At long last, my debut novel has finally hit the streets (of Amazon) and is now available on a Kindle near you. A chance remark at the end of a beer-fuelled evening in Clarksdale in February 2012 has resulted in Fat Man Blues – the story of Hobo John, a white blues enthusiast from England, who meets the mysterious Fat Man in bar in present day Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Fat Man offers Hobo John the chance to travel the Mississippi delta at the time of the “real” blues of the 1930s – the time when Charley Patton, Robert Johnson et al were the One Direction of their time. For Hobo John, this is an offer he really can’t refuse and along the way he gets to listen to and play the music he loves in the land that he has always dreamed of visiting. However, he soon encounters to the harsh reality of life in the delta and the horrific consequences of the deal he has made.
Writing this has been a labour of love. Love for scratchy old blues music and the history of the blues singers who ultimately helped change the face of popular music, made a lot of (mostly white) people very rich but earned very little for their efforts, often living forgotten, impoverished lives and dying in squalor.
If you’re reading this and don’t know the first thing about Mississippi Delta Blues, then I recommend (nay, urge) you to research the music. Fat Man Blues contains references to a whole bunch of songs and artists, some of which are listed below.
This was playing in Red’s Lounge when Hobo John walks in and meets Fat Man for the first time. Anyone who listens to this and doesn’t move to it is probably dead.
A classic by Memphis Minnie and played here by the excellent East River String Band from NYC.
And this is the original…
Beautiful song by Mr Patton, who tells us he’s “going’ where the southern cross the dog”.
This is a ragtime standard played by the guy who taught me to play slide guitar. I’m still light years from having his “chops” but it sounds great on my steel resonator.
Originally recorded by Son House, there are a million different versions.
Tommy Johnson was (in my opinion) a rather underrated singer, who lived in the shadow of his namesake but produced some rather splendid music. Canned Heat refers to Sterno, a fuel made from denatured and jellied alcohol and burned directly from its can. During prohibition, the alcohol would be squeezed through cloth and mixed with fruit juice or drunk neat.
This tune is from the Mississippi Hill Country and has a different musical sound to traditional Delta blues. This is a tune I’ve been trying to master, and played right it has a hypnotic, almost trance-inducing sound.
Two songs that capture the “sound” of Son House. My Black Mama formed the basis of his later tune “Death Letter Blues” – played here by Son House in the 1960s.
“Gonna get me religion, gonna join the Baptist Church / If I was a Baptist preacher, I wouldn’t have to work…” – says it all, really.
“I’m going’ away, to a world unknown, you know I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long…” Listen carefully and you’ll hear Mr Patton slapping his guitar as he’s playing. I never get tired of hearing this.
Ridin’ with the Fat Man
Finally, a friend of mine, Mr Andy Peters has written and recorded a song in celebration of Fat Man Blues. Not only that, he’s also created this video. For once, I’m speechless. Thanks Andy.
Please, tell your friends 🙂