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Felix Dennis
January 30, 2002
Mandalay, Mustique
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I found my South Side Mecca
By way of Ruislip Mews,
On Parlophone and Decca
Where white boys played the blues.

I spent my spare time lurking
Back stage to pay my dues,
I got my mojo working
With studs who played the blues.

I blew my education,
It wasn’t hard to choose,
I passed my graduation
B-minus in the blues.

So if you hear me howlin’
Be sure to spread the news,
I’m howling for my darlin’ —
I choose to sing the blues.

The first and third lines of the last stanza are lifted almost verbatim from Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett) who, for me, represented the epitome of pre-war Mississippi-meets-Chicago blues. Howlin’ Wolf, his 1962 Chess LP, (known as ‘the rocking chair album’ because of its cover art), helped to change the course of my life. It was difficult to imagine completing grammar school, going on to college and ‘getting a job’ after listening to tracks like ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ and ‘Goin’ Down Slow’. By my late teens, as a result of constant practise and heavy consumption of untipped French cigarettes, I found myself capable of a passable imitation of Wolf’s voice. What audiences made of a half-demented, incomprehensible spotty git belting out ‘Smokestack Lightning’ and ‘Evil Is Going On’ in local pubs and clubs is quite another matter.  One landlord told me frankly that, in his opinion, I came close to certifiable madness on stage.  Looking back, I agree with them. I got laid a lot, though! Howlin’ Wolf died in 1976.