Hot damn, Shakey Jake!I was looking through the endless trough of kitsch that is WFMU's Beware of the Blog when I spotted an entry on street musician Shakey Jake Woods.
When I lived in Ann Arbor in the mid '90's Shakey Jake was a legendary figure, apparently homeless, an old man who wandered around town performing his streetcorner version of blues--which, as far as I could tell, at least, consisted of wild, atonal hollering accompanied by vigorous bashings on his randomly detuned guitar. The songs that I heard him sing did vaguely remind me of conventional blues but were stretched out into long, long, nearly formless wailing: "OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAABYYYYYYYY OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I remember with pleasure seeing the looks of consternation on the faces of polite mothers and fathers of prospective Michigan students as they toured the U of M campus for the first time and passed Jake on the corner of State Street, belting away whilst playing his guitar wearing oven mitts.
As it turns out, Jake made some recordings at radio station WCBN in the '70's and they've been compiled into a cd that is now for sale, with all proceeds going directly to Jake. I recommend following the above link and listening to "Fat Bacon," and picking up a copy of the cd from email@example.com (I'm getting one). These clips sound quite a bit more like structured songs than what I heard Jake sing in the '90's, but they're still waaaaaayyyyyy more minimalist than anything you're likely to hear from any other "blues" musician.
The WFMU writeup describes Jake as in need of dough--probably true, although interestingly there was a rumor when I was back in Ann Arbor that Jake was in fact a rich man, and owned a Mercedes and dated beautiful young women. I never saw the Mercedes, but what the hell, it's a good story.
By the way, we're off today to Vegas to play at The Dive Bar and wallow around The Stratosphere. I shall report forthwith.