The Last Jam Session
A Blues Fable
Inspired by Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone
Written by Luther Keith
The clock had crawled well past 1 a.m. and the weekly blues jam had entered the home stretch.
The Old Bluesman, comfortably seated on a bar stool with his usual shot of Hennessy (straight, no chaser), surveyed the scene.
“Boy this blues thing sure has changed, but man I still love it,” he thought to himself.
Even so, his ears nearly bled from the latest young hotshot to the hit the scene, calling himself “Blues Lightning,” of all things.
After more than of fifty years of playing blues from Mississippi to Michigan, the Old Bluesman was not the typical elderly curmudgeon who was a “hater” of this new generation of blues players. He understood it would take them time, and maybe a few hard knocks from some tough crowds, to learn the there was a lot more to playing blues guitar than playing fast and loud.
Doing it slow and easy, with less flash and more feeling, was his preferred style, though he could rip a joint wide open with some rocking blues when the mood struck him.
But, hey, the young man loved the blues. He would be okay.
Outside, there was a rumble of thunder.
The crowd dwindled to the last 15 or so folks. A number of the regulars had cut out early because of an impending thunderstorm that the TV weathercasters had continue to howl about like the world was going to end.
His Old Lady, a worrier, didn’t want him to go out that night. She had been listening to the TV all day and didn’t want him to make the drive to his favorite local juke joint.
A few years back they had moved out to a rural section of the county, where things were a little calmer and more restrained than some of the rough and tumble neighborhoods of the Big City.
Still, he loved to play the blues and he had his crowd that loved to see him play the blues, his style, his way. He didn’t want to disappoint them.
So he made the drive.
As usual, he had his cherry red 335 Gibson guitar. He called her “Red.” Everyone knew about B.B. King and Lucille, the name the greatest bluesman of them all had given his guitar.
Giving a guitar a name, like it’s a real person, might seem strange to some people, but Red had been better to him than most women, or so-called friends.
She never complained, never had a headache. When he squeezed her, she always showed affection. Sometimes she cooed to him, other times she screamed with sheer pleasure.
“Yeah, I’m in love with her,” he would declare. “Never leave home without her.”
“Hey, old bluesman, when you gonna play?” came a shout out of the crowd. “Drove through a storm and been waiting here all night for you.”
“Just saving the best for last,” the Old Bluesman replied.
“The best or the oldest?” came a cackle back.
The Old Bluesman laughed and ambled off the barstool. He carefully removed Red from the guitar case and strode to the microphone.
He had a drummer, a bass player, and a harmonica player to back him up. All were younger than him but had jammed with him before.
He didn’t have to tell them what to do. Each of them knew the Old Bluesman always opened with a slow blues in the key of G.
Mixing a little sweet with a little sour, he worked his way through those six classic opening notes that were the staple of the slow blues for generations.
The crowd settled in. He closed his eyes.
“I feel like playing some blues,” he began to sing, “That’s the only thing that will ease my troubled mind. I feel like playing me some blues, that’s the only thing that will ease my troubled mind.
“Blues, blues, blues, make me feel so fine.”
After the harmonica player took a solo, the Old Bluesman sauntered through his own solo, bending, nudging, and basking in the sheer joy of an experience that was almost orgasmic.
He smiled, thinking, “Yeah, glad I came out.”
By the time he finished, the storm had intensified but he knew he would be okay driving home. He would do it just like he played his blues, slow and easy.
“Good job, Old Bluesman,” he heard as headed out the door. “You were worth waiting for. See you next week.”
The Drive Home
He kept his head down through the pelting rain as he headed to his car, a battered, black 15-year-old Buick with more than 200,000 miles on it, glad that Red was safely tucked away inside her case.
By this time, it was after 2 a.m. There were two things he always worried about when he left a jam, dodging drunks and the police, not because he was drunk, but you never knew what might go down when you get stopped by the cops.
Anyway, things were gonna work out tonight. He made it out of the city and onto the rural road that led home. Boy, this rain is really something, he thought to himself as he strained to see the road with the windshield wipers going full blast.
He was almost home. All he had to do was get over that bridge over the river and five minutes later he would stride through the door, being careful not to wake the Old Lady.
He felt the car skidding to the left as he approached the bridge.
When he woke up, it was morning.
He was on the riverbank with his guitar case next to him. He opened it and checked on Red. She was fine, not a drop of water on her. Then he looked at the river and cursed.
“Damn,” he said. “The Old Lady is really going to be mad at me.”
The Buick was badly smashed and in the water. How he got out, he couldn’t remember.
Nothing to do but walk home and make a full confession. He and the Old Lady had been together forty years. No, she wouldn’t be happy about the accident, but she would forgive him.
Passing the local cemetery, he saw James Smith and Johnny Brown digging a fresh grave not far from the road.
“Hey, fellas, who died? Anybody I know?” he asked.
Neither man looked up as they continued to dig.
“Sure is too bad about the Old Bluesman,” James said.
“Yeah,” Johnny agreed, “Things won’t be the same without him. Nobody could play the blues like him. ”
“Dead!” the Old Bluesman exclaimed. “I’m not dead. Feel this flesh and bone. What’s going on here?”
Neither man responded.
“Well, shoot,” the Old Bluesman said, exasperated. “Let me just go on home and talk to the Old Lady.”
When he walked through the door, his Old Lady, dressed in black, was being comforted by Reverend Jones, pastor of Greater Hope Missionary Baptist Church, a house of worship he rarely attended.
“What am I gonna do without the old man,” she sobbed. “Couldn’t get him to go to church much like I wanted but he was a good man.”
“Sister, the Lord will make a way for you,” Reverend Jones said. “He’s in a much better place now.”
Once again, the Old Bluesman was thunderstruck with disbelief.
“What the hell is going on here,” he shouted. “I’m standing here right in front of you as plain as day. Come on Old Lady, can’t you see me?”
Neither, the Old Lady nor the pastor reacted.
“This is strange, very strange,” the Old Bluesman thought, deciding to walk back out to the road, and maybe into town, to find some answers.
So, with Red still in the guitar case, he strode back out to the road and began to walk. Something about the road, the trees and the scenery seemed different but he couldn’t quite figure out exactly what it was.
After following a stretch of picket fence along the road for some time, he came to a gate with a man dressed in white wearing a black hat.
“Hey, Old Bluesmen, we’ve been waiting for you,” the man said.
“Why you waiting for me?” the Old Bluesman said, “I don’t know you.”
“Brother, don’t you know? You’re dead.”
“Dead, how can that be?”
“Think back until the last thing you can remember,” the man said.
“Well, I was driving back home after the jam, I got to the bridge, the car swerved, and …..”
“That’s right,” the man said. “That’s what I’m telling you.”
“Well, I’ll be danged. Well, if this is heaven, how come I don’t hear no music, or nothing like that.”
“Well, you will, brother, as soon as you come inside. Come inside and get your reward.”
“Okay,” the old Bluesman said, pulling Red out of the guitar case. “I’m really looking forward to jamming with some of my old blues buddies up here.”
“Oh no,” the man said in horror. “They don’t allow no guitars in heaven.”
“What, no guitars and no blues in heaven?” the Old Bluesman said incredulously. “What kind of heaven is this? If it’s not good enough for Red, then it’s not good enough for me.
“Guess I’ll just keep walking along this road.”
Walking Eternity Road
The man at the gate panicked.
“Brother, that road don’t go nowhere. That’s eternity road. It just goes on and on without no end.”
The Old Bluesman walked away and didn’t look back. He stopped for a minute and played a few familiar runs on Red before resuming his trek down the road.
Then he saw a man approaching him. He was wearing overall blue jeans and smoking a pipe.
With a big smile on his face, the man said, “I’m a looking for the Old Bluesman and a guitar named Red.”
“That would be me,” the Old Bluesman said with a sense of relief.
“I thought so,” the man said. “We’ve been waiting on you.”
“Don’t try to trick me like that other fella,” the Old Bluesman said. “I’m not going anywhere that I can’t take Red. That would be a helluva place to be.”
“Oh, you didn’t get mixed up with him did you,” the man said. “They never stop trying to get our people. That was hell. Down yonder, is heaven.”
“Can, I bring Red in there?”
“Absolutely, the weekly blues jam is just getting ready to get started,” said the man, who suddenly sprouted the wings of an angel.
“What about my Old Lady? “ the Old Bluesman asked. “Will she be okay? She was a real good woman to me.”
“Oh, don’t worry about her,” the angel said. “In fact, I hear tell you’ll be seeing her real soon.”
That made the Old Bluesman feel better.
As he walked through the Pearly Gates, the Old Bluesman could hear the familiar sounds of guitars being tuned up.
He walked toward the sounds and came to a juke joint-looking building with a sign out front that said, “Blues Heaven: All Jammers Welcome.”
One by one, his friends from the old days in Detroit came up to greet him. There was Mr. Bo, Willie D. Warren, Little Junior Cannaday, Uncle Jessie White, and Duke Dawson, just to name a few.
Then his good friend Johnnie Bassett, still wearing his trademark cap, stepped forward and extended his hand.
“’I haven’t been up here too long,” Johnnie said, “but I think you’re gonna like it. What you wanna play?”
The Old Bluesman, overcome with joy, thought for a moment and said, “Give me a slow blues in G.”
Luther Keith is a Detroit Blues Society Board member and performs with the Luther Badman Keith Blues Band. You may contact him by commenting below or emailing to email@example.com.
About the Author: