Sunday, February 21, 2010


When I got up this morning I thought I was headed to Louisville,Ky. to see Ramblin Jack Elliott perform at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. Ah, but it pays to check ahead and remain flexible. I called to Louisville to check on things and found the concert had been cancelled. So..I just shifted gears & found a new plan. As it turns out it was to be an amazing day. We (my wife & I) left town early and made a little detour on our way to Springfield to a little town called Virden,Il. I found 2 wonderful bookstores there. The first was called, "THE SLY FOX" and it was closed but I knocked on the door and the owner came out and 2 hours later I'd bought a couple books and made a new friend. The shop specializes in mystery books including many hardback firsts dating back to 1998 when the shop first opened. The shop is charming and also has a ample children's section. After we left there we stopped on the square & Judy headed to a pretty cool coffee shop while I headed a couple doors down to the towns other bookstore,"BOOKS ON THE SQUARE". It specializes in used quality books & the selection was outstanding. One of the owners, Jeannie Alexander gave me personal attention as she led me through the 3 buildings that house their books. The store is very organized and the selection is quite varied. The store even has a couple of congenial Labrador's instead of the usual cat. Jeannie gave me 10% off on my first visit and I found some treasures I couldn't live without. Virden,Il.'s square is worth your time & effort if your you love books and have an afternoon to kill. Both of the stores owners were the type of people you always hope to meet but seldom do.

Then we were on our way to our new destination, the Sangamon Auditorium in Springfield,Il. to see the BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA and blues legend JOHN HAMMOND. John Hammond is a 1985 Grammy winner & has 33 albums to his credit. He plays the harmonica & 12 string & 6 string guitars. He's performed or recorded with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Tom Waits, and Duane Allman amongst others. John opened the show with a 10 song solo act, performing songs of his own, along with songs of Howlin' Wolf's,Big Joe Williams, and my favorite Jimmie Rodgers. He really tore it up and I could easily have heard some more. If your a Blues fan and your not familiar with John, look into him. The Blind Boys of Alabama were up next, and have been performing for over 60 years & have 5 Grammy Wins ! They are well known for taking traditional gospel tunes and making them more contemporary. They also will take a popular song & keep the music & add gospel lyrics as they did with the nights encore, an old Stevie Wonder tune. Their version of Amazing Grace, with cover music from a Metallica tune was unbelievable. For me, the highlight of the evening was lead singer, Jimmy Carter's song "Down in the Hole". For all of "THE WIRE" TV fans, you'll recognize that song as the intro in season 5. Following the show, 3 of the 4 Blind Boys, (minus Jimmy Carter who was feeling under the weather) came out and signed CD's & T-Shirts. They were all gracious and kind and I look forward to seeing them again in the future. From Louisville to Springfield, stay flexible because, it's all good !


  1. Cool--I love John Hammond and have tons of his stuff. Thanks for the Sly Fox tip. I've got a mystery out on submission to a publisher and might just need another independent book store out there to add to my list.

  2. Ricky, Thanks for your interest in this site. John Hammond was wonderful & I hope to see him again. If you like folk musicians check in tommorow, as I'll have an interview with the fascinating Tom Russell. Keep me updated on your book. Thanks Rod