The Book… ‘One night in February 2012, my friend Kyle (he’s a lawyer who looks like Buddy Holly) and I were crawling the bars of Clarksdale, Mississippi. We walked into Red’s Blues Club on Sunflower Avenue, and saw an obese black man drinking alone. Kyle and I bought drinks and then engaged in conversation with the large dude, who quickly […]
‘One night in February 2012, my friend Kyle (he’s a lawyer who looks like Buddy Holly) and I were crawling the bars of Clarksdale, Mississippi. We walked into Red’s Blues Club on Sunflower Avenue, and saw an obese black man drinking alone. Kyle and I bought drinks and then engaged in conversation with the large dude, who quickly established that we were tourists.
“Yo’ ain’t gonna see the real blues,” he said. “Clarksdale ain’t nothin’ but a blues theme park for white folks. It ain’t the real blues.”
It was short conversation. One of us (probably me) asked one question too many, at which the large dude promptly stood up and walked out of the bar.
Later that night, and after several beers, Kyle said, “You know, that whole scene in Red’s would make a great opening to a story.“
I got to thinking what the man had said about the real blues, and wondered how a modern day white, middle-aged blues tourist would react to seeing the blues as it was played in 1930s Mississippi.
Thus Fat Man Blues was conceived.
“HoboJohn” is an English blues enthusiast on a pilgrimage to present-day Mississippi. One night in Clarksdale he meets the mysterious Fat Man, who offers him the chance to see the real blues of the 1930s. Unable to refuse, Hobo John embarks on a journey through the afterlife in the company of Travellin’ Man, an old blues guitarist who shows him the sights, sounds and everyday life in the Mississippi Delta. Along the way, the Englishman discovers the harsh realities behind his romantic notion of the music he loves and the true price of the deal that he has made.
Fat Man Blues has been adapted to screenplay for a feature film, and there is a storyboard for a 10-episode TV series.
I wrote a poem about the story of Fat Man Blues (condensing 300 pages into 48 lines). American writer, Michael Clark very kindly narrated it for me.
Fat Man Blues
Well I was sitting in a juke joint In Clarksdale, Mississippi, Just minding my own business And getting high on booze When in walked this old white boy Said his accent came from England Said he’d come to Mississippi Come to see the delta blues
I said there ain’t no delta blues Down here in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Cos it ain’t nothin’ but a theme park For white folks just like you But if you come along with me I can show you all the good stuff Where life’s like what it was When they played the real blues
So then I dropped some names Like Charley Patton, Robert Johnson And the white boy looked at me Like something just come loose He said all those boys are dead I said that’s a matter of opinion And then I made an offer That he could not refuse
See, the white boy had a poison That was growing deep inside him And I knew his clock was ticking Knew his time would soon run out So I laid it on the table Told him I could fix his problem If he’d come along with me There was never any doubt
So I took out all the poison And we met up at the crossroads And I tuned the white boy’s gittar And I said the deal was done Then I took him back in time To 1930s Mississippi Where he walked the delta land And went looking for some fun
Now White Boy he was happy To be walkin’ Mississippi What he don’t know didn’t hurt him He thought he’d nothin’ left to lose But be careful what you wish for Cos the devil’s in the detail And you better read the small print Of the Fat Man Blues