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Augie Jr & the Big Mess Blues BandAugie Jr. fronted his Big Mess Blues Band on the streets of New Orleans through most of the 80′s and early 90′s, so I’m told. This was before my time but I was aware of him and owned his only recording which to this day is one of my favorite blues recordings, put out in 1991 titled: AUGIE JR. AND THE BIG MESS BLUES BAND / DRINKERS CHOICE. Lissa spoke of him often, sometimes with a tear, sometimes with a friend Jason Eklund spoke of him highly.. I heard Grayson wish him dead more than once and it wasn’t so far off, so it seemed. As long as I’ve know Augie he’s been slowly dying of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 44. I met him a couple years after he had been given 6 months to live, and that was 4 years ago or something like that. Resiliant. I met him in the Matador over Mardi Gras of 2000. He came walking in with Lissa and a small entourage and offered me a shot of homemade moonshine, which was no more than store-bought vodka in a water bottle (the only thing I ever saw him drink). I remember marveling at him and Lissa’s banter, it was two razor blade tongues dueling,.,.they had been lovers once upon a lost time but I guess it didn’t work out. We spent the rest of that night walking the streets, me mostly just listening to them catch up on old times. Augie was visiting from Eureka Springs, Arkansas where he was living with his now ex-wife in a little country home he’d bought. I went to visit him there on my way out west once, and I brought him a new hat (always a good way to start a friendship). I spent those few days swapping stories, watching him eat pills and drink, and listening to records…He was born I believe in Rochester, New York and he can sing like two birds… I’ll never forget the first time I heard him sing, ever! His mentor/inspiration is John Mooney, so he tells me, though it is Lissa who brought him from working-stiff to working-musician. After he and his wife got divorced he moved back to New Orleans and I used to go over to his place every afternoon after playing the streets and sit around watching the three stooges and eating French fry po’boys, listening to stories… like the time he met Bob Dylan at a John Mooney show in New Orleans. Dylan was standing in the back of the bar barefoot, and when Augie was introduced to him all he said was “Jesus Christ, your 54 years old don’t you own a pair of shoes?”. That's the kind of man he is. Whether it be watching him test his gun in his house, high as a kite in a drunken paranoia, talking about all the lovin’ he used to get, or just yelling in that east coast Italian way, I learned a lot of things from August Rodola Jr. …besides how easy it is to beat his ass at poker and how he cooks pork chops I don’t know exactly how to describe them, but they’re there. We’re on the same side of the highway just at different exits I suppose. I like to say he taught me to sing or play but we never had one conversation about it. It was more just being in the presence of him and his life experience,, a moment in time passing,, which has been a unique one. For all his vice and virtue I love him. When I used to sit on the corner and play I would look down the empty or crowded street and become aware that it is haunted by all the ones (like Augie) who came before, and I realized the resonance of those men and women will ripple even after the Mississippi takes those streets into the Gulf of Mexico.
By F.Lemon.