I've got Magic in a Cowboy Hat

by Alberto D. Prieto

I’ve got the blues. And I’ve got no hurry in fixing them, nor even showing them. I find them, amongst a cloud of smoke, as I search for every pitch-perfect note. From the pain in my soul, oh I’ve got the blues. I’ve got soul and rock, and even country; I’ve got a Strat and together we travelled the World over. I’ve got some songs that are reminiscent of those who came before me, and all of them—the living and the dead—begged me to visit them and their styles. I’ve got the R'n'R from Chuck, the gain knob at the top as slow-hand Clapton, I can do wonders with the surname of the other Stevie, the blind, when I profane his superstitions, and I have the audacious psychedelic styling of Hendrix on stage, I’ve even got the silent plucking style a la B.B. King... I’ve got it all. I have a trick up my sleeve—myself—to have it all. 

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I’ve got a cowboy hat. It may not be a magician’s top hat, but
it’s got its own magic. And I wear it whenever I step foot upon stage. I get on stage and allow myself to let go, suffering as I give into my guitar, listening to her—oh, the things she tells me—as my fingers fuse as one with the guitar, racing along to the blistering pace she demands of me. When she is feeling excited, pay close attention to videos of me: you won’t know where my hands are nor what they are doing. Nor do I. If she is crying, if my six strings are crying, then my tendons bristle from her pain. She’s got my blues, truly, torn musical shreds ripped from the soul that change my composure as she disfigures me however she pleases. Or displeases. So much so, I’m forced to improvise on stage as I juggle her, shoulders seemingly dislocated, my Strat on my back—as she screeches wildly—and more than merely than play her, I support and am proud of her: of all she can do, and teach me. I’ve got all the tricks—I never know just how many nor which I’m gonna use—but they never fail me in my solos.



I’ve got a group, with a name, but that’s not that important. That might be a problem, but nope, it's just me and 'Double Trouble'. I’ve also got plenty of that. And I’ve got a Grammy for a
flop, which truly is something to admire. Luckily it was way back in 1983 and I was mature enough, that when we performed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival Jazz and the crowd booed us—for the mere fact that Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble dared to combine blues, rock, soul and country—we knew how to stick together and keep on playing, marching to our own beat. We turned the volume up and re-worked the jazz people were expecting, playing it our own way, our unique fusion of styles. Some say the whistles could be heard from even outside the enclosure, but clearly someone must have understood our vision because, months later, we picked up the Grammy for a concert that will go down in history as a paradox in Vinyl. With each LP track, someone must have made sense of all that noise—ha! Back then considered noise, today considered legendary. We made history that day, so pour a shot of bourbon for all the naysayers—I’m buying.
 

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I’ve got it all. I’ve even got the Muses working over-time for me, and in two days recorded, produced and mixed, with the help of John Hammond 'Texas Flood' (1983). I think of the microgrooves in vinyl and they remind me of the strings on my Rickenbacker: the guitar I began with. Impulsive and eager to get my feelings out into the open. If the blues is drama, I accumulated one rough childhood with loose pegs near the Texas reserves, looking for a Strat to learn how to be as if Jimi Hendrix drank from the fountains of country music,
pounding on some Gretsch until I make her cry out with my slide guitar... When I busted the seams of the blues and I nursed them in those difficult years of the 80’s, I had long been accumulating time in tombs and despairs; wrong decisions and wandering paths helped me separate myself from the noise and the company of others: it was time to bare my full name and admit that if I had it all, it was time to let it out.
 

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I’ve got mirrors and in them I reflect. I’m a lefty in right-handed person’s body. I’ve got a vast collection of Stratocasters in every color—including a left-handed neck Red Guitar with which I play for you all my magic trick of playing the guitar upside down. I’m even a black man in a white man’s body, according to “my” godfather. Honouring the truth of the blues, he is everyone’s godfather, but I know he is all mine. For before God
appeared, one of the main characters of my personal Genesis, whose readings I learnt to feel the call, it was Albert King himself and his wail on the guitar that spoke to me first. And the day came when he was there in front of me, giving a baptismal sermon: "You’ve got it all!... you must know that, all though your skin is white, you're a black man with a guitar". Behind a Stratocaster, there exists no more purifying water. The godfather of blues gave me his blessing, and now, ya, I’ve got it all, brother.
 

 

I’ve got a pretty fine wife, plus hundreds of quickies on the side. I plummet to new lows and the depths of excess, oh but how I enjoy them all, even as I run out of ways to fail my love my Fender Stratocaster desportillada, my Number one, the only one that has always been there for me, whose hand touched my soul, all the soul I’ve got. I’ve got it all. I’ve even got the ability to waste all I’ve got. I forget about the masters of soul, Buddy Guy and Freddie King, and their teachings—I even lose my ability to study and learn from them. They throw me out of my home, even my precious spouse, Lenny, ‘cause she’s jealous of my true love: oh, that intoxicating white powder, along with all my other vices. Then, poof! There goes my unflappable luck, as I forget even my genius composing skills and I lose my guitar-playing skills as my hands give in to arthritis. Not long after, my audience trades in their cheers for jeers…so I seek comfort in even more excess: cocaine and whisky; whores, groupies, nothing matters, as long as it’s got legs in which I can hide my anguish and shake-off my bad moods. But I’ve got another trick: self-will, and I know how to snap out of this rock bottom pit. It’s time to get back on the wagon and head for the sober path. I’ve got success, dude. So like the phoenix, I arise, and return to my former days of glory once again, tap-tap-tapping my foot all along the way.
 

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I’ve even got a trick of the face. Having been to Hell and back, you can see it in my reflexes. Watch me play. Can’t you see it? My body lets loose whilst my hands dance along the frets and my eyes shut as I pluck furiously along the strings, my eyeballs bulging as I give in to the fury of my distorted-effects-ridden Arpeggios and my lips waver—just like my extended tremolos—as I give-in to the pure ecstasy of a guitar solo. It is relentless and unpredictable, this torrential stream of music I’ve got in me. I have the courage to throw myself into it, not knowing—or caring—just how long the journey may be until I reach the finale, fireworks blazin’. Although my Strat may not be Lucille—nor do I sit as I play—I know that this great outpouring of passion that distorts my face is a trick I share with only the greatest flamenco guitarists and the legendary B.B. King.
 

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I’ve got all the tricks, I’m telling you. For starters, I was born in the ‘50s in Austin (Texas)... Waiting for me there was a life under the cowboy hat that held the secrets to my glory, and together, with my dear beauty with curves and six strings; we juggled your souls like magicians. I took my secrets and tricks with me to Heaven one fateful day: ‘twas on August 27, 1990—after performing on stage in Wisconsin along with some of their original owners: Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and my brother Jimmy. That fateful day, I got on the wrong helicopter and performed my all time greatest trick for the last time. Try it. Listen and learn: you may not know how—considering I’m no longer here—but I’ve still got the blues.
 

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