“Mustang Sally” for the 1,243rd Time

La Mexicana is back from Mazatlán. I was over at her house enjoying her company again on a late Friday afternoon, her last day off before returning to work. She loves music and has her own fascinating collection of recorded music that I have never heard before along with a very smooth five-disk changer to play it on.

She also has quite of stack of burned disks given to her by others, mostly gringos, who know how much she enjoys music. As near as I can tell, the majority of these she has never played before. Occasionally, she fans through that stack, selects five disks at random, and loads them.

“Let’s listen to these,” and she mashed the shuffle button. Usually, I have heard these cuts before.

Inevitably, last Friday I heard that song again.

“Who’s this?”

“Sounds like Buddy Guy . . . . 1,243 times, honey. Excuse me. I need to use the bathroom.”

I had been stuck at 1,242, the number of times that I have heard “Mustang Sally” over a lifetime, either recorded or performed live, since I began keeping as close a count as I could. I had not heard it for somewhere around three years. I had not realized what a respite that was until I heard it again on Friday.

I used to offer a $20.00 tip to bands while they were setting up in little dives here and there not to play “Mustang Sally.”

Some years ago I was a great fan of a blues player, singer, and song writer out of New Orleans named Mem Shannon. What a pleasure it was to embed that link and know that he is still out there somewhere cooking along!

Anyway, Mem Shannon used to make an annual trek up to Chicago to play there for a time. He and his band would stop every year in my hometown on the way north for one Sunday night gig at a pub I frequented there. This place was tiny. There were no chairs in it. Only high stools and high tables, some of which were right on top of the band, which is of course where I would sit waiting and watching the band set up.

On his second visit, I noticed that on Mem’s guitar case there was a circle with a slash through it, the international road sign for something that is forbidden, and behind the circle and slash were the words “Mustang Sally.” This delighted me. It clearly meant that Mem Shannon refused to play “Mustang Sally.”

He came out a bit later and pulled his guitar out of the case right in front of me. Before he ever played a note, I held out my twenty to him.

“What’s that for?” he asked.

“For that,” and I pointed to the sign on the guitar case.

Mem Shannon is not a man who is profligate with his laughter, constantly writing about and singing about those heart-breaker, life-taker women as he does. Nonetheless, he laughed.

Through the years listening to bands play in little dives, I took to getting up and going to the Men’s Room whenever they started to play “Mustang Sally.” That way I avoided the crush in those little Men’s Room at the break between sets. Of course the sound of that song played by those loud bands in those little places filtered into the Men’s Room. The upshot is that I have probably spent literally hours of my life standing in front of a urinal listening to “Mustang Sally.”

I have therefore been conditioned like Pavlov’s dog to feel the need to urinate every time I hear “Mustang Sally” now. And sure enough. Even after that three-year respite, when Buddy Guy started to play it at La Mexicana’s house last Friday, I had to pee.

At Buddy Guy’s place in Chicago, where you can rely
on the bands not to play “Mustang Sally.”

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