Murray Horwitz, Storyteller
MURRAY HORWITZ, Playwright, director, lyricist
Sometime in my sophomore year at Kenyon College, 1967-68, the James Cotton Blues Band came to campus. Kenyon in those days was a men’s school and it was a dance weekend so there were women there but it was still mostly guys and I didn’t have a date. So I was unhappily unencumbered. I’ve always been good at getting near the stage at rock and pop music concerts, and I actually got up on the stage for that one.
I’m lying on the floor underneath the piano with the music all around me and looking over at James Cotton dancing that little two-step … and it was just really transforming.
I can still tell you some 45 years later who the personnel were that night: James Cotton, of course — harmonica and vocals. Bob Anderson was the bassist and Francis Clay was the drummer. Luther Tucker played guitar, and the pianist was a man named Alberto Gianquinto, who went on to become a big inspiration to Carlos Santana and the band Santana. I spent the concert kind of laid out on my back underneath Alberto Gianquinta’s piano, and it was a good piano, maybe a Steinway, and I was right underneath it, listening to what you could do with the blues. I was hearing and feeling how the blues is just endless in its possibilities — harmonic and melodic and rhythmic — and watching James Cotton’s feet doing a two-step to every number.
I’m lying on the floor underneath the piano with the music all around me and looking over at James Cotton dancing that little two-step … and it was just really transforming. I had been familiar with the blues, and could tell you what it was musically, but in that moment, I knew the blues. Understood the blues. I knew that this was a life-changer.