(This is a major rewrite of a story from 15 years ago.) I can remember the day rock and roll died for me. It was years ago when I heard “Layla” in a Goodwill and the once magisterial guitar solo by Clapton played at a screeching level drove me out of the store. I renounced rock forever right there. It was deader than a door nail for me, and, I, suspect for many others. It simply had no purpose except to make money and sell shit. I didn’t even hold a little ceremony for it. There was nothing left to say.
Then Trump came along and rock was powerless to respond, quite unlike the 60s and 70s and even NWA in the 80s. In fact, right wing rockers helped elect him. Who ever heard of a right wing rockers decades ago?
Then the Pandemic raged (still raging as a write this) and rock even as a nostalgic commodity, was dead, deader, the undead. You couldn’t even see the 45th iteration of the Doobie Brothers at an Indian casino.
But then, a few months ago, as the nation locked down (well, some of us) I met the savior of rock and roll and his name is Jack Blake. Everything is different for me now.
Jack Blake’s not his real name. I know who he really is.
After you read his story don’t ask me to reveal his true identity. I’m no Judas ready to kiss Jack on the cheek for 30 pieces of silver. No, I’m more like John the Baptist in this tale, out in a wet wilderness proclaiming the coming of the messiah, preparing the way, baptizing Jack in the waters. I’m only a prophet with a message and that message is that Rock and Roll lives and one man has resurrected it. He’s no carpenter but can handle a guitar and practically every other instrument, too.
If you want to find Jack and put the spear in his side, you’ll have to head for the Pacific Northwest Coast (once the virus coast is clear, of course, or not). He’s out there, masked up, living like Jeremiah Johnson, in a massive, battered motor home with his crazy mutt, making music so astonishing, that if heard by a mass audience, might have the same sort of explosive cultural impact of Elvis, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, sweet soul music, even nihilistic punk rock. He is all of these things merged into one super being and much more.
I have several aims for this story. I want people to understand Jack’s music. I want it to document how he lived on the road in the pre-fame days. And I want it to describe the extraordinary creative process he used to make records that might single-handedly reinvigorate American popular music and lay waste to every convention of musical artistry and the process of distributing music.
For the record, I’m the first reporter on this story, the dude who saw the Beatles in Hamburg or Elvis at a state fair or Aretha sing gospel in her father’s church. No media has ever profiled Jack until you’ve read this. He doesn’t issue press releases. He doesn’t know what a press release is. He has no social media platform. He owns a flip phone. He doesn’t do the internet, although someone does it for him and that’s how you can find his music if you can’t see him live playing in a campground or the parking lot of a fast food restaurant.
I do have qualms. Suppose Jack’s story takes off? I worry about him. He seems dangerously naive about his fate if his story hits. A reality show about him, and I can imagine him agreeing to participate in such a depraved venture because he’s never seen one, might kill him in the end.
But hey, Jesus had to die, and he suffered, too.