Playing the blues in Satan’s livingroom


Yes, folks, it’s time for another magical, mysterious tale of one man’s musical misadventures, this one bred deep in the steel-bound heart of The “D”. Well, actually, this one takes place in Hamtramck, but hey. Small details, friend, small details.

So there we were at Mephisto’s, a cozy, crazy little joint located not too far off Holbrooke and Joseph Campau. For those of you who may not have picked up on the significance of the name, think Mephistopheles. Still not ringing a bell? OK, try Lucifer. As in Satan. As in The Devil.

Yeah. That guy.

So now, before our tale even begins, I suspect you’re getting a clearer picture of the kind of place this was. Damned straight. It was a lotta fun. Twisted as all get out, but I never claimed to be a member of the straight and narrow club. You can’t honestly play the blues in nightclub dives for as long as I have and still persist in trying to convince yourself that you’re in any way related to Dudley DoRight. No offense intended to those who cringe and swoon whenever they get too close to dens of iniquity, but I must confess I’ve spent a hefty portion of my life in such places and I’d be lying to you if I said I was ashamed of it.

What can I say? I get around.

OK. Now we’ve got that out of the way. Anyone still reading this post has only themselves to blame for the contagious nature of the numerous sins you are likely to encounter between now and the end of this finely told tale of…well…you’ll see…

Saturday night at Mephisto’s. The hard part about this tucked away little nook for musicians – or at least for those musicians who don’t play thrash metal on the first floor – was that you had to lug all your equipment up a rather long, tight, narrow set of stairs to reach the upstairs venue. It wasn’t all that bad for us guitar players, although amps aren’t light, but for the drummer it was a serious workout. And the drummer wasn’t always in the best of health.

Anyway, saying all that to say that once you finally attained the second floor it was always worth the journey. Dim lighting spilling out over an audience of fat, bulging sofas, minimalist tables and chairs, and a more diverse crowd you would never find anywhere. Guys wearing suits, guys wearing ripped black leather and nose rings. Women tastefully dressed (not many), and heavily painted ladies wearing black fishnets, painfully high heels, and the kind of body art that is probably illegal in some states. And those were the waitresses.

But one of my favorite characters who used to frequent the place regularly was a Prince wannabe brother who called himself Tone. Tone (pronounced Toe-nay)  always made sure to bring the party with him wherever he went, kind of like a superhero who travels with his own theme music tagging along obediently in tow. Tone was about the same pitifully small size as Prince, and he wore pretty much what Prince would wear if Prince had to shop at the second hand stores and make it work.

Tone was a stone cold freak of the highest order, and he took serious pride in that fact.   Never was this more in evidence than the Saturday night we played there when Tone was celebrating his birthday. As was the usual at our Mephisto’s gigs, there was always a “fashion show” during the breaks where …well…anyway…there was this fashion show, see..and…

Anyway, Tone’s girls were frequently the stars of the show. Oh I didn’t mention that, did I? Yeah, Tone’s little 5-foot-nothing self always showed up with at least three or four women. The whole Tone crew and entourage were cool folks and a lot of fun to hang around. In addition to being somewhat of an underground traveling performance act, they were also a tangled web of friends, lovers, family all woven into one electrified mass where the traditional definitions of any one of those terms didn’t apply within the confines of their time and space. If you catch my drift.

Tone was a huge fan of the band, I’m proud to say, so he directed us on what kind of music he wanted us to play during the break for a special birthday ‘act’ that he had planned.  He winked, then said “You boys have fun.”

When break time came, as per instructions, we stayed on stage – which was really just the far end of the livingroom space upstairs next to a huge black grand piano – and waited for Tone to make his entrance. About two minutes later, a heavily-tattooed young lady wearing heavily torn jean shorts switched her way over and told us to strike up the music. Per Tone’s instructions we lit into a Prince-like funk jam as Tone came pimp-stepping his way down from the 3rd floor level wearing a glow-in-the-dark white suit with a white fur bowler hat to match tilted to the side. And a white cane. And white shoes.

It’s times like this you gotta love being a musician.

Once he’d made his way down to the floor, Tone sashayed his way over to the piano, girlfriends in tow, then climbed up onto the stool and rallied the already over-pumped crowd into a frenzy. We kept the funk humpin as Tone turned around, bent over, and began to flick his tongue in and out of his mouth like an excited serpent as his girls took turns spanking him with his cane as a birthday gift. One of them was wearing what appeared to be black lingerie underneath a clear plastic raincoat….

And then the break was over. Time to put Jack back in the box…


~ by Keith A. Owens on May 15, 2007.

3 Responses to “Playing the blues in Satan’s livingroom”

  1. “Anyone still reading this post has only themselves to blame for the contagious nature of the numerous sins you are likely to encounter between now and the end of this finely told tale of…well…you’ll see…”

    Nothing gets you reading like the lure of sin.

    I wish I were Tone… 🙂

  2. Tamiki,

    Never fails, does it? Ya gotta know waht works, ya know?

  3. […] up on the significance of the name, think Mephistopheles. Still not ringing a bell? OK, try Lucifer. – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online DictionaryDefinition of mephistopheles […]

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