Monday, February 18, 2008

Buddy Guy explains the Pussy

“Want to go see Koko Taylor?” the bard asks me from her computer on a Wednesday night. My last night in Chicago is coming up. We had discussed up on my arrival all the things I wanted to do while I was in the city. Between the two of us and several other good friends we had managed to cover pretty much all of it. I could have used more time with one or two friends flung far out of my vacation trajectory, but I managed with what I had to work with. I’d say I hit it head on. Or, in other words, “I came, I fucked, and I conquered.”

So it was arranged with the Bard that we would be joined by Young Kubrick and would head out on the last night to attend to the live blues music part of my vacation that still wanted to be accomplished. It was Friday night and we were going to Buddy Guy’s.

Buddy Guy is a legend. Buddy guy also runs Buddy Guy’s legends. You cannot do better for live blues music than the little blues bar that could on the end of the South Loop in the part of downtown Chicago that doesn’t really close. Once the arrangements had been made I packed my bags and checked them twice, got all gussied up (though I think the Bard yet again managed to outdo me [it’s the red hair]) and off we went.


The plan was simple. Get there early, eat fantastic food, get good seats, watch Koko, continue to make mischief elsewhere.

Kubrick joined us at 7 and we scooted down LSD to the loop to catch the music. There is a palpable thrum of excitement on the road, maybe it’s the last night in Chicago, maybe it’s the anticipation of the good music, maybe it just the company, maybe it is just going, it is exciting, it’s tense, and it all happens far to quickly for comfort.

We managed to park the car quickly enough and after that is was just a matter of getting in to have our good time. We walked down the crisp cold city street towards the club. While we hadn’t rushed we did manage to get in around 7:30 and figured that we had done a fairly good job of timing it. We continued to believe that until we walked into the bar and paid our tip to Koko’s Fund for Indigent Musicians. Somebody has got to help the indigent musicians. We looked around the stage. It was packed.

And not just a little packed.

There were so many people in that bar that it was barely standing room. While there were a number of tables, they were all full of people munching down on the various Cajun goodies that were to be had at Buddy Guy’s. There was not a seat at all on the floor for watching the show.

“What are the chances someone will leave before the show starts,” I ask.

The Bard just looks at me.

So we had back around the corner where we came. By the door there is a large bar full of people and there just happened to be a few empty seats at the end. There were empty seats at the end for a very good reason. From this position you could not see the stage at all. However, seats meant a place to sit and talk and eat while waiting for Koko and I didn’t mind at all if I had to stand in the back of the bar to watch and listen when she finally made the stage. So without much ado we all sallied up to the bar, ordered tall drinks and a menu, and made like we were hungry people.

Side Note: By the way, Cajun crawfish poppers are really, really, really good. My god the things I would do to people if they offered me Cajun crawfish. I guarantee they are probably illegal in six states and would get me stopped at the border before I could even enter Texas.

We ordered food and backed our faces, sharing things back and forth while drinking it up and enjoy the night. I was feeling rather content and full of good music and walked up to the get a few photos at some point. We kept moving back and forth and talking. We talked and talked and didn’t really look much as an older gentleman walked into the bar and sat at the chair behind us. It was one of the last chairs in the house and there was no view at all from there so it wasn’t really all that surprising that he picked that spot to sit in. We kept with the drinking while someone kindly took away our plates.

As with any bar conversation there are pauses and lulls, at some point I turned to the Bard not thinking and she said “Yes, it is, but that’s not the question you are going to ask.”

“What?”

“Yes, but that’s not the question.”

“What’s the question?”

“I’ll tell you in a second.”

I’m trying to figure out how much I’ve had to drink at this point because something has gone completely over my head. I turn to young Kubrick to ask him and he looks about as confused so both of us turn back around and focus on the Bard and try to figure out what is going on.

“Yes, it IS.” She says with intent.

We kept pressing for the question for two reasons. One, we are both foolish, and two, we are both very unobservant.

She finally gave us the question.

“Is that Buddy Guy?”

Suddenly a whole lot of pieces including my stomach clicked into place and I turned a surreptitious glance to the gentleman who is sitting next to Kubrick and noticed three things in succession.

He was drinking very expensive Cognac.

He had a diamond ring on one finger.

He had a gold and diamond ring on his ring finger with the initials BG.

What else can you do when you are sitting that close to Buddy Guy but to try to think of good reasons to have a conversation with him? As I was trying to work out how in the world I was going to work up just enough nerve to do this, several other older black gentleman walked into the bar and sat down next to Buddy and started talking, old friend. Buddy ordered a beer and a glass of ice, as did another of the gentleman, and they all sat, drinking and laughing and talking.

Kubrick was closer to the action and I was still trying to figure out how to work this. Finally it was decided that Kubrick and the Bard would go have a cigarette allowing me to save seats and be the poor lonely girl at the bar next to all the nice people that could have a conversation with me. And that would somehow become my in to talk to someone in the party and then hopefully talk to the man himself.

It never really works out that way.

I managed to hold down the seats and even get closer but did very little to actually get into the party of people talking except for introducing myself to a much older gentleman drinking beer on ice who was hard to comprehend and completely wrapped up in what he was doing. I was not doing so well until the second slightly younger gentleman took an interest when I said I was a teacher.

“Really, where you teach?”

“In South Korea.”

“Huh, he probably been there,” and he laughs and slaps Buddy Guy on the shoulder and I think yes, and I’m getting closer. It took a few more minutes of polite talking before the gentlemen sitting to the right of Buddy says, “I’m Koko’s husband.” That’s an in if there ever was one.

We continue talking, and he is easy to talk to. I tell him about using music from the city to teach English. I’ve used Koko Taylor, Howlin’ Wolf, Bill Broonzy, Bo Diddly, anyone I can think of from the city. One of my favorite things to do is expose kids to good music and you can’t get much better than Chicago blues. He told me about Koko, her touring, and that she was sick and wouldn’t be in tonight. He looked at Buddy Guy and told me, pulling Buddy into the conversation, that Buddy had given Koko away at the wedding.

“Really?” I say.

And I sidle over and stand between them both. Shaking hands, introducing myself.

“So where you from?” They ask again.

“Chicago, but I live in South Korea. Been over there for six years.”

“Shit,” Says Mr. Koko, “They ever hear of Buddy?”

“They tend to think good blues music is Whitney Houstan.” That has them both laughing and slapping the bar.

“What you think of the flight?” asks Mr. Koko.

“Nothing hurts your ass more than a 13 hour flight.” I say.

Buddy laughs. “That’s why if they want to see me they send a goddamn plane.” We all laugh together and get chummy. Mr. Koko recommends that Buddy come tour Korea. I say sure, and ask Buddy if he has a card. He does, and he hands it to me. I pass him back one of my own.

“So, I teach English using your music. If you were going to teach,” I asked them “what song would you use?”

They both kind of look at me for a second. I wait sure I’m about to be bounced out of the bar.

“Shit,” Says Mr. Koko, “I’d teach um ‘Don’t Give it up’.”

They both start laughing pretty hard at that one and I realize that I have missed something but I’m not sure what it is.

“Why is that?” I ask.

Mr. Taylor looks at Buddy, he just shakes his head and says “You tell her.”

“Cause of the pussy,” says Mr. Koko. Buddy laughs and slaps the table. “You all got the pussy, and we all want the pussy, but you can’t just give that shit up, ain’t that right?” he says to Buddy.

“It sure enough is. You can’t give up the pussy.” And I crack into a smile and laugh right along with them.

As the laughter died down a fan came up who had the temerity to want to get his instrument autographed by Buddy Guy and I gave up the floor. Instrument signing and shaking hands is one thing, but talking to Buddy Guy about pussy is far more memorable.

p.s. Yes the pictures of me talking to Buddy is fuzzy and hard to recognize but you can tell Buddy by the ring and me by the crazy hair. What do you want, she's a drunken Bard not a drunken photographer.

1 comment:

GeologyJoe said...

That...is...AWESOME!