I had lunch today with my old friend, Bill Kuhre (he’s 83, a whopping 13 years my senior). He’s a retired professor of English, commie pinko, and Lutheran Minister (in no particular order). We enjoy each other’s company. I lent him a copy of a DVD I’d just received on the Boston shrine to the early folk movement, Club 47. Opened in 1958, Club 47 launched the careers of scores of luminaries from the early ‘60’s Folk and Blues scene. It also provided a venue for the then newly rediscovered giants of Blues music and I saw the faces of former clients (members of the Memphis Blues Caravan) Bukka White and Sleepy John Estes among a featured handful of others of their ilk. Bill allowed as how Ohio University, back in the day, played host to a few of the greats as well, mentioning Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee in particular.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sonny and Brownie a couple of times. Both instances are treasured memories – but the one that really stands out was a cold night in late September in ’72 or ’73. The Caravan had been booked on an outdoor show at some college in Wisconsin along with Sonny and Brownie. As we pulled into the motel parking lot the afternoon of the gig, walking out of the office, , there they were. The tour bus stopped, I was the first one off. I called after them. We shook hands. Then, one by one, off the bus came the Caravan members. I stood by the door, by my side stood the two of them. I introduced them to each guy as he emerged. “Sonny and Brownie, meet Bukka White. Meet Hammy Nixon. Meet Sleepy John Estes. Meet Furry Lewis. Meet Houston Stackhouse. Meet Joe Willie Wilkins. Meet Piano Red.”