It was a balmy August night some ten years ago and The Brown Shoes Blues Band were ready to play a gig at The Tree House in Cuba Mall. The proprietor had explained that he had no liquor licence and that his clientele were mostly poor students who 'spent all night drinking a cup of coffee'. So, ten bucks each but 'all the carrot cake and coffee you can manage.' Which was more of an inducement than he knew.
We set up, did a sound check, enjoyed the first round of carrot cake and coffee and then started to play some Blues for the rapidly growing audience. The two big sash windows were wide open and soon the irresistible fusion of coffee brewing and Delta 12 bar weaved sinuously along the Mall. By around 9.30, the place was full and we had finished our first set.
Over carrot cake and coffee, we discussed the next set. Robbie, our lead guitar, pointed out that the old upright piano that stood next to where we had set up, was in fine working order. 'We should kick off with Goin' Down Slow', he said. 'I'll play piano, Mike on leads.' Mike was our rhythm guitar and he nodded his agreement. Drums and bass figured a simple back beat, we picked a key that suited and I approached the microphone.
Now, I have to tell you right here that I had always told the guys that we would never cover Howlin' Wolf. I was in awe of The Wolf and felt it disrespectful to cover his songs. Yeah, singers are precious. But, as usual, ego won out and - of course -we played Goin' Down Slow'.
The song - and the set - were received very well by our impoverished audience and a group of guys, sitting at a table in the far corner, invited us to join them in some coffee and carrot cake. It turned out that they were tourists, 5 friends, all from Memphis, Tennessee. 'Serendipity', one said, 'The last thing we expected to hear in Wellington, Noo Zealand, was the Blues.' 'And not any ol' Blues', said another, 'The Wolf. Damn! The Wolf!'
And there it was. If carrot cake and coffee were gold and diamonds, we'd have all been millionaires that night. But it was the night I got to sing Goin Down Slow. I still hope I did it justice and I'm still in awe of The Wolf. And to quote the song, 'I have had my fun....'
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