Originally published in Arthur No. 11 (July 2004)
T-MODEL KNOWS BETTER
T-Model Ford is the 82-year-old, self-styled “Boss of the Blues”, also known as “The Taildragger.” Every two months, Arthur calls up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and asks him for some advice. T-Model gives his sage answers, then we transcribe the conversation with some interpreting help from the fellas at Fat Possum, the Mississippi record label that releases T-Model’s original badass records (more info at fatpossum.com). If you’ve got questions for T-Model, and we know that you do, email ‘em to firstname.lastname@example.org
T-Model, what should you do if you got some neighbors that are acting rowdy? Having parties late at night?
Well, if it’s worrying you… If you the boss of the house, get you another house, or stay there and put up with it. If you can’t stand ‘em and all, can’t get along with ‘em, and if they don’t wanna move, then you move out of there yourself.
You wouldn’t call the police?
No. Police ain’t gonna do nothin’ about it no way. All you do, talkin’ on the phone… first thing a couple more weeks, or a month, it’s the same thing again! If you get tired of something, move out! Go on ‘bout your business. That’s right. I ain’t rowdy, but they think I is! [laughs]
T-Model, you like whiskey, right? What’s your preference?
I like the Johnny Walker. I drink, but I don’t get ‘toxicated. “Toxicated” means you get high and almost drunk and you don’t know how to treat the people. But I just take me a little shot drink all alone, and I don’t get high. If I smell it, I quit drinking. I can handle myself. Because if you get too much of it in, you can’t handle yourself, and other people neither. I don’t like a drunkard no way. Dope smokers and drunkards—I don’t even want to get in their company. You don’t want it all, you just want a little teeny bit.
T-Model, you’re 82 years old and still playing music, going on tour. You have any advice for young musicians that are just starting out?
I’d tell them to play the blues. Stick with the blues. The blues will forever be here. This mess they coming out with now, wasn’t out when we was coming in the world. Nothing but old guitars, acoustic guitar. But now, it’s the blues everywhere I go, all overseas and out of Mississippi, the people love the blues. All the crack places and the rap places, my style of blues is puttin’ them all bad. They don’t wanna hear that. Like when I go overseas or get out of Mississippi to play, all the people coming there to hear me, they ain’t caring about hearing no other people play! They come to hear T-Model. So I got the best style there is: the blues.
T-Model, is it true that you can play for eight hours straight?
That’s true! It’s like walking in the kitchen and drinking some sweet milk. Ain’t nothin’ to it, man.