Tickling the keys at this year's sunny Long Beach Blues Festival was a sweet piece of living history, a guy born in 1913, one of the last living blues greats.
Pinetop Perkins replaced legendary piano player Otis Spann in Muddy Waters' band in 1969. He played with Muddy for twelve years. In 1980 he and other Waters alumni formed the Legendary Blues Band.
This cat has been around for a long time. He even has a state marker in his name by the side of the road in Mississippi.
What's impressive about Pinetop, though, is not just that he's alive at nearly a hundred years old or even that he plays at this age. Or that he still looks so good.....Man! It's that he is very much alive and turned on. His playing is tender and friendly, evoking a quilt of community and reverence as he delivers classic songs in a mellow, settled way.
Pinetop knows how to ride the crest of the wave. He's 95 years old. He tours, plays piano and sings. He has a website with digital downloads and a MySpace page with YouTube videos. He records. In his 80s, he went solo. His new release, Pinetop Perkins and Friends, is coming out on Telarc in June 2008.
I came to the festival today to see Pinetop.
Early on, I decided I probably wouldn't get a chance to meet him in person.
But then i felt it about an hour after his set -that scientifically unacnowledged sense that someone's attention is focused on you. I turned to see Pinetop pointing directly at me. Totally out of the blue. I did one of those movie scene bits, scanning over my shoulder to see if it was actually I he meant. Boy did i feel it. Everything around me stood still and i walked right to him. His mojo was working strong.
Perhaps a bit of a scoundrel like Muddy, his charm is hypnotic. He reached out to me and said 'I like you, pretty girl'. He gently took my hand in his, a customary introduction, and we just held hands there for some long minutes.
His hands are sensitive and firm, his fingers long and soft. Guitarist buddy Bob Margolin warned me later to watch those hands of Pinetop's which like to travel.
We locked eyes. The brown was right here with me, the blue layer beckoned company from a time afar. I tried for something like conversation - we covered his great performance and where he was headed next - then he declared he wanted to steal me away. My husband turned up and that's when, i swear, those mesmerizing eyes - big blue and brown rings with hugely dilated pupils - turned off and Pinetop looked away. He'd had enough. Party over.
Check out his story and more:
A snippet of How Long
Luxury Grace's comments: "I like his tie."