Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Last Great Delta Bluesman Visits Asheville

Through dumb luck and quirky circumstances, I found myself virtually alone with the 94-year-old Pinetop Perkins, the last of the great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen, at the soundcheck of his recent Asheville appearance at The Garage at Biltmore. Besides myself (and my wife), only the band members, sound guy, and the club owners were inside The Garage at the time. It was one of those rare moments that send chills down your spine—an eerie sense that this really can’t be happening but it is.

For most of the soundcheck Pinetop sat quietly in the seats near us, dressed up and clutching a cane, as he watched the band tune up. After a few minutes, Pinetop slowly walked the few feet to the stage, frail at 94, and was helped to his piano, where he graciously played his classic Down in Mississippi.

Even though frail, his voice was excellent, and his impossibly long fingers still smoothly moved across the keys. I’d forgotten what a truly great Chicago blues band could sound like. There is a huge difference between this level and lesser talents.

The highlights of the show were hearing him sing his theme song, They Call Me Pinetop Perkins, and a show-stopping version of Got My Mojo Workin'.

At 94, Pinetop's voice and piano work are still amazingly strong. Even so, it was like watching history, and knowing, certainly, that there would never be another opportunity to see a pre-war Delta Blues Master perform live again, which made the evening a little bittersweet for this life-long fan of the Blues.

x-posted from ephemera.


Gordon Smith said...


Matt Howard said...

It gives me chills just to read about it.