It was a Monday night nearly 23 years ago. To be precise: 27 August, 1990. As we had done often that year, a friend and I spent most of the evening listening to the blues. She made dinner. It might have been lentils (yet again) as she was vegetarian.
She was sitting on the carpet with her long, bright and multi-coloured skirt (she always wore those) fanned-out around her. And we ate the lentils from bowls with spoons whilst her housemates drifted in and out. Some stopped to say hello, others did not.
We could spend hours talking about music, especially the blues. In fact, that’s what brought us together. That, common exams, road trips, and madcaps whom we called friends.
It rained that Monday night and we explored a cheap bottle or two seeking the solace that so often evaded us. Two self-styled outsiders, carefully sculptured from the pages of a Camus novel, with a double shot of the blues added for additional discomfort.
Perhaps John Lee Hooker started proceedings for that Monday evening.
“Boom, boom, boom, boom/I’m gonna shoot you right down, /right offa your feet /
Take you home with me, /put you in my house /Boom, boom, boom, boom/ A-haw, haw, haw, haw/”
Or maybe, it was Muddy Waters.
“I got a black cat bone/I got a mojo too/I got the Johnny Concheroo/I’m gonna mess with you/I’m gonna make you girls/Lead me by my hand/Then the world will know/The hoochie coochie man/”
Somewhere between “I’d rather go blind” by Etta James and “There’s a hell hound on my trail” by Robert Johnson, my friend reached for something new.
“I present to you” – and here she mimicked a drum roll with both hands in the smoke-filled air – “the one-and-only, the inimitable – another drum roll – … Stevie Ray Vaughn!”
As soon as the needle hit the vinyl groove – yes it was that long ago – I was hooked, and with each track my addiction grew stronger.
Here was a young man whose guitar playing gave sight to the blind, breath to the asthmatic and movement to the cripple. Hell, he even caused the great Eric Clapton to stop and ask for directions.
I was still humming “this house is a-rockin’/don’t bother knocking” when a car sped up my drive-way. It screeched to a halt only a few meters from the backdoor. The driver ran for cover from the rain with howls of pain and agony.
It was my friend. Her hair and skirt was wet. “He’s dead! He’s dead!”
Dear Lord, I thought, I have no suit for a funeral, don’t do this to me.
“He’s dead!” And with that, she threw her arms around my neck and squeezed with the power of a desperately hungry Anaconda. I could not breathe. Drops of water from her cheeks and nose ran down my chest. If this lasted any longer, I was not going to make it. I tried to breathe and fight the looming dark dizziness.
With breath normally reserved for changing wills and heartfelt pleas for forgiveness, I rasped: “It is Andre? Did Andre die?” I figured such agony could only be caused by the death of a lover and soul mate.
She loosened her grip for a second, and looked at me, confounded, with tears streaming from her eyes. “No, you fool”, she said. I took the opportunity to slip out of her grip and took a more defendable position behind a kitchen pillar.
The house stopped a-rockin’. Our hero was dead. The victim of a tragic helicopter accident, somewhere far away in Alpine Valley.
Some months later I flipped through a friend’s dog-eared songbook. I found a song by Lonnie Mack and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Oreo Cookie Blues.
A song about a man addicted to Oreo cookies, the same way I was to Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Chocolate on my fingers/icing on my lips/ Sugar, diabetes and blubber on my hips/. Sweet, sweet blues.
A few weeks ago, in a moment of boredom, I listened to Oreo Cookie Blues again. Given that I am a mediocre guitar player in the middle of a cupcake spell, I felt inspired. And when I saw a woman sticking a cupcake in a jam jar for someone to take home, my inspiration was complete.
I call this my chocolate-and-meringue-cupcake-in-a-jar, or if you prefer the shorter version: Cupcake-for-Stevie Ray.
If you have never heard the man play, now is the time. Grab your jar, a spoon and a tune. Sit back, eat, be quiet and listen, cause in the words of another blues great, Buddy Guy, “Your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working overtime.”
But remember, for this to be authentic, your cupcake has to be topped with an Oreo Cookie. That’s the way Stevie would have wanted it. None other will do.