Beware the man with the hook

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It got to the point where I actually hated Clarence Carter, and I’d never even met the man. Seriously. I would have rather sat through a day-long concert by The Monkees than listen to one more song by Clarence Carter on that damned juke box.

Let me back up a bit…

The new band hadn’t been together that long, but still we managed to land a healthy number of gigs considering I was the bandleader and hadn’t even lived in Detroit for quite two years. I didn’t find out until later how unusual that was for an outsider with virtually no track record to be coming on that strong in the Motor City, but I suspect a lot of that had to do with the fact that back then – this was around 1994-95 – there were blues gigs all over the place. I just happened to luck into a time when the clubs were booking a lot of live acts, and I also had members in my band whose resumes more than made up for my lack of same. Hell, the singer had laid down tracks with George Clinton and Frank Zappa, and she swore up and down she’d lived with Funkadelic’s original guitarist Eddie Hazel for about 10 years. The drummer was  – still is – one of the best in the city and has played behind a list of major names a mile long. The keyboard player, though much younger than the drummer, also had a pretty extensive background on the local scene. Me? I just liked to play guitar and had somehow managed to cross paths with the right people at the right time who helped me get my thing together.

Anyway, one of the regular gigs we had was a Thursday night jam session that we hosted in Mount Clemens, which is about 40 minutes or so east of Detroit on I-94. That club has been two or three other clubs since we were there, but back then it was a bit of a tight-fit dive called Chrissy’s. The clientele was a decent mix of white and  black, but it was definitely working class. The good thing about it, from the viewpoint of paying your dues, was that it was the kind of place where folks didn’t clap much unless you really showed them something, and even then that wasn’t any kind of guarantee. I still remember the night when we played the entire four-hour long gig to one drunk at the bar. That drunk was there when we arrived, and he was there when we left.

This was also the drunk with the hook for an arm. The same drunk with the hook who dropped a coin in that beat-up little jukebox to blast Clarence Carter’s “Strokin” every time he made his entrance. Those of you old timers who know “Strokin'” know it’s one of those low-down greasy, dirty R&B- style numbers that prides itself on just how raunchy it can get. Make you smell the sweat in the walls and the stain on the sheets.

The first couple hundred times I heard the song I thought it was kinda funny. But after about 6 months of playing Chrissy’s, of watching this same man with the hook make his grandiose entrance, followed by that twisted little number…

“..strokin’ to the east, strokin’ to the west, strokin’ to the one that I  love best, I be strokin..'”

It’s been over 12 years, and I still can’t shake that tune. I can hear the bouncing bass line, and  I can hear the part where Clarence Carter simulates the warbling voice of some poor woman calling his name over and over in a spastic fit of passion just before she explodes “ohhhhhhhh SHIT Clarence Carter!”. And I can see the man with the hook dancing merrily away in front of the bar, bumpin, grindin, and slidin with that same imaginary woman that Clarence Carter wants us to believe he drove up the wall on that imaginary night.

After awhile, I never had to look to see if my man was at the bar or not during breaks, because if the song hadn’t played then Hook wasn’t in the house. Sometimes I would sit at a table and, if the room was crowded, just look at the wall and try to control the cramp that began to grow in my stomach waiting to see if this would be a “Strokin'” free night, or if the curse of Captain Hook was still upon us. Nine times out of ten, at least once before the night was out, Hook’s theme would ring out, and I’d order two or three more drinks.

After about nine months, our run at Chrissy’s finally came to an end. I never got the chance to say goodbye to Hook, but then I never spoke to him much at all anyway except to nod when passing him on the way to the bathroom. And now Chrissy’s is gone. Last time I went by the location the club had been transformed into some slick-looking spot for the hip youngster set. But things change, and that’s cool.

But whatever happened to Hook? Whatever happened to that jukebox?

Time…

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~ by Keith A. Owens on April 9, 2007.

3 Responses to “Beware the man with the hook”

  1. God I coudnlt stand that song either man. I use to know it was time to go when that song came on because the old men were on the prowl and I better get my lady out of there before they got ahead of themselves and a made a move on my wife.

  2. Oh man, Latimer. Isn’t that the truth? I could spin a whoe other volume of stories off of that alone. And it was always the same older brothers wearing those same pimped-out threads from yesteryear trotting out those same tired raps. Time. After time. After…

  3. I am a old brother and i hate that song and i will warn you guys, my threads are custom and clean. having spent time in D spot, a lot of the pimped out brothers are young guns. I saw a brother on Easter, in his 30’s with a teal suit that made him look like a clown, his fake gaters matched the suit, this was in Chicago. I enjoyed the post.

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