Blues Access Fall 2001
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Blues with a Twist runnin' with 
guitar junior 

In 1980, after the break-up of the Muddy Waters band, I found myself working with Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson. Junior was a great player and fairly easy to deal with on the road, so I hung in there with him for the better part of a year.

As usual with any blues band we were on a tight budget, so we usually doubled up on the rooms, each band member sharing a room with another. As luck would have it, I ended up pretty much living with Willie Kent, our bassist.

I used to carry a hot plate on the road to save money on food, and it must have worked because a lot of times I had more money in my pocket than Junior did!

One night after the gig Junior stopped by our room looking for a late-night snack. Willie told him to go on and get him some of that deviled ham in the can he had over on the counter. Earlier in the day, and I donít know why, Willie had removed the label from the can. Deviled ham comes wrapped in white paper twisted at the top, the label is on the paper and thereís just a plain unmarked can inside. Junior grabbed the can and started eating.

At this point Junior was sitting on the edge of my bed, and of a sudden I got a whiff of the deviled ham. It smelled just like some of that 9 Lives cat food, so without even thinking I just said, "Damn, Junior, that sure smells like cat food." Junior jumped up and said, "God damn, sure do!" He ran for the bathroom and began spitting it out into the toilet. Willie and I were looking at each other smiling when Junior came out of the bathroom, took the garbage can and, looking for the wrapper, dumped the entire contents on my bed. By this time, Willie and I are rolling on the floor laughing because we knew it was really deviled ham, but Junior damn sure wasnít convinced, and it just so happened that the maid had thrown out the wrapper. I donít think Junior was ever convinced it was deviled ham, and I think heís still mad about that one.

Once we picked up a one-night gig in Niagara Falls, opening for John Lee Hooker. We knew the trip wasnít really worth driving to Niagara Falls and back for $75 or so each, but we did it anyway ó the club had been good to us, and we wanted to return the favor. The gig went great, and the following morning we were getting ready to pull out of the hotel to head back to Chicago. We hadnít been paid yet, so Willie and I were waiting in the van while Junior and Brian Bisesi, our guitarist/manager/booking agent, went to count the money, pay us off and head back to Chicago. Willie and I were sitting right below the hotel room in the van, and Junior and Brian had left the door wide open directly above us.

After they were in the room for about 10 minutes, Willie and I could hear a pretty big argument coming from there. I looked at Willie, and all he said was, "Oh, shit." We sat and waited. I was dreading the trip home if Brian and Junior had gotten into it, and they seemed to be arguing pretty good at this point. I just knew something was up and was pretty sure we would be going back to Chicago without being paid.

Much to my surprise, in about five minutes the two walked out of the room laughing their asses off. It turned out that Junior had let Brian split the money up, and he thought Brian had cheated him out of some money. Brian hadnít, so he said, "Screw it, you split it up." Junior proceeded to split the money up, and his cut came out way less than when Brian had divided it. I think from that point on Junior totally trusted Brian to take care of business.

The whole time we were on the road, Willie Kentís diet consisted of orange soda, Spam and vodka ó and not necessarily in that order. This was still in Willieís pre-heart-condition days, when I would hear him get up in the middle of the night rummaging through his bag looking for the fifth of vodka that was always with him. One day we were staying in New Jersey with some friends of the guitaristís. I was really tired and just felt like resting that day. I guess Willie was tired too, because he kept bugging me about walking to the store for him and getting him his daily fix of orange pop and Spam. I was just plain worn out and didnít feel like going. Finally I just said, "Willie, why donít you go get it yourself?" Willie thought for a minute or two and then said, "But thereís white folks out there." I busted out laughing and told Willie not to worry, there were white folks everywhere. I still donít think he went to the store, white folks or not.

Usually when you think of a band traveling on the road, you figure everyone is out having sex every night of the week, with groupies following you around everywhere you go. Well, it really isnít like that. I think the whole time we were out, Guitar Junior was the only one who "got some" ó and man, was she ugly! A big, huge, giant-economy-size girl with no teeth who smelled like fish. Brian and I stopped by Juniorís room after she had left and it sure smelled like dead fish in there. We messed with Junior so bad that, after she had left on the following night, the room smelled like Junior had used a whole can of Right Guard deodorant to clear the air!

Anyway, the whole time we were out Junior kept bugging Willie, asking him when he was gonna "get some." Willieís standard answer, which everyone got a good laugh at, was "Iím waitiní to find me a Chinese sissy." Several weeks later, we were walking near the Combat Zone in Boston, took a couple of turns and ended up in Chinatown. Willie asked where we were going, and Brian replied we were going to find him a Chinese sissy. I never heard so many excuses for having to go back to the hotel in my life. Willie was outta there and back to the hotel in a hurry.

The whole time I was playing with Junior, every time he showed up with a woman, he introduced her as his wife. Iím not talking about one or two women either, more like 20 or more. I never did find out if he was really married. Iím betting no, but you never know.

--Twist Turner    

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