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Disease of the Week

by Tennis Elbow Jones

Disease of the Week
Tennis Elbow Jones

I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear old friend, Mr. John Lee Hooker, last week. John was one of the greatest to ever strap a guitar over his shoulder, and that wobbly sort of baritone voice of his-it conveyed so much emotion, but so much authority.

John Lee and I sort of had a running bet as to which one of us would depart for the other side first. I remember back in the 60's, we were talking about the meaning of life and all that philosophical stuff, and he said to me "Tennis Elbow, you're gonna live to be 100 years old. You'ze one of those people who is a survivor, no matter what life throws at ya, you always bounce right back up again. (Perhaps I should have auditioned for the popular contemporary television program of the same name).

Another memory of John Lee that springs to mind relates to this week's disease-the gout. G.O.G., I used to call it- good ole gout. Gout is a systemic disease caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints of the body, causing inflammation, swelling and pain, particularly in the feet, which, needless to say, are very important to a blues man's sense of timing.

The gout is a very unheralded disease now a days, what with higher profile and more terminal diseases stealing the limelight and advances in medical technology giving us improved treatments and medication, but back when I had it, there was gout going on everywhere, and the attacks would last for two months at a time if they were a day.

The worst I ever had it was the summer of 64. I was doing a series of summer festivals in the south with John Lee, it was about 120 degrees in the shade, and my right foot was so gouty, why I accidentally dropped a guitar pick on it backstage and……I can still hear B.B. King's mischievous cackle as I rolled on the ground in agony.

Anyways, just coming out on stage for my set was like running the Boston Marathon. I sat down to play, which like John Lee, has always been my customary pose, and tried to forget about the pain for an hour or so. But 20 minutes into the set, I was really getting into the music, totally lost in a 10 minute solo, when I momentarily forgot about the G.O.G. and, encouraged by the alcohol fuelled crowd, I very stupidly tried to stand up.

Sweet Georgia Brown! It was like 20 million volts were being zapped through my foot. Instinctively, I immediately shifted my weight to my left foot, which this particular bout with the gout had managed to remain goutless, but I did it so abruptly that I almost fell on my ass. Somehow, in a deft display of athleticism, I managed to keep my balance. Here I was, hopping around on my left foot mid-solo (didn't flub a note, I might add), looking like one of the Backstreet Boys, and the aforementioned beer-soaked crowd thought it was part of my choreographed routine.

The closest I ever got to choreography was drinking a shot of amaretto in unison with the rhythm section after the show.

But I digress-the crowd is lapping my James Brown impression up, even my bass player, Slappy Garcia, had joined in on this gout-inspired dance, and I wind up finishing Dead Man's Blues on my left leg, hopping up and down with the beat like I was riding a pogo stick. John Lee was on after me and the first thing he says to the crowd is, "Let's hear it one more time for the Tennis Elbow Bounce!!!!," to wild cheers from the crowd.

John Lee Hooker was responsible for coining that very clever pun that became my best known move (some would say gimmick) of my live show, the famous 'Tennis Elbow Bounce.'

This bounce is for you, old friend.

Tennis Elbow Jones is an 85-year old Blues legend best known for his seminal 1963 album, the Should be Dead Blues. His doctors estimate that he is afflicted with approximately 65 per cent of all diseases, ailments and conditions known to humanity.

Posted on June 29th, 2001



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