Gut Rumbles

April 25, 2004

the blind guitarist at K-mart

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 heard someone getting up in our bedroom
I heard zippers zipping and hookers hooking,
So I turned around and left
I didn't know, but I reluctantly assumed

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.



Been checking in quietly the last couple of months--sorry to hear you are getting old--been going through a lot of that stuff myself, and when combined with wimmen who think I am supposed to be their own personal welfare provider, well--it takes a toll on the old body to be sure.

Having said that--I sho did like the list of faves you would play. I compliment you on closing with Donnie's great song (although if I ever met a girl who "sang the blues"--I WOULD have some "happy news") , and your inclusion of several of Prine's and Gordy's is all good and proper.

But Arlo really should be your closing act--

"This train's got the disappearing railroad blues."

The chorus to that one is the most memorable there is, IMHO. Crowds love it!

;-) Get yo ass a mess a food, put the meat back on your bones, and remember, what don't kill ya, makes ya stronger.

The dawgs say "hey!"

Be cool, Dude. And . . . Win anyway! :-)

Posted by: Walking the Dawgs on April 25, 2004 01:06 PM

One more . . .

Posted by: Walking The Dawgs on April 25, 2004 01:36 PM

Prine, Simon & Lightfoot -- couldn't do any better than that by me but I'd love to hear your stuff too. Where do we get tickets?
To enable this upcoming concert, I hereby second what OldBoy (& his Dawgs) says: "Get yo ass a mess a food, put the meat back on your bones, and remember, what don't kill ya, makes ya stronger." Amen, brother!

Posted by: Marianne on April 25, 2004 05:14 PM

A-man wrote:
"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. "

I know just where he played in Florida: At the K-Mart on the westside of Jacksonville, FL. Sounds like the same guy, fer sure! I loved talking to him when I was a young girl...I was fascinated by him and his old white dog (bulldog?). Man, that brings back memories!

BTW, found myself in Effingham county this weekend. Man, I now understand so much more about this blog than before...

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! on April 25, 2004 07:04 PM

Mac McAnally. I've never met another human being who's heard of him! I even used to have an album of his. Geeze, you old geeze, you're making ME feel old!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! on April 25, 2004 07:07 PM

We looked down the river and we seen the British coming.

There must have been a hundred of them beatin on a drum.

They stepped so high and they made their bugles ring.

We sat behind our cotton bales and didn't say a thing.

THERE is the essense of soldiering caught by a genius songwriter.

Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton, 1959.

Posted by: robert on April 25, 2004 10:18 PM

except it was Steve Goodman, not Arlo.

Posted by: lpdbw on April 26, 2004 12:42 AM

The old man at Kmart on Victory drive, was the same man that played downtown in front of the Avon. He moved when crime and downtown started dying, around 1970. He was not 100% blind, I sold him and his wife a new car in 1971 and he could see a little.

Posted by: Catfish on April 26, 2004 04:24 PM

Great song list, Rob. I'd love to hear the original tunes one day. If you don't have a CD, you should do one. Home recording is easy these days. Computer, soundcard, DigiDesign MBox, you're off and running.

Posted by: mike on April 28, 2004 08:12 AM

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Posted by: vig-rx on May 16, 2004 01:23 PM
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