The band Sons of Mudboy AKA Three-Legged Dog is the logical outgrowth of the super Memphis group Mudboy and the Neutrons, which I have discussed at length in the past. Sons of Mudboy consists of Steve Selvidge, Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson and Paul Taylor, and as such was the perfect group to close out Tuesday night’s celebration of the life and work of Steve’s dad Sid Selvidge. The band played an acoustic set, which was followed by a fairly lengthy documentary about Sid Selvidge in which the late singer-songwriter discussed the impact of Furry Lewis and Black culture on his music, and also where he discussed the origins of the name Mudboy and the Neutrons. Then the band Son of Mudboy came back out and closed out this most important night of Memphis music with a final electric set.
I have often wondered why West Tennessee has less of a blues culture than North Mississippi. Aside from bluesmen associated with Memphis like Gus Cannon or Furry Lewis, Brownsville’s Sleepy John Estes, or Humboldt’s Cary Tate, there’s just not that much blues in West Tennessee, and although one would expect to find bluesmen from towns like Covington, Somerville or Jackson, Tennessee, I can’t name any off the top of my head. The one town that always appeared to have a blues culture was the little town of Mason, Tennessee in Tipton County, whose row of “cafes” along Front Street was known collectively as “The Lower End.” But time hasn’t been kind to Mason either. The venerable blues club called Club Tay-May burned in the 1990’s and was never rebuilt. The oldest buildings on the Lower End are also gone, their location marked only with steps and a raised sidewalk. The three or so cafes that remain did not seem to even be open on a late Friday afternoon, and if there ever is live music in any of them, I could find no evidence of it. I decided to grab a late afternoon dinner at Bozo’s Bar B Que and head back to Memphis.
Son of Mudboy performing Furry Lewis’ “Casey Jones” live at their Mingelwood Hall gig on Wednesday, April 3, 2013. This version of “Casey Jones” is also sometimes called “On The Road Again” or “Natural Born Eastman”, and paints a rather different image of the railroad hero than the traditional ballad. The origin of the term is obscure (perhaps deriving from “easy man”) but in old Black slang, an “eastman” was a pimp, and Furry Lewis emphasized Jones as a ladies man and rambler rather than a traditional hero.