Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hellhound 8: Texas Shuffle

((Continuing from Part 7; Johnson has just arrived in San Antonio by train.))

Song begins on soundtrack, Johnson's sprightly novelty number called "They're Red Hot." This plays throughout the following montage of scenes:


Johnson walks along, eyeing the Mexicans and the stucco buildings a bit uncomfortably; he is sort of a fish out of water. He crosses over the San Antonio River.


Now he is clearly in the Mexican part of town--all signs are in Spanish, and he is lost. He tries to ask directions from a woman with two children, but they flee from him.


Johnson in a by-gestures, halting-English conversation with a young Mexican woman selling tamales on a street corner. She is beautiful, and he is vaguely interested--but both are hampered by their inability to comprehend each other. After a great deal of waving and puzzled listening and repeating and laughter, she finally points in a certain direction and he ambles off, turning to wave goodbye to her.


Johnson, still carrying his valise and guitar, approaches this structure a bit warily; no one is in sight. Then the door opens, and two black men come out, looking Johnson over as they pass. He breaks into a relieved smile and stops them to ask for information.


This grubby building, Johnson's San Antonio ghetto accommodations, stands near a decent gas station/garage--which Robert eyes curiously as he passes, heading for the flophouse door.


Johnson alone in his grim, cramped quarters; he looks around, sighs deeply, and starts plunking on his guitar.


Finally he is standing in bright daylight in a nice hotel room, with a microphone and cable before him, playing the last few bars of "They're Red Hot" on camera. When he finishes, he turns to look where the mic cable stretches under a door into an adjoining room.


The door opens and Ben Dawson comes bustling in--a youngish, fast-talking white man in rolled-up shirt-sleeves, distant, officious, yet friendly too.

DAWSON: That's enough of that one--what is it, anyway?

JOHNSON: Some Mex gal I seen sellin' 'em.

Into the room now comes Harry the recording engineer, small, balding, and bitter. He is intent on examining the cable on across the floor and up to the mic. Walking backward, he bumps into Johnson.

HARRY: Watch it.

Dawson continues to pace about nervously; he pulls Johnson over toward the window, away from the equipment.


Dawson chatters on.

DAWSON: Okay. Got any more? You need a drink or something? I mean, we got some good stuff on the cylinders, Johnson, that "Kind-Hearted Gal" number, for example. But no real grabbers, know what I mean? We need a winner, something that'll make your people sit up and take notice. A nice sexy number maybe--what about that?

Johnson shrugs non-commitally.


Harry has been examining the gear. Now he yells at Johnson.

HARRY: Hey, you, whatever-your-name-is! I told you to keep your mitts off the mike. (to Dawson) Look at this, Ben--your boy tipped it down again. I knew I was getting a muddy sound.

JOHNSON: I ain' touch it.

HARRY (sarcastic): You tryin' to tell me it slipped down all by itself?

JOHNSON (heating up): I ain' tellin' you nothin'.

DAWSON: Forget it, Harry. (checks his watch) Look, I got to leave anyway. (to Robert) Tell ya what, you go home, take a coupla days, come back with a grabber, right? We'll wrap this up tight. (starts past him, then stops) How you fixed for money?

Robert slips the guitar and strap up over his head and off.

JOHNSON: Use some, I reckon.

Dawson digs out a ten dollar bill and stuff's it into Johnson's shirt pocket.

DAWSON (sounding paternalistic): Make it last, Robert. What with advancing you train fare and all, the company can't afford to pay you much for the session, of course.

Then he bustles on out. Johnson shifts the bill to his pants, looks rather gloomily at the plush furnishings of this room that isn't his, and follows on out too. As he passes the mic, engineer Harry glares at him. Johnson carefully ignores the look.


This is the black-owned garage next to Johnson's flophouse. Robert is stretched out in afternoon shade, leaning against the building, hat tipped down over his eyes, small whiskey bottle in his hand. Near him, in the garage area, the mechanic and his silent helper are in heated discussion with the black owner of a hood-raised Hudson. Two small boys are hanging around too.

OWNER: Got-dam it, I'm tellin' you I can't have this vee-hicle breakin' down every time I drive out the g'rage. Don't you lazy-ass niggers knew you' job? "He'p out the race," say Rosa--"take it t' Harris's." So I do, an' what I get? Nothin'--that's what I get.

MECHANIC: Aww, shut up you' mouf, Washin'ton. I'se tellin' you--we's gone over dis hunk o' trash from you' fancy crow-mi-um hood doodad to you' tail-draggin' muffler. Ain' nothin' wrong wid it--'cep'im maybe de driver.


He tilts his hat back and sits up enough to take a swallow and watch the fireworks.


The boys have crept in to peer inside the hood; one of them leans against the fender, and the owner jumps forward to shoo him off.

OWNER: Look out now! You gonn' scratch 'er paint. (rubs fender with his handkerchief) Lookahere, Harris. You go over her starter?

MECHANIC (dignified): 'Course I is.

OWNER: Check th' oil filter an' her car-byoo-rator?

MECHANIC: Yas, yas.

OWNER: What about the gasoline, uh... (waving his arms inarticulately) uh, connects?

MECHANIC (exasperated): Say whut? Look, Mist' Biggety Wardheel Washin'ton, I knows auto-mo-biles. Dis-yeah shiny, nigge'-rich Hudson o' yours ain't worth a shithouse!

OWNER (comic-angry): Now you done it. (slams the hood down) Insults my car. I tell you somethin' ...

The rest of his tirade is lost in the opening chords of another song, as:


He smiles cheerfully and toasts the noisy arguers...


And we are back in the makeshift recording studio as Johnson begins his serio-comic, double-entendre "Terraplane Blues." This time he is seated in front of the microphone.


A great slow circular pan around Robert's head and upper torso as he curls over slightly to play and sing:

Well, I feel so lonesome, you hear me when I moan (repeat)
Who's been drivin' my Terraplane for you since I been gone.
Can't flash you' lights, mama, you' horn won't even blow (repeat)
Sho' must be a disconnection way down below.
I'm gonn' hist you' hood, mama, I'm boun' t' check you' oil (repeat)
Got a woman I'm lovin', way down in Arkansaw...

Intercut with this slow continuing move are a series of inserts of a station mechanic at work:


As hand inserts key and turns.


To make them seem looming and phallic.


As hands rub knobbed headlights.


As it is pulled part-way out and reinserted.


As oilcan spout is inserted dripping oil.


As hands rub nicely rounded rear fender.

These inserts must be comically sexy without becoming offensive. The sequence ends on Johnson again as he finishes the song.


Unseen in the next room, Dawson lets out a whoop of pure pleasure and comes bursting through the door.

DAWSON: Beautiful! Perfect! That's the one we needed!

He claps Johnson on the shoulder in his enthusiasm, practically dancing around the room.

DAWSON: A Terraplane--brother, who'd have guessed... Yessir, that's the tune that'll make Robert Johnson a name to reckon with. (stops to point) You are gonna be a star if you don't watch out. I guaran-tee that'll go five, maybe ten thousand in the market.


Now he becomes more serious, while still pacing. Johnson watches him with suppressed amusement, guitar across his knees.

DAMSON: Listen, Robert, we're gonna need to keep in touch. If "Terraplane" sells like it should, we'll want you back come summer to cut some more tunes. (stops again) So where are you gonna be?

Robert finally busts out laughing; takes him a moment to straighten his demeanor to immobility again, then he ticks the locales off on his fingers.

JOHNSON (put-on serious): Well, now, le's see... Shre'port... Rosedale, I 'spect... Yazoo... Mebbe Rob'sonville... Wes' Helena... (shrugs) Take you' pick.

Dawson is momentarily non-plussed, actually speechless.

DAWSON: Hmmm...

Robert stands to stetch his tired shoulders.

JOHNSON: Nemmine that--I check wid Mist' Turtle nex' spring.

Dawson claps his hands together officiously.

DAWSON: Right, good, that does it. Now we can...


Before he can finish that sentence, Harry the engineer strolls into the room, looking vindictive.

HARRY: Hold it, boss. You're gonna want another take on that last damn thing. (indicating Johnson with his thumb) Jimbo here's voice got lost in his guitar.

And he stares challengingly at Johnson, who carefully ignores him again.

DAWSON: Oh great. Just the news I needed. Well, let's try it again, Robert. This time, keep your mouth closer to the mic, okay?

Dawson seats Johnson and positions his head near the microphone, then he and Harry retreat to the adjoining room. Johnson watches them go, then chuckles and shakes his head in bemused amazement.

JOHNSON: White folks... phew-wee!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hellhound 7: Tell Everyone


Another area of Memphis, this near the border between black and white sections. Johnny, Robert, Booker, and two other black men are lingering in the sunshine--passing a bottle around, making tipsy remarks to the passersby, pushing each other in good fun, etc. All this casual activity is pantomimed because the soundtrack is playing Johnson's odd, upbeat, near-theme, "Dust My Broom." Johnson finally takes up his guitar to play something, and we jump cut ahead to:


Him playing that very song, the last couple of verses. During the lapsed time Booker has found a passing woman to dance with him; Johnny is handing his hat around to pull in cash from white passersby, but very few stop to listen or contribute. In the background, however, one smallish white man in a suit has paused with evident interest. Johnson ends with a fluorish.

FIRST BLACK MAN (as he receives Johnson's guitar): I guess you ain't lost you' touch.

JOHNSON: I keep tryin' to get right.

SECOND MAN: You pert' near bad's anybody I ever seed. You play wid Charley Patton 'fore he passed?

JOHNSON (bored response): Run wid him some down Clarksdale an' Belzona.

JOHNNY (plucks a dime from his hat): Lookee this. White man the soul o' gen-u-rosidy, ain't he.

The white man from the background has now come forward; he is a salesman type in a clip-on bow tie, his speech fussily proper.

WHITE MAN (to Johnson): You're pretty good with that, young man. Ever cut any discs?


Johnson immediately assumes a "new" persona aimed at whites--sullen, silent, seeming not too bright. Johnny listens in silence but mounting interest.


WHITE MAN: I was wondering if you've ever made any 78 records.

JOHNSON (avoiding looking at him): Nossir, I jes' play.

WHITE MAN (a bit frustrated): Well, would you like to make some then?

Johnson just shrugs.

WHITE MAN (peevishly): Look, I'm not trying to sell you funeral insurance or something, for God's sake! My name is Vincent Tuttle. (pulls a card from his coat pocket) Here's my name and address. (pointing at card) I'm serious. I work for this company, the American Record Corporation. We've been cutting... er, race records for you people for almost 15 years--Bessie Smith, Leroy Carr, all the big ones record for us.

Johnson still hasn't looked at him, hasn't paid any attention to the card Tuttle has been offering, so Tuttle has also been talking to Johnny part of the time.

WHITE MAN: Don't you understand? I'm offering you a chance to become famous among your people!

JOHNSON (rousing at last): Uh-huh. What it gonn' cost me?

WHITE MAN: Why, nothing. ARC'll be recording over in Texas in a couple of weeks. We'll pay your way over, plus, say... (craftier now) five dollars a song. And if your session's any good, well...

Johnny is clearly excited about all this, and he nudges Robert into responding.

JOHNSON (shrugging again): I'll think on it.

He turns on his heel and walks away, retrieving his guitar from the man who has been chording on it. Tuttle, taken aback at first, then calls after him.

WHITE MAN: Hey, I don't even know your name! Who are you?

Robert pays no attention; Johnny answers instead.

JOHNNY: Name' Robert Johnson. An' he the bes' there is.

WHITE MAN: Is he as slow as he seems?

JOHNNY: Nossir, jes' cautious. I know he be int'rested.

Johnny plucks the card from Tuttle's hand.

JOHNNY: We be callin'.

After his retreating back, Tuttle calls out once more.

WHITE MAN: Tell him party blues always sell pretty good...

Then Tuttle glances around, sees the other faces watching him--black, brooding, unfriendly--and nervously scuttles off.


Lucky himself is the only person visible this time, seated in his front barber chair, reading the city's black newspaper and keeping a weather eye on the street outside. From an open door at the rear of the shop come the outcries and spirited remarks of a noisy crap game in full swing. Suddenly the front door bangs open. Lucky jumps with a start, but it's only Robert and Johnny.

JOHNNY (gangster-films voice): All right, youse guys--dis is a raid.

Johnson laughs aloud, but Lucky waves his arm irritably.

LUCKY: Funny man. Why'n'chu go hustle a high-yaller gal or somepin'.

Now Johnny dances over, grabs up Lucky's broom, and charges around the shop furiously, sweeping all the real or imagined dust and hair, keeping up his patter all the while.

JOHNNY (self-importantly): We is conductin' im-portant bizness in this here ee-stablishment, so don' you gimme none o' you' nappy jive. (bowing, gesturing Robert into the vacant chair) Whatcha need, Mist' Johnson, suh--shoeshine, man-ee-cure, process, pick a li'l number? (points with broom to the noisy back room) Roll the bones? Letcha deal go down for Georgia Skin?

Finally he runs out of breath. Robert is chuckling and Lucky laughing so hard now he can't rise from the chair.

LUCKY: Ee-nuff! Lord, you gonn' make me dis'member my bizness...


Lucky gets up and goes over to rummage among the creams for hair and skin, emerging with an envelope.

LUCKY: Mist' Charlie here for you, Robert--li'l dude name' Turtle or somepin'--and' lef' dis.

Johnson seems surprised, but Johnny looks knowing as Robert takes the letter, examines it as though it might hold a snake inside, then tears the envelope open. He shakes out green cash and a note. Manwhile, the crap game at shop rear has yielded up a pale, freckled black with reddish hair, who shakes his head ruefully.

JOHNNY (keeping one eye on Robert): Hey, Red, how's the highroller?

RED: Shee-it. Cleaned me up one side an' down th' other. Seed so many snake-eyes, thought i 'uz gone whiskey-blin'.

LUCKY: Siddown, son, I give ya a li'l trim, on the house.

RED: Practice some other nigger, you ol' buzzard--I'm gonn' check up on Annie, see has she got any coins. Them johns o' hers are the poorest excuse for spenders I ever seed!

LUCKY: Run yo' mouf on out. God sho' don' like ugly!


Johnny peering over Johnson's shoulder, waiting while Robert tries to sound out the note from "Turtle." But Johnson gives up and passes it to his friend.

JOHNSON: You the smart one, John. Read me. What's this money?

JOHNNY (reading and answering): Say here American Record Corporation want you to cut some de-mos--meanin' records I 'spect, over to Texas... San Antone, Robert, an' money's to pay you' ticket.

JOHNSON: The man don' give up, do he. Well, I ain't in'trested. Send it back to 'um--or mebbe we buy us a good time right here...

JOHNNY: Wait up. Is you crazy? Peckerwood gonn' pay you to get famous, an' you sayin Nossir?

JOHNSON: That's all bullshit. I study to this wid other musicianers Mist' Charlie done talk up, taken roun', an' stole offa. What I need wi' that? We be doin' all right.


He is very enthusiastic, working to convince Robert.

JOHNNY: Lookit now. Here's front money an' you be paid there too. All's you do is go t' Texas an' play. Where's the stealin' in that? Hell, you stealin' from them. You allus makin' music anyways--let 'em pay you for it. Peoples gonn' know you from Fannin Street to Chi-cago--Blin' Lemon have nothin' on you. (as though announcing) Robert Johnson, King o' the Blues.


Robert now thoughtful.

JOHNSON (catching on): You done this wi' that Turtle fella, ain' chu? (reaches up to touch his lucky neck-bag) Well, all right, you an' me go to San Antone--see all them see-noritas up close, mebbe fin' young John hisself a Mex'can mama.

Now Johnny seems embarrassed.

JOHNNY: Aww, Bob, I ain't goin'. They's callin' you. Sho' the chips most for one. I got people to see on down in Arkansas. You go on you'self.


Johnson gives another of his easy-going shrugs.

JOHNSON: You say it. I catch you up come Wes' Helena. (sudden idea) Yeah, an' I may bein' check out Betty Mae too...

He breaks into a grin and a finger-popping sway, singing some improvised workds:

JOHNSON: Be goin' to San Antonio, baby, but I ain' take you...

Lucky has been tidying up his shop through all this; now he opens the steam cabinet and...


Steam billows from a braking engine at the San Antonio station. Johnson and another black man disembark from the "Colored Only" car; Robert wears a dusty suit and carries a paper valise and his worn guitar. He steps down into the confusion of a Mexican-American city--Spanish insults hurled about, few black people, no one meeting him. He wanders through the station and out into the afternoon heat; he looks about blankly with no real notion of where to go or what to do...

((More to come soon.))

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hellhound 6: Big 6 Barber


A year or two have passed. We see Johnny and Robert looking sharp and comfortable in their city clothes, moving along a street in the black section of Memphis, Tennessee. Robert's guitar is strapped across his back. The two men are happy and laughing; they nod at some men and tip their hats to a couple of black matrons, who react as though somehow insulted. Johnny then mimics their high-falutin' walk, to Robert's further amusement. Soon they reach their actual destination: a mid-block, hole-in-the-wall, dusty-window barber shop complete with painted barber pole outside. The hand-lettered notice across the glass reads:"'BIG 6 BARBER SHOP." Peering in through the clouded front window they see a couple of indistinct figures within, then pull the screen door open and enter.


Clean but cramped quarters--wall mirrors, two barber chairs, other metal chairs along one wall, and a host of black barbering paraphernalia of that era: skin creams, hair straighteners, process gear, and so on. The men inside are Lucky, the barber (an older man) minus his white jacket, and customer Eddie, whose process job is almost finished. They look up at Robert and Johnny enter.

JOHNNY: Howdy, Lucky. Eddie.

EDDIE: Hey, Johnny. How you, Robert?

Lucky comes forward to shake their hands, Johnny first.

LUCKY: Ain't that somethin'! (now Robert) Damn, you sons, lemme eyeball ya. Where you been raisin' sand all this time?

JOHNSON: Hoboin' up the country an' all.

LUCKY (gesturing at chairs): Siddown, siddown. Line it on out.

Robert takes a metal chair, laying his guitar aside, while Johnny flops in the empty barber chair. Lucky resumes work on Eddie's head.

JOHNNY: Tell ya what we ain't done... ain' no richer. No wiser neither, i 'spect. Jes' ramblin' roun' from town t' town. How 'bout y'all? Where's the rest of you badass scoundrels allus in here?

LUCKY: Be 'long direckly, 'ceptin' Jimmy Joe and George Wilkens. Jimmy Joe passed some months back, and George, po-lice haul him in las' week. Bastuds take my grease money an' still bus' my runners.

JOHNSON: White man don' think like black--never play straight wi' the peoples.

LUCKY: Now, that is a fack.

A momentary pause as all examine that truth.

JOHNNY: Hell, Lucky, you still runnin' policy?

LUCKY: 'Course I is. Who else gonn' do it, I axe you. You got a number?


He speaks, clutching that lucky neck-bag; seems introspective, possibly a bit nervous.

JOHNSON: I dreamp' one, sun-up this mornin'. Houn'dogs was soundin' way off, an' whole town was burnin', and dam' if the high sheriff wasn't comin' fast... His eyes bug out, an' his big ol' .38... Then all them change to three big O's... I woke up smilin', feelin' fine.


Lucky has paused to listen to Johnson. Now he resumes his barbering, sounding thoughtful.

LUCKY: That's bad luck number, Robert, that triple-O. 'Sides, po-lice an' dogs signifyin' somethin' else. I look it up in the Rajah book in a minute.

JOHNSON: Nossir. Three-O I dream, three-O I play.

LUCKY (shrugging): You the boss. Write y'up a ticket soon's I gets this ol' nigger (whacks Eddie's head) done right. Give your nappy head a treat too, on the house.

JOHNSON: Oh no--that fried an' dried ain' none o' mine. (tugs at his hair) These kinks ain't much, but they's the nach'ral Robert. (half-singing) The men don' know, but the li'l gals, they understan'...

The guys laugh long at that; Johnny reaches over to slap hands with Eddie.

EDDIE: Where y'all roostin' at, anyway?

Robert and Johnny exchange a look, then Johnny shrugs and answers.

JOHNNY: Nowheres yet. But if I know my man here, we be sleepin' right, hugging' all kines o' sof' things by tonight. (and winks broadly)


More laughter as the front door opens and another young man, Booker T. Long, saunters in. At the sight of Johnny, he dances over and punches him lightly on the arm.

BOOKER: Hell, you still Geechie-ugly, ain' cha.

JOHNNY (shakes his head in mock disgust): Booker T. Long. Ain't yo' Mama learnt ya no manners yet?

Then Johnny springs up and grabs Booker, and the two of them wrestle around the front area of the shop, bumping chairs, walls, knocking each other's snappy hats off, etc. Johnson watches these antics with amusement; Lucky ignores them completely, finishing up with Eddie. He removes the process gear and yanks the white sheet off Eddie with a flourish. Meanwhile, the wrestling is over, and Johnny introduces Booker and Johnson.

JOHNNY: This here's Booker T. (the two shake hands) An' that's the funky, flyin' fingers of Mr. Robert "Blues Boy" Johnson you's touchin', Book. He play till the cows come home--or the womens.

Eddie comes forward, pulling a basic harmonica from his pocket.

EDDIE: How 'bout a little get-right music this mawnin'?

LUCKY: Now you sayin' somepin'.

Robert takes up his guitar.

JOHNSON: Le's do it, then.

Booker and Johnny take seats, Johnny with a metal container as a drum, Booker ready to pound the chair back. Robert shifts to a barber chair, guitar ready; Eddie moves to the front area so he can dance while he blows harp; and Lucky opens a straight razor and holds up the strop to whomp it on. Johnny and Booker talk during all this set-up activity.

JOHNNY: What chu doin' these days, Book.

BOOKER: Well, you know--little this, little that. Dealin' some. You?

JOHNNY: A 'prentice musicianer, you could say. (nodding at Johnson) Doggin' him 'round, keepin' him hones'. Say, we come across Ben Green, yestiddy it was, over'n Wes' Memphis.

BOOKER (disbelief): G'on, you did.

JOHNNY: Yeah we did.

LUCKY: Nemmine that--where the music?

JOHNSON: You got it...

And he launches into a lively guitar instrumental, the others following along as best they can--raggedly at first, then with rhythmic unity--harp, strop, container, chair back, dancing feet, guitar and all. Short and sweet, the tune ends in some confusion and laughter. Sound of applause on track takes us to:


The place is dark and smoky and packed with people, mostly couples, all dressed in urban Thirties finery. Three young and seductively lovely women are lingering beside the tiny bandstand, where the applause we heard has greeted the end of a number played by Robert and Johnny on dual guitars. Johnson has Betty Mae's lipstick cap in place of a bottleneck on his little finger.


The two men nod their thanks, then Johnny stands to stretch while Robert bends down to pick up a whiskey bottle and take a swig. Both men are aware of their nearby feminine audience, with Johnny ready to rib his friend.

JOHNNY (pointing at the lipstick cap): You still carryin' Betty Mae in your heart as well's on you' finger, ain' cha.

Robert shrugs, then speaks:

JOHNSON: We get right some day.

JOHNNY (eyeing the nearby ladies): Oh I know you will. You sholy been savin' up all you' money with juicy bankers everywhere, tha's a fack...

Before Johnson can retort, one of the waiting women steps forward; she wears a tasseled blouse.

FIRST WOMAN: Ain't y'all gonn' play no mo'?

JOHNNY: Well now, peaches, that depen's. You got some branches I ain' mind pickin'. You do for me an' I sho' nuff do for you.

Then he steps forward and offers his usual charming bow to the three.

JOHNNY (slight mockery in his voice): Le's do this right, introducin's an' all. That's Robert--he the shy one. I be Johnny. We jes' po' lonely musicianers. You gals know any place to fin' us some companionship an' so-lass?

He has charmed them as quickly as that.

SECOND WOMAN: Um, um, um. How you do go on. If you's lookin' to party, Mistuh Johnny, I could be persuaded.

JOHNNY: I jus' bet you could. Well, Bob, what say?

THIRD WOMAN (turning like a model): See anythin' you like?


Johnson examines the first and third women, carefully and speculatively.

JOHNSON: No call here for any bad feelin'--room enuff for two in my ol' raggedy heart... (and smiles)

The two women look at each other and then smile right back at him.

JOHNNY (laughing): Reckon that takes care o' that. (to Johnson) Now, why ain' chu play somethin' else for all these good folks?

Robert nods, takes one more swig from the bottle, winks at his ladies, and settles back to play. Johnny jumps down to stand beside his new companion. The club noise is quite loud as Johnson begins his mournful and moving song "Come On in My Kitchen":

The woman I love, took from my bes' friend',
That joker got lucky, stole her back again...
Woman gettin' in trouble, ever'body throws her down,
Lookin' for a good frien', an' he can't be found,
You better come on in my kitchen,
'Cause it's gonn' to be rainin' outdoors...


Intercut these audience shots with close-ups of Johnson's fingers playing and his face hidden in shadow. The people pay no attention at first, lost in their particular worlds of the moment--cuddling, telling a joke, fending off a drunk, and so on. But as the song progresses, slowly and inexorably, the piercing guitar and sad tone of Johnson's voice begin to penetrate. More and more clubgoers fall silent, turning to watch Johnson on the half-lit bandstand.


Slow pan across the crowded room, culminating finally on Johnson (after he has ended the song). The club is completely still as he finishes. Some women are swaying and even crying; one or two men brush at their eyes as well. A sigh and a shudder--almost sexual--seem to pass through the silent onlookers when he stops. No applause, no sound at all. Johnson sits there as still as everyone else. Johnny looks at Robert and then the crowd, slowly shaking his head back and forth.