Robert Johnson : The Untold Story

                                      by Dave Wood (Sailor's Delight No.7,1980)

         On the afternoon of Thursday,November 11th,197_(the exact year must
   remain secret for tax reasons),Ed Winkle & Rudy Shirtless,long time
   employees of the Sweet Kone Ice Cream Company,located at 5271 7/8 Northwest
   East St.,Chicago,were detailed to "Clear the crap outta freezer seventeen"
   in order to make room for the vast stocks of "Potato Salad Tutti Frutti"
   which,unaccountably,bombed out in its intensive market trials.
         "Aw,Jeezus",said Ed & Rudy as one man,"Give us a break,boss,that place
   ain't been open in more'n forty years.It's jus' full o' junk an' stale ice
   cubes,stuff like that".

         "Well in that case you'll need a pick & shovell",said the foreman, 
   "you'll find some in the stores".

         Ed & Rudy picked up the gear & prepared to open up freezer seventeen.
   It was a room roughly twelve feet by nine with a constant temperature of
   minus twenty & company records showed it had been unused,except as a kind
   of dumping ground for surplus ice,since the latter part of 1937.As they
   opened the door the foetid stench of rotting vanilla sundaes enveloped them
   like an invisible fog,causing them to vomit.

         "And you'll clear that up too",yelled the foreman from a safe

         Minutes later,only slightly recovered,Ed & Rudy pushed on into the
   freezer & began the mammoth task of clearing it.

         "Hey,look what I found" shouted Ed,holding up a triple layered
   chocolate nut fudge sundae knickerbocker glory super-ice with chili peppers.

         "Yeeehaw!" yelled Rudy.(Americans tend to whoop a lot) "I ain't seen
   one o'them since I was a kid".

         He considered tasting a little but his stomach,aided by an image of a
   decomposing vanilla sundae,dissuaded him.

         On and on they worked,deeper & deeper into the icy vault until one
   corner remained to be cleared.It contained a huge mound of solid ice,as hard
   as granite after lying untouched for four decades.It was dark & eerie in
   there & Ed & Rudy were anxious to finish before they were too frozen.

         Rudy lifted a pick & was just about to bring it down on the ice when
   Ed called on him to stop.Deep within the ice he had seen a shape.He couldn't
   be sure,but he was damned if it didn't look like a man.Ed & Rudy knelt down
   & peered into the dimness.They shone their torches & gradually,as their eyes
   accustomed to the darkness & the distortion of the ice,they saw that Ed had
   been right.Encased in the ice was the unmistakable figure of a man.A black
   man,seated on a wooden crate & holding a guitar.His mouth was open,as though
   frozen in the act of calling for help,or possibly singing.

         "Jeezus" said Ed & Rudy together."D'ya think he's dead?".

         They began to chip at the ice,but carefully this time.Pretty soon they
   had the man freed.He looked to be in his early twenties,standing around five
   feet four,slim,curly headed.His left hand was frozen solid to the neck of
   his guitar,& his right seemed about to crash down on the strings.

         "We're too late" said Rudy."He's cold".

         "Let's get him inside the hall" said Ed."I'll take his head,you grab
   his legs".

         They carried him out of the freezer & sat him in front of a radiator.
   Slowly the ice that was encrusted all over his body began to melt,forming a 
   pool on the floor.

         "And you'll clear that up" shouted the foreman,who appeared unmoved by
   the strange scene.

         For half an hour or more nothing seemed to be happening & then Ed
   said,"I think he's breathing!"

         Suddenly one eye sprang open,quickly followed by the other.The right
   hand,after a break of forty years,crashed down heavily onto the hopelessly
   untuned strings & the man let out an impassioned gutteral yell,
         ".....ORNIN'...." he cried,"BLUES ALL ROUND...Where am I?"

         "Take it easy,fella",said Rudy,"You've had a mighty lucky escape.A guy
   could freeze to death in there".

         The man looked around,suspicious & a little frightened.Gradually
   recollection & understanding returned.He nodded a few times & then suddenly,
   without warning,he jumped up,threw down his guitar & grabbed Ed around the

         "Which of you two motherfuckers shut that door?" he yelled.

         "Now just hold on there" said Rudy,grabbing the guy's shoulders."Ed &
   me just cut you outta that place.Seems to me your a might ungrateful".

         "I'm sorry" the man said,letting go of Ed."I've been in that place for
   days,seems like.I'll be okay once I get my circulation going again".

         "Just how long have you been in there,fella?" asked Rudy.

         "Well,I crawled in there December ninth...What day is it now?"

         "November eleventh" said Ed."Buddy,you been in there for months".

         The man looked stunned."November eleventh?" he repeated "You mean this
   is 1938?"

         Ed & Rudy looked at each other & then Ed spoke.

         "Sit down,friend",he said."I guess this might come as a shock....."

         "Nineteen seventy_mumble" said the man as the three of them sat
   drinking coffee in the works canteen."Well,that sure do beat all,my my".

         He introduced himself as Robert Johnson,itinerant blues singer late of
   Tunica County,Mississippi.Seems he had had some woman trouble down there &
   thought it wise to move on.Someone told him things were happening in Chicago
   & here he was.

         "But how come ya ended up in the freezer?" asked Ed.

         "Well,you know how winter is in Chicago.I crawled in there to keep

         "December 9th,1937" said Rudy."I looked it up in the company files.
   That was the day they finally gave up trying to sell Chitlin & Collard Green
   soft scoop.They dumped it all in seventeen & locked it up".

         Johnson shuddered."Don't talk to me about chitlin & collard green soft
   scoop.I musta eaten a gallon o' that stuff before I froze up".

         "I guess it was a toss between freezin' upan' throwin' up!" said Ed,
   laughing & thudding the table.Rudy & Robert stared,unamused.

         Robert began to talk again,telling of his journey up from Mississippi,
   & how he had planned to make some recordings in Chicago & suddenly all three
   became aware that they were being stared at by a young,long-haired employee
   who was holding his lunch-tray & appeared to have been seized by a catatonic
   spasm.His eyes appeared ready to burst out of his head & he was shaking like
   a hooker whose vibrating dildo has suddenly gone critical.He let out a
   scream,dropped the tray,which hit the floor with an ear-splitting crash,&
   sank to his knees.Instantly he began crawling across the floor toward them,
   squeaking like a gerbal & drooling saliva.

         Robert lept onto his chair in some alarm.
         "Who IS that guy?"

         "That guy" was Steve Bledge,blues freak of the parish,owner of one of 
  the finest collections of slightly cracked Lemon Jefferson 78's in Illinois
   & one of only three people who know something about King Solomn Hill that
   I'd tell you if only I was one of the other two.

         "Robert....Robert....Robert" he kept repeating,trying to grab hold of
   the singer who had jumped onto the table now to escape his clutches.

         "Who IS that guy?" he repeated."Will somebody get him away from me?"

         "No",blubbered Steve."I just want to touch the hem of your garment,
   please...I want to throw myself at the feet of the man who wrote "Dust My

         Johnson let out a laugh they could hear in Montana."Dust My Broom?" he
   said "I stole that song from Pigfoot Muggins up in Robinsonville".

         "Pigfoot Muggins?" said Steve,baffled."Did he ever record?"

         "Reckonnot" chortled Johnson."Stole his boots too,so's he couldn't
   walk to San Antone".
         "But what about "Come on in my Kitchen'm,"Crossroad Blues","Steady
   Rolling Man"".Steve paused & a mist came into his eyes."Hellhound on my

         "Muggins again.I stole ALL my stuff from him-he sure knew how to
   write a hot tune.

         Steve did his best to absorb this eath shattering revelation.He felt
   as though the guy ropes holding his life together had been sliced through
   with an axe.But after all why should he? The blues singer never lived who
   didn't draw on traditional resources.Nobody takes composer credits seriously
   anyway.No matter who wrote the songs,Robert's recordings were still the 
   epochal masterpieces of modern blues history,& the man's miraculous
   rediscovery was the sensation of the century.

         "Look",he said."You must come home with me.Man,I love your albums..."
         "Albums? I ain't got no albums.Never had my picture taken but once & 
   that never come out".

         "Not picture albums,record albums.Oh,of course,you wouldn't know about
   record albums...."

         Steve stopped & struck his forehead with the palm of his hand.

         "Hey,man!" he said,"We gotta contact Columbia.They must owe you a 
   stack of royalties a mile high".

         "Royalties" mused Johnson & Steve had a sudden churning feeling in his

         "Stay right here" he said."I'll go & tell the boss I'm sick & we'll go
   home right away".

         "Will he believe you?"

         "I don't see why not.He's been telling me for years how I'm sick-why
   should he change his mind today?"

         Steve was only away a minut.He came back with a worried look on his
   face,as though he were afraid that Robert might have vanished like a dream
   the moment his back was turned,& pretty soon they were making their way
   across town to the apartment that Steve shared with fellow blues freak
   Dwight Fish.

         Robert stared around him in bewildered amazement,Chicago had changed a
   lot since 1937.It was adamn sight more dangerous for a start.In the good old
   days there was nothing more lethal than a mobsters machine gun to worry
   about,& even they had virtually disappeared by the time Robert arrived.
   Traffic in nineteen seventy-mumble was a real killer,particularly for
   someone fresh out of the fridge.Robert,though,was much too amazed to be
   afraid.It was like waking up & finding yourself trapped in some weird 
   futuristic film set.Fashions had changed too,especially women's fashions &
   Steve foundhimself silently thanking the Lord that it was November,& cold.If
   this had happened in the middle of July it would have been impossible to get
   Robert to the apartment except under cover of darkness with a bag over his
   head.As it was Steve found himself tugging & pulling at the singer's arm
   every few seconds.He made excuses about the traffic & the weather,but his
   real fear was that any moment Bob Koester,or Jim O'Neal,or somebody would
   leap out & challenge him.

          "Just a moment! I have reason to believe that this gentleman is the
   legendary blues singer & guitarist,Robert Johnson.I have here a standard

          Steve could feel the sweat making a pool in his armpits.
          It seemed like a hell of a long time but eventually the two of them
   climbed the dingy back staircase of the apartment house & Steve ushered
   Robert inside No.32-20.
          Dwight Fish,who hadn't worked since he broke his nose in a fight over
   a Frank Frost Phillips album three years before("I have trouble breeding")  
   was asleep on the floor.
          "Oh my God",thought Steve,"the furnitures been repossessed again".
   Gingerly he approached his snoozing friend & shook him awake.
          Dwight,five feet three but wiry,leapt to his shoeless feet & yelled
   out the location of the money.
          "It's allright,Dwight,it's me",said Steve,calming his friend with a
   slap to the face."Look,I've got kind of a surprise for you.You know how we
   used joke about rediscovering..haha..(gulp)...Robert Johnson...?"
          Speaking deliberately,thereby dulling the compulsion to become 
   hysterical,Steve told his story.As it wound on Dwight's eyes grew larger &
   his jaw began to sag.Something warm trickled down the inside of his trouser
   leg and suddenly his mouth felt too small for his teeth.

          "Robert",he said,throwing himself to the ground,"Let me touch the
   hem of your..."

          "Cool it" said Steve,grabbing the gibbering Fish by his one good ear.
   "He's not into that stuff.Why don't you fix us some coffee & a sandwich?"

          "No bread,man".

          "OK,hold the sandwich"

          While the coffee was being made Robert looked around the apartment.It
   was sparsely furnished,mainly due to the vigilance of the finance company,
   but his eye was really drawn to the sagging racks of records which stretched
   along three of its four walls.There must have been several thousand of all
   sizes.78's he understood,but the 45's,& especially the albums,really had him
   beat.Steve jumped forward & pulled out a copy of "King of the Delta Blues
   Singers" & holding it in trembling fingers he found himself saying(& it sure
   sounded weird) "Would you mind...(cough gulp swallow)..signing this?"

          Robert took it & held it for a long time,turning it over in his hands
   before he spoke.
          "Well,he said at length,"If ole Pigfoot is still alive this'll kill
          Dwight re-entered with the coffee & as they drank it they listened in
   silence to the first side of the Columbia album.Robert picked up his guitar
   & tried to sing along but the instrument had warped so badly since the
   afternoon that it was now shaped something like a boomerang & any attempt to
   play it was doomed to failure.However,there was no mistaking the magnificent
   voice;untouched by forty years in the freezer it lived again & filled the
   room with a power that Dwight & STeve could have scraped off the walls &
   used to light the city.

          Eventually,Robert slept.His two friends,however,sat & talked into the

          "Well,what are we going to do?"

          "We've gotta handle this right.This is the biggest thing that's
   happened to the blues.Ever.Bigger than Estes,bigger than Hurt:bigger than
   whatisname(you remember).The way I see it we've gotta keep the whole thing
   quiet until he's ready to perform.It's no good rushing around shouting about
   how we've found Robert Johnson-every promoter,record label,manager in the 
   business will be there waving mikes & contracts & we'll be nowhere.First we
   gotta get him to sign with us,then we get him a new guitar & let him
   practice a while & then..."

          "What about the contract? Do YOU know how to write up a contract?"

          "Hell no but who cares? I,Robert Johnson agree to accept as my
   personal & business managers Steve Bledge & Dwight Fish who get ten-fifteen?
   -per cent of any'...just write anything.."

          "We'll need witnesses"

          "Sure,sure,No sweat.Tomorrow we get him a guitar"

          "We don't have enough money"

          "Who needs money? Get it on credit-pawn your watch.Robert Johnson is
   sleeping over there on the floor & you're worrying about money?"

          And so it went on.Sleep for the pair was,of course,impossible.They
   didn't even attempt it.Instead they talked of wealth,& concerts,& accolades,
   & their names in a book.Now & again they turned to look at the sleeping 
   Johnson,just to be sure he was really there,though his raucous snoring made 
  this check unnecessary.
          Finally,around 4 am Steve summed it all up in one eloquent sentence.

          "Man,he said,"This sure beats screwing down the line".

          They were out on the streets early next morning,leaving Johnson still
   asleep on the floor.They only expected to be out a very short while but they
   were taking no chances.All doors & windows were locked tight & a note was 
   pinned on the wall telling Robert to help himself to coffee & stay put.
          There was a pawn shop just two blocks away & Steve & Dwight were
   there before it opened,searching the heavily meshed windows for a suitable
   guitar.They found one,but as they'd feared they had to part with their 
   watches & Dwight's golden earring to get it.On the way back Dwight stopped
   to buy hamburgers for breakfast & Steve hurried on.They didn't dare to leave
   Robert alone for one second more than was absolutely necessary.
          He sneaked into the apartment house quietly the back way.If the
   landlord should see him coming in with a new guitar slung over his shoulder
   he might have something to say about the trifling matter of rent arrears
   with which he seemed to be so obsessed.Just what he'd say if he found out 
   that Dwight & he had taken a lodger he hated to think.
          When he reached the apartment door Steve was alarmed to hear voices 
   from inside.

          "My God,he thought."Don't tell me they've tracked him down already.If
   Ed & Rudy have been shooting their mouths off...."

          But the door was still locked.Steve turned the key with a trembling
   hand & went in.Robert was sitting on a cushion in the corner with a look of
   total amazement on his face & Dwight's transistor radio in his hands.Someone
   with a voice like a constipated chipmonk was reading the news.Steve breathed
   a little more easily.

          "Saym this is really somethin'",said Robert."You wouldn't believe how
   high I jumped when I switched this thing on".
          There was a brief discussion on how everything had got so much
   smaller since 1937 which was interrupted by the return of Dwight with the
   burgers.After breakfast Steve decided to broach the subject of the contract.
   He spent a few minutes outlining the plans for tours & concerts & then he 
   spoke mysteriously,& he hoped convincingly,of "contacts" & "certain people"
   he knew.By 9.30 it was all down on paper.There remained the question of 
   witnesses.They didn't really know if they were essential,but felt they ought
   to be on the safe side.They got round the problem when Dwight took the
   contract to a couple of neighbouring apartments & told the befuddled 
   occupants that he was getting up a petition for the repair of the buildings
   heating plant.

          Steve handed Robert the new guitar & for a couple of hours at least
   he sat & sang his songs- every one as crystal clear & brilliant as a new cut
          How should his reappearance be handled? Steve knew that it had to be
   sensational.Dramatic.Some kind of cultural thunderbolt.It really wouldn't do
   to telephone Columbia,or anyone else & just casually mention that Robert
   Johnson was ready to record again.A call to the right newspaper might result
   in some big headlines,but he really wanted something more sensational still.
   Something that would hit like an earthquake.It HAD to be a concert.Nobody
   was going to believe the story if they saw it in the papers,but as soon as 
   they heard that voice,& SAW Robert performing there was no way they could
   doubt it.

          The biggest problem was money.There was a hall to hire,posters,
   leaflets,a thousand things.Where...?

          Steve looked at the racks of records.He didn't like to think about
   it,but what the heck? A few months from now they would have enough money to
   buy all the records they ever wanted.He told Dwight of his plan & got just 
   the reaction he'd expected.
          "For crying out loud,stop screaming! Do you want the landlord to

          Robert looked alarmed but Steve told him everything was fine.

          It took a while for Dwight to be convinced,but eventually the friends
   agreed that it looked like the only way.A note was rushed to DOUG SEROFF.BOX
   (advertisers announcement) asking him to handle the auction,& in spite of it
   being a rush job receipts were large enough to cover the costs of the
   concert,& the advance publicity.
          Despite Robert's mounting frustration at his enforced confinement
   they managed to convince him of the necessity for staying under cover until
   the night of the big show.They turned over the biggest of the apartments two
   bedrooms to him & kept him supplied with hamburgers & coffee & told him to
   practice,practice,practice & leave everything to them.

          The concert was set for February 1st & Steve & Dwight threw
   themselves into the preparations with a fervour they hadn't felt since the
   Democratic Convention of '68.The hall they'd managed to get was not quite so
   big & prestigous as Carnegie,but they felt sure that by February 2nd it
   would be just as famous.Mystery was to be the ace up their sleeves & for a
   couple of amateurs they handled the thing brilliantly.Veiled hints,dark
   rumours,a gradual crescendo of publicity falling just short of total
   revelation until the underground sagebrush was as dry as tinder waiting,just
   waiting,for the match.
          They even found themselves a catchphrase.In ad. after ad,& on poster
   after poster promising the sensation of the century,the blues rediscovery
   that eclipsed them all,they ended with the stirring words:REMEMBER ONLY 

          They got so bound up in the work,so carried away on the wings of
   their own excitement that they hardly noticed that in his bedroom Robert was
   singing little,smiling less,& listening to the radio an awful lot.

          Well,it worked.As December & January wore on excitement in the blues
   world bubbled & boiled & spilled over into the "straight" music press.Even
   VARIETY gave the story half a column.In their Chicago apartment,Steve &
   Dwight,against almost impossible odds,had managed to keep the secret.There
   were innuendos,half truths,guesses & a few pundits even joked that the pair 
   must have found a signed photo of Robert Johnson & were planning to set it
   to music.Dwight & Steve were rather pleased with that one.
          Money poured in like showers of rain.By mid-January the hall was sold
   out twice over.Standing room they decided,would probably have to be
   restricted to one-legged men.The fuse was lit,& burning fiercely.
          It was a Wednesday night a freezing drizzle was running down the
   apartment windows,Steve & Dwight were drinking coffee & counting the day's
   reciepts.Robert was sitting quietly in a corner on a brand new chair 
   strumming idly on his guitar & moaning occasionally.

          "Uh,Yeah baby",said Steve,"Keep on moanin',Robert sounds so good,
   four twenty eight,four twenty eight..."

          "I ain't gonna do it fellas".

          Dwight began to cough as boiling coffee seeped through his nose.
   Steve's fingers developed shooting pains & the money suddenly felt funny.

          "What?" he said

          "I don't wanna do this show" Robert repeated,"Leastways not the way
   you fellers want me to do it".

          Dwight had stopped coughing but was sitting paralysed with something
   he felt sure was blood running from his staring eyes.Steve tried to stay
   calm.He gripped the arm of his chair to prevent it from disintegrating
   beneath him & spoke in a weird kind of gutteral squeak.

          "What do you mean,Bob? This is some kind of joke,right-say it's some
   kind of joke".

          Robert sighed & lay his guitar down & looked sheepishly at the 
         "How can I say this? I'm grateful to you guys.You been real good to
   me,took me in & all,& I'd sure be in a mess without ya but,look,this is
   nineteen seventy-mumble,right? And it seems to me you guys want me to make
   like it's still 1937,like I was never in that freezer.I've been listening to
   the radio & it seems like nobody don't sing blues no more,at least if they
   do,nobody listens.Now,I came to Chicago in '37 to make myself a few bucks,
   kinda make a name,but that was forty years ago.I gotta move with the times,I
   can't come on doin' stuff that's forty years outta style.

         Steve interrupted to protest that there were thousands of blues fans
   all over the world;fans who would cut off their right arms to see Robert
   Johnson in person & hear him sing those old songs.Robert shifted 
   uncomfortably in his chair.

         "I know,& believe me I 'preciate all them people & how they've stuck
   with me all these years,I really do,but seems to me like you want me to stay
   on the chittlin' circuit 'stead of movin' on up.Seems to me,lissening to the
   radio that kids today want funky music.I'm good;I can do that;gimme a good 
   band,some tight horns & some funky chicks behind me & I'll tear em up,& look
   I won't let you kids down,I'm gonna tighten up some of my old songs to keep
   them old fans happy.I got this one,listen,I call it "Funky Hellhound on my
   Bad Ass Trail..."

         Dwight was on the floor coughing up a green slime & turning purple.
         "Stop it!" screamed Steve."Stop it for Cris'sake,can't you see you're
   killing him?"

         In vain he argued his case.

         "All right",he said at length,"Do what you like after February first,
   but just gimme this one concert"

         "I caint Steve,this is my big chance.That concert's sold out.         
   Everybody's goin' to be there.I ain't never gonna get a chance to show 'em
   what I can do.Not unless I go in there an' get funky right off.I can do
   funky music;an' show tunes,& hey,I'll do a blues to close the show,right?
   How 'bout "Steady Rollin' Man" with some moody strings?"

         Steve was close to despair.Dwight was unconcious.

         It was hopeless,& it was a week & a half before the show.In order to 
   gain a little time to think,Steve finally promised to do things Robert's
   way.He promised to find a band & sort things out & Robert looked
   considerably happier as he rushed back to the bedroom to practice shrieking.

         Steve,meanwhile,revived Dwight & held a council on what they should
   do.No way,they decided,could they allow Robert Johnson to return to the
   world gyrating like a man with a burning suppository & calling on his
   audience to get down on whatever they got off on.That was out,but what was
   left? They could take the money & run,but where to? They couldn't hide for
   ever.They could call off the show- say it was all a big mistake,but that
   would mean refunding all the money & half of it was already spent.

         "The way I see it",said Steve "There's only one way".

         Dwight,still confused,was trying to dissolve a soluble aspirin in
   in sugar."Tell me" he said,"I can't wait to hear"

         "We have a concert February first,right?" Dwight nodded "Nobody knows
   who's gonna be on the show,right?"
         Another nod.

         "Blues rediscovery of the century,yeah?" Dwight stopped nodding &
   looked quizzical.
         Steve sat back in his chair and,slapping his knee,said,"Pigfoot

         "Wha'?" said Dwight

         "Pigfoot Muggins,the man who taught Robert Johnson all he ever knew".

         "That's crazy" said Dwight."Even if Muggins ever existed he's probably
   dead,& even if he ain't how you gonna find him in a week & get him ready for
   a show? You're crazy".

         Steve didn't speak,He just sat staring at Dwight with a big grin right
   across his face.For a few secons Dwight stared back & then he began to 
   understand,he backed away shaking his head violently.

         "Oh no", he said."No way,I don't wanna get lynched..."

         Steve had stopped listening.Instead he began to whistle. 

         For the nest few days Steve continued to tell Robert that all was in
   hand & that he'd arranged a rehearsal with the new band.Of course,it had to
   be at night because no one must know what was happening.Ever since the 
   campaign began the apartment had been virtually under siege(Steve said) from
   people trying to crack the secret & it would be necessary for Robert to be
   smuggled out the back way under a blanket.
         Robert agreed & just three days before the scheduled concert he was
   duly hustled to a hired car & whisked to 52713 1/2 Northwest East St &
   bundled back into freezer seventeen along with eight tons of Potato Salad
   Tutti Frutti which lie there waiting on the whim of the public.
         Back at apartment 32-20 the planning went on.Dwight was still far from
   convinced but Steve assured him he would be a sensation.

         "When I'm through with you,Pigfoot Muggins will be the biggest thing 
   the blues has ever seen".

         "And I'm supposed to be Pigfoot Muggins for the rest of my life?"

         "For God's sake,you're ninety-three,first time out of Robinsonville.
   How can you stand all the excitement? Day after the concert you drop dead
   from exhaustion & there you are.We've got it made.The live concert album
   will sell for ever".

         "Do you think the berry juice makes me look black enough Steve?"

         "Sure,but remember to stoop.You got the half-dead look just about 
   right,but if you do it standing up they'll think you're Leonard Cohen".

         "Nobody's gonna believe I'm ninety-three".

         "Sure they are.Just keep your head down & don't forget to wear your
   Mance Lipscomb hat pulled right down over your eyes.You'll be perfect".

         "Are you sure there's no other way?"

         "Look,trust me will ya? Everythings gonna be great".

         February 1st.This is it.The hall packed tighter than a pugilists
   jockstrap & backstage Dwight trembling,twitching & begging for just another
   sock of whiskey.An atmosphere so solid you could slice it & sell it for

         At precisely eight o'clock Steve walked on stage & after half a minute
   of thunderous applause a hushed silence fell. 

         "Ladies & Gentlemen",he began,"Tonight you have gathered here to
   witness one of the great events of your lives.Much has been written & said
   in anticipation of this concert,& none of it is exaggerated.Indeed,it would
   be hard to exaggerate the importance of what you are about to see.More than
   forty years ago a young blues singer from Tunica County,Mississippi made a
   handful of recordings which are seen in retrospect as turning points in the 
   history of the music.UNsurpassed masterpieces that have shaped its present &
   future & inspired countless musicians from many cultures.That man was Robert
         At this point an excited rumble swelled inside the hall,& there were
   many gasps of shocked disbelief.Steve lifted a hand & the room fell silent
   once more.
         "Few people are aware that Johnson derived much of his material & his
   style from an even more legendary Mississippi singer.Unlike his famous pupil
   he never managed to record,but lived out his years in quiet obscurity in the
   small town of Robinsonville.Ladies & Gentlemen;long thought to be dead,a man
   whose influence has,until now,lived on through the work of others but a man
   who is alive & here tonight,will you welcome please the great grandfather of
   folk blues...PIGFOOT MUGGINS!!"

         The silence became stunned,broken only by the merest rippling of
   applause,a few sporadic giggles & an almost organic whisper of "WHO?" The
   curtains moved back to almost foetal position & clutching his guitar like it
   was a hound that had just caught sight of a rabbit.His face was entirely
   obscured by a huge,battered share-croppers hat & after a few more seconds of
   the kind of silence that feels like fingernails scraping on a blackboard he
   began to sing.

         "I got stones in my passway..."

         From the back of the hall came a shout "Are you sure they ain't in yer

         Dwight was unnerved but carried on as best he could,he could feel
   himself sweating under the lights & the big hat,& he suddenly became 
   uncomfortably aware that the berry juice was dripping off his face,running
   down his guitar & making little pools on the floor.

         "I got to keep moving,Got to keep moving" he sang...

         "Damn Right" came another shout & something wet & soft struck his hat,
   knocking it off.Dwight stood up,his face streaked with berry juice.At that
   moment a man whose mother might be forgiven for thinking she had given birth
   to twins jumped up on the stage,dwarfing the terrified Dwight who could only
   stand there & grin.

         "Is this some kinda joke?" roared the giant.

         "Er...yes" said Dwight."This is all an elaborate gag.My name is Dwight
   Fish,I have trouble breeding & I'd be grateful if you wouldn't punch me on
   the...THUD!...doze.Thank you.

         He slumped unconscious to the floor as the hall erupted in a riot of
  flailing fists & tearing programmes.Steve had fled leaving his friend to face
  the fury as he may & when some semblance of order was finally restored,fully
  half an hour later,it was Dwight alone who handled the repayment of as many
  admission charges as he could afford.After that it was thumbprints on IOU's
  time.Luckily there were many in the house that night who considered the
  entertainment worthy of any fee,& declined to press their claim.

         Dwight hasn't seen Steve since.Some say he's crossed the border into
  Mexico & sells tortillas from behind a huge moustache.The whole story of
  course was hushed up.Too many people were going to look silly if it ever came
  out.Dwight gave up collecting & got religion,denouncing the devil's music.And
  Robert? Well,does anyone fancy a potato salad tutti frutti?