Sample Saturday: “It Happened in Memphis”

It Happened in MemphisHi, everyone. I’m working on final edits for the next edition of Pocketful of Stories. My release date goal is October 31 … because there are more than a few ghosts in the tales. Here’s a snippet from “The Devil’s Music,” which leads off the selection.


That’s what a lot of folks call what I did: the devil’s music. But the way I figure it, they were wrong. I come up in church, and I believe in Jesus with all my heart and soul. I figure I wasn’t doing nothing but trying to make people feel good for a few minutes.

I was just a kid, for cryin’ out loud. I was scared silly half the time; even at those shows at The Eagle’s Nest back in Memphis, where I knew ‘most everyone. I could barely put two words together to talk to somebody, but after that school talent show, why, suddenly everybody knew me. I think they put me up for the show as a joke, to tell you the truth. I don’t think anyone expected me to be any good on stage. I was always that weird kid who dressed too loud, and my hair was longer’n everyone else’s. My girl Dixie’s daddy offered me two dollars so I could get a haircut, like the reason I wore my hair that way was that I couldn’t afford the barbershop.

Truth was, I was lookin’ at them sharp-dressed colored guys on Beale Street and wishin’ I could dress like that. I remember the day I bought a four-dollar shirt at Lansky Brothers; I told them fellas that one day they’d be the only place I bought my clothes, because they never chased me away from lookin’ in the windows.

I kept my promise, too.

My mama bought my guitar down to the hardware store in the town where I lived as a little kid. I wanted a rifle, but Mama wanted me to have a bicycle. I guess you could say we compromised. The guitar that Floyd Bobo sold my mama changed my life more than any rifle or bike would have done. Brother Frank Smith, our preacher man, and my uncle Vester taught me how to play a few chords. And boy, that Brother Frank could play. He’d get the whole little church to singin’ along with them songs. “Just a Little Talk With Jesus,” “Blessed Jesus, Take My Hand,“ “I Shall Not Be Moved,” all them old songs.

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