December 20, 2017:
There's something familiar about that time and place.
There shouldn't be. I was born at the end of that era into a race and culture which held those people in contempt.
Yet little by little that's where the roads led, until one day it felt like home.
My first clue should have been Chuck Berry. I love his attitude, the toughness inside those catchy tunes, the swing. But the thing I love down in my bones is Johnny Johnson. Berry's songs are piano boogies translated to guitar. Johnson's piano is the drive and the color. Berry's records without Johnson lack something. Johnny not Chuck is my main man.
Which led to Albert Ammons, Pine Top Perkins, Meade Lux Lewis, Caroline Dahl, Ladyva — and T-Rex.
My second clue should have been the fact that whenever I pick up a guitar I'll warm up with left-hand piano boogie riffs, growing increasingly complicated as my brain gets out of the way.
But the lightbulb came with Taylor Hackford's amazing biopic Ray. His recreations of the clubs in the '50s, the Chitlin Circuit, the clothes and the dances. It feels so familiar.
George Harrison said that when he first heard Indian music in the mid '60s "It felt familiar to me." Exactly.
It feels like home.