I almost chopped my thumb off once. Just before I left home, I was about ten or eleven years old, and I was trying to open a bone. Can you imagine that? A bone! I was trying to get the marrow out of a bone, and I took the ax, and I went to chop it, and something slipped, and the ax went right down there and damn near cut it off.
Back when we was in school in Mississippi, we had Little Black Sambo. That's what you learned: Anytime something was not good, or anytime something was bad in some kinda way, it had to be called black. Like, you had Black Monday, Black Friday, black sheep... Of course, everything else, all the good stuff, is white. White Christmas and such.
I would sit on the street corners in my hometown of Indianola, Mississippi, and I would play. And, generally, I would start playing gospel songs. People would come by on the street - you live in Time Square, you know how they do it - they would bunch up. And they would always compliment me on gospel tunes, but they would tip me when I played blues.
I tell my children now that they are older, 'If something happens to me... don't make no big fuss over me. Don't make no big expense on my funeral. Don't put any pressure on the rest of the family. I've loved everybody, and I hope they loved me. But don't create this big expense for the family.'
I don't feel that no big stone should be put over my head, saying he did this, he did that. Unless there's something that I really did do. I believe I'm just ordinary. And I'd like for people to think of me that way, as just a guy that tried. Wanted to be loved by other people because he loved people.
You've heard me call myself a bluesman and a blues singer. I call myself a blues singer, but you ain't never heard me call myself a blues guitar man. Well, that's because there's been so many can do it better'n I can, play the blues better'n me. I think a lot of them have told me things, taught me things.
My last divorce was in '68. What made it come to a head was a promise. See, I had promised her that the next year I wouldn't work as much. But then I got in trouble with the IRS, and I had to continue working just as much to pay the government. So she said I lied, which is something I never did.
Even now, at 82 years old, if I don't learn something every day, you know what I think? It's a day lost. Now, I don't practice every day. I just take the guitar, swear at it. But I should be swearing at myself. But I fool with music. I'm doing something musically all the time. And my ears are wide open for anything I can hear.
I developed in my head that I'm never any better than my last concert or the last time I played, so it's like an audition each time. You get nervous just before going onstage. I still have that, but I think it's more like concern. You're concerned about the people - like meeting your in-laws for the first time.
My wife Martha used to call me Ol' Lemon Face because of my facial contortions when I play Lucille. I squeeze my eyes and open my mouth, raise my eyebrows, cock my head and God knows what else. I look like I'm in torture, when in truth, I'm in ecstasy. I don't do it for show. Every fiber of my being is tingling.