If you are anywhere near Middletown, NY on Sammy’s Birthday, November 28th make plans to be at Brian’s Backyard BBQ, ( http://www.briansbackyardbbq.com/ ) @ 3PM – until the cows come home. Sammy was born November 28th, 1928 in Winona Mississippi. Sammy is a living part of blues history and is one of the greatest singers & harmonica players to come out of Mississippi or anywhere ever. No brag just fact. Sammy at one time had Earl Hooker, Ike Turner & Albert king in his band at the same time!! Sam’s longtime friend and guitarist/bandleader, Fred “Midnight Slim) Scribner along with Brian’s Backyard BBQ put’s on this bash every year for Sammy. Lot’s of special guests are sure to be there as well.
Sammy suffered a number of strokes a few years ago and is currently residing in a nursing home in Middletown but always attends his birthday at Brian’s as well as many great musical guests. It will certainly be a Wang Dang Doodle !! Now for a story……….
In June of 2006 I pulled off a big feat, my 1st ever chance to put on a music festival was an astounding success. The 1st Annual Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival was attended by over 3000 people and the line-up was killer. (2015 marks the 10th Annual H’dale R &R).
Sleepy LaBeef, Junior Watson, Sammy, Steve Guyger w/ Filthy Rich Mac Pherson & my Buddy Bill Hunt’s band “The Rocketmen” Sammy’s regular band was not available and we were flying Junior in from California so “The Rocketmen” being so well versed in backing touring blues artist’s traveling through did their own set and then backed both Sammy & Junior expertly. Everything was stupendous.
I have so many fond memories from that week. They would include being told by so many people within a space of a few minutes that Sleepy had arrived in town……you could not miss the almost 7′ tall fellow with the cowboy hat and deep booming voice in this small town……..Sitting on the porch for a few hours talking to Junior Watson about everything under the sun…….. Steve Guyger & Filthy Rich playing a late night set in The Limerick bar after hours and a friend coming up to me with tears streaming down his face proclaiming, “This is just the best thing ever !!”. It was all very uplifting and especially so because of all the hard work that so many did to make it all happen. The fond memories would also have to include bringing Sammy to the Open Mic that I hosted for so many years every Wednesday night at the Fireside just North of Honesdale. It was on the way home from there that night though that stands out the most for some reason. Sammy stayed at my house that night and as we drove past The Wagon Wheel bar on Route 652 we noticed the parking lot was full to the brim. We decided to stop in and spread the word about the upcoming show. Anywhere you went with Sammy, when you walked into a room he would immediately be the center of attention and this was no exception. It turned out that it was Karaoke night and before long everyone was wanting Sammy to get up and try it. Believe it or not they had some Muddy Waters and Sammy did a few tunes. To hear Sammy with The Headhunters backing him up was something that I and everyone else in the joint probably never expected but it was amazing!!
The next day I took Sammy into town and we did a photo shoot in Central park for all the newspapers and such and Friday morning we got up at 3 in the morning and went on WNEP TV with Joe Snedeker to again promote the show. After leaving the station we went to “Cracker Barrel” in Wilkes Barre for breakfast, (Sammy loved eating there). The whole staff practically had seen us on television and one of them got Sammy to start playing and singing in the store part…….it was a delirious good time and we topped it off by stopping by master guitar builder Peter Florance’s house to do some more photo’s as Peter had built a guitar for us to raffle off as a fundraiser. Good times….great moogly woogly !!
I have been watching the New Documentary about Keith Richards, “Under The Influence”, a few minutes at a time while I eat lunch and breakfast. I was just moved very much by an old clip of Buddy Guy from the early sixties that was in the film. It is amazing how much we can be moved by real music. I just wish everyone knew how good the stuff they will probably never hear or see is. I have been lucky enough to have seen Buddy a few times over the years and took this photo while shooting @ the New York State Blues Festival in Syracuse in 2007. I wish I could go back in time though and see him when it was so raw like in the clip I watched today. I also loved his work as a guitarist to Muddy, Big Mama Thornton, Junior Wells and so many others. Not only was he a wild & raw frontman but was able to hang back and put a perfect bed of lettuce under the scoop of tuna of whomever he was working for.