October 01, 2007
The blind guitarist at K-mart
Originally published April 25, 2004
After I posted about the soapbox preacher on the corner of Bull and Broughton Streets, I received a couple of emails asking me if I remembered the blind guitarist at K-Mart, who played for tips right outside the front door of the store. Of course I remember him.
The old fart was pretty good. He played an ancient Gibson guitar with a tin cup hooked on the head. Tips went into that cup. He wore dark sunglasses and one of those Bob Dylan harmonica rigs around his neck. He played a lot of old-time traditional music, and he would sing and blow that harp with enthusiasm. I tipped him more than once.
The Savannah Morning News did a feature story on the old man one Sunday and it answered a few questions I had at the time. Yes, the gentleman WAS completely blind. He drew a small Social Security check and supplemented his income by doing his sidewalk show. He had a son who moved him from Savannah, where he played in the summer, to some place in Florida, where he played when the weather grew cold. He did all right.
My guitar playing has gone to shit lately because of the numbness in my fingers, but I can still play all the basic chords. I just don't have control of the twitch-muscles for the hot licks anymore. I've thought frequently that if push comes to shove on the money front, I could pick up enough to get by just by playing on the sidewalk. I'm really not a bad entertainer. I don't want to do the bar scene again, but I could play the sidewalk.
I'm going to answer this question:
On another related topic, you often post about your musical life. If you were going to play a set at a big festival, what would your set list be? What 12 songs would you choose to be represent your musical identity? Maybe you could blog on this sometime if the spirit hits you.
I always liked to kick off a set with a loud, fast, rousing song. Not many people have heard it, but "Better Times," by Mike Cross was one of my favorite opening songs. It's a foot-stomper and an easy song to play and sing to get rid of the butterflies in the belly.
I liked to segue from that song into "Angel From Montgomery," by John Prine. It has the same chord pattern, but it's slower and I always loved the words.
After that, it was time for some finger-picking, so I went from "The Boxer" to "Lincoln Duncan," both written by Paul Simon.
Time to lighten up next, so I played a couple of original songs: "Ain't No Moss Growing On Me" and "Justice Laid Me Low," both crafted by Yours, Truly.
Next came "Samuel Arising," by Mac McAnally. That's another unheard-of song that is a really good foot-stomper. I loved these lines:
I came home from work one day and I heard noises
I then liked to simmer things down a bit and go back to the finger-picks. "If You Could Read My Mind," followed by "Early Mornin' Rain," both by Gordon Lightfoot.
Okay, the audience is somewhat subdued now, so play another foot-stomper to shake them out of their comas. "Fish and Whistle," by John Prine did the trick every time. People start singing along with the chorus even when they've never heard the words before. That's a damn good song.
I usually went from there to another original song, "Blockade Whiskey," which is about moonshining, and I am delighted to announce that someone heard that song in Seattle, Washington a few years ago. I don't collect any royalties, but I'm glad to know that my songs travel well.
And I always liked to finish a one-set performance with "The Scotsman," by Mike Cross. I believe in leaving 'em laughing, and that's just the right song to do it with.
If I was asked for an encore, I did "American Pie," by Don McLean.
There you have it. A musical picture of me.
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