TRUE STORIES. EXCERPTS FROM “MY MUSICAL LIFE” BY STEVE GABE

WILSON AND ME.

Scott and I were in our first band together. One summer day in 1970 we were jamming outside on Scott’s porch down the block from record exec Clyde Otis’ house in Sugar Hill (Englewood Cliffs, NJ) when Clyde’s son who was also Wilson Pickett’s nephew stopped by. He said that his uncle’s over with his buddy Bobby Hebb and did we want to jam with them? We said who’s your uncle? He said Wilson Pickett! We were floored. We loaded up his VW bug to the top with all the gear and since there was no room for us we ran over behind the car. We got there a little out of breath but excited as heck and set up as fast as we could. They were just relaxing and playing pool as cool as could be. When they strolled out onto the patio we were a little scared but Scott started playing and I followed along with a smooth back-beat and things fell together. They cracked up looking at these two white kids playing Bobby’s monster hit Sunny. They liked what they heard and Wilson grabbed the mike and they jammed with us. We played Proud Mary and a few other tunes. It was the thrill of a lifetime. Years later I was hoping to interview Wilson at the Lone Star Cafe for a college paper. I went up to him and said “Hey, Wilson remember me? I played with you when I was 12” He looked at me funny and said “I don’t know you, get out of my face before I call security” but the show was great and I made a bootleg tape I still have today. Sadly Wilson passed away January 19, 2006, but Bobby is still alive and playing.

MOJO BLUES BAND FEATURING DANA GILLESPIE…AND ME

On a hot July night in the summer of 1982 I was in the enchanted city of Vienna with my Austrian friend Dieter for a night on the town. Unbeknownst to me Dieter had set up “My Most Memorable Gig” I had ever played before or have ever played since. The Mojo Blues Band featuring Dana Gillespie was headlining at Jazzland and I played the middle of their three sets while Dana took a break and relaxed. When the band asked her if it was OK for me to sit in on harp and vocals she said in her tipsy British accent “Sure, I’ll just sit here and drink, but you’d better be good, I don’t want to sing for an empty house in the third set.” It sounded like a dare. I told the band to get going with a little chicken picking and then I launched into a solo. The crowd started pounding the tables and stomping their feet saying “Ameri-Kahn!, Ameri-Kahn!, Ameri-Kahn!” I raised my fist in the air with my bandanna tied around my wrist and they kept pounding, it was pandemonium. When the song ended I was being hollered at in German but could still make out the word “Ameri-Kahn” being said as in the “Authentic Blues of the Americans.”

It felt like I had made it. We then did Big Boss Man by Jimmy Reed. I hit every note and every lyric.  We ended the set with a couple of Barrel House jams that were the Mojo’s specialty like Sea Cruise and that type of shuffle beat. I kept my reputation intact taking the solo when asked but not stepping on anyone’s toes with one more foot stomper solo like the opener and the set was over.  The crowd erupted once again yelling their mantra “Ameri-Kahn, Ameri-Kahn” pounding the tables in this subterranean brick walled joint that looked like someplace the Beatles could have played. After Dana looked at me with that expression of “I’ll never let that guy play before me again” look but after her set we were all giggles and beer. A newspaper man asked me for some quotes, the house was alive with the excitement of having just been killed.  The writer had a pack of Marlboro Red’s laying on the bar and I hadn’t smoked in six months. I answered his questions and asked for a smoke. I lit that Marlboro and sucked in the glorious victory. My most memorable gig ever.

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