The Cloud is not a hard place to miss arriving just this side of midnight, it’s the only doorway with the glow of light at this hour.
There was a single street lamp about a quarter of a block down pushing a ribbon of light along the brick wall that holds the door frame. It was just enough to show a bit of the texture allowing the beer sign to shine like a beautiful holiday decoration.
I was warned that the area could be a bit sketchy at night. But when you’re thinking a blues bar, sketchy is just what you’re looking for and after all it was Des Moines.
The beer was flowing much earlier in the afternoon and given the volume of the voices that filtered to the street with the cigarette smoke,things were well underway.
I’ve often wondered why drinking seemed to impair one’s hearing. It might have been the smack of the stick working balls around the table that added to the audible confusion.
The door was heavy and solid with a brass knob and appeared to have seen better days. It had the look of a piece of wood that had touched a number of visitors, some that maybe left with a little help.
The group was down from the north and this was “Chicago Blues”.
You can tell the difference from the blues played in the Delta because there is nothing acoustic about it.
It’s amped up and the harmonica is blown hard and loud against the microphone. You could say it’s almost orgasmic, but there was no almost about it!
This was the music of Little Walter, Charlie Musselwhite, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. These were the sounds of the “Great Migration” when poor southern blacks moved north to find a better way in the industrial cities.
It was just yesterday that a photographer and musician friend and I were talking about the richness in this type of music.
“I’d sell my soul to play great blues guitar.” I told him.
He laughed and started for the door.
“Hell, I’d sell yours too!” the laughter faded.