The Loser Bartender and the Nazi Doorman: a Short Story


The Loser Bartender and the Nazi Doorman

We were playing a two-man gig at this place called the Pirate’s Bay. Now this was way before all that Pirates of the Caribbean stuff had popped off so don’t think this is involving any of that kind of that action. It was one of those dive places we inevitably ended up and it was a grueler of a three-hour show. I had my harmonica player, Keith Carter, with me and we were on our way to Clarksdale, MS after that particular show to do some more shows and recording. I should have known things were going to be screwy when we pulled up to the place and on the deck/patio area, in broad daylight, a guy pointed a gun at me. I instantly jerked the wheel and the rascal laughed as I wheeled into the back and parked the Ford F-150 I was driving.
I immediately thought this place was nuts. Memphis is nuts but I had never had anyone point a gun at me, well at least not in broad daylight, in Memphis before. We loaded in our stuff and I made my way to the front where the guy sat who had pointed the gun at me. Probably not a great idea but turns out it were a fake and the two guys were kind of funny. The both of them were supposed to be some sort of security for a medical testing facility nearby. I asked who was watching the place while they were drinking draft beer and pointing fake guns at people. One of them casually said “Ah the place can watch itself.”
We sat around and chatted it up with the crowd on the deck and I kept watching as these scantily clad women kept walking by the place. They all seemed to be heading in the same direction. Many of them walked very oddly like on their tippy toes. Finally I asked one of the would be security guys what the deal was with the chicks.
“Ahhh those ain’t chicks dude, those are dudes.”
“What?” I asked.
“Yeah they all are heading to this huge tranny bar down the street.”
“What do they all walk so funny for?”
And the other would be security guy says “You’d walk funny too if you had what they had duct taped up the inside of your rear end.” (That is not verbatim but as close as I will share in this forum.)
They went on to tell me it was not uncommon to see them beating some guy senseless with their high heels, presumably when their prospective date realized they were with a guy and not a girl. Funny thing about that is they realize they are angered about almost being intimate with a dude but then realize that they are also trying to get violent with a dude and get their head bashed in to boot in the process of the whole thing.
“Yeah them trannies can fight like hell” the other one said and they both agreed.
I parted company with the two security guys as the draft beer was taking effect, they were continuing to be rowdy with the fake gun and I wanted no part of that.
We played our first set and it went pretty well. Dennis Brooks, one of my dear friends who is no longer with us, was there and John Lowe and his wife Bev were there also. John, the master of the cigar box Lowebow, actually opened the show and it is always great anytime I can spend with them. We talked, shared some stories and laughs. As I was talking with them a guy came up wanting to buy two CD’s which is a rarity and wanted me to sign one of them for his friend.
As I was making it out he says “Make it out to Steven and write ‘Steven wish you were here.’” I asked who Steven was and he says “Steve Seagal.”
I asked “Like Steven Seagal the movie guy Steven Seagal?”
And he says “yeah Steven Seagal. We are friends.”
I did not know whether to believe him or not but I signed it nonetheless. This guy was a conversationalist and good at his art. I could see why people would like him. He said that a group of Japanese Akido experts came to Memphis once and gave some sort of seminar with Mr. Seagal. He said he asked them “say tell me how bad is he really?” and he said one of the Japanese Akido masters told him “in Japan no one wants to fight Steven Seagal.” I was impressed.
We went back to playing our second set and things went well. After it was over I made conversation with the doorman who I always like to befriend and make good with since they are the one handling the money at the door. Turns out this guy was a Nazi fanatic. I am not talking about like a skinhead, we did not get into any of that, but an actual purveyor of Nazi memorabilia. He gave me a verbal laundry list of the things he had from books to a chess set to a full fledged, authentic storm trooper uniform. He said his grandfather had been in the SS and he got it from him. I suddenly bit back the urge to tell him ‘oh yeah well my grandfather kicked your grandfather’s ass’ because I knew that it would come to no good. He told me he only lived a couple of blocks away if I wanted to see some of it. I started to feel like the opposite of that kid in the Stephen King novella “Apt Pupil”, where the kid hunts down the Nazi war criminal, in that I had inadvertently stumbled upon a Nazi, completely by accident, what luck I have.
It’s not luck really though, I somehow have this awesome super heroic power, I can melt clouds too, of finding the nut in the room in less than 2 hours everywhere I play live. I can never figure out how I could turn this super human power into an actual power but I definitely have it. Last show for example this guy kept pestering me and before he left he extended his hand and exposed a spent .45 round saying “Colt Long Boy!” The crazies abound when I hit the stage. Happens all the time or at least enough I would make note of it.
I excused myself from Her Doorman and went back to the third and last set. I told Keith, my harmonica player, and he said “I kind of figured him to be a dodgy character.” Keith was British and so it seemed here we were again, a Brit and an American with our backs to the wall against the Nazis, quite fitting I think.
We played our set and began packing up. It was then I started to inquire with the bartender about our money for the night and, not to be surprised, he started his shit
“Well dude we really did not do so well at the door and like I don’t have any money for you.”
I was livid but experienced in these matters. Giving pause I collected my thoughts and remained calm.
“Man we have been playing for 3 hours and need our money.”
He was paused and walked to the back. I stood there at the bar acting composed but a tempest was brewing inside. I knew not show out too much because 201 Poplar, the infamous downtown lock up, loomed along the horizon but I was not leaving that place without some money. I suspected this was merely ritual, as it is many times, kind of like a cold sale over the phone, if it works at first there is no more negotiation and the loser bartender and the Nazi doorman split up the door and we drive down 61 mad as hell towards Clarksdale.
He came back and this time with this “look dude I can scrape up $50 dollars but that is about all I can do.”
I could feel my jaws clench and then my head jerk back and forth.
“Man take your ass out in that parking lot and look at what I am driving. I am on tour and have three other dates to make. I need gas money and I have to eat. How you gonna do that? I ain’t leaving until you cough up the money I talked about with John.”
John of course was the other loser bartender who I booked the show over the phone with and was conveniently not present.
“John ain’t here man for me to like ask him” was the response which I fully expected. I stood there and crossed my arms. I am not that menacing but I summoned what bit I had.
He went in the back again, this time I was not going to be surprised if he came back out with a ball bat or something heavy, and then came back.
“Look man I will give you $90 bucks but that is all.”
I took the money from his hand and said “be the last time I play this place again.” And it was, I have never brightened the door of that dank place again and do not plan to.
He kind of smirked and I suspect he still probably made at least $50 bucks over on me so he probably got a little extra cash, but at least we had enough to fill the truck and put some food in our belly. Oh well.

As we were pulling away the two security guys were stumbling drunk and talking with the police who seemed interested in their play gun. The trannies were still going up and down the street with their tippy toe walk and and the Nazi probably got to order a Hitler youth pocket knife from Nazibay.com off his share they stole off us from the door. You live and you learn.
All this happened to me one night in Memphis Tennessee.

Juke Joint Festival 2011


Had a great time playing at the Juke Joint Festival. Here is a recap of the great things I got to experience:
* Lunch with one of my favorite people Sunshine Sonny Payne of the King Biscuit Time radio show
* Seeing my friend Terry Buckalew and hearing his great knowledge and humor
* Seeing my old friends Tony and Charlotte Lax
* Talking with Terry Mullins who has a great presence
* Talking with Ted and Matt of the Scissormen
* Talking with KM Williams and Washboard Jackson
* Meeting Gabe Carter and seeing him perform with KM and Washboard
* Playing with the guys: Bob Bogdal, Ringo Juke, Shannon Smith, and my long time buddy Syd Hedrick
* Talking with Cedric Burnside and seeing him perform at Ground Zero
* Talking with Davis Cohen and Ray Cashman
* Seeing David Honeyboy Edwards one of the last real deal Delta Bluesmen
* Seeing David Kimbrough perform
* Seeing Chad Nordhoff perform
* Seeing the wonderful job Robin has done with the New Roxy Theater space which has to be one of the coolest places anyone could ever even think about doing a live show
* Hearing Brad Webb burn up a slide guitar with Miranda Louise
* Watching Watermelon Slim perform
* Talking with John Alex Mason
* Watching T Model Ford
* Getting to talk with RL Boyce
* Witnessing Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band
* Listening to Robert Belfour
* Talking with my good friend John Lowe
It was, and is always, a good thing to make a trip down to the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, MS. If not for the performance then just to meet so many great people and catch up with people you have now known for years. Roger Stolle has done a remarkable job as well as the community of Clarksdale for coming together to put on one heck of a show for anyone in attendance. If you have never made that sojourn down to the holy land of blues then this would be the best excuse in the world to avail yourself of this great place and awesome assemblage of entertainment. You will not leave disappointed as I was simply blown away as I rounded every corner only to be continually impressed by who I would run in to and see. What a great vibe and a festival unlike any other. Not many places you can watch true legends, up and comers, and legends in the making perform and then talk with them after. Great stuff