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Robert Lockwood, Jr.

 

Famous delta bluesman, Robert Lockwood, Jr.,  lived in Cleveland from 1961 until the time of his death in 2006 at the age of 91.  In addition to performing all over the world, Lockwood played regular gigs in the Cleveland area and on occasion would pop in and sit-in with other bands.  One such occasion occurred at The Brotherís Lounge in Cleveland when I was with the Tom Bogus Band in the late 1990's.

 

Lockwood showed up and was invited by guitarist/leader, Tom Bogus, to join us on stage  for a couple of songs.  Bogus played a Steinberger guitar, which is known for its sleek lightweight modern design which featured no headstock (the tuning pegs are in the guitarís body).  The first thing I remember was Lockwood's look of disdain when Tom handed him his guitar. Lockwood looked at it like it was a dime store toy.

Then Lockwood starts to play, without telling any of us the name of the song or the key signature. Normally, this would not be a problem, as one would be able to follow the chords and rhythm pattern. But Lockwood wasn't playing chords or rhythm; he was playing single note melodic lines.

Bassist Tom Lyons and I had looks of panic as eight bars had gone by without us figuring out the key. Meanwhile, Lockwood is turning his head from side to side in disgust.

 

Suddenly, somewhere around the tenth or eleventh bar (too late for the first verse), I figured out the key and pattern of the song and started screaming out the changes to the bass player. Lockwood, with a sly look and a raised eyebrow nods his head, as if to say "Yeah you got it now. About f**king time!"

As tense as it was, I feel privileged to have played with a legend; one of the last of the original delta bluesmen; even just one time; for only two songs. Rest in peace, Robert.

 

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