Legendary bluesman Pinetop Perkins died Monday at his home in Austin, Texas. He was 97.
“Two cheeseburgers, apple pie, a cigarette and a pretty girl was all he wanted,” his agent, Hugh Southard, told The Associated Press.
I saw Pinetop Perkins perform a couple times in Chicago in the late 1990s, including once at the legendary Rosa’s Lounge, an intimate blues venue. He was in his 80s then, yet he still played like he was in his prime, with magic in his fingers and the blues in his soul.
The night I saw Perkins at Rosa’s, I approached him during a break and bought his latest CD from the man himself. He handed me the CD and I asked him to sign the liner notes. He gladly did so, but made sure he was paid first.
“Where’s my dough?” Perkins asked, surprising me.
Of course, he was right to ask me that. I had prematurely asked for his autograph before paying him for the CD.
I smiled, embarrassingly muttered “oh, yeah, sorry,” and handed him the $10 I owed him.
I slinked back to my table and told my friends the story. Keeping in mind what era Pinetop grew up in, I understood why he would make sure he got paid for the CD before autographing it. Regardless, the experience made for a good story to tell.
Not only was Pinetop still a phenomenal blues piano man at an age when many men are lucky just to be alive, he released more than 15 solo records during the last 20 years of his life. He also won three Grammys during that time — a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2005, and two for best traditional blues album, in 2007 and 2011. His Grammy win in February made him the oldest person to achieve that feat, besting comedian George Burns, who won a Grammy in 1990 at age 95.
Not bad for a bluesman in winter. Now he joins his old bandmate Muddy Waters in that great juke joint in the sky.