Originally published in Arthur No. 13 (Nov. 2004)
T-MODEL KNOWS BETTER
T-Model Ford is the 84-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 some questions about matters concerning us our our readers. 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 all-bets-are-off blues albums (more info at fatpossum.com). If you’ve got questions for T-Model, and we suspect that you do, email ‘em to email@example.com
What’s your favorite season of the year?
I take ‘em as they come, they’re all alike to me. I don’t worry about it. That’s the Man’s work. I’m doin’ alright. He’s letting me live, go around, doin’ my little thing. I’m feeling GOOD.
What if you’re a person who doesn’t enjoy going to church, listening to the sermon and so on, but you still want God in your life? What’s the best way to get His attention?
Well, if you want to go to church, you just got to go on in to the church. But I don’t go to church. I got the church right here in my heart. I don’t go to church, because the half of them going to church, they ain’t the Christian I is. I can ask them about some things, they can’t answer. I can. I can’t read and write, but I can answer. I was raised up in the church. When I was getting in my 30s then, I married a woman. I was a young man and… I thought the peoples all around liked me, and they enjoyed me, I thought we was gonna be in the church. But they changed–they went to talking about me, saying I wasn’t going to the church for no good, I was going to church to look at the young women. And I ain’t thinking about it!
When it comes to romance, do you believe in making love on a first date, or should you hold out, stoke the fire for a while, so when it finally happens it’s so much sweeter?
Well, if you want it, go ahead. But if you don’t, let it go. And further up the road, it’ll do better. So, don’t worry about it. Let them worry about it. Don’t you worry about it. That’s the way they’re doing on me. They’re worrying about this old man! They say I’m 84 years old. But I ain’t worrying for nothing. I ain’t lost nothin’, and I gets what I want. I’m trying to get another CD fixed up, where I can go out there and do it again.
How many songs do you reckon you know how to play by heart?
Well, it’s a hard question to answer. I know a heap of ‘em. But I can’t read and I can’t write and I can’t spell. When they crawl up in my mind, I can do it to it, I can sing it and I can play it. I had a white fella come to my house the other morning from England I believe it was, he wanted to hear me play the guitar. I told him, I can play. He didn’t think I want to play. He asked me to get it, and let him hear a little. I let him hear a heap. He crazy, he wrote it down in a book, I can play and what I can do. I really can play. I don’t have to ask nobody. I can play with anybody, I can play without ‘em.
How many years does it take somebody to play the blues before they finally get it right?
Oh, it don’t take no time. If you interested in it, and wanna play and take heave at it… I learned in a week! And I’m BAD. I was shamed to go out with the guys I was playin’ with, but they finally got me out one time, and I’d been bad ever since. I ain’t scared of nobody with a guitar, I don’t care where he come from. I didn’t start til I was 58. Everybody want to know why I waited, but I wasn’t interested in nothin’ like that. I had workin’ on my mind, and women. But they never did worry me. I ain’t never worried but one time about a woman, and I got POISONED by her. And I ain’t worried about any none of them…they go and they come. That’s right. I let them worry about ME. I ain’t the man I used to be, but I’m a ladies’ man.