I've listed the titles of all the book's chapters but only made the first nine available for preview.
THE KID WITH THE RED GUITAR

1. Voodoo Chile Jimi Hendrix

2. Messin’ With the Kid Howlin’ Wolf

3. Little Wing Jimi Hendrix

4. Screamin’ and Cryin’ Muddy Waters

5. Crossroads Robert Johnson

6. From Dark ‘Til Dawn Johnny Shines

7. The Things That I Used To Do Eddie Jones

8. New Coat of Paint Tom Waits

9. Information Blues Roy Milton

10. Woke Up This Morning B B King

11. Slo Fuse Johnny Otis

12. Outside Help Elmore James

13. Wait Until Tomorrow Jimi Hendrix

14. Little Red Rooster Willie Dixon

15. Hush Hush Jimmy Reed

16. Outskirts of Town Leadbelly

17. Double Trouble Otis Rush

18. If 6 Was 9 Jimi Hendrix

19. Pride and Joy Stevie Ray Vaughan

20. Heebies Jeebies Johnny Copeland

21. Castles Made of Sand Jimi Hendrix

22. Wrong Road B B King

23. The Supernatural Peter Green

24. Telephone Blues John Mayall

25. Hideaway Freddie King

26. Strange Things B B King

27. Sunnyland John Lee Hooker

28. Run Downtown Robert Johnson

29. The Liar Rev’ Isaiah Shelton

30. Guilty Heart J B Hutto

31. The Stumble Freddie King

32. Play It Cool Freddie King

33. Burning of the Midnight Lamp Jimi Hendrix

34. Wall of Denial Stevie Ray Vaughan

35. Trouble No More Muddy Waters

36. Testify Stevie Ray Vaughan

37. Ain’t No Telling Jimi Hendrix

38. Your Letter B. B. King

39. Birthday Blues John Mayall



THE KID WITH THE RED GUITAR
By
Johnny Blue

 

1. Voodoo Chile

Bills and junk mail were equally represented on the hall carpet at the foot of the stairs. Besides the begging letters from the bank and utility companies, and commerce’s attempt at deforesting the planet, there was an envelope addressed by hand. My name and address written in neat cursive, with no return address. I left the other waste of trees on the carpet, sat on the stairs, opened the envelope and started to read. It was from…

No, if I’m going to tell this story; the letter is the end of it, not the beginning.

The whole thing began a year ago this Friday, the last Friday of June in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-five to be specific. We’d been booked to do the last Friday of each month throughout the summer. It worked in fine with the scheduled bookings we already had in town and around the province, so why not.

The bar was called The Mountain. It had been a fixture for bands since the seventies. In the early sixties, little Phil Marcos opened his Greek restaurant on Queen Street West. He called it The Mount Olympus. Some time in the seventies it became The Mountain. I grew up three blocks from it. My old man was the cook there since I was about ten.

My mother died when I was seven, so it was just me and Rick, “my name ain’t dad, it’s Rick!” And the Mountain was a daily fixture in my life.

I remember being intrigued as a kid by a real cheesy poster in a glass case on the wall at the front door. It was painted in the sixties psychedelic style with a volcano spewing fire and rocks. On the side of the volcano were the words—written in lava—The Mountain, Home of Rock.

Most of the bands that played the bar were of the rock and blues school of music. So it was in The Mountain that my young ears first heard the names Blind Lemon and Muddy Waters. I learned how Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were influenced by people like Elmore James and B B King. I learned who these guitar Gods were, and I was baptized in the music called—The Blues.

Since we lived only three blocks away from the bar, and when I wasn’t at school, I spent as much time in the kitchen of the Mountain as I did at home.

Most of the people who worked in the kitchen were young. I don’t think any of them really noticed there was a kid around. At first, now and then, someone would curse and they’d look at me, then dad and say something like, “oh sorry man, I forgot about the kid”. After a while they really did forget about the kid. I was just another part of the surroundings.

Dad’s shift usually ended about six. I loved to meet him for the short walk home. We’d stroll down Queen Street laughing and joking. People would cross the street just to say hello. All ages and nationalities would have something to say to ‘Rick’. I was so proud of him. There was an old TV show from when I was a kid., called “The King of Kensington”. Al Waxman played a popular guy in the Kensington Market neighborhood not far from where we lived. For my money Rick had him beat hands down. “The King of Queen West” was the real thing. What can I tell you, my dad’s a cool guy.


Whenever he had to work Friday or Saturday nights, dad would make us both a steak dinner. We’d sit at the back of the main room and watch the guys set up for the gig that night. Rick would be in and out of the kitchen supervising “the flavor of the month” , his name for the never-ending stream of part-timers working as his kitchen help.

I’d take in all the details of the guys on stage doing their set up and when they were ready, hear them play the sound check. They were mostly local guys, but now and then some big name would be booked and the stage would be taken over by a set-up crew. They’d bring in extra lights and a large mixing board which would occupy two tables worth of space at the back, where we ate dinner. The band would show up after everything was in place, whiz through a sound check and be gone again until showtime.

From my seat on top of the boxes of kitchen supplies stacked up by the serving hatch, I saw lots of great musicians on that stage. The music, the lights, the personalities; I drank down the performances like nectar from the gods. Guitar gods, that is.

By the age of twelve, I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life: play blues guitar.

When I told him, Rick had two stipulations: “Yi gotta do it right. Yi gotta learn music, not just the guitar”, and “yi gotta keep up the good grades”. I agreed, of course I would. I had never had a problem with school. I love to read, and despite doing well academically, had managed to avoid the brainiac insults.

One evening after school I dropped by the bar to walk home with dad. We were leaving through the back door when he said, “Hold on Dric, I left somthin’ in the office.” He came back carrying a guitar case. He handed the case to me saying, “Here, I ain’t no roadie. Carry yir guitar yirself.”

A guy from one of the local bands had sold dad a good, used, acoustic. I wore that old six string out, but not before I saved up enough money to buy my first electric.

I bought a Les Paul from a performer named Jasper Swift, who fronted a popular band called ‘The Jasper Swift Section’. That guitar had been played on stages all over the country. I didn’t care if I was constantly tuning it. In my mind, that guitar put me one step closer to being a professional musician. I loved that Gibson.

I had watched Jasper play it on stage right there through the hatch. Always the showman, he’d play it behind his head, between his legs and duck walk it across the stage. The audience lapped it up. He’d pull picks from the taught strings around the machine heads to replace the ones he’d flick into the crowd. Jasper had the moves of Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry, and pulled off a fair rendition of many Hendrix tunes. The first time I heard “Voodoo Child” and “Hey Joe” played live, they were played on that guitar.

As much as I loved my first love, by the time I was fourteen I was married to a Fender Stratocaster, and half way through learning Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Texas Flood album. Maybe that’s when it really all began.

But the strange stuff began on that last Friday of June.


 
 
2. Messin’ With The Kid

My name is Deric Randolf Collins. My dad Rick explains it like this:

“Yir ma named yi after Eric Clapton, ‘cause she thought his name was Deric Clapton. The reason she was so enamored by Deric/Eric was obvious; he wrote a song for her, ‘Layla’. The fact that yir ma, Layla, never knew or even met Mr. Clapton was neither here nor there.

“Yir ma could be a bit of a whack job on occasion.”

The name ‘Randolf’ has been in the family for generations. It’s my dad’s name, it was his dad’s name and back and back it goes. He shortened it to Rick when he was a boy, said he didn’t want people calling him Randy. I suppose the word randy with its sexual connotations had more of an impact back then. He also shortened my name to Dric. It started as his pet name for me. Over the years it just became the name I’m known by. Despite the confusion and requests for clarity of spelling, it’s how I introduce myself. It’s who I am.

I was born and raised in downtown Toronto in the area known as The District. My mother was a T.O girl and dad originally came from Halifax. Dad tells me I was a sensitive child, good with plants and animals – maybe not things you’d associate with the life of a musician, but they do serve me well with my current band.

I still live in the same flat I grew up in – 442b Queen Street West – above what is now, ‘The Bridal Boutique’. For years it was ‘Barton’s Cigar shop’. Mr. Barton retired to Florida, leaving the building he owned to his son Davey. Shortly after Davey took the reins, he closed the cigar shop and leased the space out. We never see the young entrepreneur—he’s into all sorts of businesses these days. If we have any problems that we can’t fix ourselves. we leave a message and he sends the appropriate repairman out to take care of it.

The winter of ’93, Dad said he’d had enough of the city. He moved north of Toronto to the small town of Stouffville. Two years before that, he met a very nice lady named Frances, who just happened to live in a small town north of Toronto, named Stouffville.

Shortly after they moved in together, they acquired themselves a little family of chickens. They started selling eggs to neighbors, and pretty soon after to the greater Stouffville community. Things must be good in the egg game – the chickens recently had an addition added to their coop.

“I owe it all to K D Lang, Pavarotti and Debussy,” dad told me.

“Oh no,” I thought, “now he’s giving the chickens names”. Turned out these are the artists whose music produced the most eggs. Quite the eclectic musical taste those birds have.

Last time I was up there, he’d gotten himself a van for his deliveries. He had some local artist paint it for him. Across the side panels the words ‘Egg Man’ are spelled out in multicolored cracked egg shells. Under the name is a picture of Rick, in the chicken head Egg Man costume from the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ album cover. It’s a sight to behold.

The van has a large speaker shaped like an egg attached to the roof. Dad drives around blasting out the Beatles singing, “I am the egg man oo coo ca choo” on a loop. When he asked what I thought of it, I nodded my approval, though in my head I heard him say, “Your mom could be a whack job on occasion.” Still he’s happy, and how many of us can check that off, on our karmic to-do list?

Since dad moved out, I’ve shared the flat on Queen with Barney Turner. Barney T and me have been friends since the first year of high school, Mr. Walker’s music class. I’ve been in more bands with him than any other musician I know. Barney plays bass and keys.

About the time Barn’ moved in, we began playing with an outfit called ‘Rebel Josh’ – everyone but Josh agrees the name’s lame – but we joined Josh Reppl (vocals and rhythm guitar) and that’s what he calls his band, so, whatya gonna do?

Josh is good at rustling up gigs and taking care of business, so we put up with his little idiot-syncrasies, as BigEd calls them. BigEd McGovern (drummer and pool shark).

Before Barney and me joined, they were a five piece. I get the impression from BigEd that Josh maneuvered the other three out when he heard Barney was available. If Terry Poona, his original lead guitar, had stayed I would probably still be doing fill-ins and session work or be on the road someplace as a side man. It’s been a while since I’ve been part of a local based unit doing semi-regular gigs.

Terry Poona’s brother, Shim, was the bass player for Josh’s band, so when he and Frank Peck (keys) went, ‘Rebel Josh’ also lost Terry.

“Good for all of us, the way it turned out,” Josh reminds us every now and then. “Four-way split instead of a five-way. A little extra doh-re-mi for everybody.”

I’m certain if Josh could play lead and rhythm, ‘Rebel Josh’ would be splitting the doh-re-mi three ways.

 
 

3. Little Wing

Perhaps portents of strange days manifested themselves in May of ‘94, when the entertainment world celebrated the royal wedding of Michael and Lisa Marie. The King of Pop married the (Princess) daughter of the King of Rock n’ Roll. Strange Days Indeed, as John Winston Lennon had written many years before.

My Strange Days started one month later, on the last Friday of June.

Josh had called a band meeting at our usual band meeting location. ‘Molly Wiers Kitchen’ is a small restaurant on Augusta Avenue in The District. ‘Molly’s’ serves all day breakfast, which suits perfectly our vampiric existence. Most of the working musicians in and around town use Molly’s like it’s a community centre. As well as a restaurant, it’s a meeting place and an unofficial post office. People can leave messages for each other about gigs or equipment, that sort of thing.

Molly owns the joint and runs things. She’s a bit of a mother hen to the guys, even though some of the regulars are old enough to be her father.

As usual the band meeting rapidly descended to the familiar ‘Bread and Circuses’ level, the conversation ranging over every imaginable subject, other than the reason we were there – to talk about the gig. As breakfast progressed Josh tried hard to “focus our minds on the potential it offered.” That’s Josh, the Ayn Rand of The District.

Once again the budding capitalist/music entrepreneur quickly became frustrated with our lack of attention. He growled at BigEd to, “shut the fuck up”.

He—Ed that is—was regaling us with one of his many road tales. This one involved an overweight cocktail waitress in skimpy black leather, a pet snake named Ralph and an irate husband with a meat cleaver. A large amount of coffee had just shot out of my nose when Josh interrupted the big guy’s monologue.

“How rude,” said the large drummer feigning hurt, the big boy burger statue sulking at Josh.

Our manager/band leader concluded the information session. “Four o’clock set up and sound check at the Mountain.” Josh aimed a slim finger at me.

“Yirp,” I spluttered, finding it hard to be serious while Ed remained pouting at Josh’s side. The finger moved to Barney sitting next to me by the window.

“No probs,” said Barney.

Josh stood up and BigEd opened his mouth to speak. Before he could say a word Josh smacked him under the chin with the back of his fingers. Ed’s mouth closed with a popping sound. In one fluid motion, Josh slapped the big guy on top of the head and sped toward the door calling over his shoulder, “don’t you be late, Ed case.”

Ed tapped the window with his spoon. Josh looked back from the street to see Ed miming what he would do to Josh’s manhood with the cleaver from the story.

“Big Edward, sit down and pretend you’re a gentleman, will you. Please and thank you.” It was Molly calling from the cash register.

BigEd did as he was told, sliding back into his seat with such a stupid grin on his face, it caused Barney to do the coffee-from-the-nose trick.

If the name ‘The Stooges’ wasn’t already taken, this band would have been perfectly suited to it.

* * *
I walked into the Mountain just after four. Josh was at the bar putting ice cubes in a napkin and rubbing the top of his head. I heard him mumbling something about a drum stick and a lunatic. I concluded he was working on the lyric to a new song, or the big drummer had popped him on the skull with a ‘Zildjian 7B’.

Conclusion two verified. BigEd was on stage setting up his kit and quietly singing, “Hit me with your rhythm stick, hit me, hit me”. When he saw me he winked and smiled.

I put my amp up on stage to the right of the drums and went back out to the van we shared. I picked up my guitar and Barney’s bass. Barney was standing beside the van.

“I guess Laurel and Hardy are here already.”

“Yeah, Ed’s brother must have moved his drums for him and Hardy’s amp is set up on stage. Wait that doesn’t work, Hardy Isn’t the skinny?”

Barney chuckled. “No, Laurel is the skinny one, but it don’t matter. They’re both whack-a-doodle.”

Barney pulled his keyboard case from the van and headed into the club. We were set up, sound checked and out of there by six-thirty. We all had things to do so it was agreed we would meet back there about nine, have a couple of beers and be on stage for our first set at ten.

And that’s what we did.
 

* * *

The club was a bit less than half full for our first set. By the third song of the second set, the place was nicely packed. People were dancing in front of the stage, mostly chicks together but there were a few guys who had been dragged to their feet by their women. Oh, and ‘High Old Silver’ was gyrating to a rhythm only he could hear. Silver was an old guy who had been an old guy and a fixture in the bar since my dad was the cook. I imagine he was called Silver because of his long silver hair. I don’t know who came up with ‘High Old’ but it seemed to fit.

I was on my way back from the washroom during the break between the second and third sets, when Barney waved me over to a table he was sharing with a couple of nice looking girls.

“Girls this is my best bud Dric. Dric this is…”

The girls answered in turn.

“Siobhan.”

“Les.”

“Nice to meet you ladies.”

“So the party’s at your place after the show, right?” It was Les the smaller and darker of the two. When I didn’t agree right away with the planned party, she looked at Barney and said, “Isn’t that what you said, Barnnee?” She ran her finger up and down Barnnee’s shirt front just like she’d seen some seductress do it in a bad, old movie.

“That is indeed what I said, so don’t you beauties go running off before we finish this last set,” soothed the ‘Queen West Gigolo’.

“Toddleoo,” I mocked, waving my fingers and heading toward the stage.

“Come on, Dric. What’s the point of having a place downtown if we can’t bring some chicks back now and then?” He was back at the keys for the start of the third set.

“I’ll tell you what is wrong with it in two words: Darlene Fucking Trent. Does the name ring a bell?”

“Come on, man! ‘Bent Trent’ was a one of a kind. What are the odds of that happening again?”

I shook my head and sighed as BigEd counted us in to the first song.

In my mind’s eye I could see the large bottle of vodka sailing past Barney’s head and burying itself in my practice amp, and the aptly named ‘Bent Trent’ reaching for a magnum of cheap champagne for a second volley.

After the infamous ‘Bent Trent incident’ (Josh got a pretty good song out of it), we’d agreed to a new rule: No chicks brought home from a gig. Date them once or twice before bringing them to the flat. Gauge the potential lunatic level. Unfortunately, Barney’s gauge was constantly in need of calibration. He was forever trying to bend the rule, but then it wasn’t his amp that had been attacked.

We went through the third set, the crowd staying with us. We had been told by Sylvie, the present owner of the Mountain, that we could play whatever we wanted. The audience seemed to like it, so we stuck to the blues rock format that we preferred.

“I’ve heard enough bands trying to be Kurt Cobain to last me a lifetime thank you,” Sylvie told us.

Where she heard them I don’t know, because she never seemed to be around the bar. Her father, little Phil, was the same when he owned the place. I remember my dad taking care of things inside and outside of the kitchen.

Josh had this thing about finishing the night with a slow Blues song and that was cool with me but he would insist on doing certain songs over and over again.

Now, I love ‘Mr. Jimi’ as much as the next guitar God enthusiast, but I was sick to death of playing “Little Wing”. I’m sure since I started gigging with Josh I’ve played the song more than Hendrix ever did.

I can see that gig playing out like a strange little movie in my head:

Josh ignores my input. He does this big build up intro for “Little Wing” and the crowd cheers. He strums the first chord and begins to sing the first line. So, once more, I’m playing “Little Wing”. It’s going OK. The dancers are grooving to it and I’m getting more into it. We’re coming into the bridge when I hear this second guitar filling in around my solo. I look toward Josh. It’s not him, he’s strumming and picking out the short runs, his head back and eyes closed. I look at Barney. He’s pulling double duties on the bass pedals and synth, and making goo-goo eyes at Les or the other one, or both. I turn my head and catch Ed’s eye. He winks at me and turns his big goofy smile on the crowd.

At first I feel a presence, and then from the corner of my eye I see there’s someone else on stage just behind me. It’s a kid, looks about fifteen or sixteen. He’s playing a big red Gretsch and his fingers are everywhere. He gives me the upward nod like he’s saying “come on, jam with me”.

I’m surprised but still playing by instinct. Slowly, the kid draws me into his style. I start to copy some of his fingering, adding new stuff I’d never thought of before. The kid nods “yes” encouraging more from me. At first we’re trading licks, and then we’re in and out of each others notes. I can FEEL the sound. I can SEE it. The music is a visual pattern, like the intricate design of an Indian rug.

Yeah, the notes are weaving around one another, the music swirling up through the air, then splashing off the ceiling and falling on everyone. We play the last three notes in unison and it sounds like an orchestra of guitars. As the final note rings out over the crowd, I’m aware once again of the rest of the band. They punch out a one-two-three finish.

My eyes open. Were they closed? Was I in some kind of trance?

The audience is jumping up and down whistling and clapping. I stretch my left arm back indicating the kid with the red Gretsch. It’s all for him, he led me through it. I turn all the way around so I can pull him to the front of the stage for his ovation—and he’s gone.

I look to the right and left of the stage. I scan the crowd; he’s nowhere to be seen.

BigEd is out from behind the drums. He’s mussing up my hair and punching me lightly on the shoulder

“That was over the top man. Great, just great!”

“Where did the kid go?” I ask him.

“What kid?” he replies.

Josh is in front of me now. For some reason he’s pissed. “Where the fuck did that come from, Showboat? We never rehearsed that.”

“Fuck you, Josh. That was A-fucking-mazing.” It’s Barney. He throws his arm around my shoulder and leads me off stage.

People are patting me on the back. A guy with a thick Scottish accent hands me a beer saying, “that was brilliant mate. Fucking brill!”

Through all of it, I’m scanning the room looking for the kid. He’s nowhere to be seen. Things quiet down after a while and I ask Barney, “what about the kid?”

“What about what kid?” he asks me.

“The kid I was riffing with, there on stage.” I point toward my amp.

“What are you on, and is there enough for all four of us?” he asks as Les and Siobhan show up to tell me how great I was.

“Like Carlos Santini,” Siobhan says, showing that she almost knows a guitar God.

I thank the girls for the kind words then ask them, “did either of you see a young guy with a red guitar on stage, behind me?”

They answer together, with similar baffled expressions;

“What?”

“Huh?”

My memories of that night – the strange little movie in my head - always ends with the theme for The Twilight Zone.

 
 

4. Screamin’ and Cryin’

Nobody saw the kid with the red guitar. By Monday, I stopped asking. The strange looks I received when I talked about it coaxed me into silence. By Wednesday, I began to think I’d had some kind of hallucinogenic episode. I stopped thinking about it by the following Friday.

We were out of town, opening for a band of young guys who had managed to score themselves a record deal on the strength of two rocking hot songs and some wild stage antics.

‘Never Or When’ were shit hot and, according to everyone, on their way to the top. They had the swagger and the chops to back up the rock star attitude but they—and I mean all five of them—partied full steam ahead. I remember thinking these assholes don’t realize what they have, and could lose. I hope someone tells them, but it wasn’t my job so I enjoyed the brief ride we had together. We did three shows with them Friday night and an afternoon and evening show on Saturday.

Sunday our van was homeward bound and ‘Never Or When ’ headed off to California for stardom or oblivion.

The coming weekend we had a two-day gig up north, one of ten bands on the bill of an outdoor extravaganza. The show was called ‘Drunk-Fest’ or ‘Toke-Fest’ or some fucking fest. We would pick up two or three of these weekends throughout the summer. No matter what they called them they were usually ‘Debauchery Fests’ so we had a good time and got paid for doing it.

Things chugged along the way things do and before you could say Last Friday of the Month we were back at the Mountain.

The previous month’s performance was still in the back of my mind, but since no one else mentioned the incident, neither did I.

It was mutually agreed to give the “Little Wing” a well-deserved rest for a while. We settled on Gary Moore’s ‘Still Got the Blues For You’ as our final song of the night. It was a relatively new tune, but a crowd pleaser none the less.

Our arrangement of the tune gave it a normal length solo, followed by the last verse and a repeat of the chorus, then a long solo to finish. I hit the first note of the final solo when the sound of the second guitar cut in. I looked over my shoulder and there he was, the kid with the red Gretsch.

My first instinct was to reach out and touch him. Before this thought was fully formed in my mind, the kid began to shake his head slowly. As if he knew what I was about to do and his shaking head was telling me no!

I watched his fingers on the strings. His style was hypnotizing. At first I played every note he was playing, an echo of his interpretation of the melody. Then, like before, we were bound together by the notes. I felt I was being drawn into a realm of sound. I was being reshaped, melted into the music.

I had closed my eyes. I opened them quickly. I thought he would be gone again but no, he was still there. He smiled at me but his smile was sad, it filled me with a feeling of tragic loss. It was then I noticed a tear run down his cheek.

From somewhere, way in the distance I heard my name being called. I turned toward the sound. It was Barney. “Dric, Dric buddy.” I looked at my best friend; there were tears in his eyes.

“It was him again Barn’. The kid with the Gretsch.”

Barney said nothing. He looked as confused as I felt.

I gradually became aware of the audience. There was no thunderous applause, in fact all I heard was sniffing and then the sound of a girl quietly sobbing. I felt tears on my own face, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t feel embarrassed because it wasn’t just Barney and me. There were tears on the faces of everyone in the room.

From the final note of the tune till this point, it was like a video in slow motion; it seemed like I could have listened to one side of a vinyl album. In reality it must have been over in little more than a minute.

Someone blew a long whistle of appreciation and the spell was broken.

The cheering and clapping started and went way beyond anything I had ever experienced. I took one brief look behind me as I exited the stage, but I knew he wouldn’t be there. He had been there. I saw him. I heard him play, but I wasn’t about to repeat the previous experience of questions from me and strange looks for answers. I made my way through the crowd to the kitchen and finally out the back door and home.


5. Crossroads

Saturday morning. Well noon-ish. I walked out of the bathroom as Barney walked in the front door. I hadn’t spoken to him since I left the gig the previous night,

“Hey pal. Listen, about last night I...”

He held up his hand to stop me, saying, “no need to try and explain. We’ve worked it out.”

“Who’s we, and what have you worked out?”

“The thing last night. With the crying and stuff, and you playing like Robert Johnson at the crossroads n’shit.” He pointed his finger at me and said, “you.”

“Yeah?” I asked.

“You were under self hypnosis” he proclaimed, then continued “and the rest of us” He paused for effect. spreading his arms to encompass the rest of the empty flat.

I nodded. “The rest of you?’

“At the gig!” Another pause. “Mass hypnosis,” he exclaimed, thrusting his pointing finger in the air for emphasis. He held his finger in the air stance like a nineteenth century scientist who had achieved his eureka momment.

I shook my head wearily and headed for the kitchen to make coffee. Barney was right behind me.

”Listen, Siobhan did a course on this stuff; she has books about it.”

“And the kid who appeared on stage, playing along with me?”

“A figment of your imagination. Part of your self hypnosis,” he answered.

“So Barn’, you can get behind all the hypnosis crap, but you can’t believe I saw a kid on stage beside me playing amazing blues guitar?”

“First of all,” Barney demanded, “who plays blues on a Gretsch?”

“Bo Didley?” for one.

Unable to argue with this, my long time friend decided to return to his hypnotism theory.

“Buddy, hypnosis is science; ghosts is mumbo jumbo.”

“Barney I’m not gonna try and convince you that I think… that I believe, that I know! I saw the kid. I also believe, after playing it back in my head for most of the night, that the reason I did see him is because he’s trying to communicate with me. He’s trying to tell me something.”

“I’m trying to tell you something, Dric. There was no kid with a red Gretsch, Fender or any other guitar on stage with us last night or any night. You’re seeing things that ain’t there.”

“I saw him! OK, so you didn’t, but I did. I’ll talk to other people who were at the gigs. You know something went down there last night. Maybe somebody else saw the kid.”

“Hey, you do that. In fact, it could be our thing. ‘The Band with the Ghost Guitarist.’ I’m sure Josh could get us lots of gigs with that as a gimmick.”

“All right, I see what you’re saying. I don’t need Josh to go all Barnum and Bailey on it.”

“So you’re gonna forget this, right?”

“I can’t forget it, Barn’. Something happened on that stage. I’m gonna ask around the old timers at the Mountain, see if anybody else has seen a gho—. Anything…anything unusual. Now, excuse me while I call Rick.”

“Good idea. Maybe your old man can talk some sense into you.”

I poured myself a cup from the half filled coffee carafe and took it with me to the phone by my bed.

“Hello dad. How’re things in egg land?”

“Egg-ceptional, no yoking. How yi doin’ son? Yi all right? Yi sound a bit off.”

“Yeah, I’m all right. Listen, dad. All the years you worked at The Mountain, were there any stories about the place being haunted?”

“Well, there was these two old broads in their sixties used to dress like they were sixteen. They haunted the place for about a year. Scared the shit out of all the young guys.”

“Funny, dad.”

“It’s true! Wait though! Now that I think about it, Jasper Swift used to do a thing now and then when he’d talk about his Guitardian Angel being on stage with him. Is that the thing yir talk’n about?”

“I never heard of that.”

“I totally forgot about it ‘til now. Remember how good he was on the guitar? Well, I saw him once or twice—from the kitchen mind yi—he blew the roof off the place. He’d shout out ‘and a big hand for my Guitardian Angel’. Don’t really matter though, it’s not like yi can ask Jasper about it.”

Jasper had O D’d around eighty nine, so no, I could not ask Jasper.

“Yi wanna meet for a beer and tell me what’s goin’ on with yi, Dric?”

“I’ll give you a call during the week, dad, when I know what my schedule is. There was a message on my machine from Richard at the Doghouse, so that means some studio sessions.”

“OK kid; call if yi need me for anything. Luv yi.”

“You too, dad. Say hi to Frances for me. Talk soon.”

“I will. Bye for now son.”

“Bye dad.”

Just like it always does in the movies, I hung up the phone and immediately it started to ring. “Hello.”

“Hi, is that Barney?” It was an English accent. London, Michael Cain in the old British movie ‘Alfie’. Then I recognized it. As I thought his name, he said it. “It’s Mike Murphy.”

“Yeah, hi Mike. Hold on, I’ll get him.”

“Dric?”

“Yeah?”

“I can talk to you or Barney. It’s about a gig tonight. BigEd said you guys didn’t have anything on. Ed’s drumming for me and I could use you and Barney as well. A corporate thing. Good bucks, with food n’ booze thrown in. What ya think?”

“I think it sounds great. Can you hold on a minute while I talk to Barn’?”

“No bother.”

I covered the mouth piece and called out to Barney. My bedroom door opened and Barney’s head popped in. “You up for a gig tonight with Mike Murphy?”

“With Murphy, anytime,” he shouted at the phone.

I put the phone back to my ear to confirm; before I could, Mike said, “I heard him. Do you guys know the Arts Club?”

“I do. It’s on Elm Street, right?”

“That’s it. Can you be there for the set up at six?”

“Sure.”

“Great. Oh, and BigEd wants you fellas to bring his kit. It’s at The Mountain.”

“No probs. See you at six. Bye.”

I decided not to bring up ‘The Kid’ again, around Barney or the others. I filled him in on the details of the gig with Mike, then asked him, “what’s he like to gig with?”

“Murphy is gold, man. As long as you’re straight with him, that is. He’s been working this town for over twenty years. He knows everybody. I’ll tell you something else; some bodies in our musical fraternity are now on Murphy’s shit list.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Think about it. A corporate gig doesn’t just fall out of the sky on a Saturday at lunch time.”

“So you think we’re subbing for some guys who left him high and dry?”

“I’d bet on it. And whoever they are they picked the wrong guy with which to fuck.”

“You can be so poetic, Barn’.”

“I can, can’t I?”

“I suppose we should call Josh, in case he comes up with a job.”

“Oh! That’s right, you split last night before Josh told us. He’s taken off for the U S of A.”

“Josh went to the States? Why?”

“You’re gonna love this. He thinks he can get us on the bill at Woodstock.”

“What’d he do? Invent a time machine?”

“Come on, you know they’re doing another one in August.”

“Well, won’t they want the acts that did the first one to come back?”

“I’ll tell it to you, the way Josh told it to me. Many of the people who played the original show are now jamming with Jimi and Janis in rock n’ roll heaven. We will bill ourselves as ‘The Woodstock Revival Band’ and play all the tunes that the dead cats won’t be there to play.”

“And he’s gone to New York to try and sell this idea to the concert organizers?”

“Yes, he has.”

I raised my coffee cup in the air and said, “Good luck you mad bastard.”

Barney clinked my cup with his mug saying, “shine on you crazy diamond!”


6. From Dark ‘Til Dawn

Me and Barn’ got to the Mountain about five. Tilly was tending bar. She and Barney had been an item briefly. Luckily, they had emerged from it on speaking terms; a little caustic now and then, but basically still friends.

Barney leaned on the bar and flashed what he thought was his sexy smile.

“Hi, gorgeous.”

Tilly exaggerated a sigh. “Save your Neanderthal charm for the girls from Bedrock ‘Barney Trouble’.”

“That’s a new one, Till’. Do you just lie in bed and think up new little pet names for me?”

Tilly leaned on the bar close to Barney and in a sultry voice, though loud enough for the rest of the patrons to hear said, “Yeah ‘Barney the Carny’, I think about that time in Niagara Falls when you…”

Barney pushed himself off the bar and hurried toward the stage saying, “Come now, Dric. We can’t hang around here amusing the great unwashed. There are drums to be moved.”

Somebody at the bar piped up, “Hey Tilly. Tell us about Niagara Falls.”

Someone else asked, “Is it juicy, Till’?”

Tilly laughed, then in a voice that was Mae West or Jessica Rabbit she said, “You’ll have to wait for the book, boys.”

Barney had loaded our gear into the van the night before, so I expected to see drum cases piled up on the stage. The stage was empty.

”Where are the big guy’s drums?” I said to no one in particular.

Tilly came round from the bar with a key in her hand. “They’re back here,” she said walking down the narrow aisle to the left of the stage.

The backdrop for the stage at the Mountain was a red brick wall. To the right and left dark red velvet curtains hung like bookends. They’d always been there, and I had no idea that behind the curtain on the left there was a door leading to a storage room. Tilly moved the curtain and unlocked the door. As they say, you learn something new every day.

Tilly informed us that, “BigEd made a deal with Sylvie. Said he’d clean up this room if she let him leave his drums here.”

She pulled open the door to reveal a room about the same size as the stage area.

“According to Sylvie,” said Tilly, “we used to have a house band. They stored their equipment in here.”

The only evidence that band equipment had occupied the room sat against the wall – two old mic stands, with their chrome shafts peeling and their cast iron bases rusted.

The rest of the room’s space was taken up with old chairs and tables, light fixtures, mirrors and some cardboard boxes; all the crap that a bar collects over its long life.

Ed had cleared out one corner for his gear. I looked around the packed room and said to our absent drummer, “Good luck Mr. Ed. I hope you don’t ask me to help you with this”

“Amen to that,” added Barney.

We pulled the drum cases out. Tilly locked the door and pulled the curtain back in place.

* * *

Barney parked the van at the rear of the Arts Club just before six. Mike Murphy wasn’t there yet, but a very pleasant, older guy let us in. He wore a suit that looked like it would cost the price of a new kit of drums. It was, as they say, a classy joint. I hoped Ed knew enough not to show up in his usual attire—holes held together by pieces of denim.

Our large drummer did not let us down. Ed came in at six on the nose, alongside Mike and a couple of other guys: the horn section. The big drummer, like the rest, wore a jacket and tie.

Murphy looked like he had stepped from the cover of GQ.

BigEd looked like he stepped from the cover of “Gee, where the hell did you get that outfit.”

At least he’d made an effort. I could see no holes, and he’d be hidden behind the drums anyway.

Murphy was a total pro. He had charts for everyone. We looked them over and recognized most of them. The sets consisted of Motown, older top forty stuff and lots of blues standards.

The crowd was enthusiastic, dancing and singing along. Murphy was every bit the showman Barney boasted he was. We had as much fun on stage as they had off. By the end of the night Murphy, BigEd and me were at a table knocking back expensive booze, while Barney and the horns jammed on stage with a lawyer, a judge and a guy everyone referred to as ‘The King of the Crotchless Panties’. I decided I didn’t want to know why.

They were all pretty good players. The panty guy left fifty bucks on Ed’s snare to say thanks for letting him use the kit. As I said when we got there, a classy joint.

We were in no shape to move the gear so Murphy arranged for us to leave everything at the club till the next day, the van included.

Outside, all four of us grabbed a cab and headed for The Ranch. Buddy Guy was playing that night; of course, it had been sold out for months. Murphy’s charm and cachet not only got us in, but at the end of the night he introduced me to Buddy. As best nights of your life go, it was right up there.

 










 

 
7. The Things That I Used To Do

Sunday morning. Barney and me dragged Ed off our couch and into a cab. We had arranged to pick up our gear from the club between twelve and one. Murphy showed up before we had completely loaded the van, and invited us to brunch. He wanted to thank us for jumping in at the last minute, saving him he said.

BigEd and myself took him up on his offer. Barney begged off, said he was feeling a little fragile, so we dropped him off at Siobhan or Les’ place. I still didn’t know which one he was seeing. When I asked, he told me both. I figured it was a story to keep up his ‘Barney the Stud’ image.

Murphy suggested The Hot Deli, a bar north of the downtown area, one of his regular haunts, he said.

The Deli was known equally for its top notch food and smoking hot waitresses. Every girl who worked there was model material. The only guys who worked in the Deli were in the kitchen or at the door. Doormen, not bouncers, Doormen. And each of them large enough to make BigEd look like a toddler.

“BigEd,” someone called out from the pool table.

“All right,” said Ed rubbing his hands together. “Easy money.” He sauntered toward the guys around the table, asking them, “OK, who wants to contribute to the B E F?” There were some colourful answers from the potential hustle’ees.

I turned to Murphy and said, “looks like there’s a BigEd Fundraiser going on. We’ll be dining alone.”

“Yeah, looks like it,” he agreed.

We slipped into a booth and one of the models approached to take our order.

“Ah, the beautiful Suzette,” said Murphy.

“You call all the girls beautiful, Mike,” purred Suzette.

Murphy raised his arms and swiveled in his seat taking in the room “and am I wrong?”

Suzette drew out the word, “well…”

Murphy turned it up to eleven. “But you, Suzette, have the outer and the inner beauty.”

“Ye-aahh. So...are you guys here just to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, or would you like to order something?”

“Both,” answered Murphy. “I’ll start with a Bloody Caesar. You, Dric?”

I nodded. “Sounds good.”

“Two please, my lovely,” Murphy said to Suzette.

“Coming right up,” chirped Suzette, and walked off down the fashion runway.

Murphy said to me, “don’t ya love this place?”

“I don’t hang out here much,” I admitted.

“Bruno, right?” guessed Murphy.

“Pretty much,” I replied.

“Yeah, Bruno’s a… an acquired taste”

“I never acquired it.”

The Deli was owned and reigned over by Bruno Mazzo. Short in stature, inflated in ego. Barney and me had played the place when we first started out, but I couldn’t stand the way the guy treated people. He may have been short, but he was the biggest control freak I’d ever encountered.. I didn’t like him, but back then a gig was a gig.

I gritted my teeth and bore the discomfort until the night he grabbed our set list from my amp and began crossing out tunes and adding new ones. I knew I would not be playing the Deli again, at least not while Bruno Mazzo was the dictator. I said as much to Murphy.

“Well Dric, I appreciate your position mate, but really, guys like Bruno are all over this business. I’ve met some bastards who’d make Mr. Mazzo look like an altar boy.”

I shrugged and said, “as the sailor says, I am’s what I am. So, who was worse than Bruno in your experience, Mike?”

Murphy didn’t have to think about it. He said without hesitation, “Evan Kelliot, hands down the biggest wanker on the planet. Well, he’s not on the planet any longer, unless he’s been reincarnated. As a dung beetle, I hope.”

Suzette returned with the drinks, took our food orders, flashed her toothpaste commercial smile and sashayed off to the kitchen.

“Reincarnated?” I asked Murphy. “Are you a follower of one of the eastern faiths?”

“I’m a rocker with Buddhist tendencies,” he offered.

“Like Tina Turner,” I suggested.

“Ah! The Sweet Tina.” He breathed the words as he closed his eyes, lost in thought for a minute. Then his eyes popped open, and he smiled, “but that’s a tale for another time.”

“What about the Evan Kelliot tale,” I asked.

“I’ll give you the abbreviated version; I’m surprised you haven’t heard it already. I was eighteen and had never left England. It was like a fairytale, one minute I was swanning around the east end, thinking I was ‘cock of the walk’, the next I was in America replacing Graham Norton in The Berries.

“You were in The Berries?” I squeaked out.

Murphy rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, for about ten minutes. Well, eighteen months to be exact. They were touring the States, basically selling the greatest hits album, their latest release at the time. Graham met the boys who would become the super group C.B.R.N. in San Francisco, and quit The Berries the same night. I guess he was sick of doing the same old stuff, night after night.

“Evan Kelliot came from Deptford, same place I’m from. Somehow there was a connection through people who knew people, and Bob’s yir uncle, I’m the new member of The Berries. We recorded one album of new tunes. The big hit on it was one of my songs, ‘Long Legged Woman’.”

I almost choked on my drink. I spat out, “holy shit, you wrote ‘Long Legged Woman’?”

“Yeah, and I’m still fighting for royalties.” He raised his drink. “Thank you very fucking much, dung beetle Kelliot.”

“He ripped you off! Man, you seem almost calm about it. I’d be...”

“Easy there, kid. That was long ago and far away. I wasn’t so calm at the time mind you, but what did I know? Water under, life goes on, que sera sera.

“Something good always comes from something bad, if you look at it the right way. If I had never been brought over to America for the Berries gig, I would never have wound up here. I wouldn’t have had the great life I’ve had in this town, and we wouldn’t be sitting here trading war stories. And by the way, it’s your turn to tell me your tale.”

“I don’t have much of a tale. I’ve never been in a world famous rock band, although I did play George in a production of ‘Fab’.

“You don’t look anything like George.”

“I guess the producers came to that same conclusion. I did the show here and in Chicago. When it moved on to New York, I was left behind. Like Pete Best.”

“Funny how we’ve never gigged together before, Dric.”

“I suppose it’s because I was out of town a lot. I travelled with a few other shows besides the Beatle tribute. You know, in the pit. By the way there’s a reason they call it the pit.”

Murphy laughed. “Yeah, I know.”

The lovely Suzette placed our food on the table. “Enjoy,” she cooed, then left; for a photo shoot no doubt.

“BigEd tells me you guys have a monthly gig at the Mountain. How’s that working out?”

“We’ve only done two Fridays so far, but it’s going all right… Actually, I do have a more recent tale. It’s kinda weird and the guys think I’m nuts, so I’ve stopped bringing it up around them.

“I love weird. I’m all ears. Hold on. Suzette, two more please my darling. Proceed with your weird tale, my young friend.”

I began. “You believe in reincarnation. What about ghosts?”

 

8. New Coat of Paint

I told Murphy of The Haunting of Dric Collins, (Barney’s title not mine.)

He remembered the story about Jasper Swift and said he thought at the time it was just Jasper being Jasper. Then he asked, “so Dric, was the young geezer with the Gretsch on stage with us last night?” I gave him the stare I’d been perfecting on Barney. Murphy held up his hands. “No no, I’m not taking the piss, mate. I love stuff like this.”

I eased up on the stare.

“Really,” he said.

“I haven’t seen him anywhere but on stage at the Mountain.” I told him.

“Wow, and you think this kid is try’n to tell you some’ing?”

“Yeah, I know how nutty it sounds, but yeah I do.”

“So what’s the plan? How can I help?”

This time I said, “Really?”

“Straight up, mate. I’ve been playing around this burgh for over twenty years. I know a lot of people. Somebody must have another two cents worth to add to this tale.”

“Great Mike, thanks. I was beginning to worry I was turning into Syd Barrett.”

“I knew Syd a long time ago, before the band became Floyd. Was the drugs what fucked him up. You’re not into anything dodgy in the drug department, are you Dric?”

“Nah, I’ll have the odd toke now and then, but basically I get my buzz from this stuff,” I held up my glass. “And good music,” I added. “Booze n’ blues.”

“I’ll drink to that,” said my new mate.

“I just thought of some’ing we could do. Do you know ‘John the Baptist’?” As he asked me this, he took a pen and small book from his inside pocket.

“I read about him in the book the hotels leave in the night stands,” I joked.

Murphy looked up from his note book. He laughed. “Good one mate. No, not the bible one. This one’s an artist pal of mine. He’s originally from Montreal, lives on the Esplanade. His name is Jean Baptiste De La Salle. Bit of a mouthful that so…”

“Yeah, I get it,” I said.

“Well, what do think of this? I give the holy man a bell and set up a meeting with him. You nip up to his garret and have him draw your guitar kid. Then we flash the picture about and see if anybody recognizes him.”

“That’s brilliant, Murph’.”

“Lemon entry, my dear Watson,” he said in what sounded like the Queen’s accent.

* * *

True to his word, the following night I found myself sitting in a beautiful room surrounded with walls full of art. Everywhere there was original album artwork on display. I recognized most of it. In fact, I owned copies of quite a few of the records and discs featured on the walls.

“You have done some memorable work, Jean.” He shrugged, a French guy’s display of humility. “Have you met all of the musicians?” I asked, indicating the album covers.

“Not all of them, but some of course.”

His accent was more France than Quebec. Made me think of Paris – sidewalk cafés and smoky jazz bars – exactly as I remembered it from the movies.

“So you would like for me to be the police sketch artist, oui?”

“Oui.” I replied.

He smiled, “but first a glass of Bordeaux, oui?”

“Merci,” I answered, then told him. “That’s about the sum of my French.”

“You speak the words well. You should learn more of it.”

“Merci,” I said again as he handed me a large wine glass with about half a bottle of wine in it.

“Fam à votre santé,” he said, clinking my glass.

“Cheers,” I replied.

Jean placed his wine glass on an end table. “Now to work.” He picked up a sketch pad and a pencil saying, “describe for me your fantome, s’il vous plait.”

I left the artist’s place a couple of hours later with a belly full of wine and a head and shoulders drawing of the kid.

Jean had put the rolled-up picture into a cardboard tube to protect it. As I walked through the busy Toronto streets, I stopped often and removed the drawing from the tube. I couldn’t stop looking at it. It was the kid, exactly as I’d seen him beside me on stage.

The sketch was done in black pencil, but Jean had added a hint of green for the checked shirt I’d described the kid wearing. There was one other colour on the page—the red of the Gretsch guitar, which was held across his chest.

9. Information Blues

The clock above the door of the St Lawrence Market showed ten fifteen. Still early for a summer night, a cab would have me at the Mountain in ten minutes. Maybe one of the old timers would recognize the boy in the sketch.

No luck. The jukebox was blasting out Korn or somebody like them. The place was jumping with college kids. Sylvie and me were the old timers that night.

“Working the bar, Sylvie? That’s unusual.”

“Merv plays in the pool league Mondays, and Tilly’s sister is dropping a pup right about now. Don’t know why Tally has to be there but… You want a beer?”

“No thank you, mon amie. I’ll have a glass of your finest Bordeaux.”

“One cheap red plonk comin’ up,” she said, and turned away to find it.

I removed the sketch from the tube; each time I looked at his young face I asked him, who are you? What do you want from me? I was studying it yet again when Sylvie returned with a glass of wine.

“Watcha got there?” she asked. I held up the drawing. “Good lookin’ kid. He yir boyfriend?”

I gave her the stare; I was getting good at it.

“Touchy. Hey, I’ve seen that kid before somewhere.”

I couldn’t believe it. First person to see it and it’s a bull’s eye. “Where?” I shot back. “Here, in the bar?”

“I don’t know exactly,” she said, “but I have definitely seen that face. I’ll let you know if it comes to me.”

Before I could question her any further, she hurried off to serve the waitress who was working that night.

Sylvie came back with the bottle of red wine in her hand. “‘Nuther?” She proffered a bottle with a label that actually read, ‘Cheap Red Plonk’.

I nodded. “Thanks.”

“I think I’ll join ya.” She poured herself a glass and leaned against the back counter.

“Well?” I asked her holding up the sketch.

“Sorry, Dric. It’s in here somewhere,” she tapped her temple. “When I remember I’ll let you know. Who is he anyway?”

“I have no idea,” I admitted, seeing images of cartoon arrows falling short of their target.

“So, what ya doin’ with his picture then?”

“Trying to find out who he is,” I told her, rolling up the drawing and returning it to the tube.

“You’re a bit weird, ain’t ya Dric? Cute, but weird.”

She moved off down the bar to deal with less cute weirdoes.

“What the hell are you drinking?” It was Barney, with Les following close behind.

“I love this song,” Les said, heading for the dance floor, fresh blood for the frantic jungle ceremony going on there.

“A glass of wine,” I said in my best French accent.

“I don’t think the crap they sell here can legally be called wine,” said Barney. Then he called out to Sylvie, “Two more glasses of this poison Sylvie, siv oo plees, and put it on my colleague’s account.”

I picked up the tube from the bar, before Barney or his girl Friday noticed it. I tucked it into my belt under my jacket. I wasn’t in the mood for my friend’s theories on the subject that night.



I hope you have enjoyed reading the above preview chapters.
I would appreciate your comments. Please email me at : info@johnnyblue.biz
The book is only available through Amazon [Kindle edition] at present.
A physical edition will depend on a positive reception from readers.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work.


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