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Satan & Adam at Crosstown Arts

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"Oh, She Was Pretty" is a record collector's dream, recorded in 1966 for Ray Charles' Tangerine label. Sterling Magee tells the usual story about a woman who did him wrong, and the reason he'd do it all again. His rough and reedy voice rides a relentless tick-tock beat, accented by shimmering piano and growling, muted horns. It wasn't a hit, but it's a perfect dance single — the kind of obscure mover U.K. soul fanatics call "a cracker," with raw foundations foreshadowing Magee's future career as a street performer, working Harlem's 125th Street as an amped up one-man-band.

Sterling Magee (left) and Adam Gussow - “SATAN & ADAM,” FACEBOOK
  • “Satan & Adam,” Facebook
  • Sterling Magee (left) and Adam Gussow

By the mid 1980s, Magee, who'd backed James Brown at the Apollo, went by the name Satan — later amended to Mr. Satan — and was playing for tips just a stone's throw from the storied music theater. That's where he was working when Adam Gussow, an Ivy League grad on a blues pilgrimage, did that cringey thing blues tourists sometimes do and asked if he could sit in on harmonica. Only this street jam led to a kind of apprenticeship, and a chance encounter with U2 while the band was filming Rattle & Hum, led to notariety, expanded opportunity, and unforeseen dilemmas.

Today, Gussow teaches literature at Ole Miss; Satan's retired in Gulfport. Filmmaker Scott Balcerek followed the duo for 20 years and his film Satan & Adam screens at Crosstown Arts Thursday, May 2nd, as part of a new weekly series.

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