Growing up in the hills of northern California, the only blues you could get over the radio was on Friday nights during the summertime, when the sky was clear. The college station I listened to only played blues between the hours of seven and ten every Friday night, and on top of that, the tiny station only put out three watts of power, less than your average handheld CB radio. During the wintertime I tried and tried, but couldn’t get good signal. The clouded and rainy skies made for very poor reception; the weak music coming out of my radio was scratchy, and wasn’t worth listening to. But summertime was another story. The blues flowed freely every Friday night at seven o’clock, and your boy was there, all hunkered down and diggin’ it. It was through those summertime Friday night radio shows that I developed an appreciation for the blues.
I was a voracious reader back then. I had read all the novels about the Knights of the round table, and every science fiction book I could get my hands on. I read about George Washington, George Washington Carver, Nikolai Tesla, Genghis Khan, Madame Curie, Gottlieb, Mahatma Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, and Abert Schweitzer. I also read the life story of Louis Armstrong and George Washington Carver. Now, Mister Carver was not a blues player, but he did help me to gain a perspective on how far a person could go from such humble beginnings. But it was the book on Satchmo that set my course toward the blues. Now there was a guy that had dirt on his shoes. I was a trumpet player too, just starting out, and willing to practice continuously. That helped me relate to the boy who played those fat trumpet sounds, who started out as a child on the streets of New Orleans, stuck bottle caps on the bottoms of his tennis shoes and danced on the sidewalks of the French quarter for pennies, nickels, and dimes tossed to him by tourists. Sometimes I could even feel the exquisite pain that the boy lived through, huddled together with the other unwanted children in the dark alleys of New Orleans at night, then back out on the streets come daybreak, trying to hustle up enough money to feed himself that day. He had that thing called dirt on his shoes. He had it, he really did.
What a wonderful world!