Documentary which joins ex-hobo and festival favourite bluesman Seasick Steve on a trip back to the juke joints, roadside diners and freight-train yards of America's Deep South.
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Don't you hear the music?
I hear it.
'Would you please welcome Seasick Steve!' CHEERING
'Born in Oakland, California, spent a lot of time in Tennessee.
'Now living in Norway.'
'He's been a hobo, a cowboy, a busker.'
'A one-man blues orchestra.'
'You will not see another man as emotive as this.'
'Everyone's Talkin' About The Blues from Seasick Steve.'
'The unique Seasick Steve!'
# I went down to the crossroads
# Fell down on my knees... #
We're just outside of Clarksdale.
I've been living away from America for a long time now.
When I come here, I go on a search for...
looking for my past a little bit and stuff like that.
Also, I always get inspired again.
I don't know what it is, something like triggers me
and it's like I get recharged a little bit
to play my crazy music.
# I went down to the crossroads
# Tried to flag a ride... #
I can't think of myself as a blues player,
I just know I liked this kind of music since I was a kid.
All that blues music come from
a really tight area around here, you know.
They all either lived here or come from here, you know.
Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson
and people like John Lee Hooker.
For me, this place is thick in the air with that history.
I just come down here and it affects me, you know.
The minute I cross over that Mississippi state line
I feel different.
Mississippi and some parts of Tennessee,
they're just in a funny way like
how America used to be, you know.
A lot of America don't look the same no more.
Literally, they tore down everything and built shopping malls.
But here this place looks old and funky.
I know that the America that I remember
and used to write about, it just ain't there no more.
But that's all right.
You know, I ain't the same person no more either
but you know, I's looking for it.
There's Hopson over there on the right.
Right there is a famous plantation, boy.
This is the stopping point for... A lot of old bluesmen
actually worked there, like Pinetop Perkins, Robert Clay
and people like Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton
had some times there. It seems unreal
these people would go and work and on the weekend,
in one of these places out here, they'd have a little party
and that would be where the blues is being played.
Hotter than a firecracker. Wowee.
Hard to imagine picking cotton when it's this hot.
Oh, man, a ten- or 12-hour day leaning over.
It's a hard world.
This here is Juke Joint Chapel. That's what they call it.
And it is like an old cotton gin.
They made it into kind of like a club,
a concert place.
Me and Cedric and Malcolm,
Cedric Burnside and Lightning Malcolm said we're gonna play,
we're just gonna set up and play.
We've got all these funny signs around.
We've got all the iron corrugated and like a little stage up here.
Look at big old bug. It's a big old mosquito.
Yeah, this place is funky.
# All my life I been in the dog house
# I guess that just where I belong
# That just the way the dice roll
# Do my dog house song
# It ain't the kinda blues ya have for one day
# Ya have it ya whole life long
# Ya got ta be a professional
# To sing the dog house song
# Sing the dog house
# Sing the dog house
# Aoooh! The dog house
# Sing the dog house song!... #
My girl, she said, "You been sitting here in the front room
"playing this ... for 25 years,
"but I don't want you in the front room so go in the kitchen
"and record some songs for me before you drop over it."
So I went in there and recorded the song
and then this friend of mine over in England he called me up.
"Have you been recording?"
I says, "Yeah, I made some stuff for my girl, I'll send it."
They made that into a record and then I got all famous.
That record sold over 100,000 records.
-Yeah, I made it in the kitchen. In the kitchen.
Now I'm gonna tell you my story.
My mom an' dad broke up when I was four years old.
When I was seven, she went and got herself a stepdaddy.
He was all right for a while.
But the stepdaddy went, "Oh, what handsome young boys you have."
So after they got married,
the boy started beating us a little bit.
And one day, he come into my bedroom
and he threw me through the window.
I packed my ... and left.
I was 14 years old.
But I figured I'd do better on my own.
Things turned out all right. Look at me now.
I don't know why things were so bad.
They're all right now.
I just gonna keep playin' my dog house blues, yeah!
# Sing the dog house song
# Aoooh!... #
'Just in the last six months or a year
'all of a sudden I can do whatever I want, all of a sudden, you know.'
It's like one of them Candid Camera things.
All of a sudden, they go "We're taking all your money away now,
"go back and live under a bridge."
I'm gonna wake up and this'll all be like some dream.
I wasn't even here.
A hobo is someone who travels but looks for work.
And a tramp is someone who travels but doesn't want wanna work.
A bum is someone who doesn't travel and doesn't look for work.
I have been all three.
I had a real bad family life
and I needed to get away.
I wasn't great at school
and I wasn't great at the guitar.
But what I got real great at is wandering around.
A professional wanderer.
I mean, I know it sounds silly, but that's a skill.
You gotta be resourceful, willing to ask where to go to work,
find places to sleep and also I just had my wits about me
so I didn't killed or beat up or hurt somehow, you know.
But I've always been, like, an optimist, you know,
I always think things are gonna be better.
I think when you travel, if you always think it's gonna be better
in the next town, over the next hill it's a good thing.
I can smell bread. I'm hungry like a dog.
That's the one thing in America, man.
You can get yourself a good breakfast.
When times are good and there's food to eat, I eat it.
So now I'm eating, I'm gonna turn into a big round person.
You got your secret notepad with you?
I know what I want by heart.
Eggs over easy,
some hash browns,
a side of grits
and bacon and wheat toast.
That was a bit of fun last night, though.
Just a little bit of a play out in the middle of nowhere.
Just got some friends together.
I don't get to do that too much now, you know.
Like I could have gone into a club in Chicago
with all these, like, normal blues players,
they would just think it's some nonsense,
but with Cedric and Malcolm and those guys, they play
sort of one chord, let's go play for eight hours kind of music.
If I'm here by myself, I would've been outta here in 15 minutes.
I eat and leave.
I don't know why I cannot remember the name of this place.
I can't remember lots of things.
Where I am at now? This doesn't look like the place.
Shoot. Have I passed it talking to you all?
The problem with me now is I've got so many towns in my brain.
They've started to turn into one international town.
My direction finder is all messed up now.
Which one's home?
There ain't no home.
That's the truth, there ain't no home.
I wish there was a home.
I surely do.
Just one place, I could say to you...
That's your home... I drove right by when I was talking to you all.
I cannot believe it, man.
Dumb as a box of rocks.
My favourite John Deere.
Why do you wear John Deere hats?
I don't know.
I like 'em.
I like their tractors.
I'm a walking advertisement but they just don't know it.
This is what I wanted.
How often do you get a new hat, Steve?
Apparently, not often enough.
What's that red one up there?
Give me one of them too.
I want to get me a tractor.
Some people when they get money want to buy a boat or a fancy sports car.
I'm gonna get me a tractor.
Yeah, that'll look nice.
-You have a deal, man.
This is what you've always worn?
Some people might be thinking this is your kind of stage outfit.
Oh, yeah? All they have to do is come to my house
or come with me when I go to the grocery store.
I don't have any other clothes.
Nope. This is all I got.
Memphis - 45 miles.
Now we're in the heart of the Mississippi hill country, coming into Como.
Ain't much in Como, just one street.
This is the end of the town that has nice houses.
I don't know what people do out here, though.
There ain't nothing going on in this town.
But this is where Mississippi Fred McDowell lived.
We used to work at the gas station.
The town just on the right over here,
if you blink you're gonna pass it.
CHURCH BELLS CHIME
That's it. One street.
Yeah, we're on the way to Sherman. Bring back the three-string guitar.
This guitar only got three strings on it.
I bought this guitar from a friend of mine, Sherman, down in Como, Mississippi.
He called me on the phone and goes,
"Steve, man, I got you the most amazing guitar."
These three strings is what it had on it.
And they ain't even the right strings. They're in the wrong place.
I said, "What do you want for the guitar, Sherman?"
He goes, "I want 75 bucks."
But he told me the day before he paid 25 for it.
Sherman's family have been on this farm since before the Civil War.
That's a long time ago.
What's up, Sherman?
I got the land yacht.
What's going on?
-I'm hanging in there, Sherman.
-Oh, you remember Peter?
How's it going, man?
-You're growing a beard.
That's a good thing to have.
-That one right there.
-I don't like ticks.
-Let me get this. I got this horse spray.
And they say it works good. I don't know.
You don't know if it works yet?
God damn, I knew coming out here I'd get something nasty growing on me.
This'll probably help a lot of things on me(!)
Up in Arkansas, man, they're having like a plague of ticks in the trees.
Tree ticks. They come down and drop on you.
-This is the worst year I've ever seen.
You're a nasty little dog. He's full of ticks.
You're gonna laugh at this.
That's cool, man.
It says, "Paid 75 for this guitar from Sherman Cooper, Como, Mississippi."
This guitar, Sherman, it's, like, worth so much money now.
Not because it got any better, but just cos it got famous.
We gotta take this back and hang it back on your wall, Sherman,
so it can come back home.
This is my trademark now.
This guitar has done me the greatest favour in my whole life.
This thing got a mojo you don't even believe.
I come out and put this up and people scream.
You know what, this is kind of a mysterious place, anyway.
This happened before.
-Yeah, things I bring here...
-Go out in the world and do things.
-I'll be damned.
How much do I owe you?!
We should go for a drive.
Are those new speakers there?
That's some serious speaker.
Wait till you hear it. Serious. It's too serious for this little old van.
-You're gonna shake this thing apart, Sherman.
-I'll tell you.
-You're a big music fan, Sherman?
-Yeah, man, I have been for years.
I like the blues.
# If you see my milk cow... #
Growing up on this farm,
with all the black workers out in the field picking cotton,
I'd listen to them sing. I felt at home with all that, you know?
-I started with Fred McDowell.
-You used to drive him around.
-Yeah, I used to drive him around.
I don't know about after that but that's the way I got started.
Old Fred was my buddy.
RADIO PLAYS LOUDLY
Look at this place. I bet that gas pump don't work.
-Yes, it does.
-Yes, sir, it works.
Look at this place, boy.
-That's some run-down stuff here, boy.
There's one right there. Some good old cheese. I hope you got some.
Could I have two dollars in one pack and two dollars in another pack, please, ma'am?
So, Steve, this is like the old America you like, yeah?
Oh, yeah, man. You just don't see it so much no more, you know?
You don't hardly see it no more.
-'Thanks for joining us on NBC weather.
'The big news here is that Gustav once again...'
-This is Gustav.
-When's it supposed to come on land?
-They don't really know. They say about Tuesday.
-Yeah, Tuesday morning.
They think it's gonna hit?
If it hits this side of New Orleans we could get the brunt of it,
but this is the third one I've been through.
Did your house get hurt in Katrina?
-Three years ago, yeah, I lost everything.
I've been banking on that cheese. I hope it's the same cheese.
-Thank you, ma'am. Good seeing you.
BLUES MUSIC PLAYS
Yeah, let's go to the watermelon patch.
# Lord, Lord, Lord... #
This boy is a heavy watermelon.
# Lord, Lord, Lord... #
# Ain't nobody's business... #
Now I'm ready to go, boy.
# If I do. #
Look at that. That one was ready. It had a hollow sound.
Oh, man, that's a good watermelon.
That was an unexpected pleasure.
Como, Mississippi watermelon.
You guys, thank you.
# I've been moved to Memphis
# On the Birmingham northern line
# You move so slow you'd have to be deaf and blind
# To have the train leave you behind. #
I try to look at the past in the G-rated version.
I think about it, but I just change it a little bit so it's nicer.
But I think about it when I write songs.
I think one of the most things that influenced me was all this here.
Somehow about moving.
You're not supposed to ride trains. They're not legal to ride.
You can get into a lot of trouble riding trains.
But I used to ride them. It's just a way to get around.
You don't pay no money and you can go a long way.
A nice big old jug of water and some sandwiches, something to sit on.
Getting out in the country. Get going about 40 or 50mph.
The wind blowing. It's nice.
You're going somewhere for free.
I don't know if that means so much anymore
but a long time ago that meant something.
# Listen here
# Gotta keep rollin'
# Movin' on
# No matter how many times a man goes wrong
# He ain't got no time to say goodbye
# If he ever was to stop, he'd surely die. #
When I came here in the late '60s it was pretty rough
but now it's sprung back a bit with tourism and things like that.
People coming looking for the blues and stuff like that.
When I come here back in them days I was looking for the blues.
# Man, turned out the lights. #
Back in the '20s and '30s,
all the blues guys who lived down in the Delta would come up 61.
It would take you right to Beale Street.
They'd play the streets or a club. It was a real place.
I don't know exactly what it is now.
It can't be the same cos it's all white people and everything's gone.
A lot of tourists come here cos they think this is where the blues is.
I'm sure there's some good people playing the blues on this street.
It's like Disneyland. They like their blues straight up, you know.
We start playing the old country blues, it's harder for people to understand that.
We're right outside BB King's blues club.
This place was real funky, man.
Like, drug dealers, prostitutes hanging on the street.
Look, man, you can even buy a blues toilet seat!
# Baby, you gone lost your good thing now
# Baby, you gone lost your good thing now
# The way I used to love you
# Baby, that's the way I hate you now. #
This is Prospect X-over here at the end of Prospect Lane.
# Oh, waitin' for the train
# Today, yesterday, just the same
# Oh, waitin' for the train
# Down at the end of Prospect Lane
# Oooh, hoo-hoo. #
Most of my life I've had jobs of some sort or another.
I've tried to play music and sometimes I've done all right.
Sometimes I haven't done very good at all.
I don't understand why all of a sudden I'm doing so good.
Maybe because I'm doing finally doing exactly what I want to do.
Maybe there's something in that.
I wish I would have known that like 40 years ago.
A bit of fun playing it with the trains around.
Here we go now.
# I got my ear down to the ground
# Listenin' for that rumblin' sound
# Deliver me from this town
# Today I'm gonna be homeward bound. #
I don't really wanna go sleep out under a bridge any more.
I've done all the camping I want to do for the rest of my life.
But I've missed the feeling...
of having nothing and just being able to go.
It's in my blood. I feel these trains.
They pull on me.
They pull on me.
I'm playing at this Albert Hall place.
And for me, for real,
I can't believe they let me in the place, much less let me play there.
I've seen this place only a few times.
I've never been there in my life, you know.
This is something else. It's unbelievable.
HE PLAYS "AMAZING GRACE" ON GUITAR
CHEERS AND WHISTLES
APPLAUSE AND WHISTLING
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Documentary which joins former hobo and festival favourite bluesman Seasick Steve on a trip back to his old stomping grounds in America's Deep South. Filmed in Mississippi and Tennessee, the programme follows the musician into his natural habitat of run-down juke joints, roadside diners and freight-train yards, as he reflects on his past life and recent rise to fame.
In addition to Steve's raw, stomping tunes, the soundtrack features Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Johnson, RL Burnside and BB King.