I remember two Jewish guys from New York come to Memphis in search of

Furry Lewis. They walk about our Gothic campus asking students where

Does Lewis live.


We are like, who is Furry Lewis? And why are you asking us?

They were long haired, sweet tempered and determined and we helped them find

Furry Lewis    Hippie magic, we thought. They called him up and he said

Come over.


Furry Lewis lived in a neat bungalow with a wife, girlfriend, minder

Cautious, watchful—


—Who are these white folks and you girl with your

Afro hair? Who are you?


Furry was cool. He was used to visits from enthusiasts

New York or Tokyo, did not matter—he was Gentleman

Personified until he played his guitar.


Then a world of bad women, sharp knives, guns,

Spilled blood the howling Klan

Came out of his old man’s mouth.


Running from the twin dogs of war and poverty

Got him out of the hell the Delta could be

And let him listen to children, we were children


In his house. Black revolutionaries said blues don’t matter,

All those “Toms” strumming some dumb guitar.

They surely meant this kindly man with fire in eyes.


When Black Panthers were busted in Memphis,

A fundraiser was organized. And


Who were there—not the Memphis Rhythm and Blues

Establishment, their pimp hats cocked to the side.

Not the rock and roll hippie guys, they were for peace, man.

Nor the young “bloods” brandishing revolutionary rhetoric,

Spooked up, doped out.


There was this old man with a silly first name.

This old bluesman ferociously singing

Lifting up defiant young people.

No shame in his game.

Howling his blues, teaching


Us the sound of revolution—

Power to the people in an old man’s voice.