Introduction
Jake Austen
Hi Yo, Silver!
A
lthough I welcome clichés in silent films,
country lyrics, and Archie comics, I’m no fan
of them in real life. When musicians or profes-
sors I know become entangled with, respectively,
heroin or an undergrad, I don’t pass judgment
about their morality, professionalism, or weak
wills, but rather I feel embarrassed about their
unoriginality. By this standard, I should have
been pretty ill at ease when I found myself in a
rundown hospital on the Southside of Chicago,
seated at the deathbed of a wizened old blues-
man, choking out his final wishes in rural dialect.
Several factors, however, redeemed me from
stereotypicality. The singer was not imparting
rough- hewn wisdom to make me a better man,
not trying to guide me toward the crossroads
where the mystic secrets of the blues would be re-
vealed. He wasn’t sacrificing himself for my Cau-
casian redemption, and he didn’t anoint me with
coolness by sharing his essential “soul.” Cool was
not a commodity that the Black Lone Ranger, who
was instructing me about which mask he wanted
to wear at his funeral, had to share. When he
rode the number 28 bus in his powder- blue Lone
Ranger outfit, plastic guns by his side, a ragged,
hand- sewn mask covering his face, urban teens
laughed at him. Even in his element—blues clubs
such as the Checkerboard Lounge, in which he’d
become a fixture over the decades—the Ranger
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