Fattening Frogs For Snakes

Shake ’Em On Down

for Wayne Kramer & Charles Moore

Booker T. Washington White,
born in Houston, Mississippi
in 1906 (or either 1909)

was raised up in West Point, Mississippi
& then moved to Grenada
in the Delta, where he grew up

in his uncle’s household
trying to play the guitar
until the old man

smashed it
one night—then he started

playing & singing,
over to St. Louis
& back to the Delta.

He made his first recordings
in Memphis, May 1930,
from which but one 78 was released.

Booker moved to a farm
near West Point, in 1933
with his new wife

& then in 1935
they moved 20 miles north
to Aberdeen (former home

of the great Chester Burnett,
known professionally
as Howlin’ Wolf). Booker

played on the streets,
in juke joints, for backwoods parties,
dances & suppers, anywhere

there was some money
to be made, or some ladies,
equally. Booker says:

”All the girls
was wild about me,
you know,

& one of the girls
that was really likin’ me—

her boyfriend
wasn’t so used
to girlfriends.

He was a young boy;
I was older
than he was. And the woman

he was goin’ with—
she was older than
he was, she was

my age. So, I think I was
just a little too famous
with the girls....

”When I came back
from Aberdeen
that evenin’

I was goin’ back west
to play for my cousin,
a dance that night. A cousin

named Buck Davidson. See,
my mother was a Davidson
before she married a White.

When I got to Prarie
a friend of mine said,
’Booker,’ he say,

’you feel just as close to me
as a brother of mine ’cause
you don’t bother nobody. Nobody

can’t say nothin’
about you, but they
tellin’ a lie.’ Said,

’But don’t you
play your guitar
on the street today. They’re

layin’ here for you.’ I said,
’Layin’ here for me?
For what?’ He said,

‘I done told you
a long time ago
all these women

goin’ for you. They want to
get you
out the way.’

”But they didn’t know
I had that .38
Colt Automatic

with the holster
right there
in my pocket. I said,

I don’t bother them,
but if they get ready

I’m just as ready
to go to their funeral
as they are

to go to mine.’ So,
that’s what happened.
Just like you see

that store right there,
there’s about 15 of them
linin’ up

& down there. I’m goin’
to get on old man
Curly Allen’s log truck,

goin’ back west. Me & my friend
Russ Quinn, we goin’ to that
dance over there. But they

didn’t let me
get to the truck. They sent
this girl’s little

boy friend out
to start it. Well,
he made a slow start. . . .”

& Booker White ended up
doing 2 years on Parchman Farm
for assault on that boy.

— Detroit March 25, 1982/
New Orleans November 20, 1995/
London December 5, 2013