Monday, May 2, 2011

Jesus Left Chicago, but Bazoo's in Memphis

As we rolled into Memphis late yesterday afternoon, the sky was an ominous and angry black. Memphis is at catastrophic flood stage after nearly a foot of rain in the last week added to an already soaked spring, and yesterday we arrived right behind tornadoes amidst gale force winds and driving rain. Coming into the town that's the centerpiece of our blues trip under those conditions is somehow appropriate. Let me explain.

Coop and I first started cooking this trip up nearly three years ago, as a way to honor Stevie Ray Vaughan on the 20th anniversary of his death. We were going to start in Austin and work our way to Chicago.

But shortly thereafter our guitar mentor Jim "Bazoo" Bazini passed away after nearly fifteen years battling kidney disease. Jim had been--along with John Ettinger--my first best friend at about the age of four; and he'd been a guitar mentor to both Coop and I.

In that latter regard, he had far more success with Coop than me. Jim always encouraged me to play more, it just never stuck. But Dan has become a really excellent blues player. Even listening to him in the room this morning I'm reminded of Jim and his technique.

Dan and I both struggled with Jim's death--for personally different reasons--and we quickly started talking about memorializing Jim and dealing with his loss. We had a little service last fall when we were with some friends at KC's; but this trip was going to be our own personal expression.

For me, I took a big step this spring. Jim's wife and the love of his life, Sandy, had saved Jim's guitars so that Dan and I could each have one. I went to their home near South Bend in March to look at them, pick one each out for Coop and I, and write her the check. It was the first time I'd seen Sandy since Jim's death (I'd been traveling and unable to make his memorial service), and it was an awesome way for me finally reach closure. We had lunch, great conversation, shared memories of Jim, and just generally shared in each other's grief. In addition to Jim's guitars (Dan and I each got one, and I also bought a great Washburn acoustic for Dane), Sandy also gave me the two pictures I've posted here.

Ironically, getting Jim's Telecaster finally sparked me too. I've been playing like crazy and am finally getting what Jim told me all those years.

So that stormy weather as we drove into Memphis was perfect for the blues, our trip, and our sense of loss with Bazoo; and I'm sure Jim would have loved it. Just as he would have these lovely Gibson's they comped us for our use when we checked into the Westin. Of course, Jim had his own Les Paul Deluxe, so he might have been less impressed...but he'd have loved the thought.

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Location:S 4th St,Memphis,United States

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