When Murky Rivers ‘perched in his clogs’ it felt as though the sun went into hiding. Old Murky fell over and died, right slap in the middle of, ‘don’t choke me mama’. The blues guitarist was such a stalwart at the Oily Pie club that not having him around anymore was simply unthinkable.
Even at 70 years of age, Murky was a magnet for women. He loved his female players and they loved him. In fact, JJ, was Murky’s favourite drummer. Every Saturday, at the club, while Murky stroked those hoochy coochy rhythms, JJ stoked the skins. It was truly electrifying and the audience loved it.
Murky had taught many a good riff to his female blues players. He even showed his famous curved lick to the young Bonnie Baby, an aspiring guitarist, who none of the other players took seriously. Bonnie, or BB as they called her, simply adored Murky. She even harboured notions of living with him as his wife on Tuggs Island. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Upon Murky’s demise, the Oily Pie Club All Stars Band felt the need to play tribute to the man they considered a legend. The club committee held a meeting to decide where the tribute should happen. Everyone agreed that Murky was deserving of a grand exit. What could be grander than the Royal Albert Hall? Chairman of the committee, Reggie Rej, who considered himself Murky’s best mate, (for reasons which no one could understand), made the announcement.
‘Good news folks. On behalf of Murky, this year’s blues fest promoter, Ron Beard, is willing to give us a slot at the RAH.’
The ‘RAH’ for those of you who don’t know, is Reggie’s abbrevo for the Royal Albert. The club committee clapped their hands in glee.
‘How did you pull that one off Rej?’ Someone asked
Reggie tapped his nose with his forefinger. ‘Never you mind mate, suffice to say, I know people.’
The committee members look at one another. Everyone was in awe of Reggie at that moment. His ‘difficult’ personality was forgotten, and no one thought to recall his cruel remarks about poor old Murky going down hill. An unspoken enquiry hovered in the air. For the longest time, no one had the nerve to pose the all important question. Who would be playing with Reggie at the RAH? After much mumbling between themselves, and endless compliments to Reggie for his brilliant manouvre in acquiring a slot at the Albert, one of the committee members spoke up. It was Murky’s old friend and admirer, Alf the Owl.
‘So, who’s going to be playing at the Albert then?’ Alf the Owl asked Reggie, looking him square in the eye.
Before answering the question, Reggie took a sip of his pint. He cleared his throat before saying, ‘In light of the fact that I myself sourced the venue for Murky’s tribute, and given my influence in the music world .. ‘ there was a muted snickering. Reggie tossed his ponytail, he composed himself before continuing .. ‘so, given my role in organising the event, naturally, I will be expected to perform on Murky’s behalf.’
There was a general mutter of half-hearted agreement.
On the night in question, the Oily Pie was decked out proper with white and pink bunting, and Dennis’s favourite midnight-snack, magic mushrooms, was represented by luminous plastic mushrooms hanging upside-down from the ceiling.
Sadly, a promising event turned into a psychedelic horror story.
The stars arrived; first Reggie Stone, sleek as a lizard. He strolled up to the mic strumming a few chords. Out of the dark hollows, a triple-F-cup flew at the stage, straps snagging in the strings of Reggie’s guitar strings.
A gruff voice called out, “I love ya, Reggie!”
“I love ya too, darlin” Reggie growled, looking puzzled as he peeled the massive bra from his shoulders, quite gingerly, not knowing if it was a male or a female garment I expect
JJ and me sat next to the stage, peering around at the audience with their Murky River hats, Reggie displayed Murky’s handsome guitar with its mother-of-pearl neck, the one Murky had bequeathed him in his will, or so Reggie claimed. Reggie crooned some blues numbers, Dickie Potter shuffled around on his base guitar. A fat boy with acne, ‘Hercules’ , sat in on drums, making a pigs ear of the rhythm.
‘That should be me on those drums!’ Wailed Jo. ‘I asked Reggie to give me the drums. He promised!’
Poor Jo, she was utterly bereft. ‘Why is that fat pimply kid sitting up there?’ She raged.
Reggie told stories about his blues mate, Murky was an alcoholic, with epilepsy. He said that after a night’s boozing, poor Murk often had the shakes, he shook real bad, Reggie said in a faux-Southern drawl.
I looked at the hallucinogenic image hovering over the stage. Probably more fun for Murky being that hologram than the flesh and blood version, I reckoned. We waited for the razzle-dazzle from guitar-legend Potter, but he was keeping his head down low, playing it safe. The night belonged to Reggie. Dick wasn’t about to step out of line with any fancy displays. Hercules was missing the grooves; his playing sounded drunk or stoned.
‘Play properly, son of a bitch!’ Screamed Jo, leaning over the balustrade.
I was mortified. ‘Jesus Christ, Jo! People are looking!!’
But Jo wasn’t having it. ‘Laying eight and quarter notes on two and four! Is that the best he can do?’
‘Do I detect jealousy?’ I asked.
‘Damn right! I’m a professional. That kid is fresh out of grade 5!’
It was true enough. I looked at Dickie’s nephew, wiping his nose in his sleeve.’
‘I know all the frickin’ faggots!!’ Jo screamed. She listed the ‘faggots’ on her fingers. ‘Mickie Bucknall, Reggie Stone, Pat Boots!! What’s this shit? The fricken nancy boy’s club!?’
‘Damn right!’ I said, ‘You’re the Queen of the Funkin Drums, not that faggoty kid!’
‘You bet your ass I am! I could wipe the floor with these bozos!’
‘Should’ve slept with Reggie,’ I told her. ‘You’d be up there now instead of Hercules!’
‘Not worth the STD, ‘ Jo said. ‘That Reggie Knight was a rebel back in the days, look at him now! The Knight of the living dead.’
Hercules screwed up again on the drums.
Jo went ballistic. ‘Enough of this torture!’
Jo was off like a rocket, pushing her way through the crowds, determined to get onstage.
I saw her barrelling past the security goon, nutting him in the groin. Dickie Potter was crunching away up front, oblivious to the action going on behind him on stage. Jo yanked the kid off the tins. A brief struggle ensued but Hercules soon lost interest and wobbled down off the stage to be with his girl in the front row. The audience went wild, thinking it was part of the act!
and the hall erupted into a sound of thumping feet reverberated throughout the auditorium. Up on the ceiling, the pink mushrooms wobbled dangerously – Jo smashed into the skins and the crowd were ecstatic. Poor Dickie slid around the stage, his skinny legs desperately trying to keep up with the satanic beat of the drum.
No one expected it when he exploded. Literally. Potter, always a nutcase, and off the wall, had had sparklers and firecrackers hidden in his leather vest, and here everyone thought he’d put on a bit ofg weight.
He shrieked, before turning into an effervescent storm of atomic particles ,drifting like spectral confetti over a hushed auditorium. The crowd went wild!! It was the best performance ever and well worthy of old Murky.
by Jj an Alicat Ru
Writer based in London