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Indeed, one’s age is just a number

By Walter Geiger Growing older, as they say, is not for the faint of heart. To handle it well, a positive outlook is a necessity. I saw this firsthand in my late father-in-law and continue to see it in my own parents and mother-in-law. There will always be setbacks. You have to roll with the punches and strong faith will undergird you. Nowhere was this better displayed than Saturday night at Ritz Park in Barnesville at the BBQ & Blues festival main event concert. Take Eddie Tigner, for example. He played onstage with friends the previous night at a free festival show. He watched all the other acts Friday and Saturday from the front row. He sported his signature ‘˜Route 66’ hat, for he once was a member of the Ink Spots. He had a black jacket commemorating the Music Makers reunion. Eddie is a slight man. He smokes. He has a penchant for Tanqueray gin. He has had at least one heart attack. He is 88 years old with a lot of miles – many of them the ‘˜on the road’ miles that kill so many musicians. But, when his name is called, he strolls onstage and lays down a piano baseline like few others can. Of the cool cats, he is among the coolest. The Pink Panther theme song loops through my head as I watch him. In the all-star jam Saturday, Eddie shared the stage with Beverly ‘˜Guitar’ Watkins who is a youthful 74. She pranced around the stage, sang her heart out and burned up her electric guitar. Twice she walked into the crowd playing behind her neck Jimi Hendrix style. Robert Lee Coleman was up there, too. The youngster of the notables, he will turn 69 next month. He toured for years with James Brown and has the guitar chops to prove it. He makes ends meet by painting houses. ’I trimmed out a house this morning,’ he said before the jam. ‘I’m the trim man. I still have a steady hand and I think playing guitar helps with that. It keeps my fingers nimble.’ Our old friend Newton Collier, whom you’ve read about here before, also shone. He once toured the world as a horn player for Sam & Dave but was shot in the face by a car thief. Now, also nearing 69, he plays an electronic trumpet that requires less air. These veterans blues artists and another, younger great Sammy Blue joined the Crossroads Band onstage. The band is anchored by Carl Pruett, Jimmy Green and Rick Maxwell who played with the Atlanta Rhythm Section. ‘We never got to practice with Beverly, Sammy, Eddie and Robert Lee but I thought the session came off fairly well,’ Pruett said after the show. That was the understatement of the weekend. The set was flawless, perfectly showing off the talents and strengths of the guest performers. To them, age is just a number and with it comes vast experience. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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