Remembering Pinetop Perkins
The week was a blur of music and culture-filled days and nights, and insane allergies from the thick layer of pollen coating everything in the state. But I do remember my husband John stepping into the elevator of the Omni hotel with Billy Idol and Billy’s bodyguard asking him to “give us some room” while nodding toward the door. I remember my coworker, upon hearing that Ereland Oye was a table away from us in the bar, saying “Oh, is that who that is? I’ve been calling him Napoleon Dynamite.” I remember watching the Ditty Bops and the Raveonettes play tiny private shows of 100 people, and seeing The Dears and The Bravery do an instore performance at Waterloo. I remember sitting through discussions on the future of the music industry and popping my head into the “Managing your Hepatitis C” workshop given at the conference since so many industry vets have the disease. I remember watching my friend Rich walk through fountains in his motorcycle boots and mixing Jack Daniels with my allergy drugs. It was a crazy week.
But most of all I remember hanging out at the Phoenix show, watching Eric Balfour from Six Feet Under hit on some girl while the band Stars sang along to every song behind me. And there, in the hallway to the bathroom sat Pinetop Perkins, a 92-year-old Delta Blues musician, Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner, and inductee to the Blues Hall of Fame. This frail looking old man, with nearly 100 years of wisdom and genius and pain behind his eyes was sitting on a little wooden crate with a handwritten sign in front of him saying “Grammy winner. Cds 15 bucks.” And all these hipster kids were just walking past him on their way to the bathroom, completely unaware there was a living legend in their midst.
It wasn’t just that my company was in charge of his album distribution that left me horrified at the sight of him sitting there. I would probably have been more than a little disturbed by any nearly-ancient person sitting practically on the floor of a crowded show where they could be trod on by drunk 20-somethings. John pointed out that he had probably been sitting on little wooden crates for much of his life and he might not see any reason to change that now. But, busy body that I am, I approached him saying, “Mr. Perkins? Sir? Might you be more comfortable in a chair?” He looked at me with those big, brown, milky eyes as if I was speaking Chinese and replied with a, “No, ma’am.” At this point, the hipsters were getting annoyed that I was crouching in the hallway, so I stood up then dropped again for just a few seconds more. “I love your work, Sir. It’s an honor to meet you.” Then, shaking his hand, I turned away, and scurried back into the pulse of the night.