Song #1      Song #2      Song #3

Al: How do you want to be addressed? Do you go by Pinetop or Pine or Top or Willie or what?
Pinetop: Oh, I go by Pinetop just like the lake-Pinetop Lake.

Al: Okay, Pinetop, it is. I had a hard time getting a hold of you.
Pinetop: Did you see what happened to the Buck's club? We had a big fire because of the electrical wiring.

Al: I didn't know about the electrical problem; I heard that your music was hot.

Pinetop: No, it's cold now since I got to be eighty-years old, I don't play like I used to. But I do the best I can.

Al: I read on the Internet that you were eighty-nine.

Pinetop: Eighty-eight, but on July 7th , I'll be eighty-nine.

Al: How much damage was done to Buck's place?

Pinetop: Oh, pretty good. It did a whole lot of damage.

Al:How long will it be before it's back up and running again?

Pinetop: Well, I don't know. I don't know when they started fixing it up. I would like to go there and see how things are going.

Al: I would like to do that. Let's go eat and talk then go to Buck's. When did you move from Chicago to LaPorte?
Pinetop: About three-years ago. I had lived in Chicago about forty-two years. I lived on Michigan Avenue. High rent! I said, "Let's get outta here!"

Al: Then you came to LaPorte. This isn't a center for the Blues is it?
Pinetop: It was at Buck's.

Al: Now that Buck's has burned down, where are you playing?
Pinetop: Oh, I play different places. I find places.

Al: How did you and Buck get together?

Pinetop: Oh, Buck found me in Chicago. He told me, "I've got a place and you don't have to work too much." I said, "That's what I want!"

Al: How long have you been at Buck's?

Pinetop: About three years.

Al: I did a lot of researching about you for this interview. I found out that you were born in Mississippi.
Pinetop: Belzoni in 1913.

Al: And where is that?
Pinetop: That's about sixty-miles outside of Jackson, Mississippi.

Al: What did your parents do?
Pinetop: Farmed...raised cotton, corn, stuff like that.

Al: How many brothers or sisters did you have?

Pinetop: I had a sister. My mother just had two and her. I was the baby.

Al: Did you do a lot of touring way back then?

Pinetop: Oh, a whole lot. Back in those days, I traveled with Robert Nighthawk. I played a guitar then, and we went everywhere-all over the place..

Al: Mostly down south?

Pinetop: Yes, down South.

Al: What's the story about the angry chorus girl in Helena, Arkansas? I read that you were knifed by some dance hall girl.

Pinetop: Oh, yes. Right there on my wrist, can you see the scar?

Al: Can't miss that wound. What happened?

Pinetop: Oh, she came back there where I was with everything showing. Well, it is a long story, but she came after me with that knife. It took me a pretty good while to recover. I had to quit playing the guitar and started the piano. Of course, I played the piano for a long time with one hand. People would say that I played better with one hand than most did with two.

Al: You have known and played with most of the great Blues musicians. How did you come to meet Muddy Waters?
Pinetop: The first time was in '69. I was playing with a guy we called Zippity Hoopidy. But he didn't know how to book no dances. We would drive during the day and play at night. Sometimes, we didn't make nothing. The money we made we used for gas. Muddy said, "Hey I got a job for you when you need it." I said, "I need it now." I played with him up to '80; he died in '82.

Al: Muddy Waters was really the big name.
Pinetop: He could play blues and sang them too. He could make up a song on stage.

Al: Could you give me a definition of the difference between jazz and the blues?
Pinetop: Well, blues is a feeling.

Al: How is that different from jazz though?

Pinetop: Jazz is more lively, blues is more....depressed.

Al: Did you ever sing?

Pinetop: I sang a little once in awhile. I'll sing to that lady at your side.

Al: You'd better watch it, Pinetop! That lady is my wife.
Ann: And besides, I'm too old for you anyway!

Al: I came across a term when I was looking on the Internet called a "diddly bow."
Pinetop: I played that too. I was a young fella then...playing upside the wall. You'd used to take nails and put them into a wall and connect them with string wires. But, that was a long time ago in Mississippi.

Al: When was the last time you were in Mississippi or down South?
Pinetop: Not too long ago. About three or four months ago, they get me a part on a plantation that kept me out of the army...I farmed with a tractor....My daddy was a Baptist preacher and on Sundays we kept it quiet on the piano...keep it holy...

Al: So, you don't like normally to play on Sunday?

Pinetop: No...I don't play on Sunday....if I play its church hymns

Al: If you hadn't been a musician, what would you have done?

Pinetop: I wish I would have gotten some kind of good job, but I didn't get good schooling and coming up when I come up, then my grandmother run me away from home. I went out on my own ever since.

Al: Why did she run you away?
Pinetop: My mother was out picking cotton and needed more sacks. I went to the house to get the sacks, and Grandma wanted me to put wood in the stove. I wanted to get the sacks, and she got a big log and knocked me out. When I came to, she was still beating me with a stick of stove wood, and I jumped out of there and didn't go back home.

Al: This was your grandmother?
Pinetop: Yes, she was mean!

Al: How old was she?

Pinetop: Oh, she was like 70 or 80 years old.

Al: And she knocked you out?

Pinetop: Yes, knocked me out and when I did come to she was still beating oh man. I left there, didn't carry no sacks out there or nothin'. They didn't find me for two or three months later.

Al: Was that when you went on the road to play or did you do something before that?

Pinetop: I kind of done a little bit before that-going out playing for parties and stuff. I played the guitar then.

Al: Who was your music idol back then?

Pinetop: I liked some of the jazz bands: Count Basie and Slim Milton.

Al: Did you see yourself more as a blues pianist than a jazz pianist?

Pinetop: Yes, blues...not no jazz.

Al: The blues is primarily Chicago isn't it?
Pinetop: We had the blues down in Mississippi; I had the blues there! I ran away from home, and I had to do the best I could by myself...back in those days, fifty cents for a whole day's wages...that's enough to be the blues.

Al: Is there any difference between Chicago and say Mississippi as far as the blues are concerned?

Pinetop: Well, I tell you what, I think the blues in Chicago come from Mississippi. There wasn't any in Chicago, like Muddy Waters, a Mississippi boy. All came from Mississippi.

Al: Do you ever spend much time in New Orleans?

Pinetop: Yes I have when I was with Muddy. We were always playing there for festivals and stuff.

Al: You got an award by the National Endowment for the Arts a couple of years ago with an award of $10,000.

Pinetop: Who got that??

Al: You got it.

Pinetop: Oh, I guess I did.

Al: On the Internet, they described your piano technique by saying that you play with your right hand the horn sounds and you play the bass with your left hand. Is that something that you discovered yourself or is that something that you learned from somebody?

Pinetop: Well, I did that myself.

Al: What's the story behind you and the Blues Brothers?

Pinetop: I love them boys!

Al: Weren't the Blues Brothers patterned after you and your group?
Pinetop: I think so....

Al: Can you tell me why blacks seem to understand the blues better than whites? Why are almost all the blues and even the jazz people black?
Pinetop: I think because we come up the hard way, and that's where the blues all started.

Al: So, it's kind of the blessing in the curse.
Pinetop: Yes, something like that.

Al: But, it just seems to me that there is something within African Americans that is able to do music and feel it that whites can't get. Lots of white people have suffered, a lot of the white people are depressed and have blues, but they are not able to make the transition from the feeling to the music.

Pinetop: White people weren't born in the blues. We came up the hard way and that made us have the blues.

Al: I understand suffering produces the blues, but take Muddy Waters: he understood the blues because of his past. Once he became a household name, wouldn't that destroy some of his talent? If being kicked around by life makes you write the blues, then when you are on the top, haven't you cut out some of your ability to make music...real music?
Pinetop: Muddy Waters really knew the blues, because he was raised down in Mississippi where I was. He could play the blues, man.

Al: He made lots of money, had a big name, and everybody knew him. Did he play less well once he became popular?

Pinetop: Well, I'll tell you, when he was with us, he didn't hardly play too much. We would call him up there, and he would play. He didn't do too much; we did it.

Al: How have the blues changed over your lifetime?

Pinetop: Everything is in the blues and guitar.

Al: Do you think they have watered it down?

Pinetop: They have watered the blues down now. These white boys play a lot of guitar, man. All the guitars-it sounds funny to me.

Al: In the eighty-eight years that you have been around, a lot of things have changed in America besides the blues. How have you seen America change?

Pinetop: America has changed a lot!

Al: What do you remember back in the old days down South?

Pinetop: Hard times....and some good time. But, hard times give you the blues.

Al: When you started playing back when you were young, you played in mostly black clubs right?

Pinetop: Mostly black clubs.

Al: When were you able to get into predominantly white clubs?
Pinetop: When I got with Nighthawk, we played ALL clubs.

Al: How were the audiences different?
Pinetop: The black ones clap their hands...we get together!

Al: So, you feel like you have had a pretty good life?
Pinetop: Pretty good-some tough times, but also some good ones.

Al: What haven't you done in life that you would like to do?

Pinetop: I would like to make some money.

Al: Then what are you going to do with the money?

Pinetop: What would I do with it now? I'd rebuild the club.

Al: We will drive past there and see how things look. It will give the club some free publicity. Pinetop, how do you account for living so long?
Pinetop: The Lord...that's all I can say. I thank Him for being here too.

Al: So, you've still got your dad's religion.
Pinetop: Oh, yes!

Al: When you close up your piano for the last time and you die someday, what's life going to be like on the other side?
Pinetop: I hope it will be beautiful.

Al: You think you will see your grandmother?

Pinetop: No, I wouldn't be particular about seeing her no how. She did me wrong when I was young.

Some scenes from Pinetop's life....

Pinetop in front of Buck's Workingman's Pub What was left of Buck's after the fire
Interior view after the fire Pinetop showing how he became a legend....
  Nice duds, Pinetop. You look good in green.