Doc Stevens and Marilyn playing at the DC Blues Society jam…

Saturday, July 2, 2011 7:34 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: I am attempting to catch up on Doc Stevens and Marilyn’s activities. I have a lot of recordings and notes to transcribe and will do my best to get caught up, at least to some degree.

A few weeks ago, they were playing in Washington, DC and were invited to play at a blues jam of the DC Blues Society. They, of course didn’t know anything about it, and followed someone up to the location and played a couple of songs.

Doc: Yeah, Tondy, we was playin’ at this place in DC up to Lincoln Park, on a Sunday afternoon, playin’ some gospel music. This little black lady – she was cute as a bug! – come up and danced with Thurman an’ then said we had to get our stuff and head outta there as soon as we could.

I asked her how come we gotta go an’ she said ‘cause she had called up to the DC Blues Society and tol’ them about us an’ wanted us to go meet those people. I ain’t never heard of a Blues Society afore, so I was ready to go! We didn’t know how to get there so she drove up there an’ had us follow her. I woulda definitely got lost if she hadn’t drove an’ have us follow her. It was a long ways from where we was in Lincoln Park.

The other guys in the band couldn’t go – we ain’t really a band, we just play music together – so just me and Marilyn and Thurman went up there.

Doc Stevens & Marilyn at The DC Blues Society

We followed her up there, and it was a room full of people all takin’ turns playin’ and singin.’ It was some real good talent in there, to be sure! All kinds of people playin’ blues.

Well, we hung aroun’ a bit an’ I wanted to just go ‘cause I was tired but Marilyn said we oughta stay since that lady invited us up there. I had one of my home made guitars with me, the one with the bass strings along with the regular strings, but then right afore we got up to play it fell and got knocked outta tune, so I had to use my old Fender Frankenphantom which is a guitar I made outta old parts. Some of the guys had been lookin’ at my box guitar and was waitin’ to hear how it sounded. I told them it sounded like a poor man’s guitar. The Frankenphantom soundslike a poor man’s guitar, too, ‘ cause it IS a poor man’s guitar. Two bass strings and four regular guitar strings.

So near the end, they called us up there an’ we sang an’ played a little bit. Our drummer, Welch Simmons couldn’t come up there with us, so they had a real good drummer there what played with us and done a real good job. We done a gospel song, cause it was Sunday an’ you oughta honor God at least one day a week.

Marilyn sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and then we done “I Believe to My Soul.” Thurman was up there with us so he done a good man dance and ended doin’ the splits. Everybody loved that. He’s a good dancer, Tondy. You couldn’t have done the splits, not in jeans and work boots like he done.

They was all real nice to us an’ asked us to come back up, but it is more than a hour from here, so I don’t think we’ll be able to do it. I cain’t afford the gas to drive all the way up there an’ back. Not in my truck! But if we is ever up in that area again, we’re gonna try to find out where it is and go up there and get to know those folks. A lot of them asked for our cards what has our phone number on them.

I ain’t never seen that many folks in one room what played the blues so good. Never in my life, Tondy. Never.

 

The Doc Stevens and Marilyn “Show.” Now they have a band, well sort of.

Friday, July 1, 2011 9:45 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

By Tondeleo Lee Thomas

It’s been a few months since I’ve updated Doc’s blog. I have been busy with work and stuck in London. I am trying to catch up on his blog over the Summer.

I have been so bogged down with work that all I could do was post some vids that were sent to me of them on Youtube, but I’ve had no time for comments or blogging.

Last week I came to the States and have been catching up with Doc and Marilyn and their friends.

When I pulled up into their driveway, Marilyn came running out of the house to give me a hug and to tell me all the things that have happened since I had seen them last.

I pulled my digital recorder out of my pocket to make certain I could capture it all.

Marilyn: Tondy! Me and Doc got a band now! We ain’t mostly playin on the streets so much and we got more inside bookins. And we got real cards, too! And we been playin’ more gospel shows which I like better and things is goin good, Tondy!

Doc: Hey, Tondy – I thought you’d dropped of the face of the earth, been so long. Figured old England had swallowed you up.

Yeah, we got a band. Well, it ain’t really a band, it’s just a bunch of people we play music with, but it’s like a band. It’s a bunch of guys I been knowin’ but we started playin’ together here an’ there an’ people like it so we keep doin’ it.

Here’s who we got. We BEEN havin’ Thurman Goodlett as our man dancer an’ he still is with us. But now we got Homer and Wendell Green from Detroit, what is also called Motown. They come down here lookin’ for work an’ money ‘cause Detroit is broke.

Wendell got a deep voice and sings back up bass and some solo stuff. He come here first and got a job and a place to live and is a real hard worker.

Homer’s his little brother. He plays piano best you ever heard in your life. I ain’t never heard nobody no better. There weren’t no money to be made in Detroit unless you already got big money behind you so Homer come down here to see what he can do. He plays with us, and plays on his own and gives piano lessons, so he’s keepin’ his head above water.

Then we got Welch Simmons from Durham, North Carolina on the drums. He is a good man what also come up here lookin’ for work. They ain’t no work down there. But he got him a job up here and a place for him and his family so he’s doin’ all right. He is a real good drummer and keeps the rhythm right and tight like they say.

It’s a lot better with the piano and drums, Tondy. It frees me up a bit to not have to carry everything. You know, like when it’s just me an’ Marilyn, I’m playin’ the guitar, and also the bass with the two bass strings on the guitar, plus keepin’ the beat with the foot box with the tambourine what’s screwed to it. Now, I can put more into the singin’ and not be tryin’ to keep track of what I’m doin’ all the time.

Me an’ Marilyn still plays by ourselves a lot, but we got the band for places that want a bigger sound. All the guys is good guys what is livin’ right and trustin’ the Lord an’ tryin’ to do the right thing.

It ain’t like the old days when I used to play with guys what would be drunk and high an’ you ain’t knowin’ what they gonna do next. Nope, these guys is straight arrows an’ that makes it better. No cussin’ and fightin’ or anything like that. These is church goin’ guys, when they can make it. It’s a lot better, Tondy, for real. Wait til you meet ‘em. They’s good people. Holy Ghost people. So it’s all good.

Tondeleo: I can truly tell the difference in Doc and Marilyn over these past few years. Marilyn has definitely grown up into a woman and Doc is more mellow and civilised, at least to an extent. They’ve cleaned up their bungalow a lot, inside as well as outside. Some of the junk cars are gone now, and his shop/garage is a bit more orderly. It is interesting for me to notice people still growing and changing as they make better choices and different friends, and are offered better opportunities. I have witnessed them going from living in total poverty and playing music on the street corners to now having some semblance of a stable, albeit still very simple life. It is interesting to watch people grow in who they are and find better lives.

But, having said all that, Doc is still pretty scrappy and rough around the edges, and Marilyn is still giggly and funny – but there is a more civilised side that is developing in both of them.

Below is a video clip from one of their Gospel gigs: The third song on here is one of the many that Doc has written.