When I first met the wiry-looking fellow, I had no idea he was a musical genius. Nor did I know his instrument of choice. Nor that I was about to witness the last breaths of a generation.
I had strolled into New Orleans simply looking for some good photos. That is all. Just some good photos and some good times.
It was Mardi Gras, of course, and it was 1975. By strict calendar standards, the 1960s were long over, but few generations pay heed to the calendar, nor did my new friend, who called himself "the Broom Strummer of Bourbon Street."
The Broom Strummer was probably 10 years my senior, and he was instantly likeable. He walked with a slight tilt, told remarkable stories about his childhood and accomplishments, and had something slung over his shoulder. I didn't pay much attention to it. But when we walked onto Bourbon Street, others took note.
"Hey Broom Strummer! Broom Strummer!" revelers shouted. "Play me some broom!"
He appeared annoyed, but it was an act. He removed a leather guitar case shaped like a broom from his back. He placed it on the street, unclasped the lid, and ceremoniously pulled out a standard kitchen broom.
I expected him to start noisily "sweeping" the street -- perhaps to the beat of a familiar song.
"I knew a man, Bojangles, and he danced for you...
"In worn out shoes...
"Thwappity, thwap, thwap."
But instead, he clutched the broom as if it was a rare Les Paul. He raised his right hand aloft like a rock god. And he unleashed his fury.
"DAH DAH DAH DAH, dah dah dah dah!" he screamed. "DAH DAH DAH DAH, dah dah dah dah!"
Yes, the Broom Strummer had aced the opening licks to "Jumpin' Jack Flash."
Bourbon Street was transformed. From seemingly nowhere, a hundred Keith Richardses materialized, strumming a thousand air guitars,
"DAH DAH DAH DAH, dah dah dah dah!"
A thousand Mick Jaggers started prancing.
"But it's all-right now, 'n fact it's a gas!"
And the Broom Strummer led his tribe down Bourbon Street, singing and strumming a rock anthem.
"It's alllll right! Jumpin' Jack Flash, It's a Gas, Gas, Gaaaaaaaas!"