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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blind Mr. Apron

You know how, once someone you know gets an iPhone, suddenly everyone you know is sending you emails that end with the unctuous phrase,

"Sent from my iPhone"

That's how life goes, I guess. In 1948, the first year the Volkswagen Beetle was imported to America, they sold 2.

Two, people. Two.

The next year, it was over a thousand. After that? Forget about it. Everyone had one, or everyone knew someone who had one. It was like an infestation, if you'll pardon the pun.

Nicknames are kind of the same, but kind of different. One somebody has one, it sounds cool, and everybody wants one. The best thing about nicknames is that they don't cost anything, and the next best thing is that a nickname is only something that someone else can give to you.

You can't come up with your own nickname. You just can't.

Ball players love nicknames. Like Whitey Ford. And... well, I can't actually think of any more.

Another group of individuals who love their nicknames are musicians. I'm not talking about P. Diddles or whatever the fuck his name is now, I'm talking about real musicians. Like Mississippi John Hurt and T-Bone Burnett and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

If you look through the history of American musicians, you'll no doubt observe that there are a good deal of musicians who referred to themselves, or were referred to by other people as "Blind" Somethingorother.

Take Blind Snooks Eaglin, who passed away in February of this year. Snooks went blind in early childhood from glaucoma. It's been said in literature that his voice was very reminiscent of Ray Charles, which I think is pretty coincidental considering that, well, you know. After Snooks went blind, at age 5, his father gave him a guitar.

Now, I don't know about you, but, if I had a son who was blind, the first thought that would go through my mind would not be, "Here, have a guitar."

But I guess that's why I'm never going to have a kid who's going to be a musical prodigy, be referred to as "The Little Ray Charles" or "The Human Jukebox" both of which Snooks was.

There's Blind Boy Fuller,
Blind John Davis,
Blind Roosevelt Graves,
Blind Mississippi Morris,
Blind Tom Wiggins,
Blind Alfred Reed,
Blind Joe Reynolds,
Blind Lemon Jefferson,
Blind Willie Johnson,
Blind Blake

and, of course, the bands The Blind Boys of Alabama and The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.

There's also, according to Wikipedia, 124 more blind musicians who don't use the word "Blind" in their titles and/or names.

So, I'm left to wonder a couple of things here...

1.) Why the hell are there so many blind musicians?

2.) Where are all the deaf painters?

3.) Did I ever take the Ektorp cover out of the washing machine?

4.) How exactly does a blind musician decide whether or not to call himself "Blind" Whatever?

Question four is the one this is occupying most of my thoughts today. Like, take Ray Charles. Why didn't he call himself Blind Ray Charles? Or Ray Blind Charles? Or Ray Charles (Blind)? Charles was getting noteriety in just the right time period to be publicizing his disability in his name-- I don't think anybody would have noticed, or cared, in the early 1960s. Stevie Wonder I have more trouble picturing as Blind Stevie Wonder. Maybe just "Blind Wonder" would have been enough. It sounds not vaguely superhero-ish, but I think it works. You picture him flying through the air in front of a levitating keyboard... slamming into telephone poles.

I have even more trouble picturing Andrea Bocelli calling himself "Blind Andrea Bocelli." Though I think it would be pretty awesome.

I guess it has something to do with marketing and your clientele-- how you want people to see you.

Me? I don't know if I'd want to be referred to as "Jew Mr. Apron." Or "Scoliosis Mr. Apron." Or "Left Leg 3/8-of-an-inch Shorter than the Right" Mr. Apron. Or "Asthmatic Mr. Apron."

But that's just me.


  1. ha! as always

    i call my boyfriend Mashed Potatoes Johnson 'cause he white and lumpy (well not really that lumpy anymore since he started running but you get the point)

  2. How about Masonic Asthmatic Apron shortened down to Masonic Double A! What do you think?
    Enjoyed the Stevie Wonder flying into poles line! ha ha

  3. I'm with Shelley, the Stevie Wonder/poles line got a literal LOL from me.

    Now, to the question of deaf painters -- I don't think being deaf would hinder painting like being blind would music. I expect lots of gigs are delayed when the blind artist can't find his way ouf the dressing room.

    My favourite musician nickname was always Hot Wee Wee Jefferson; The Cystitis Kid -- man, when he was playing both pipes were on fire.

  4. Because blind people have heightened remaining senses.

    And if you can't see, it's obviously safer to sit at home with an instrument than to go outside and get run over.

  5. I think it may be that when you're blind you have a lot fewer options how you experience the world than when you're deaf. A lot of society and culture is visually based, and when you basically lose access to all that music is one of the few robust worlds you have left to explore.

    I would really like to see some deaf paintings though.


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