In the House of Orange and Blues
Photo courtesy of Scott Fillmer – http://scottfillmer.com
I blame Pandora.com for what follows. The website is aptly named. Once opened, the opulent wealth of 20th Century music swirls out to consume me and I lose myself in a whirlwind of songs from my youth, unable to stop the incessant flow of musical memories as they play across my headphones. Sometimes I’ll listen to old favorites, drifting gently on the memories that flood my working day. Other times I’ll swim a little upstream, further into the recesses and history of the music I remember, switching genres as I do my work, seeking the root and origin of sounds, rhythms, melodies, oblivious to the office banter that passes back and forth across the cubical walls.
Today I opened my “Rhythm and Blues” channel while reading this quote by Coach Gus Malzahn – “The best rhythm that we’ve had since I’ve been back,..” and it got me thinking.
Abraham Lincoln called the Mississippi River the ‘Father of Waters.’ Those waters drain from tributaries in thirty states and two Canadian provinces. The paths they follow are the primary arteries of America. As those waters combine and swirl past Memphis they meander through the rich smoky black soil of the Delta region and enter the aorta of our musical heartland and the cultural nexus of our nation’s acoustic soul. Nearly all modern American popular music channels through that muddy expanse and enriches the flow and pulse of our lives. Their roots trail down the scrubby banks, dip into the loamy mud and into that deep current of creativity known as Rhythm and Blues.
The sounds and patterns that first blossomed in the Delta region have been transformed by a rainbow of artists into a kaleidoscope of intermingled sounds and genres that we now know as Rock and Roll, Country, Soul, Funk, Pop, Rap, Hip Hop, and Modern Jazz. It is the cement that binds together the great American music cities of Nashville, Memphis, Bakersfield, Austin, Kansas City, Chicago, New Orleans, and Detroit. Guitar players around the world attribute their inspiration to them, from the youngest teenager strumming his first chord to the modern day giants of musical expression. Modern singers, songwriters and sound poets are often merely copying the original raw emotive quality of the genre, resonating the pathos, joy and passions of those lonely men and women who emerged from soul crushing poverty, discrimination and hopelessness of the Deep South to create a unique and entirely American musical art form.
As I read Coach Malzahn’s quote and heard that distinctive pulse of mid-century Southern music my mind began to wander on the nature of the coming season. I felt my foot tapping out rhythms to match each game of the season, and the sounds that were brought to mind were rich with soul, deep with meaning, and filled with that raw, smokey and velvety elixir of emotion.
“The Blues ain’t nothin’ but a good woman on your mind.” – Mississippi John Hurt
Or a good game on a Saturday afternoon in Auburn,….
(Click on each title to open a window to a recording on YouTube)
Washington State at Auburn – Boogie Chillin by John Lee Hooker
“One night I was layin’ down,
I heard mama ‘n papa talkin’
I heard papa tell mama, let that boy boogie-woogie,
It’s in him, and it got to come out
And I felt so good,
Went on boogie’n just the same”
The start of our season begins with John Lee Hooker’s gravelly voice and relentless staccato chords that match the raw pace and tempo of the Hurry Up No Huddle offense. As he says in the lyrics, it’s time to let the boys boogie. They’ve got it in them, and it’s got to come out as we chase Mike Leach and his cougars all the way back to Pullman.
Arkansas State at Auburn – Killing Floor by Howling Wolf
“I was foolin with ya baby, I let ya put me on the killin floor.
Lord knows, I shoulda been gone.
Lord knows, I shoulda been gone.
And I wouldn’t’ve been here, down on the killin floor.”
Another quintessential twelve bar blues riff along with the distinctive voice of a famous R&B artist; Killing Floor was Howlin’ Wolf’s classic tune from 1964. The song was later a favorite of Jimmy Hendrix and copied by Robert Plant as the basis for Led Zepplin’s ‘The Lemon Song’ with different lyrics.
I chose this one because I just like the idea of Pat Dye Field being named ‘the killin floor’ of Jordan Hare Stadium. The Red Wolves ought to be howling too by the time we’re done.
Mississippi State at Auburn – Hound Dog – Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton
“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Quit snoopin’ ’round my door
You can wag your tail
But I ain’t gonna feed you no more”
The sexual innuendo inherent in this song were barely touched by Elvis Presley in his more famous rendition that was sanitized for the radio public. Big Mama Thornton’s bare emotions dominate in this classic 1952 hit of a woman throwing a man out of her house and life. That same raw quality and sultry singing style was picked up by a host of female singers over the years including Janice Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, and Tracy Chapman.
Dan Mullen and his dogs will get the same treatment at Auburn. They’ll have to shift for themselves somewhere else. They’ll be thrown out hungry and penniless too.
Auburn at LSU – Got my Mojo Workin by Muddy Waters
“I’m going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
I’m going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
I’m gonna have all you women right here at my command
Got my mojo working
Got my mojo working
Got my mojo working
Got my mojo working
Got my mojo working, but it just won’t work on you”
The Father of Chicago Blues and his call and response guitar and harmonica version was the first of many for this classic song that is #359 on Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Songs of All Time.
It’s no offense to Beyonce’, Kanye. Chill out.
The Auburn Tigers will need every bit of Mojo working in Baton Rouge. Tiger stadium is a tough gig for anyone to play, even the great Muddy Waters. Let’s hope Malzahn’s Mojo is good enough to win another.
Open Date – Mess Around – Ray Charles
“Now this band’s goin’ to play from, 9 to 1
Everybody here’s gonna have some fun
Doin’ the mess around
Ah, doin’ the mess around
They doin’ the mess around,
Everybody doin’ the mess around”
Ray Charles’s classic boogie piano riff symbolizes a much welcomed break in Auburn’s schedule as the first month of college football comes to a close.
It’s time for the boys to let their hair down and mess around a bit,..so long as it’s legal and they’re back to practice the next week getting ready for Ole Miss.
Ole Miss at Auburn – Bye Bye Bird by Sonny Boy Williamson and,…
One of the most influential Blues Harmonica artist and songwriter of his era on a classic soulful tune symbolizes Hugh Freeze’s spread offense at Ole Miss – a dynamic and intricate blend of tempo and style that is the root of a new era of College Football.
Whammer Jammer/Hard Drivin Man by J. Geils Band (Magic Dick)
But I believe the HUNH offense is the future of College football and that tempo will surpass even the success of the spread. Magic Dick performs an homage to Sonny Boy Williamson in the J. Geils Band’s classic Whammer Jammer that has been often copied, but never surpassed. If you listen closely at the beginning, I think you’ll hear Coach Malzahn in a dialogue with Magic Dick – “Are you going to get Crazy tonight?”
If that’s not him, it’s at least someone speaking at the same speed.
“Bye Bye Bird, I’m gone”
Along with the Rebel Bears with the taste of a loss on their palette, because Coach Malzahn is a ‘Hard Drivin Man’.
Western Carolina at Auburn – I Feel Good by James Brown
” I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would, now
So good, so good, I got you”
The Godfather of Soul is right with the Auburn Tigers this week. This is a feel good game for the home crowd and a chance for the second team to show us what they’ve got.
Auburn at Texas A&M – Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry
“The people passing by, they would stop and say
Oh my that little country boy could play”
Despite what else is right or wrong in his life, Johnny Manziel can play the game of football. The great Chuck Berry gives us a reminder of the danger that awaits us in College Station. This will be a true test of the 2013 Tigers and we’ll need every bit of hard driving tempo Chuck can lend us to contend with the natural talent of Johnny Football.
Photo courtesy of Amblin Entertainment
Perhaps we can get Marty McFly to help out as well and take us back in time to those staunch road-warrior Auburn defenses of the Tuberville and Pat Dye eras.
Florida Atlantic at Auburn – Who do you love? by Bo Diddly
“I walk 47 miles of barbed wire,
I use a cobra-snake for a necktie,
I got a brand new house on the roadside,
Made from rattlesnake hide,
I got a brand new chimney made on top,
Made out of a human skull,
Now come on take a walk with me, Arlene,
And tell me, who do you love? “
Bo Diddly leads us back to Auburn at the end of the second month of College Football to welcome the Florida Atlantic Owls with his classic ‘Whooo do you Love?’ Perhaps we can add a chimney on the side of Jordan Hare Stadium with a skull on it.
Our Bo knows Diddly. Maybe he can convince the R&B giant to look down from Rock and Roll heaven onto Pat Dye Field with those dark Foster Grants and give the Tigers some love?
Auburn at Arkansas – Hog Killing Time by Eddie Kirk
“Everybody get together
and have a hog-killing good time”
Eddie Kirkland’s thumb did more for modern music than any other digit in history, taking the ‘porch blues’ pick style of the Delta and transforming it for the electric guitar. The “Gypsy of the Blues” was a friend, backup and road manager of John Lee Hooker.
This one picked itself. I could think of no other artist or song that fit how the Tigers are going to welcome Bret Bielema into the SEC. I wonder what he’ll think of the league at the end of the season?
Auburn at Tennessee – Shake Rattle and Roll by Big Joe Turner
“I get over the hill and way down underneath
I get over the hill and way down underneath
You make me roll my eyes, even make me grit my teeth
I said shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll
Shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll
Well, you won’t do nothin’ to save your doggone soul”
The big sound of Joe Turner with this classic Kansas City blues tune is impressive. As a ‘shouter’ the size of a modern day defensive lineman, he would regularly perform without amplification and his booming baritone could be heard in the back of every club in KC. Bill Haley’s sanitized version of this song propelled him to stardom and Rock and Roll to center of popular culture, but it was Joe Turner that started it rolling.
The “Boss of the Blues” will take the Tigers up the hill of Rocky Top and shake, rattle and roll over the Volunteers in Knoxville. I expect no less than a Ronnie Brown treatment of the Tennessee defense as Auburn chalks up another win.
Georgia at Auburn – Georgia on my Mind as sung by Ray Charles
“I’m say Georgia
A song of you
Comes as sweet and clear
As moonlight through the pines”
Try as I might, I just can’t avoid Ray Charles’ signature rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s sentimental swing tune of a previous era. This one song typifies the power of Rhythm and Blues as both a wellspring and an enhancement of musical creativity. Despite the two decades between authorship and Ray’s performance, and all the years since this record was cut, the two artists are inextricably linked and remembered as one. I can never hear this song by any other performer without immediately thinking of the great Ray Charles.
A win over Georgia would definitely sugar the season for the Tigers, like an old sweet song and moonlight through the pines.
Open Date – Lean on Me by Bill Withers
“Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on”
The final break in the season before the Iron Bowl brings back memories of the magical 2010 season and the team song that was sung after every game. Bill Wither’s Soul classic was less a team builder than a reflection of the team chemistry already established.
It will always be remembered a signature song for the 2010 championship team.
Alabama at Auburn – Boom, boom, boom boom by John Lee Hooker
“Boom boom boom boom
I’m gonna shoot you right down,
right offa your feet
Take you home with me,
put you in my house
Boom boom boom boom
A-haw haw haw haw
Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm
Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm”
I return to John Lee Hooker for the Iron Bowl. His foot stomp accompaniment to this song was legendary, and can be detected even in the most amplified version I ever heard. In that rhythm I hear the heartbeat of the HUNH offense – boom, boom, boom boom. The four ‘booms’ also represent what I feel Auburn needs to do in the Iron Bowl to win – score four touchdowns. Nick Saban’s Alabama teams rarely win when an opponent can score four touchdowns (they’re 2-5 since 2008), and the HUNH offense is just the type to manage it.
I’m calling it now. Auburn WILL score four TDs and knock Alabama out of the national championship race. It will earn Gus Malzahn national acclaim as a first year head coach in the SEC and the eternal enmity of every Tide fan ever born, hatched or ever even considered after their parents consumed a case and a half of warm Natural Light Beer. Each.
To that end, I’ll just submit my answer to the Tide fans for Coach Malzahn now:
“You’re welcome. The feeling’s mutual.”
As to the bowl game, I’ll wait until I know our opponent and the stakes before I venture a guess. If we don’t go to a bowl this year, then I’ll just share One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer with my old friend John Lee Hooker.
Special thanks to photographer Scott Fillmer for the use of his photograph of Jordan Hare Stadium. You can find other amazing shots of game days at Auburn at his website: http://scottfillmer.com