the Wolf sweat rolling from his ebony cheeks and forehead flowing down his face like some ancient Nile River snaking its way to the sea, deep bass voice beyond deep seeming to get deeper with each drop of water would practically  eat the harmonica he had in the cusp of his hand talking, no preaching to himself, taking himself to task, about some woman, some mean mistreating mama if the truth be known who had him in a sailor’s knot, has him all twisted up, had him so depressed and blue his wanted to go under the grasses but who in the end took the walk of the beaten down, beaten around  and left old Minnie high and dry which Sam had sensed was happening way back when on that fugitive radio.).

That “fugitive” part just mentioned not being some pirate station off the coast which he had heard that some people who couldn’t get their music on the regular dial were doing somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean (he would find out later that this pirate station was out in the North Sea someplace and was there because of the uproar in England, like in the states over the demon effect rock and roll was having on the Queen’s subjects, her gaggle of children who somehow heard the fresh new breeze from America was heading their way and which he found out more about still later when he saw a film starring the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman about the subject) the result of some mystical still not understood airwave heading out into the atmosphere all the way from Chicago where occasionally around eleven o’clock (ten Chi town time) he would pick up Be-Bop Benny’s Blues Hour over WALM, a station that billed itself as the “Blues is the dues” station.
He was not sure but he thought then that Be-Bop Benny was a black guy, a Negro (the “polite” word of common usage then to signify blacks, now far out of style and thus the need to explain to generations born after who accept the racial designation black or Afro-American or some other local derivative), although he heard his father, Prescott, who was the last of a long line of downtrodden independent Eaton boggers who would soon thereafter go belly up and sell out to the mega-growers, call them “n----rs” without a trance of rancor or self-consciousness and put “damn” in front of that term with rancor when he had been drinking rye whiskey and bemoaning his fate and said the “n” word were being treated better than he and his were).

Although Sam had never seen a black man in person then since they did not follow the bogging trade and none lived in town or went through it as far as he knew he thought that if Be-Bop wasn’t then he was at least from the south because his voice sounded strange, had a drawl, had kind of a mumble-rumble quality to it and he was saying all kinds of be-bop, cool daddy, hot mama, from jump street kind of stuff. And for a time, a fair amount of time he did not like to hear that scratchy raspy voice, or that blues is dues stuff either. That was the source of his puzzlement.

See Sam had not really been happy when he heard that station come over the fugitive airwaves on late Sunday nights (although the song was okay, no, more than okay, cool even if he didn’t quite understand why the Wolf was letting some mean mistreating mama get him down, get him so crazy that he wanted to go six feet under which even naïve Sam knew meant old Wolf was losing it but that kind of hard-bitten lyric was not to his taste then since he was just getting that bug, just wanted to hear about roses and playthings, stuff like that, happily ever after stuff). As a dedicated fourteen old white boy from a town with no Negro families, not even people who were connected with those workers in the town like his father and a couple of older adult brothers and uncles who worked the cranberry bogs, he was not interested, or maybe consciously interested is better, the blues.

Sam was totally into rock and roll, totally into listening to WMEX the local radio station out of Boston which was being interfered with by that blues is dues station out of Chi town at eleven o’clock (remember ten Chi town time). Interfered with his listening to Bill Haley blast away on Shake, Rattle and Roll, Elvis doing Tomorrow Night and Good Rockin’ Tonight, Johnny Grey doing a great version of Rocket 88, Sam Jackson doing This Is Rock, Bobby Sams doing One Night Of Sin good rocking stuff that DJ Arnie Ginsberg would play on his At The Hop show where he played songs that had dropped off the charts but were diamonds of rock and roll. So at fourteen he could not figure out, nor could they when he asked his friend Jack Caldwell who knew everything about roll and rock, what the appeal was of that Wolf tune. But that beat, that chord progression, that going down to the messy forlorn earth and then coming back up again would follow him for a long, long time. He never really found an answer, a satisfactory answer until he looked beyond the fugitive sound, looked back to why the blues was even the blues. Looked more to the way it made him feel when times were tough, when he would get into his depressive shell, and a blues is dues song would break the bad ass spell.               

Not until later did Sam figure some stuff out after he had kind of given up on rock and roll for a while, maybe around sixteen, seventeen, when the music seemed, well, square, seemed to be about blond-haired, blue-eyed guys searching for (and getting) blond-haired blue eyed girls with a “boss” car and dough as a lure, maybe a surfer guy cruising the beaches out west, out California way, none of which he and his had much of, the dough and car part, and Carver being kind of landlocked no surfer profile, and so kind of distant from the life of a son of a son of a son of a swamp Yankee.
Sam started figuring stuff out too when he got into his folk music thing for a minute, music which mainly made him go up a wall but which he put up with because Sara Leonard, his girlfriend or the girl he wanted to be his girlfriend got all excited about it when she saw Joan Baez in Cambridge at some club (the original Club 47 as it turned out where Joan and lots of other folkies hung out) and insisted that he like the songs or hit the road, you know how that is (this Sara by the way all dark hair and the whitest of white skin got hung up on the iron-your-hair-like Joan Baez craze and he would have to sit in the Leonard parlor cooling his heels while Sara did her ritual). Jesus. Part of that folk thing although he was not sure how and why was about the blues, about down south music from the plantations and sharecropper cabins, and how they made music to keep themselves from going crazy when the hammer came down and they needed some way to express their rage at their plight without getting hung up on a tree somewhere or shot in the back down some dirty road.      

The critics, and don’t ever ask Sam who these guys are since all he cares about is the music, about the blues, who performs it and whether it will take the bite out of his depression or not and not some discursive history stuff although if you talked about the Civil War, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, some guys called the Diggers (not boggers, not as far as he knew), or about the Renaissance he will listen all day, as long as you realize that you will be listening all night, say that the blues, you know, the quintessential black musical contribution to the American songbook along with first cousin jazz that breaks you out of your depression about whatever ails you or the world, was formed down in the Mississippi muds, down in some sweat-drenched bayou, down in some woody hollow all near Mister’s plantation, mill, or store. Well they might be right in a way about how it all started in America as a coded response to Mister’s, Master’s, Captain’s wicked perverse ways back in slavery times, later back in Mister James Crow times (now too but in a different code, but the same old Mister do this and not that, do that but not this just like when old James ran the code).

Sam believed however they were off by several maybe more generations and off by a few thousand miles from its origins in hell-bent Africa, hell-bent when Mister’s forbears took what he thought was the measure of some poor grimy “natives” and shipped them in death slave boats and brought them to the Mississippi muds, bayous and hollows (those who survived the horrendous middle passage without being swallowed up by the unfriendly seas). Took peoples, proud Nubians who had created very sharp and productive civilizations when Mister’s forbears were running around raggedly wondering what the hell a spoon was for when placed in their dirty clenched fingers, wondered still later how the heck to use the damn thing, and why and uprooted them whole.          

Uprooted you hear but somehow that beat, that tah, tat, tah, tah, tat, tah played on some stretched nailed string tightened against some cabin post by young black boys kept Africa home alive. Kept it alive while women, mothers, grandmothers and once in a while despite the hard conditions some great-grandmother who nursed and taught the little ones the old home beat, made them keep the thing alive. Kept alive too Mister’s forced on them religion strange as it was, kept the low branch spirituals that mixed with blues alive in plain wooden churches but kept it alive. So a few generations back black men took all that sweat, anger, angst, humiliation, and among themselves “spoke” home truth low down mean mistreating mama, two-timing man, cut you if you run, weary tune blues on juke joint no electricity Saturday nights out in the back woods accompanied by Willie’s fresh made brew and then sang high white collar penance blues come Sunday morning plain wood church time.

Son House, Charley Patton, Skip James, Sleepy John Estes, Mississippi John Hurt and a lot of guys who went to their graves undiscovered in the salt sweat sultry Delta night carried on, and some sisters too, some younger sisters who heard the beat and heard the high collar Sunday spirituals.

Some sisters like Odetta, big-voiced, big-voiced in a naked world, speaking of freedom trains with her brothers and sisters jam packed on the road, speaking of sweated field hand labor for damn Mister, man, women and child, speaking of that dirty bastard Mister James Crow and his do this and do that and don’t do this and don’t that like his charges were mere children to be ordered about, or hung from stange fruit trees or lying down in some shallow bottomland grave chains tied around the neck, speaking of the haunted northern star which turned Mister’s plantation indoors as it headed north, speaking of finding some cool shaded place where Mister would not disturb, couldn’t disturb and making lots of funny duck, odd-ball,  searching for roots white college students whose campus halls she filled, marvel, mainly marvel, that they had heard some ancient Nubian Queen, some deep-voiced Mother Africa calling them back to the cradle of civilization, calling them back to where all, everything began.  
And then Sam knew, or began to know, what that long ago fugitive beat that stayed in his head meant.         

*****Important Mumia Abu Jamal Update-Free Mumia

*****Important  Mumia Abu Jamal Update-Free Mumia


Click below to link to the Partisan Defense Committee Web site.

The legendary social commentator and standup comic Lenny Bruce, no stranger to the American ‘justice’ system himself, once reportedly said that in the Halls of Justice the only justice is in the halls. The truth of that statement came home on Thursday March 27, 2008 as a panel of the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals voted two to one to uphold Mumia’s conviction.

The only question left is that of resentencing- the death penalty or, perhaps worst, life in prison without parole. I have not yet read the decision but we are now a long way away from the possibility of a retrial-the narrow legal basis for even appealing in the legal system in the first place. Know this- in the end it will be in the streets and factories through the efforts of the international labor movement and other progressive forces that Mumia will be freed. That is the only way, have no illusions otherwise, whatever the next legal steps might be.


An Open Letter to Mumia Abu-Jamal Supporters-A Personal Commentary (April 2008 but the main point-freedom for Mumia is still front and center)

The Partisan Defense Committee has passed "An Open Letter to All Supporters of Mumia‘s Freedom" to this writer. Those few who might not know of the torturous legal battles to free this innocent man can find further information at the above-mentioned Partisan Defense site. I make my own comments below.

Normally I pass information about the case of political prisoner Mumia abu-Jamal on without much comment because the case speaks for itself. The case has been front and center in international labor defense struggles for over two decades. However, in light of the adverse ruling by a majority of a federal Third Circuit Court of Appeal panel in March 2008 that affirmed Mumia’s 1982 conviction for first-degree murder of a police officer and left the only issue for decision that of resentencing to either reinstate his original death sentence or keep him imprisoned for life without parole I have some things to say about this fight.

Occasionally, in the heat of political battle some fights ensue around strategy that after the smoke has cleared, upon reflection, leave one with more sorrow than anger. Not so today. Today I am mad. Am I mad about the irrational decision by the majority of the Third Circuit panel in Mumia’s case? Yes, but when one has seen enough of these cases over a lifetime then one realizes that, as the late sardonic comic and social commentator Lenny Bruce was fond of saying, in the Hall of Justice the only justice is in the halls.

What has got me steamed is the obvious bankruptcy of the strategy, if one can use this term, of centering Mumia’s case on the question of a new trial in order to get the ‘masses’- meaning basically parliamentary liberal types interested in supporting the case. This by people who allegedly KNOW better. The bankruptcy of this strategy, its effects on Mumia’s case and the bewildered response of those who pedaled it as good coin is detailed in the above-mentioned Open Letter. Read it.

Today, in reaction to the Third Circuit court’s decision, everyone and their brother and sister are now calling for Mumia’s freedom. At a point where he is between a rock and a hard place. However, it did not have to be that way. Mumia was innocent in 1982 and he did not stop being innocent at any point along this long road. Freedom for Mumia was (and is) the correct slogan in the case. A long line of political criminal cases, starting in this country with that of the Haymarket Martyrs if not before, confirms that simple wisdom. Those who consciously pedaled this weak ‘new trial’ strategy as a get rich quick scheme now have seen the chickens come home to roost. And Mumia pays the price.

I would point out two factors that made a ‘retrial’ strategy in the case of an innocent man particularly Pollyanna-ish for those honest militants who really believed that Mumia’s case was merely a matter of the American justice system being abused and therefore some court would rectify this situation if enough legal resources were in place. First, it is illusory that somehow, as exemplified in this case, a higher court system would remedy this egregious wrong. Long ago I remember a lawyer, I believe that it might have been the late radical lawyer Conrad Lynn no stranger to political defense work, telling a group of us doing defense work for the Black Panthers, that all these judges belong to the same union. They do not upset each other’s work except under extreme duress.

Second, and this is where the ‘wisdom’ of the reformists about reaching the ‘masses’ by a stage-ist theory of defense work (fight for retrial first, then freedom) turns in on them. As witness the list of names of those who have signed the Partisan Defense Committee’s call for Mumia’s freedom, excepting professional liberals and their hangers –on, those interested in Mumia’s case (or any leftwing political defense case) will sign on just as easily for freedom as retrial. Thus, opportunism does not pay, even in the short haul. That said, Free Mumia- say it loud, say it proud.


A View From The Left- The Popular Front: Class Betrayal

Workers Vanguard No. 1089
6 May 2016
The Popular Front: Class Betrayal
(Quote of the Week)
In Brazil today, a class-collaborationist coalition of workers and bourgeois parties governs in the interest of the capitalist rulers. In the 1930s, such formations were dubbed popular or people’s fronts by the Stalinists, who supported them. In 1937, as the Spanish proletariat was locked in a life-and-death struggle for power, James Burnham explained that popular fronts subordinate the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. At the time, Burnham was a leading propagandist for the U.S. Trotskyists, though he would later desert to the side of the bourgeoisie.

The program of the Peoples’ Front is a program for the defense of bourgeois democracy: that is, for the defense of one form of capitalism.
Whose program is this? It is obviously not the program of the proletariat. The program of the proletariat, accepted by revolutionists since the publication of the Communist Manifesto, can be summed up in two slogans: for workers’ power and for socialism. Naturally the immediate tactic of the proletariat is not on all occasions the struggle for state power: that is possible only in a revolutionary crisis. But at all times and on all occasions the fundamental program remains the same—for the overthrow of capitalism, for workers’ power and for socialism. This program expresses the basic class conflict in modern society; records the Marxist understanding that the problems of society can be solved only by socialism, and that socialism can be achieved only through the conquest of power by the proletariat. The duty of the revolutionary party, the conscious vanguard of the proletariat, is to keep this full and fundamental program always to the fore and always uncompromised. In its program, the revolutionary party thus sums up the independence of the proletariat as a class, and asserts its independent historical destiny.
For the proletariat, through its parties, to give up its own independent program means to give up its independent functioning as a class. And this is precisely the meaning of the Peoples’ Front. In the Peoples’ Front the proletariat renounces its class independence, gives up its class aims—the only aims, as Marxism teaches, which can serve its interests. By accepting the program of the Peoples’ Front, it thereby accepts the aims of another section of society; it accepts the aim of the defense of capitalism when all history demonstrates that the interests of the proletariat can be served only by the overthrow of capitalism. It subordinates itself to a middle-class version of how best and most comfortably to preserve the capitalist order. The Peoples’ Front is thus thoroughly and irrevocably non-proletarian, anti-proletarian....
The Peoples’ Front must always be an abandonment of the proletarian program, a subordination of the proletariat to non-proletarian social interests. In the Peoples’ Front, it is the proletariat and the proletariat alone that loses.
—James Burnham, The Peoples’ Front: The New Betrayal (1937)

*****As Obama, His House And Senate Allies, His “Coalition Of The Willing” Ramp Up The War Drums In Syria -Again- Stop The Bombings

*****As Obama, His House And Senate Allies, His “Coalition Of The Willing” Ramp Up The War Drums In Syria -Again- Stop The Bombings-Stop The Incessant Escalations-- Immediate Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops And Mercenaries From The Middle East!

Frank Jackman comment:

I have already recently mentioned elsewhere the night not long ago when my friend from high school, Carver High Class of 1967 down in southeastern Massachusetts, Sam Lowell, who I hadn’t seen in a while were, full disclosure, having a few high-shelf whiskeys at Jack Higgin’s Sunnyvale Grille in Boston, arguing over the increasing use of and increased dependence on killer/spy drones in military doctrine, American military doctrine anyway. I also mentioned that night, which is germane here, in discussing the broader category of the seemingly endless wars that the American government is determined to wage at the close of our lives ( we are both on the wrong side of seventy so check the actuarial tables if you think I am mistaken) so that we never again utter the word “peace” with anything but ironic sneers that I, again for full disclosure, am a supporter of Veterans For Peace and have been involved with such groups, both veteran and civilian peace groups, since my own military service ended back during Vietnam War days.

For those not in the know that organization of ex-veterans of the last couple of generations of America’s wars has been for over a quarter of a century (actually just commemorated its thirtieth anniversary this summer of 2015) determinedly committed to opposing war as an instrument, as the first instrument, of American policy in what that government sees as a hostile world (a view that it has held for a long time, only the targeted enemy and the amount of devastation brought forth has changed).  

I also noted Sam’s position with his concurrence, full disclosure, he was granted an exemption from military duty during the Vietnam War period after his father had died suddenly in 1965 and he was the sole support, or close to it, of his mother and four younger sisters, was a little more nuanced if nevertheless flatly wrong from my perspective on the killer/spy drones. I thought his argument perhaps reflected an “average Joe” position of a guy who did not serve in the military and had not seen up close what all the “benefits” of modern military technology have brought forth to level whatever target they have chosen to obliterate and under what conditions. More importantly that Sam, who marched in any number of anti-Vietnam War parades with me after my service was over and I gave him the “skinny” on what was really going on in that war, had made in the post-9/11 period like many from our generation of ’68 a sea-change in their former anti-military positions. Something in that savage criminal attack in New York City against harmless civilians got the war lusts, yes, the war lusts up of people, good, simple people like Sam and lots of “peaceniks” from our generation to kill everything that got in our way. LBJ and Richard Nixon would have in their graves rather ironic smiles over that change of heart.   

And those many who changed positions, who sulkily went along with whatever was “necessary,” including I remember one time a woman who identified herself as a Quaker who, I swear, asked plaintively on some radio talk show I was listening to whether we (meaning the American government and not her individually I assume but who knows) could not surgically nuclear bomb Al Qaeda from all memory. Sam got caught up in this war lust wave and has since, starting with his initial approval of the “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq, wound up in the end left with egg all over his face.

But Sam is nothing if not determined just like me to carry on in his views and so another night at Jack Higgin’s found us arguing over the more recent egg-in-face aspects of American war policy in the Middle East with the rise of ISIS, the demise of the failed states of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and with it whatever rationale made the American government built a thing from which it had to run.

As is also usual these days like with the question of killer/spy drones we argued for a few hours or until the whiskey ran out, or we ran out of steam and agreed to disagree. The next day though, no, the day after that I again got to thinking about the issue of the debacle of American policy and while not intending to directly counter Sam arguments wrote a short statement that reflects my own current thinking the matter. Here it is:
“Nobel “Peace” Prize Winner, U.S. President Barack Obama (and yes that word peace should be placed in quotation marks every time that award winning is referenced in relationship to this “new age” warmonger extraordinaire), abetted by the usual suspects in the House and Senate (not so strangely more Republicans than Democrats, at least more vociferously so) as internationally (Britain, France, the NATO guys, etc.), has over the past year or so ordered more air bombing strikes in the north of Iraq and in Syria, has sent more “advisers”, another fifteen hundred at last count [summer of 2015] but who really knows the real number with all the “smoke and mirrors” by the time you rotate guys in and out, hire mercenaries, and other tricks of the trade long worked out among the bureaucratiti, to “protect” American outposts in Iraq and buck up the feckless Iraqi Army whose main attribute is to run even before contact is made, has sent seemingly limitless arms shipments to the Kurds now acting as on the ground agents of American imperialism whatever their otherwise supportable desires for a unified Kurdish state, and has authorized supplies of arms to the cutthroat and ghost-like moderate Syrian opposition if it can be found to give weapons to {which it could not and backed off for now in the Fall of 2015],  quite a lot of war-like actions for a “peace” guy (maybe those quotation mark should be used anytime anyone is talking about Obama on any subject ).

Of course the existential threat of ISIS has Obama crying to the high heavens for authorizations, essentially "blank check" authorizations just like any other "war" president, from Congress in order to immerse the United States on one side in a merciless sectarian war which countless American blunders from the get go has helped create.

All these actions, and threatened future ones as well, have made guys who served in the American military during the Vietnam War and who, like me, belatedly, got “religion” on the war issue from the experience (and have become a fervent anti-warrior ever since), learn to think long and hard about the war drums rising as a kneejerk way to resolve the conflicts in this wicked old world. Have made us very skeptical. We might very well be excused for our failed suspension of disbelief when the White House keeps pounding out the propaganda that these actions are limited when all signs point to the slippery slope of escalation (and the most recent hikes of whatever number for "training" purposes puts paid to that thought).
And during all this deluge Obama and company have been saying with a straight face the familiar (Vietnam-era familiar updated for the present)-“we seek no wider war”-meaning no American combat troops. Well if you start bombing places back to the Stone Age, or trying to, if you cannot rely on the weak-kneed Iraqi troops who have already shown what they are made of and cannot rely on a now virtually non-existent “Syrian Free Army” which you are willing to give whatever they want and will still come up short what do you think the next step will be?

Now not every event in history gets repeated exactly but given the recent United States Government’s history in Iraq those old time Vietnam vets who I like to hang around with might be on to something. In any case dust off the old banners, placards, and buttons and get your voices in shape- just in case. No New War In Iraq!–Stop The Bombings In Iraq And Syria!- Stop The Arms Shipments!-Vote Down The Syria-Iraq War Budget Appropriations!     
Here is something to think about picked up from a leaflet I picked up at a recent (small) anti-war rally:  

Workers and the oppressed have no interest in a victory by one combatant or the other in the reactionary Sunni-Shi’ite civil war in Iraq or the victory of any side in Syria. However, the international working class definitely has a side in opposing imperialist intervention in Iraq and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and mercenaries. It is U.S. imperialism that constitutes the greatest danger to the world’s working people and downtrodden.

[Whatever unknown sister or brother put that idea together sure has it right]  

In Boston Veterans For Peace Memorial Day For Peace-May 30th

In Boston Veterans For Peace  Memorial Day For Peace-May 30th  

Veterans For Peace, Chapter 9 - Smedley Butler Brigade will host its annual

Memorial Day for Peace
Monday, May 30, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Christopher Columbus Park
(corner of Atlantic Ave. & Richmond St., Boston, MA)

This is a solemn and honorable event featuring songs, speeches and poetry.  It culminates with a Flower Ceremony when veterans and members of the audience alike drop a carnation into the harbor as the names of every Massachusetts service member killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since Sept. 11 2001 are read aloud.

This is a public event. All are welcome.
The complete program for this event will be sent to this email list within a couple days.
Attached is a map showing the location of the park.  A purple pin indicates where we have the ceremony.
If you have questions, please email:

*A Blues Piano Treat- The Blues Of Mr. Memphis Slim

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Memphis Slim Doing "Beer Drinking Woman".


Memphis Slim: Live At Ronnie Scott’s, Memphis Slim, 1986

If you listen to enough blues. If you watch enough films about the blues. If you read enough blues liner notes you not only will become “educated” about this genre but will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. In other words who’s paid the dues to the blues, and who hasn’t. I have spilled plenty of ink in this space discussing the various personalities, who formed that great post-World War II electric blues explosion centered on Chicago and its environs. I have extolled Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Magic Slim, John Lee Hooker and the like. And rightly so. However, every once in a while one needs to freshen up the list as one reviews more material. That was the case with my recent “discovery” of the legendary country blues master, Bukka White. I now add Memphis Slim to the electric blues side.

It is not as if I did not know the name Memphis Slim. And heard his work in various blues compilations, especially from his Chess Record days and on the American Folk Blues series from the 1960's. As noted above once you are immersed in the blues genre and begin to find out who the blues greats acknowledge as their own these things get sorted out quickly. I kept hearing the name Memphis Slim uttered from their lips, as companion and influence. Strangely, after the golden age of the barrel house piano player in the 1920’s and 1930’s there was something of a hiatus in the blues piano as the electric guitar began to dominate. Memphis Slim carries that blues piano tradition forward to the “new age”.

Frankly, every once in awhile a blues piano is the kind of thing that you need to while away your own blues. It provides a more evocative, cleaner sound that the hyper-energetic electric guitar of late Saturday nights. As Memphis Slim himself mentions in between songs in the film, when discussing what he believes the blues are all about, the blues are about hunger, sorrow, longing for love, lost loves and the like. But they are also about happier events as well. Both lyric renditions and piano styles are on display here as Memphis goes through his paces to an appreciative British audience (Ronnie Scott’s is, or was, a famous night spot in London) in 1986. So if you want to watch a master at the blues piano and no mean blues vocal stylist this is your address.

"Rack 'em Back Jack"

You know I'm gonna pray
Lord, never let me love, again
I'm gonna pray
Lord, never let me love, again
They tell me love is a gamble
But I've never been able to win

Blue an' disgusted
That's the way I feel
Feel like a broken spoke
In some farmer's wagon wheel
My baby walked out on me
You know she gave me a raw, raw deal
(piano &

I come home ev'ry night
My baby goes out about ten
Come home ev'ry night
My baby goes out about ten
An' when I go to work ev'ry mornin'
My baby, she's just comin' in

That's why I'm blue an' disgusted
An' that's the way I feel
So blue an' disgusted
People, that's the way I feel
Feel like a broken spoke
In some farmer's wagon wheel

"Beer Drinking Woman"

(piano 'Dragnet' intro)


The story's true ladies and gentlemen.
All the names have been changed to
protect the innocent.
The year 19 hundred and forty.
The city, Chicago. The place, Rubin's Tavern
The story goes something like this:

I walked into a beer tavern
To give a girl a nice time
I had forty-five dollars when I enter
When I left I had one dime

Wasn't she a beer drinkin' woman?
Don't ya know, man don't ya know?
She was a beer-drinkin' woman
And I don't want to see her no more

Now, when I spend down to my last dime
She said, 'Darlin' I know you're not through'
I said, 'Yes, baby doll
And the trophy belongs to you'

Wasn't she a beer drinkin' woman?
Don't you know, man don't you know?
She was a beer-drinkin' woman
And I don't wanna see her no more

Now she'd often say, 'Excuse me a minute
I've got to step around here'
And ev'ry time she came back
She had room for another quart of beer

Wasn't that a beer drinkin' woman?
Don't ya know, man, don't ya know?
She was a beer drinkin' woman
And I don't want to see her no mo'.

"I.c. Blues"

(harmonica & piano)

Gonna catch that Illinois Central
Gonna ride around the bend
I'm gonna catch that Illinois Central
I'm gonna ride around the bend
Well, and the Lord only know
Just when I'll be back again
I'm goin' back home
Where I know I have a friend
Well, I'm goin' back home
Where I know I have a friend
They'll be so glad to see me
They won't even ask me where I've been

Conductor, raise your hand
So the engineer can ring the bell
Conductor, raise your hand
So the engineer can ring the bell
When those wheels start turnin' over
I wanna be at the north, farewell

(harmonica & piano)

This time, tomorrow
There's no tellin' where I'll be
This time, tomorrow
There's no tellin' where I'll be, Lord
But you can bet your bottom dollar
I'll be somewhere down on the I. C.

"Baby Doll"

What's wrong, baby doll?
We can't get along
What's wrong, baby doll?
We can't get along
We'll have fun together
Now baby, tell me what's wrong
Have your mind made up
Before you walk out that door
Have your mind made up
Before you walk out that door
Because one woman, one chance
You don't get back no mo'

(guitar & instrumental)

I've been good to you
As I intend to be
I've been good to you
As I intend to be
Now, it seem like, baby doll
You tryin' to run out on me.

"Blue And Disgusted"

You know I'm gonna pray
Lord, never let me love, again
I'm gonna pray
Lord, never let me love, again
They tell me love is a gamble
But I've never been able to win

Blue an' disgusted
That's the way I feel
Feel like a broken spoke
In some farmer's wagon wheel
My baby walked out on me
You know she gave me a raw, raw deal
(piano &

I come home ev'ry night
My baby goes out about ten
Come home ev'ry night
My baby goes out about ten
An' when I go to work ev'ry mornin'
My baby, she's just comin' in

That's why I'm blue an' disgusted
An' that's the way I feel
So blue an' disgusted
People, that's the way I feel
Feel like a broken spoke
In some farmer's wagon wheel.

"When Your Dough Roller Is Gone"

Did you ever wake up an' find
Your dough roller, gone?
Did you ever wake up an' find
Your dough roller, gone?
Well, an' you hang your head
You cry all night long

I've got the blues so bad
It hurt my feet to walk
I've got the blues so bad
It hurt my feet to walk
People, I've got the blues so bad
It hurt my tongue to talk

Lord, I told my dough roller
Before I left that town
Well, I told my dough roller
Before I left that town
'Baby, don't let nobody
Tear my playhouse down.

Poet's Corner- On Memorial Day For Peace-War And Remembrance

Poet's Corner- On Memorial Day For Peace-War And Remembrance 

Not all war poetry can stand the test of literary greatness or longevity but it is almost all very poignant and to the point



Poet's Corner- On Memorial Day For Peace-War And Remembrance

Poet's Corner- On Memorial Day For Peace-War And Remembrance 

Not all war poetry can stand the test of literary greatness or longevity but it is almost all very poignant and to the point


A VIew From The Left-A Petiton For Bernie Sanders To Run As An Independent In November

Frank Jackman comment:
Usually when I post something from some other source, mostly articles and other materials that may be of interest to the radical public that I am trying to address I place the words “ A View From The Left” in the headline and let the subject of the article speak for itself, or let the writer speak for him or herself without further comment whether I agree with the gist of what is said or not. After all I can write my own piece if some pressing issue is at hand. I do so here. [Personally I believe  Sanders  should have run as an independent to begin with or at least moved that way after those disastrous Southern primaries that spelled doom for him and he would be that much further ahead in organizing such a campaign.]     

Socialist Alternative encourages all our supporters to sign and share the petition calling on Bernie to run all the way to November as an Independent. Launched by Socialist Alternative Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant and the petition has been signed by over 32,000 people!

Let’s set a target of 50,000 people signing the petition by the California primaries on June 7 calling on Bernie to run independently all the way to November. If we’re going to reach more people, it’s going to take all of us getting involved. The easiest way to do that is to share the petition with 5 people.

Dear Friends,

Six weeks ago Kshama Sawant and #Movement4Bernie
issued a bold petition calling on Bernie to break free from the Democratic Party straightjacket. In that time 32,000 have joined our call on Bernie to run independently through November, or appealing to the Greens to join their ticket with Jill Stein, in order to lay the foundations for a new mass party for the 99%.

With your support, we can reach tens of thousands more. Donate $25, $50, or $100 today to help us expand our outreach!

Our petition is already making waves. Kshama Sawant’s interview with NowThis promoting our petition was viewed 1.5 million times, her DemocracyNow debate over 160,000 times, and there is a growing mass media debate about the strength and strategy of the “Bernie or Bust” movement.

And we’re not the only ones raising these questions. Michelle Alexander, the renowned legal scholar and author of the acclaimed book, The New Jim Crow, recently said: “I hold little hope that a political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself."

Every poll shows Bernie defeating Trump while Clinton keeps losing ground as distrust for her grows. The undemocratic behavior of the Democratic Party establishment shows they are more interested in maintaining their cozy relationship with Wall Street than defeating Donald Trump and the Republicans!

We should be absolutely clear: Clinton, the Democratic Party establishment, and Wall Street Super PACs are adamantly opposed to our political revolution and are determined to stamp it out.  The strongest way to continue building our movement would be for Bernie Sanders to breakout of the prison of the Democratic Party, continue his campaign through November, and lay the foundations for a new party for the 99%.

Whatever the outcome of this election, the most important thing is to stay organized to make sure our movement grows. If you agree, forward this petition to five friends right now. Share it on Facebook and Twitter. Let's build on our momentum and hit 50,000 signatures in the weeks ahead. Forward the petition on now.  

In solidarity,
Ty Moore
National Organizer

*****Mimi’s Glance - With Richard Thompson’s Vincent Black Lightning, 1952 In Mind

*****Mimi’s Glance - With Richard Thompson’s  Vincent Black Lightning, 1952 In Mind
Mimi’s Glance, Circa 1963

Mimi Murphy knew two things, she needed to keep moving, and she was tired, tired as hell of moving, of the need, of the self-impose need, to keep moving ever since that incident five years before, back in 1958, with her seems like an eternity ago sweet long gone motorcycle boy, her “walking daddy,” Pretty James Preston, although he as long as she had known him never walked a step when his “baby,” his bike was within arm’s length. I knew this information, knew this information practically first hand because the usually polite but loner Mimi Murphy had told me her thoughts and the story that went with it one night after she had finished a tough on the feet night working as a cashier at concession stand the Olde Saco Drive-In Theater out on Route One in Olde Saco, Maine.

That night, early morning really, she had passed me going up to her room with a bottle of high-end Scotch, Haig& Haig, showing its label from a brown bag in her hand while I was going down the stairs in the rooming house we lived in on Water Street in Ocean City, a few miles from Olde Saco. A number of people, including Mimi and me, were camped out there in temporary room quarters after the last of the summer touristas had decamped and headed back to New York, or wherever they came from. The cheap off-season rent and the short stay-until-the-next-summer-crowd-showed-up requiring no lease drew us there. Most residents, mostly young and seemingly unattached to any family or work life kept to themselves, private drinkers or druggies (probably not grass since I never smelled the stuff which I had a nose for from youthful smoke-filled dreams while I was there so coke, opium, speed, maybe horse although I saw no obvious needle marks on arms or cold turkey screams either), a couple of low profile good looking young hustling girls, probably just graduating from amateur status and still not jaded “tarts” as my father used to call them, who didn’t bring their work home, guys maybe just out of the service, or between jobs, and so on. I had seen a couple of guys, young guys with horny looks in their eyes, maybe an idea of making a play, making passes at Mimi but thought nothing of it since they also targeted the hustling girls too.


Since I had never bothered Mimi, meaning made a pass at her, she must have sensed that being contemporaries, she was twenty-one then and I twenty-two, that maybe she could unburden her travails on a fellow wayward traveler. That no making a pass business by the way due to the fact that slender, no, skinny and flat-chested Irish red-heads with faraway looks like Mimi with no, no apparent, warm bed desires, that year and in those days not being my type after tumbledown broken-hearted youthful years of trying to coax their Irish Catholic rosary bead novena favors to no avail over in the old Little Dublin neighborhood around the Acre in Olde Saco.


Whatever she sensed and she was pretty closed-mouth about it when I asked her later she was right about my ability to hear the woes of another wanderer without hassles, and she did as she invited me up into her room with no come hither look (unlike those pretty hustling girls who made a profession of the “come hither look” and gave me a try-out which after proving futile turned into small courtesy smiles when we passed each other). But she showed no fear, no apparent fear, anyway.

After a couple of drinks, maybe three, of that dreamboat scotch that died easy going down  she loosened up, taking her shoes off before sitting down on the couch across from me. For the interested I had been down on my uppers for a while and was drinking strictly rotgut low-shelf liquor store wines and barroom half empty glass left-overs so that stuff was manna from heaven I can still taste now but that is my story and not Mimi’s so I will move on. Here is the gist of what she had to say as I remember it that night:

She started out giving her facts of life facts like that she had grown up around this Podunk town outside of Boston, Adamsville Junction, and had come from a pretty pious Roman Catholic Irish family that had hopes that she (or one of her three younger sisters, but mainly she) might “have the vocation,” meaning be willing, for the Lord, to prison cloister herself up in some nunnery to ease the family’s way into heaven, or some such idea. And she had bought into the idea from about age seven to about fourteen by being the best student, boy or girl, in catechism class on Sunday, queen of the novenas, and pure stuff like that in church and the smartest girl in, successively, Adamsville South Elementary School, Adamsville Central Junior High, and the sophomore class at Adamsville Junction High School.

As she unwound this part of her story I could see where that part was not all that different from what I had encountered in my French-Canadian (mother, nee LeBlanc) Roman Catholic neighborhood over in the Acre in Olde Saco. I could also see, as she loosened up further with an additional drink, that, although she wasn’t beautiful, certain kinds of guys would find her very attractive and would want to get close to her, if she let them. Just the kind of gal I used to go for before I took the pledge against Irish girls with far-away looks, and maybe red hair too.


About age fourteen thought after she had gotten her “friend” (her period for those who may be befuddled by this old time term) and started thinking, thinking hard about boys, or rather seeing that they, some of them, were thinking about her and not novenas and textbooks her either she started to get “the itch.” That itch that is the right of passage for every guy on his way to manhood. And girl on her way to womanhood as it turned out but which in the Irish Roman Catholic Adamsville Junction Murphy family neighborhood was kept as a big, dark secret from boys and girls alike.

Around that time, to the consternation of her nun blessed family, she starting dating Jimmy Clancy, a son of the neighborhood and a guy who was attracted to her because she was, well, pure and smart. She never said whether Jimmy had the itch, or if he did how bad, because what she made a point out of was that being Jimmy’s girl while nice, especially when they would go over Adamsville Beach and do a little off-hand petting and watching the ocean, did not cure her itch, not even close. This went on for a couple of years until she was sixteen and really frustrated, not by Jimmy so much as by the taboos and restrictions that had been placed on her life in her straight-jacket household, school and town. (Welcome to the club, sister, your story is legion) No question she was ready to break out, she just didn’t know how.

Then in late 1957 Pretty James Preston came roaring into town. Pretty James, who despite the name, was a tough motorcycle wild boy, man really about twenty-one, who had all, okay most all, of the girls, good girls and bad, wishing and dreaming, maybe having more than a few restless sweaty nights, about riding on back of that strange motorcycle he rode (a Vincent Black Lightning, a bike made in England which would put any Harley hog to shame from rev number one when I looked for information about the beast later, stolen, not by Pretty James but by third parties, from some English with dough guy and transported to America where he got it somehow, the details were very vague about where he got it, not from her, him) and being Pretty James’ girl. One day, as he passed by on his chopper going full-throttle up Hancock Street, Mimi too got the Pretty James itch.

But see it was not like you could just and throw yourself at Pretty James that was not the way he worked, no way. One girl, one girl from a good family who had her sent away after the episode, tried that and was left about thirty miles away, half-naked, after she thought she had made the right moves and was laughed at by Pretty James as he took off with her expensive blouse and skirt flying off his handle-bars as he left her there unmolested but unhinged. That episode went like wildfire through the town, through the Monday morning before school girls’ lav what happened, or didn’t happen, over the weekend talkfest first of all.

No Pretty James’ way was to take, take what he saw, once he saw something worth taking and that was that. Mimi figured she was no dice. Then one night when she and Jimmy Clancy were sitting by the seawall down at the Seal Rock end of the beach starting to do their little “light petting” routine Pretty James came roaring up on his hellish machine and just sat there in front of the pair, saying nothing. But saying everything. Mimi didn’t say a word to Jimmy but just started walking over to the cycle, straddled her legs over back seat saddle and off they went into the night. Later that night her itch was cured, or rather cured for the first time.

Pouring another drink Mimi sighed poor Pretty James and his needs, no his obsessions with that silly motorcycle, that English devil’s machine, that Vincent Black Lightning that caused him more anguish than she did. And she had given him plenty to think about as well before the end. How she tried to get him to settle down a little, just a little, but what was a sixteen-year old girl, pretty new to the love game, totally new, new but not complaining to the sex game, and his well-worn little tricks to get her in the mood, and make her forget the settle down thing. Until the next time she thought about it and brought it up.

Maybe, if you were from around Adamsville way, or maybe just Boston, you had heard about Pretty James, Pretty James Preston and his daring exploits back in about 1957 and 1958. Those got a lot of play in the newspapers for months before the end. Before that bank job, the one where as Mimi said Pretty James used to say all the time, he “cashed his check.” Yes, the big Granite City National Bank branch in Braintree heist that he tried to pull all by himself, with Mimi as stooge look-out. She had set him up for that heist, or so she thought. No, she didn’t ask him to do it but she got him thinking, thinking about settling down just a little and if that was to happen he needed a big score, not the penny ante gas station and mom and pop variety store robberies that kept them in, as he also used to say, “coffee and cakes” but a big payday and then off to Mexico, maybe down Sonora way, and a buy into the respectable and growing drug trade.

And he almost, almost, got away clean that fatal day, that day when she stood across the street, an extra forty-five in her purse just in case he needed it for a final getaway. She never having handled a gun mush less fired one was scared stiff it might go off in that purse although she Pretty James had her in such a state that she would have emptied the damn thing if it would have done any good. But he never made it out the bank door. Some rum brave security guard tried to uphold the honor of his profession and started shooting nicking Pretty James in the shoulder. Pretty James responded with a few quick blasts and felled the copper. That action though slowed down the escape enough for the real coppers to respond and blow Pretty James away. Dead, DOA, done. Her, with a tear, sweet boy Pretty James.

According to the newspapers a tall, slender red-headed girl about sixteen had been seen across the street from the bank just waiting, waiting according to the witness, nervously. The witness had turned her head when she heard the shots from the bank and when she looked back the red-headed girl was gone. And Mimi was gone, maybe an accessory to felony murder or worst charge hanging over her young head, and long gone before the day was out. She grabbed the first bus out of Braintree headed to Boston where eventually she wound up holed up in a high-end whorehouse doing tricks to make some moving on dough. (She mentioned some funny things about that stay, which was not so bad at the time when she needed dough bad, and about strange things guys, young and old, wanted her to do but I will leave that stuff out here.)

And she had been moving ever since, moving and eternally hate moving. Now, for the past few months, she had been working nights as a cashier in the refreshment stand at Olde Saco Drive-In to get another stake to keep moving. She had been tempted, a couple of times, to do a little moon-lighting in a Portland whorehouse that a woman she had worked with at her last job, Fenner’s Department Store, where she modeled clothes for the rich ladies, had told her about to get a quick stake but she was almost as eternally tired at that prospect as in moving once again.

And so Mimi Murphy, a few drinks of high-shelf scotch to fortify her told her story, told it true I think, mostly. A couple of days later I saw her through my room’s window with a suitcase in hand looking for all the world like someone getting ready to move on, move on to be a loner again after maybe an indiscrete airing of her linen in public. Thinking back on it now I wish, I truly wish, that I had been more into slender, no skinny, red-headed Irish girls with faraway looks that season and maybe she would not have had to keep moving, eternally moving.
ARTIST: Richard Thompson

TITLE: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

Said Red Molly to James that's a fine motorbike

A girl could feel special on any such like

Said James to Red Molly, well my hat's off to you

It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952

And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems

Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme

And he pulled her on behind

And down to Box Hill they did ride

/ A - - - D - / - - - - A - / : / E - D A /

/ E - D A - / Bm - D - / - - - - A - - - /

Said James to Red Molly, here's a ring for your right hand

But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man

I've fought with the law since I was seventeen

I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine

Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22

And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you

And if fate should break my stride

Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Come down, come down, Red Molly, called Sergeant McRae

For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery

Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside

Oh, come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside

When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left

He was running out of road, he was running out of breath

But he smiled to see her cry

And said I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world

Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl

Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do

They don't have a soul like a Vincent 52

He reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys

He said I've got no further use for these

I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome

Swooping down from heaven to carry me home

And he gave her one last kiss and died