Warren appears at the door. He dips a hand into a pocket, palms the Queen, coat tails flapping; street life, movement, magic, within them. He glides the tables. Rows of exclamation marks, nods at question. Disappears to the bar.
When he returns, he shuffles a chair through his fingertips from a neighbouring table. He allows it to be between Punk Wayne and Jessica. He sessions it and, divining, with a glance, all the answer he requires: from the glasses, from the ashtray, from our faces; from the content of these vessels, produces from a coat pocket, a bottle. From another, he makes a glass appear. He places both before him on the table and now, pouring a stem of Merlot, enquires anyway,
His eyes were ladles. His eyes were pools. They spooned and reflected. If he sat on his front porch he could count the chickens out back. If you see, you will believe. He had just come from Chuck Berry’s gig at Aladdins.
Chuck Berry! Is he still around?
Still around? Never been away!
He sipped from the glass, glimpsed over the rim. He placed it down and drew us in.
He told the evening in an elegant and colourful manner. In the telling he employed such warmth and tone, deployed such wonderful words and turns of phrase, that we fell, congruent, and absorbed.
Warren loves that old rock and roller. Loves the duck walk, the Gibson’s Tommy-gun stutter. He loves the smut. He loves the schoolboy French. He loves the mistakes, the swagger, the holler, the sweat. He loves the mayhem, the magic, the man and the myth. But, most of all, he says, Chuck Berry for his briefcase.
The briefcase was battered and brown. The leather was stripped from the spine of a Longhorn: a hardy and maverick breed. It is known for its resiliency to drought, to disease. It has long remained a favoured beast, both in the States and across the globe. Chuck Berry, briefcase in one hand, guitar in the other, sashayed onstage and laid it down at the foot of the mic stand. Here it would remain for as long as the gig lasted, never once leaving the old star’s sight. The briefcase, Warren said, was, no doubt, stuffed with used banknotes; this being Chuck’s preferred medium of pay. He had been burnt too many times in the early days, by The Man, he insisted on cash before a single note rang from his Gibson. Such attitude, such character, such rarity, parade, only amplified the mythos of this true rugged and unique breed.
Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!