Fattening Frogs For Snakes

Louisiana Blues

for Frank & Peggy Bach

“I’m goin’ down in Louisiana
baby, behind the sun
I’m goin’ down in Louisiana
honey, behind the sun
We ll, you know I just found out
my troubles just begun”
—Muddy Waters

Born McKinley Morganfield
in Rolling Fork, Mississippi,
April 4, 1913,
down on Highway 61
albout halfway between Vicksburg
& Greenville—

Taken north some 100 miles
to Coahoma County
at the age of 3
when his mother died
& raised there
by his maternal grandmother

on the Stovall plantation
between Clarksdale & Friars Point
where he gained a new name
from all the time playing
in the mud & eating it:

Muddy Waters—
Genius of the blues,
master of verse, voice & guitar
& interpreter of songs
like this one by the Bard
of Vicksburg, Mr. Willie Dixon:

“I got a black cat bone
I got a mojo tooth
I got a John the Conquer root
I got to mess wit’ you”

This is Muddy Waters speaking:
”It’s just a con job
on people’s heads,
you know,
getting’ the fools.
And these mojo doctors

was drivin’ big cars,
owned big homes,
’cuz the peoples was brainwashed.
My grandmother & father,
their mother & father,
was so brainwashed

they thought people could
point their finger at you
& make snakes & frogs
jump out of you,
or make you bark
like a dog. They said

if they get some of your hair
from a certain spot
right on the top of your head
& bury it,
or put it in runnin’ water,
that could give you a headache.

Now that could be possible.
And I think down in Louisiana
they could’ve had a few things
that would do something. But
if such a thing as a mojo
had’ve been good, you’d’ve had to go

down to Louisiana
to find one. Where we were,
in the Delta,
they couldn’t do nothin’,
I don’t think. And there is no way
I can shake my finger at you

& make you bark like a dog,
or make frogs & snakes
jump out of you.
Bull shit.
No way. But you know,
when you’re writin’ them songs

that are coming from down that way,
you can’t leave out somethin’
about that mojo thing. Because this is what
black people
really believed in
at that time. We played so many times,

“I’m goin’ down to Louisiana, Get me a mojo hand”

& I tried to make a picture
so you could see it,
just like you're lookin’ at it.
When I was singin’ it,
I didn’t believe in it—
no way! But even today,

when you play the old blues
like me, you can’t get from around that.
I’d get so many requests,
I could play ‘Goin’ To Louisiana’
every night
if I would do it.”

And on the record
Little Walter says,
about going to Louisiana,
“Awww,
take me wit’cha, man,
when you go!”

— Detroit
March 11, 1982/
New Orleans
December 12, 1995