Posts Tagged ‘John Lee Hooker’

Goodbye To Smudge

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 25, 2008

When one owns pets, saying goodbye is part of the package. But it never gets easier.

This morning it was Smudge, the cat that the Texas Gal had bottle-raised, the little white lady who had been the Texas Gal’s baby since she was less than a day old.

It was the summer of 1998, and the Texas Gal was still in Texas, working as a buyer for a manufacturing firm in Dallas. One of the warehouse guys came to her office, carrying a small something. He said he’d seen it on the floor as he was driving a forklift. He thought it was a mouse, and he stopped to pick it up intact rather than have to clean it up later. But it was a kitten, no more than three inches long, so he brought it to the Texas Gal’s office, knowing she was a cat person.

The little thing was white with a gray patch on her forehead, so her name was Smudge. The mama cat might have dropped her when she was startled while moving her litter, or maybe Smudge got left behind as a runt. But raised on bottled milk and love, she survived. She never got very big – maybe eight pounds at the most. But she was the Texas Gal’s kitty for just about ten years.

And Smudge was no one else’s cat. She and I shared the same quarters for seven years, and, at best, she tolerated me. I could pet her and she’d put up with it for a moment or two, then squirm away or – if she could not get away – slap my hand five or six times with a tiny lightning-fast front paw. Still, the Texas Gal told me, no one else had ever been able to touch Smudge without her screaming and biting. So I did pretty well.

She was skittish, Smudge was, possibly because of her origins. Loud noises and strangers worried her. And it didn’t help that one of the catboys, Clarence, liked to chase her. She spent a lot of time in dark corners. And she spent a lot of time curled up on the Texas Gal’s lap, the one place in the world she felt safe.

About ten days ago, on a Saturday night, the Texas Gal noticed that something was wrong. We took Smudge to the emergency vet, who corrected the immediate problem with a minor procedure but told us that the root cause was unchanged. The problem was likely to be chronic. Last evening, we concluded, reluctantly, that the vet was right, and Mudgie was only going to be less and less comfortable as time went on. So this morning, we took her to see Dr. Tess, and we said goodbye.

So here’s a Baker’s Dozen for the Texas Gal’s baby.

A Baker’s Dozen of Babys
“Baby Don’t Do Me Wrong” by John Lee Hooker from I Feel Good, 1971

“Baby Please Don’t Go” by Muddy Waters from Muddy Waters at Newport, 1960

“Baby Ruth” by Delbert McClinton from The Jealous Kind, 1980

“You, Baby” by the Ronettes from Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, 1964

“Baby, I Love You” by Aretha Franklin, Atlantic single 2427, 1967

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by John Hammond from Tangled Up In Blues, 1999

“Rock A Bye Baby Blues” by Ray Thomas from From Mighty Oaks, 1975

“Baby Let’s Wait” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie single 3461, 1969

“Our Baby’s Gone” by Herb Pederson from Southwest, 1976

“Baby It’s You” by the Shirelles, Scepter single 1227, 1962

“My Baby Loves Lovin’” by White Plains, Deram single 85058, 1970

“Ruby Baby” by Donald Fagen from The Nightfly, 1982

“Me and Baby Jane” by Leon Russell from Carney, 1972

A few notes:

This set is a little bluesier than most of them get, what with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and John Hammond. Delbert McClinton shades that way sometimes too.

It’s funny that the one track with the word “blues” in its title is one of the more odd blues that one can find. Ray Thomas, a member of the Moody Blues, released From Mighty Oaks during the years when the Moodies were inactive. Like most solo outings from the members of the group, the album sounds very much like the Moody Blues. And even though Thomas’ voice slides into blue tones now and then during “Rock A Bye Baby Blues,” when you consider the non-blues chord progression, his voice and the airy production, well, if it’s a blues, it’s a unique one.

“Baby Let’s Wait” is a dirge-like ballad that reached the lower levels of the Top 40 – No. 38 – in 1969. The Royal Guardsmen are better known for reaching No. 2 as 1966 turned into 1967 with “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” and for that record’s follow-up, “The Return of the Red Baron,” which went to No. 15 in the spring of 1967.

I wrote some time back about Smith’s version of “Baby It’s You,” which went to No. 5 in 1969. The original by the Shirelles went to No. 8 in early 1962. Smith might have had the better version, but the Shirelles had the better career: Smith had just the one Top 40 hit, while the Shirelles had twelve of them, including two No. 1 hits: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Soldier Boy.”

Saturday Single No. 38

May 17, 2011

Originally posted October 27, 2007

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, the Texas Gal and I watch a fair amount of television. Too much? Well, I’m not sure. But as I also wrote, we’re usually doing something else as we watch – I’ve usually got a magazine or a book, and she’s generally got a project of some sort, crochet in the past and now, most recently, quilting.

We weren’t reading or quilting last evening as we cuddled on the couch, but we were nibbling on a poppy-seed bread the college girls upstairs had baked for us and dropped off earlier in the day. And we were keeping an eye on Numbers, the CBS drama about an FBI agent and his mathematical genius brother. A commercial break started, and I leaned back on the couch, feet on the coffee table, ignoring the sales pitch.

I’m one of those people who always hear music when it’s present, even when it can slide past many people, unnoticed in the background. In the restaurant of a St. Cloud hotel last evening, as we sat waiting for our meals, smiling happily at each other, I noticed that the speaker in the ceiling was playing “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.” If it wasn’t a cleaned-up recording of the 1935 Tommy Dorsey hit, it was a darn good remake. The Texas Gal noticed the music, too, as she almost always does. And all through our meal, we heard music from the Thirties and Forties – big band and other standards – floating down to us from the ceiling.

Other people I’ve known throughout my life – family, friends, earlier partners – often didn’t hear the music in the background. I’d be with someone in a grocery store, perhaps, and nod and say, “Steely Dan,” as the sounds of “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number” came from speakers high overhead. My companion would look at me blankly. Or we’d be leaving a movie, and I’d say, “Wasn’t the music for the chase scene good?” only to be greeted with a another blank look and a comment like, “I didn’t notice any music.”

As we waited for Numbers to resume and we talked about something inconsequential, I noticed the sounds of a snaky guitar lick and insistent percussion being used as the soundtrack for a commercial. It was a familiar sound, and I glanced at the television.

I saw a scene of a field of soybeans – even though I’m a city kid, I can recognize a few agricultural commodities, having spent good portions of childhood vacations on my grandfather’s farm – and a farmer walking along the edge of the field, telling the viewer how beneficial some product had been for the quality of his soybeans. I thought to myself that, yeah, it’s late October, the harvest is pretty well done, and the various firms that sell such products are gearing up for sales for next year’s growing season.

We’ll see similar commercials throughout the winter and into the spring, for pesticides, for herbicides, for seeds for various crops and for other products that go along with farm life. Seeing such messages has always been, for me, a reminder that even though we live not far at all from a major metropolitan area, we also live in an area where many people make their livings from farming. It’s a thought that for some reason always pleases me. So I looked at the green field of soybeans on the screen and at the bins full of tan soybeans in storage, and became aware, again, that the snaky guitar and insistent percussion were still there, still familiar. I began to sort through my memory.

The commercial neared its end, and I recognized the song just as the vocal came in over the guitar. But instead of the “Boom, boom, boom, boom” I expected, I heard “Beans, beans, beans, beans,” with that familiar snaky guitar lick following. I sat back and laughed as the commercial ended and the music faded out on the third repetition of “Beans, beans, beans, beans.”

So that’s why we’re listening to John Lee Hooker and what I’m pretty sure is his 1961 performance released as Vee Jay single 348. (If anyone knows differently, let me know.) It’s one of many recordings Hooker made of “Boom Boom,” today’s Saturday Single.

John Lee Hooker – “Boom, Boom” [1961]