Joe Cocker, Ed Dodd and a Hundred Dollar Bet. The indulgence of a personal moment - telling the stories.
There I was, a baby engineer on the old Southern Railway System (now Norfolk Southern). The year was the 1960s, I was in hog-heaven having caught the "Hummingbird" ( an express train to Chattanooga, regularly scheduled) reserved for the engineers with the most seniority, while I was on the "extra-board." (relief work) The entire Hummingbird crew was missing - which meant that they had some appointment keeping them from work. It also meant that our crew was all very young and green. Sitting across from me was a haughty young black man, named Ed Dodd. I remembered previously seeing that name on his chest, - old Vietnam "greens" he would wear - Ed Dodd and wondering if it was coincidence or had meaning.
I was curious, seeing that name Ed Dodd on that black man's chest and discovered that his grandmother still lived on plantation land, previously owned by our mutual ancestor, The Rev. Ed Dodd, who founded over one hundred and fifty Southern Baptist Churches in Georgia and Alabama. He also owned a HUGE Plantation. Ed's grandmother, who raised him, lived in the old slave quarters still. We may or may not have been blood-related. To this day, I still do not know.
In a certain way, I was proud of Ed Dodd. Whether he was kin or not, he was close. He was a dignified young black man who others looked up to, including many whites. There I was with an equal reputation, both of us enjoying responsibility above our years and experience. There we were the ancestors of slaves and slave owners, and absolutely equal, earning our livings on the railroad, in the exact same way. He naturally wanted to be friends with me, there was an affinity there, but his militancy kept him from it. So, in the language of the 21st century, that made us, "Frienemies."
We engaged in small talk as our train was being readied for brake testing. And during the brake-test, he explained to me how Dave Brubeck was an artificial "white ripoff" of a genuinely honest black genre and how all black music was genuinely soulful, and white musicians with technical knowledge "aped it" for commercial motives. He enjoyed that particular word, "aped" as applied to WHITES. He gave me an off-handed list of black artists for whom no white could possibly compare. I used my poker face when he named Joe Cocker.
I said, "But isn't Joe Cocker is white? I'm pretty sure he is white. "
He responded, "No way."
I said, "I 90 percent sure he is white."
"Impossible! I'll tell you what, I will bet you one hundred dollars that Joe Cocker is a black man. No white man could possibly sing with such soul."
I asked, "Do you think Cocker's styling is REAL?"
"Absolutely, it is from his core, it reflects who he is. Every sound he makes if from his soul. No white man can ape that." (BTW Ed Dodd was a friend of Stokley Carmichael's. That is how I met Stokley.)
"Okay, I accept your bet." It is the only bet I ever placed in my life, and I won it.