Saturday, July 21, 2012


Here's the scene:  The Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago, owned by Buddy Guy, in 1981.  Muddy Waters is doing a rare gig back in the South Side, where he came to fame with his electric version of Delta blues in the 50's.  Everybody wants to be in the small club that night, and as fate would have it, The Rolling Stones were in the area on their tour.  Let the games begin!

Here's what it's not:  The DVD isn't a full night of Muddy fronting the Stones.  It's a Muddy set, with want amounts to a stage invasion of musicians.  Not all the Stones are there, but Mick, Keith, Ronnie and pianist Ian Stewart are.  Or rather, they arrive four songs in, they and their entourage commandeering the front table, immediately commanding the attention of the cameras there to capture the night (and you knew they were coming).  Muddy doesn't mind being momentarily upstaged by their arrival, he knows the score, and knows they're coming on stage soon.  It's all cool.

Mick stays up for four songs, Keith and Ronnie get called up shortly after Mick, and stay there the whole night, playing some decent riffs.  But midway through the set, it gets way too crowded, when Muddy invites three more blues men on stage:  Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and Chicago mainstay Lefty Dizz.  There's way too many front men fighting for the mic now, so Mick skips out, and Muddy takes a seat too, beaming from the front row as his disciples entertain him.

The highlight of the show is the time when Muddy and Mick are sparring.  By then they were old friends, and Waters surely knew the younger Brit idolized him.  Clearly enjoying themselves, both goad each other on, accenting and repeating each other's lines.  By the time they get to Mannish Boy, Muddy's so pumped he jumps up and strolls the stage, all of a sudden 30 years younger.  Two years after this night, he was gone.

The rest feels like a denouement, and although Ron, Keith and Ian stay on stage, it's really an unrehearsed jam set that features Guy, Wells and Dizz as singers.  This probably isn't the best way to get introduced to Lefty Dizz, who was beloved on Chicago club scene and a dynamic showman, but here seems like an unknown interloper in a crowd of kings.  However, all the Chicago cats thought he was an equal, such was his status.  Most of us, however, are here for the Stones.  Mick and Muddy come up for one more, and clown around on Waters' Champagne And Reefer, before the night is done for them and us.

So it's not a stunning night of music, more a historic meeting for stargazers.  But it looks like a great party, and it would have been amazing to be there.  Thank goodness someone thought to hire the camera crew, and it's good the Stones are loosening up on archive stuff like this.  It may not be everyone's best night, but it's a fun watch for sure.

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