On Sunday night, my mother and I trekked to Florence,SC for the Twin City Blues Festival. Now, blues festivals are aplenty in this part of the country, so I don’t get excited about them anymore. But with Millie Jackson added to the bill, there was no way I was going to miss this one.
Now, I gotta tell you a little bit about me and Miss Millie Jackson. I have had a lady crush on her for years. I don’t claim to be a fan of anyone… but Millie Jackson? I am a bona fid fan. I thought back to my infatuation with Millie Jackson and determined that it probably began when I was around 8 years old. My mother, her sisters and other ladies would congregate at our house on Sunday afternoons. They would have cocktails (your choice of Natural Lights or Canei) and talk, what was called, ‘Grown People Talk’.
Now, grown people talk was for… guess what? Grown. People. Children were not allowed to hear or participate in grown people talk. Children had to go outside and play while grown people were talking. Now, I know that is an outdated notion in today’s world, but that’s how it was 30 years ago.
And another thing about grown people talk: as a child, I rarely had to be sent outside when grown people started talking. Somehow, I just knew when the tone of the conversation changed, it was time to make my unceremonious exeunt. And if I missed my cue, I got shooed out with a shoe flying through the air and a less ambiguous order: “Git yo’ ass outside… can’t you see grown people talking!” Ahhhh, the beautiful memories of my childhood.
Anywho, grown people talk often consisted of the playing of Millie Jackson’s latest album. Having heard just enough to know that I liked what she was saying and how she was saying it, I pulled out Millie’s vinyl records when my mother was not home and listened to the salacious lyrics without fear of being slapped in the face by a shoe. And to this day, I can recite her raps word for word. I even think there is just a touch of Millie in That Teowonna.
Anywho, the Twin City Blues Festival was part of a fundraising weekend to build the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Educational Center… and who better to headline such a show than the legendary Millie Jackson.
Once my mother and I arrived at the Florence Civic Center, we were struck by the long line. A sold out crowd? Wow! Actually, they just had not opened the doors yet. Some people had been waiting outside (in the Carolina heat) for about an hour and a half, one event worker told me. I felt sorry for the older ladies with their canes and walking sticks sitting on the large flower planters out front.
Once inside, I noticed all the townspeople who came out in their white linen and other best summer attire. There were also vendor and photographer stations to occupy time (and money) before the show began, which surprisingly began on time. Sir Jonathon Burton opened the show with “Too Much Booty Shaking Up In Here” and boy did he open it! Even though I was backstage, I could tell from the crowd’s cheers that his performance was a hit.
Next up was Carl Marshal, whom my mother said was rather unimpressive and could have been left off the bill. After him were Clarence Carter and Roy C., both of whom I love. The both sang their traditional hits, including “Stroking” and “Rock Me” that had couples, (gay and straight) doing their sexy juke joint dances in the aisles. Loved it!
And finally, around 11:25, my girl and her 10-piece band took to the stage. Can I say I was more ecstatic than I have ever been in my life! Millie came out in traditional Millie fashion; an outfit that looked like a cross between a boudoir getup and a Bob Mackie showpiece. She started right up with a rap that I’ve never heard before. That’s when it occurred to me that she really IS a rapper. And she was dang good too.
Now, unfortunately the show was riddled with sound and lighting issues and trust me, she wasn’t shy about letting her displeasure be known. At first, she asked politely for the techs to turn the background vocals down in her monitor… meaning she used MF and b*tch only once in her request. When there seemingly was no response to her follow up requests, she bent down and unplugged the monitor herself, all while staying in perfect tune and timing with the song she was singing. She’s such a lady!
Millie belted out a few more songs I’ve never heard but enjoyed tremendously. She also sang several tunes from her new album, Not For Church Folk. And just like that, POOF, she was gone. Millie Jackson sang for less than 30 minutes.
And That Teowonna was not happy at all. I didn’t hear “This is It”, “If I Don’t Turn You On” or any other of the songs I grew up listening to. Millie said that she had a lot more planned for us, but the promoters were running her off stage; they said they were not going to pay for three additional hours for her going over. So that meant the audience got the short end of the stick.
But I was satisfied. I finally met my lady crush.
My one-on-one interview with Millie is coming soon.