Mad Dog Joe, a great talent, made a deal with Satan to became a huge star.
|In spite of nature's encroaching demise, the eyesore remains visible on Route fifty-two. The roof has holes like Joe's life that included the joy of entertainment along with periods of deep depression. The wind brings haunted melodies from a band now forgotten. Windows have cobwebs of shattered glass. Curtains swing and rip in the wind as anxious ghosts with secrets that cannot rest. The home survives as a microphone to Mad Dog Joe 's songs.
This is the sanctuary where Joe has come for healing. It felt like the place to lick his wounds. His Granny's spirit is in the very air.
Many years ago, in this house Granny raised him and on a sagging porch step, a young Joe sang his first blues. His voice had an amazing range. He had an angelic gentle soprano for a male. Then, in contrast, his baritone was beautiful. He was a favorite soloist in the church choir. The Preacher said the Holy Spirit moved through him.
Later, fans said they could feel his voice move within their bodies and souls.
Joe was mislead by poison from the greatest cheater ever. Satan: once the best of all angels in Heaven and the one who saw himself greater than God. After all, he had caused the downfall of humankind and ruined God's great plan.
Joe had been a famous entertainer. He was once an icon raking in millions and had the finest of everything. He was known for generosity; giving cash to charities, supporting food banks, and other worthy causes.
Joe paid the greatest price of all for listening to the Great Deceiver. He lost the son he had never met. He lost his passion for singing and could not write anymore. He hit the bottom with drugs, almost losing his life. When he was released from jail, bone weary and soul deprived, is when he came back to the old homestead where his grandparents had once lived. He was healing from the ravages of drugs and going through withdrawal.
He brought a voice harp and a worn Gibson guitar that needed new strings. He had a drum machine and a couple of Marshall amps. No mixer, just his voice. He would live with the ghosts. Ghosts were some of the best writing partners. Also, anyone who has been possessed by drugs has already experienced all sorts of demons.
So Mad Dog (his stage name and what he had become) lived in the shack with a leaking roof and overgrown kudzu creeping up the walls that meant buckets and a sickle. A humble joy was to be able to sleep on sheets without a toilet next to your head. He left the hole, his own skylight. God had allowed him this blessing; to enjoy paradise. He could watch birds, see the sun rise and set, and enjoy the moons' slide show.
He could lay beneath the sun in soft fragrant grass, enjoying the smell of honeysuckle and wild flowers. Joe walked for miles, even in thunderstorms, just because he could. He was home.
A lovely woman with long curly blonde hair walked over to his porch through the overgrown yard and dancing wildflowers. He thought she was a mirage, similar in looks to a childhood friend, Eve. She had a light about her; a filmy vision with yellow daises in her hand.
"Hi, old friend."
Her voice sounded just like the little girl he had known.
"Is that really you, Eve?"
"Some things don't change. I've been waiting for you to come back to where you belong."
"It's been a long strange trip."
"Are you the same good person I knew, deep in your heart?'
"I'm working on it."
"That is all I need to know. Granny Ellie would be proud."
Eve Dawson was "the girl" who helped Joe discover the wonders of the wilderness and each other as children. He found out she lived alone now and a ritual began of them spending time together, sharing simple picnics, sitting on the porch. They warmed up to each other by sharing memories. Eve had also been burdened by tragedy, a marriage that ended in a suicide. They had been looking for each other.
Slowly Joe was able to play guitar and sing again, Eve joined in. It was synchronicity; their voices complimented each other. They seldom talked. They didn't feel the need to. What was said came through the music? They harmonized on gospel songs, stirring the emotions.
To understand Joe's demons and what had happened to him, you must know his story.
According to Joe, he had never known his Ma except when he grew and changed inside her womb. When the Lord gave him breath, his mother's was taken away.
Sam Stone was Joe's Pa and a drinker like his Daddy before him. Ellie, his Ma’s mother, felt pressed to take the child. He was a good boy, went to school, did his chores and was a comfort to her. As her eyesight failed, he would read the Bible to her.
Then the day came when all changed. Joe had a dream where he was running away from the house. Joe thought the dream meant he had traveling to do. Granny tried to change his mind. The two argued over God's plan for him. Joe felt a calling; something was waiting. It was a purpose waiting down lonely highways and in big cities. Joe had characters in his mind with stories that were waiting to be told.
He left on a beautiful spring day. Granny watched him walk away through her filmy eyesight and prayed he would find what he was looking for. He had just begun hitch hiking when he found a clearing, the perfect place to take a leak.
A cyclone of fire burst before him. His eyes were blinded for a few minutes. The heat turned everything around Joe black. This monster had coal eyes that blazed. It looked like a giant werewolf with mangled ebony hair, a nose like a pig's snot and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. It could rip a person or animal apart. The muscular arms and legs were covered with needles and fur and the fingers and toes had nails sharpened to gold points.
Then came a booming voice. The breath smelled like rotten meat.
“Joe, would you like to be a rich man? You will never have to worry about money again. You can care for your Granny. You will be a great singer and all women will want you.”
Joe, shaking in his boots, stuttered, “What do I ha-veve to do-oo for youu?”
Satan's voice was one of an honest man.
“Just sign this simple paper selling your soul to me. When you are dead, it wouldn't mean a thing anyway. Until then you'll have all you ask for. Just think of all the benevolent things you can do for others. You know, those places that feed hungry, cure diseases, all that "Christian" stuff. Money means good works and all will look up to you.”
What a sweet deal. All Joe knew about his soul was it went to heaven when you die. He could give his Granny a lovely house and a car. He could be a big star like Elvis Presley. He would help the poor, build churches, and give to charities.
Joe felt that quivering you get when you're lying. God’s very presence in your spirit. He pushed it down deep.
He agreed to the Devil’s request. After all, Satan was once an Angel and as powerful as God. This was Satan's world, ruled by money and fame. If he gave his money, away all would be square with God. He could cover his bases.
One million dollars was put in his bank account that day. He bought himself the best acoustic Ovation guitar and Gibson electric then played them until his fingers bled. He wrote songs about women, love, lust, cheating, drinking and gambling. He easily found a gig at a roadside bar, singing his own and some cover tunes. An agent from Columbia just happened to be passing through and was amazed by Joe. The next thing Joe knew he had hired an agent, was flown to L.A., where he saw a recording studio. He made his demo at AIR. A contract was drawn up and a session band was pulled together to start an album.
The women loved his romantic songs. On stage, he met their eyes, looking deeply into some. They threw panties on the stage. His voice had an incredible range; he often sounded like he had tears in his voice. He was told that voice was his "Roy Orbison." The women lined up. He learned how to be the lover from his songs, in bed and out. Then he hit the next city and her phone number was thrown away.
Joe had a great agent but he also learned the business because he had a hard time trusting people. He made sure that his hand was in producing his own music along with writing songs, he knew exactly how they should sound. He heard melodies and characters in his head. Then he had to get it across to his band.
He would explain the story behind the written melody.
"This woman's fiancee has just come back from war. They have been lovers since high school. Now he returns with both of his legs gone. She isn't sure she can love him enough for this."
A talented musician's inner core aches with the pain of lost love and it flows through the instrument. Joe was an expert as far as getting across the pain of this couple. He was a natural bandleader.
Title: Strong Enough
The soldier pushed his chair,
down the ramp, off the plane.
Tears fell, from sky blue eyes
to match hers in a gentle rain.
Chorus: That boy that went to war
now she didn't see a trace,
for a man, bitter in his heart,
had returned to take his place.
Their life would never be that dream
But when you're dealt a blow,
you pull together, you build a bridge.
love that is strong is ready to grow.
Chorus: That boy that went to war
now she didn't see a trace,
for a man, bitter in his heart,
had returned to take his place.
An album recorded live and then overdubbed can take months. His studio band was hand picked from great session players with different backgrounds. There was a fine mix of blues, rock, country, R&B and gospel.
Joe's band for the road came together like a dream. They admired each other and became friends on the road. Their vocal harmonies blended and sounded like honey swirled through mother's milk. After all that, you have to touch the audience. You hope they have felt the pain that pierces a heart and rips it into pieces.
Joe wrote without effort, like a river flows over tumbling rocks, smoothing stone and then flooding over the banks. His first number one single was “Love on Whiskey Way".
It debuted at twenty-five on Billboard with a bullet. The album, “Guitars, Bars and Tender Hearts” was a huge hit. It sold a million with three number one singles. The video was erotic with dancers making love to guitars in the least fabric they could get by with.
Feeling like King Midas, he bought a mansion in California. It came complete with a pool, a view of the ocean, beautiful landscaping including tropical rose gardens, a gazebo, and many secluded lovers’ spots. It made the cover of “House Beautiful.” They called the home simply elegant with a flare for romance.
He didn't forget his promises, he gave to many charities and encouraged his fans from the stage to do the same.
The fans loved him for this.
"I am here tonight because of you people and I come from a dirt poor shack. I was rich though. I had a precious Granny who encouraged my love of music and told me to always give back. When I was a little boy, she took in the homeless to sleep on our bed while we slept on the floor. Remember Jesus washed his disciples' feet".
His fans went crazy, like he was a Pentecostal minister.
"I am a simple man, only here because God smiled down on me. I give back and ask my audiences to do the same. There are bins for the homeless and food banks. Each of you was asked to bring a can of food. I hope that you gave already. If not, please give your change. This all goes to your local food bank so there are booths for them outside. Thank you. Now on with the show. Here is "Every Man must find a Reason"."
He moved his Granny in to the most elegant home for older people he could find. He didn't have time to visit.
When Joe had forgotten how his stardom began, a very different Satan appeared. Joe knew him immediately. He wore a red velvet tuxedo at their nonprofit ball for Multiple Sclerosis. This human-like Satan had long black hair like silk, his eyes were smoky with long lashes and a goatee, his nose was pointed slightly and lips were full. When he smiled, it was a sinister smirk. There was nothing “satanic” about him, just an eccentric man with a frozen aura.
He reminded Joe of their bargain, placing his hand on Joe's shoulder. It was painful although he did not push or squeeze. His breath was still like rotten meat.
The fallen angel declared.
“I understand you will have a loss in your family. Strange how bad luck comes in streaks. Be very careful and wise about decisions.”
Joe didn't know what he meant. That night as he went to get out of his tux his shoulder hurt and the sleeve was stuck. He worked it off carefully and there was a hand print on his shoulder with a second degree burn that was very painful. Neither the jacket nor shirt showed any damage. This was powerful and he knew how wrong he had been to bow at Satan's knee.
The retaliation began with a woman.Joe took a phone call.
" Hi Joe, it has been a long time. My name is Marie Sanchez. When your band played in Mississippi, I met you backstage,"
Joe is beginning to not like this phone call at all. He could almost feel what was coming.
She continued in a seductive voice.
"We had a wonderful night together and you said you would call. You never did and your record company didn't help."
"Look, is there some way I can help you? What do you need?"
Joe was sweating and chain smoking.
"I had your baby and I would like some help. It is hard raising a child cleaning hotel rooms. I know you don't love me, I am not stupid. You could help us."
"I am going to get your information and we will get back to you, okay? How is the boy?"
"He looks just like you, beautiful and is two years old. His name is Joshua. I thought I could make it alone but it's too hard."
"Marie, I am sorry. '
He gave her his manager's number and they hung up.
Joe had been with many women without protection.
Joe arranged for a paternity test. The DNA matched so he supported them with money but never saw the boy. Joshua was a toddler and Marie would have let Joe have visitation. He was too busy. He didn't know then but later he would be devastated over what he had missed.
You can't get those young years back. The miracle of birth, days of watching his son learn to walk, talk and play with others. He missed the school play when Josh had the lead, even ball games. Fortunately Marie was a good woman. She married and the stepfather had room in his heart for Joshua plus the two children he and Marie had.
Joe continued to have and forget women as fast as he asked their name. The press liked him so they covered it up.
Joshua had just turned ten and went by Josh now. Each birthday he received a huge package of gifts from his “Dad.” He knew who his Dad was and asked his Mom why his Dad never was around.
The day after Josh's tenth birthday party, tragedy struck. Satan's power was unleashed.
Paul, the stepfather, was driving the family to an All-star game. A perfect day, the family was excited and proud. Josh was the starting pitcher.
Out of nowhere, running a stop sign they were hit by a drunk driver. The full affect was on the right side where Josh was sitting. Polly and Daniel had minor fractures but Marie had internal bleeding. Her spleen was removed, she was behind Josh in their SUV. The drunk driver with a 0.25 blood alcohol level wasn't injured except bruises. Paul was bruised and sore.
Josh had a closed head injury and was comatose.
Paul requested that Joe be notified. Joe was terrified but acted quickly in finding the best. Dr. Morgan Baker, a reknowned neurosurgeon, flew in by helicopter with his own surgical team. He did the delicate surgery to stop the bleed. Too much damage had been done already. His brain showed no signs of life after a surgery that was explained to have only a small chance of success. Even if they had saved him, he would have been in a vegetative state.
So the loss of Josh was what Satan was telling Joe years before it happened. A deal with the Devil meant paying a horrific price.
Joe offered to establish his paternity.
Marie began to cry hysterically.
“Why now? Our boy is gone. Do you know how he cried to meet you? He thought it was his fault you didn't want him. Do you know his friends all thought he was lying about having a big shot star for a Daddy? They laughed at him. Going to one concert and acknowledging him one time would have meant everything. Anyone can buy gifts. May you never forget that. "
Joe was crying. Each word drove a stake into his heart.
"I am so very sorry. You don't know. Isn't there anything I can do?"
"It's too late to do anything now, you selfish jerk. You know I feel very sorry for you because you missed a wonderful little boy. I have all those memories to look back on. You were nothing but a sperm donor."
"Please, can I come to the service?"
She slammed down the phone.
Joe spoke with Paul after the memorial service. The things Paul told him hurt but he wanted to know his son. Paul described Josh as a bright, funny, affectionate kid that loved his brother and sister. He set a great example for them. Josh had even told his Step-Dad that he had a girlfriend, Penny, that he kissed on the Ferris wheel. He had said it was the most awesome feeling. Paul had talked to him about the stirring in his groin. Just the kind of thing Joe should have been doing. Josh was saving for a cell phone by cutting grass.
So Joe held a pity party at home. Joe fell into a deep depression and began to drink. Now he realized what he lost and what was important in life. He screamed out loud that the deal was over. He had grown into his name “Mad Dog Joe.” If someone had crossed him then, the little switch in his brain would click and that person didn't stand a chance.
He was arrested for drunk driving. After losing his boy that way, it was the worst sin. God was ready to punish. The Judge was going to set an example and Joe was given a two year sentence. Celebrities, even with fancy expensive lawyers, don't get special deals. The tax man wanted back taxes and Joe's mansion, Rolls Royce, his 'bad boy' cars were gone. He owed more and didn't have a dime.
Joe was singing the blues for real now. This was a time the blues should have poured like an eternal spring. He tried to copy Blind Lemon Jefferson or Robert Johnson. No more record deals, they didn't sell. He was a big risk to put money on.
His band broke up when the drinking gave him a nasty temper and he threw expensive guitars around. He was a sloppy drunk. Then it was drugs; speed, downers, crystal meth and crack. He was a ruined man and knew it.
He went cold turkey, a dangerous way to detox and he knew that. Maybe this would kill him. He spent most of his time in the bathroom on the floor, hugging the cool toilet. He felt like he was shaking the meat off his bones, he had diarrhea, vomited blood, and couldn't sleep for days.
God had a plan. You have to surrender and you had to mean it. Joe prayed standing, sitting, kneeling and laying on the dirt and God didn't listen.
Joe sobbed like a baby pleading and God turned away.
The mouth harp went sour. Then his guitar wouldn't play. Joe knew what he had done.
'God was saying this guitar was your god, you worshiped it.'
He had lost it all; the money, family, heart. The blues rang true. He had lost his soul for nothing. Money and fame can be lost in a flash. Faith, family and love is what lasts.
So that is how he happened on the steps of the broken down shack that he had grown up in. After jail he needed to take that journey back to God.
God had come through with a friend in Eve and the simple life to find salvation again. He even found that with Eve he could play gospel on his guitar.
Hardcore time was staying clean and sober. Each day he began to know God. He had Granny's Bible to go by. He fasted for a month and he prayed all day on the floor. He felt in his heart Granny had forgiven him.
“My son, you have broken my heart.”
Joe went to the river. Just as Jesus himself had been baptized by John the Baptist. Joe asked God to take all his sins. Then like a little child, Joe heard the birds sweetest music and felt the sun's cleansing rays. Peace flooded his heart.
He picked his Gibson up, wrote songs that made Eve cry with joy. He would dedicate all to his son and Granny. Holy tears had washed his guitar. Now he could write, sing and play again. When you have grace, you have all you need.
God spoke to his heart.
"You will have healthy children with Eve. Raise them with faith. In my Kingdom, you will meet Joshua. He is one of my best angels. There is so much good in you, my son. If it were not so, Joshua would not be so pure."
God stamped his Blues Songbook:
“Dear Joe, Paid in Full”
By Kathie Stehr