Satan & Adam (2018) - full transcript

SATAN & ADAM chronicles the unlikely pairing of legendary one-man-band Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee and harmonica master Adam Gussow. Shot over 20 years, the film showcases one of the greatest blues duos you probably never got a chance to see. Magee and Gussow came together on the streets of Harlem in the 1980s, a time when race relations in New York City were at an all-time low. From completely different worlds, these two musicians forged a lifelong relationship that showcases the unifying power of music. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
I was in graduate
school at Columbia.

Kind of at the tail end
of a long relationship

that wasn't quite working out.

I was feeling no
subtleties to life at all.

I was feeling defeated.

If you're sitting
alone in a room

and your girlfriend
has just walked out

with somebody you knew.

You kind of say, fuck this,
I'm too restless to sit here!

If I leave here, and I go somewhere,
and rip open my chest,

and play, that's
where my release is.

If you are forced into a
different dimension of life

in which a pain suddenly
hits you and it is soul deep,

it's an experience of
being overtaken by emotion.

So I think I was in a space

to be able to really
appreciate blues

and be struck by blues.

So I was in Harlem, and
I passed the Apollo,

and I was on the next block.

And there was a guy
playing right in front

of the phone company.

So I was a little anxious
being on the street in Harlem.

But I fought my anxiety,
walked up to a guy

who was watching, and
I said, who is that?

He said, that's Satan.

Everybody in Harlem knows Satan.

And then I went
up to him, I said,

I love your music.

I shook his hand, and I said,

I wonder if I could sit in
with you on a couple songs.

I said I won't embarrass you.

And he thought for a
minute and he said,

come on up!

Suddenly it was 30 people.

Before I've played a note.

You know, curiosity took.

Satan's gonna play
with the white boy.

You could hear kind of murmurs.

And he started with that groove.

♪ Well I want it ♪

♪ I want you! ♪

♪ I wanna make you my woman! ♪

♪ There's nothing you can do ♪

♪ Not a thing you can do ♪

♪ I get everything I want ♪

♪ Guess what, haha ♪

♪ I want you ♪

He just kind of threw
me all over the place.

I mean his groove was incredibly
strong, I just held on.

I held on for dear life.

The place exploded.

I mean it was an
amazing feeling.

He just turned, he said, how
about a hand for the young man,

and he didn't know my name.

And I said, Adam.

He goes, I am Satan.
You know?

We played a few more
and then it was like,

can I come back tomorrow?

And he said sure,
yeah, come back.

Suddenly there was this place

that opened up in
my imagination.

I mean I lived on
the Upper West Side,

I had a relationship
that went down in flames,

and without really being clear

what I was gonna
do with my life.

I mean Harlem suddenly
was possibility.

And it was an embrace, rather
than a, white boy go home.

It's like a connection.

You don't know what's
going to happen.

At the moment, New York City

has more racial tensions
than any other American city.

New York is a racially
segregated city,

in desperate trouble.

It is a city where
you can be killed

for taking a wrong turn
because of racial violence.

What are they doing
here at 10:00 at night?

We're going to end up
reaping the whirlwind

of the widening gap

between the haves
and the have nots.

Personally I feel like...

A white guy in Harlem.

Harlem in the '80s was
depressed economically,

but collective culturally.

This was before gentrification.

Gentrification was
like this theme.

White people are coming
to take over our space.

They are pushing us out.

We have a flammable atmosphere.

It's like gas in the kitchen.

All you gotta do
is strike a match.

Many in this city

say the perception of
racial crime has increased,

and so have tensions.

Mister Satan was trying
to establish a foothold

in Harlem on 125th
Street saying,

when I play here, it's
a way of, it's a solace.

But one day, I actually
saw a white guy.

This person was the
only white person there.

This white man,
what is he doing?

Is he helping him or is
he stealing the music?

This is the type of
talk that we heard.

To see two people that came from

two diametrically
opposite existences

in the streets of Harlem,
even if it violates

tribal code and takes a
lot of self confidence,

a lot of courage.

Or a lot of ignorance to
the environment you're in.

Thank you sir, thank y'all!

Finally tonight,

a walk on the
sidewalks of New York.

Remy Blumenfeld discovered
some real stars of the street.

Each street musician
has his turf

And in Harlem, the
streets belong to Satan.

And this is Satan.

We both found it
intensely exciting

to be making music
on the street.

He had that before I came.

That was his space.

But the two of us together

got more people than
he had by himself.

He recognized that.

That was huge.

So, to have a job
as I did as a tutor,

and to realize that the money
that I could actually make

with this new guitar man that
I was starting to play with,

was more than that.

It was a very strange
thing to quit the job,

and I was still at that point

trying to figure out
who this guy was.

Till somebody took
me aside, and said,

you know who you're
playing with?

You're playing with
Sterling Magee.

And said, you know, he was on
Ray Charles's Tangerine label.

You know he played with
Etta James, Marvin Gaye,

Little Anthony
and the Imperials.

He backed up James
Brown at the Apollo,

and they would point down the
block at the Apollo Theater.

I remember one young guy
coming up and saying,

you know he was in the
studio with George Benson.

And he blew George Benson away.

So I was trying to
figure out who he was,

and I'm getting these stories.

And the only thing I
know for sure is that

nobody ever, to his face,
called him Sterling.

I didn't know why.

This is the blues.

Ain't nothin' bout,

Hey, baby, why don't
you treat me right?

If you act right, she would!

This is the blues.

I met Sterling Magee in 1967.

I was hired by King
Curtis as the bass player.

Sterling was a hell
of a guitar player.

His rhythm was
just off the hook.

Or if you
wanna do it another way.

When I met him, again, in
Harlem, on the street...

Is this Sterling?

And I recognized his
playing right away.

The sense was he was
ahead of his time.

The clubs were closing down.

There was no recording
activity going on.

This is the late '80s.

And it was hard getting work.

He just took it to the street.

Where he can get paid

and make a living.

Blue is one of the most
beautiful colors in the world.

The sky is blue,
you got a clear day,

people go out to the
beach, the water's blue,

it's clear without pollution.

And everybody's having fun.

How do you associate
blue with such a sad

slumped down-anistic state of...


That's not the blues.

Those are the clouds.

I remember him
saying he was Satan.

Which was like, whoa.

find him most days

on 7th Avenue in Harlem.

He calls himself Mister Satan.

What makes me the
prince of darkness

is I can go into the
darkness of my mind

and come out with
beautiful things.

Hey, little mister.

Alright, hello, sir.

I'm Mister Satan, hello
everybody viewing.

And this is my
creation called Wisdom.

Most people who hear

about a guy named Mister Satan,

first thing is, what does he do,

torture puppies, or something?


It's more connected
to anger at religion.

At organized religion
and at ministers.

He knew the Bible inside out.

But he still...

He still like, he
almost challenged God.

He said he couldn't die.

He said...

He couldn't get hurt.

And to tell you the
honest to goodness,

I never seen him sick.

I feel that he is
from the same planet

as Sun Ra, George
Clinton, Cecil Taylor.

These people are coming
from a very different place.

And I feel that's his tribe.

The reason why he changed
his name to Mister Satan,

because he had a
young lady, okay?

He loved the woman.

We had a fight early on

that had to do with the money.

It was because as
a street musician,

you're each gonna split the
money that comes in 50/50.

We split the bills, but
there's all this change,

and I sort of thought some
of that should be mine

and at one point he
basically got angry.

Because what I
didn't realize was,

just how important it was
to him, to have that money

to give to what he
called the street people.

The people who ain't
got nobody else.

And they loved him.

We got a group of fools leading
this country, in Congress.

And anytime they talk
about a damn budget

and contribute to
upholding your life,

money ain't nothing
without people to spend it.

If you step outside
of your home any day,

you don't see people.

You don't go looking for no
money, and go looting no place,

the first thing you're gonna
find is somebody to talk to.

He would always say
it wasn't just him.

It's what we're doing.

And I thought, wow,
that's kind of great.

I mean if our music can pay
him, pay me, and help them,

what's not to like?

I realized very early,

this is the best gig
I'm ever gonna have.

I was his boy, in a sense.

I was the guy who
was not his equal.

I was his apprentice.

So, I wanted to write something
about what we were doing.

And got Harper's to
assign me an article.

And I had this incredible guilt
about having been paid money

to tell our story.

And I called him up.

He said, how much they pay you?

And I said, $3,000.

He goes, gimme half.

And I split it with him.

I gave him half the money.

My girlfriend at the
time was like, you did?

But that's all I needed to do.

It was about us.

I'd done the writing.

We'd done the living.

When I think about
Mister Satan's energy,

the analogy that comes to mind

is a story that my
mother used to tell

when we would go
on summer vacation.

She says, it was amazing
to watch you go out there

and stand in front of the ocean.

It was like the first time
you ever met something

that was more powerful
than you thought you were.

I was the kid who thought I
could sort of master the ocean.

And so to play with him,
was to be swamped, you know?

I grew up in a small
working class town

about 20 miles
north of New York.

That's my mom in the
'50s when she was working

as a researcher
for Time magazine.

Probably around the
time my father met her.

My father was an artist,
and an environmentalist.

He was Jewish.

My mother was Dutch reformed.

Adam did not like to do
anything badly, ever.

He was very smart.

I'm sure it drove people crazy.

He was certainly not one
of those popular kids.

I skipped a grade, and I was
smaller than everybody else.

And there were bigger
kids picking on me.

I had my Prince Valiant haircut.

Maybe I didn't have a date
because I looked like a dork.

You know, I don't know.

But when the music came along,
and I learned how to play,

by God, within a month and a
half I had my first girlfriend.

I don't think
that Adam's had

a really close relationship
with his father.

I think that what
he had with Sterling

was a kind of bonding experience

that he had a hard time
having with his father.

There's a deep connection there.

His understandings about blues
life helped shape my own

and maybe got me a
little bit out of the

self indulgent narcissist
rock dude white boy thing,

which is just, there are hardships,
and there are hardships.

You know, nobody's
shooting us stone dead.

The summer of 1989.

That was the summer
of Do The Right Thing.

When the movie came out, it
just crystallized everything.

And a lot of people said, yeah!

This is what's really
happening to us.

It became where you
could no longer avoid it.

It was in your face
and all these emotions

came to the surface.

And people didn't
want to feel like

you gonna put this
back in the box.

No, you gonna deal with this.

You're not gonna pretend
this is not happening.

With Do The
Right Thing in the air,

suddenly I was the
problem for some people.

And I was in Harlem, and one
day, a couple of guys came up

as I was just about to
set up with Mister Satan,

and went to him and said,

why is this white
boy playing with you?

And it got very pointed
and very racial.

And he said, why are you here?

What do you love black people?

He said, you're not
a harmonica player.

He said you're just
one more white man

coming to rip off the
black man's music.

And he said, can't nobody say,

whether there might be
some hot tempered young guy

who doesn't want to see you.

What he was saying was,
why can a white guy

just come into a black neighborhood
and not risk anything?

It was a threat.

Who was to say one of
those guys might not just

roll down a window,
pow pow pow, gone!

So I had to go home.

And I stayed away.

And I had to decide.

So are you gonna play the
blues for real or not?

So what does it
mean to be for real?

Well one thing it
means is that you play

with full attention
to the complexity

of the social situation
that you're actually in.

So I owe them some
thanks for helping,

as Sterling would say,
bless me with revelation.

Which is, you wanna
play the music.

Welcome to my world.

It would have been easy

to kind of let myself
be chased away.

Then I thought,

nobody's going to stop
me from playing with him.

We played, people
were happy to see me.

But it took me a long
time to get over that.

We were just playing one day,
you know, in our everyday spot

doing our same old songs.

And suddenly there
was some commotion

and I saw a couple of
cameras pointed at us.

I was the director on the
U2 film, Rattle and Hum,

the concert documentary film.

And one day we ended up on
125th Street, in Harlem.

♪ I want some freedom ♪

♪ For my people ♪

To Bono and myself.

Hearing this, freedom
for my people,

coming, you know,
wafting down the street.

It drew us.

It was like a magnet.

It was totally unplanned.

They said hey, let's just go out

and check out what's
going on in Harlem today.

Going up to Harlem at
that time was a thing.

Some of the people
working on the film

were quite anxious
and nervous about it.

It wasn't just some guy kinda,

give me a buck, come
on, I'm on the corner,

I'm just, you know,
riffing some cover tune.

This was something interesting.

I was just really struck
by the guitar player.

There was a kind of
freedom to the playing.

He was jumping all
over the fretboard,

and simultaneously singing,

and working this hi hat
that's playing the backbeats.

So I'm really rooted
to the ground,

just blown away by what
I'm hearing and seeing.

They're sort of looking at
us like, we're the real.

Like, this is part of
why they came to America

is to see shit like this.


In that little
moment, the theme,

freedom for my people,
just seemed prescient.

It just captured so
much of our intention,

as a band trying
to explore America.

Trying to delve more deeply
into the music culture.

And it was clear from early on

that that had to be in the film.

What was then kind of
interesting is that

as they were doing the album,

they felt like
they went together.

When it finally came
out, it was a big deal.

Because our lives
intersected their thing.

They sampled us
into their thing.

Actually there's never
been another artist

singing one of their
songs on a U2 album.

This is the one and only
time that that's happened.

♪ Freedom from confusion ♪

It was a very powerful
little moment in the film,

and it belonged on the
record for that reason.

We suddenly were recognized.

And the crowds were
clearly bigger for us,

partly as a result of that.

♪ Oh, for my people ♪

Well people used to ask me,

friends of the
family would ask me

what Adam was doing
now that he graduated,

and I said, well he was
actually playing harmonica

on the streets of Harlem.

And they'd say, really?

How do you feel about that?

He went to Princeton, didn't he?

I was a Princeton grad, 1979.

So my 10th reunion came up.

And everybody goes back,
and they're in banking,

and they're the vice president,

or they were in graduate
school, they've got their PhD,

they're getting their
first teaching job.

And at that point I
was a street musician.

It's really hard to go
back to a college reunion,

at a place like that,
and everybody says,

so what you doing?

Oh, okay.

Mister Satan, really?

You know, like, there's
one in every class.

A combination of
all these things

began to really eat away at me.

And I wanted some kind
of objective measure.

I was feeling the
fragility of everything.

And so I wanted to
make a recording.

That if we were killed,
both of us the next day,

people would at least know, wow,

these guys were here and
that's what they did.

And I actually went to Sterling.

If I paid, would you go
into the studio with me?

And he said, yeah, I'll do it.

I think I'll take my gloves out,

it's a little chilly
out here, Mr. Gussow.

And so I
found Rachel Faro.

Who we'd run across
on the streets.

Basically she was
somebody who said,

if you ever want to
record, here's my card.

So I called her.

This makes it so much easier

when the speakers are
already at the studio.

Nothing to carry but a guitar.

That's right.

This record particularly,

just had to set 'em
up and let 'em go,

and see where it went.

Because there was no
way to really predict

what they were gonna do at all,

especially what
Sterling was gonna do.

Roll it all!

I just remember
the feeling of power,

that we both had.

I mean we were so adrenalized.

And we drank so much
vodka, I'll be honest.

We let the bats
out of the belfry.

It really was gratifying

to hear how good it all sounded.

And certainly Adam was
very excited because

he got to hear everything he'd
been playing all this time,

in another way, like for real.

We sounded huge, two guys.

And I just remember thinking,
wow, we are doing it.

At the end of it I felt like

that is just the greatest
day of your life.

You know we had
our first cassette.

Called it Satan and Adam.

The first day we actually
had these things for sale

we were playing a street fair,

selling something like 60
cassettes during the set.

So you go from
completely uncommodified,

to, we've got our first
commodified version

of Satan and Adam, and
everybody can't get enough.

Once we had the recording,

I was able to give
it to somebody

who was programming
Summer Stage,

and then we got the chance
to open for Buddy Guy.

3,000 people in Central Park,
and it's like, Satan and Adam!

And I'm thinking, fuck,
we're really making it.

Suddenly, we were
a New York act.

Not just a Harlem act.

From the street, to the studio,

to gigs with Buddy Guy, sure.

But at the same time,
for me it seemed natural,

it seemed right.

That fall, we got a gig
from a woman who saw us.

And she had a bar called
Kelly's in the Village.

And that was our steady gig.

I was a single guy,
and I'm playing

in a lesbian bar in the Village.

And I'm sitting, going,

I'm surrounded by women, and
I'm not gonna get a date.

And you know, and that's when
Margo Lewis walks in, one day,

and says, hey, I love
what you guys do!

Come down and see me sometime.

And it turns out she represents

Bo Diddley, Wilson Pickett,
and the Village People.

Musically, visually,
in every way,

it was just two different
ends of the world.

That they could come together
as they did, through music,

was a beautiful thing.

It was beautiful, you know.

Sterling was raw talent
that deserved to be seen.

I wanted to find the
platform for that, for him,

and put him on that platform.

As Margo began to do her thing,

Rachel went and had
her conversations

with Bruce Kaplan
at Flying Fish.

Flying Fish was a real
label, with a real vision,

and a real owner who cared
about the records on his label.

So, we got the record deal.

It was so much what I wanted.

It was a little scary for me.

I think it was very
scary for Sterling.

Sterling had a lot of mistrust

about the music
industry in general.

Which is not
surprising for somebody

who has had that whole
career and ends up

choosing to play on the street.

♪ You got a crazy, funny
way of teasing me ♪

♪ I can't complain because
it's really pleasing me ♪

♪ No matter how you're
getting me near insanity ♪

♪ You'll keep on ♪

He talked a lot, for
example, about how

he'd had a hit on Ray
Charles' Tangerine label.

With Oh She Was Pretty,
and man, he stifled that.

He wasn't gonna let one of
his label mates supersede him.

Remember Ike and Tina Turner?

They didn't do any good

until they got out
from under Ray Charles.

Ain't nobody in Ray Charles's
company gonna make anything.

He prevents, I don't,
you know, so...

Just like so many black
artists from that era,

he saw his fair share of
people not getting paid,

not getting their due.

So, you know, I
sensed that he had

the same disillusionment
with the music business

that I think a lot of
black artists have.

The typical story,

white promoter manages,

and agencies screwed
the black artists,

by instead of
giving them a check,

giving them a car,
or a diamond ring,

or a bottle of booze.

How artists was treated
was only a reflection

of how blacks were
treated in society.

The fact that you were talented.

You could entertain us.

But you can't be one of us.

The very first time we
played Chelsea Commons,

and we counted out the
dollars on top of the piano,

I think I counted them,
and started to pay him,

and he was like, no no no!

He got ragingly angry.

I pay you, you don't pay me!

He had gone to Adam and said,

I don't want to do
this any longer.

I don't want to get involved
in this business thing.

A record deal will be the
worst thing in the world.

He was afraid to leave the
security of the street.

To leave the security of
Bobby Robinson, his mentor,

and then come with
these white people.

But one of the people
that I approached,

once we had a record,
was Quint Davis.

Who runs the New
Orleans Jazz Festival.

And I get a call back
from Quint and he goes,

I don't know where
you got these guys,

I'm gonna give you a date,

but not only am I
gonna give you a date,

I'm gonna make these guys stars.

I think he went along with this

because Satan saw
that we delivered.

It was a real generous thing
of him to do for my sake too.

I'm not saying he
did unselfishly.

But he could see that
I really wanted it.

So, I provided the jet fuel.

The jet was up.

They had taken off.

And they were happening.

and gentlemen,

please welcome Satan and Adam!

To play a featured
role on this festival,

there has to be a
level of musicianship.

It can't just be cool,
but not very good.

When I saw the name Satan and
Adam, my first thought was,

somebody's been too clever here.

If a casting director had
been hired to create a sitcom

about two opposites
together in a blues band,

this'd be what
they'd come up with.

♪ So then she kissed me ♪

♪ I'm here to tell you ♪

♪ She hit me right ♪

Satan himself, is you know,

like a UFO landing
at your festival.

You know, he's like lightning
getting out of the bottle.

And with Adam on top,

they filled the sonic
space perfectly.

You know the beauty of Satan.

He got more out of the performance
than the audience did.

And a true consummate
artist does.

♪ Ah ah ah ah, she got away ♪

It was like being present

at the discovery of
something really special.



Thank you!

When you kill at this festival,

word goes out.

I mean, word goes out.

July of '91, our album
had just come out.

So Margo, she's putting
the press thing out there.

I had no problem
getting the bookings.

Everybody got turned on by it.

They saw what I saw.

It's just from one end of
the world to the other.

Just coming together
through music, you know?

It was a great thing.

It's called co-acceleration.

You know that's when
the music swings.

Great big old word,
that ain't worth a damn.

I told him I wanted
to put him on a Bo Diddley tour,

and bring him to Europe,
and have him open.

You can imagine, like,

one day you're on the streets,

the next day, you're
in the bus with Bo.

Bo started
on the street too.

So he could relate greatly
to what Satan was about.

So we began to have
an international public.

Well we flew everywhere.

England, Scotland, Switzerland,
Italy, Finland twice.

But now, finally, he felt
it was Satan and Adam.

And he's not lost inside
the King Curtis band.

Or Etta James, or Marvin Gaye,

or Little Anthony
and the Imperials.

He's not just the guitar man.

He's the act whose
name is on the marquee.

So he really felt like,
you're getting what's due you,

and I'm getting
what's overdue me.

And by the way, the one
time we showed up at a gig

on the marquee, it
said Adam and Satan.

He got pissed off.

He did not have an ego, but,
that's wrong!

And he was really upset, I go,
somebody just messed up, ugh!

Time to check in with Kimberly.
Kim's got the blues tonight.

Satan and Adam.

You are gonna be at the
Classic Blues Festival

this weekend, and joined by
a lot of great musicians.

Just as sure as
you are beautiful.

God, you can stay here forever.

It's a classic bromance.

It's two guys, just
having a great time.

We're an odd-looking
couple, so what?

Now, we have a name,
we have a manager,

we have official gigs.

And then your record
starts to chart.

There's no experience like this.

As you're sitting
listening to the radio,

and suddenly, your music
comes on the radio.

The feeling is indescribable.

It's like...

Out on the
streets of New York City,

and now on CD and tape,

the music of Satan and Adam.

How serious are you about
the name, Mister Satan?

And I've read that you
have the number 666,

I do.

From the
book of revelations.

I am very serious.

Around your
instruments there.

I also have it around
my neck and everything,

but it's not in the numbers
that you would read it.

It's in a beautiful piece
I made called asoxyses.

It's a square of circled
squared, and square circles.

So it's nothing
projecting something.

Sterling's amazing

with being able to do
this numerological stuff.

It's quite remarkable.
I never really understood it.

But he's very convincing.

I'm trying to figure out
how you feel about the devil.

- Taking that name.
- I didn't say

anything about no devil.

I am Mister Satan.


I felt, here is
a imbalanced man.

Extremely talented.

And how the hell
did this white kid

get him up on that stage?


The only constant thing
was his performance.

He was not constant in thought.

If his mind was wandering
into another place,

and he woke up one morning,

and he looked out
the window and said,

the world was gonna end,
the world was gonna end.

Jazz and opera and all
this can't ignore blues.

It covers the entirety.

Creation digs the blues.

It was difficult for Adam
to keep a continuity.

And although Adam could,

because he was like
a split personality.

He was an intellect,
he was a student.

And then he was a musician.

He wanted this to come off.

Jazz says hey,

It's a sunny day,
and you can go out

and go in any
direction you want.

This is your interpretation.

I'm just saying blues
goes in a straight line

and jazz for me goes out.

I just got through
crowning the whole globe

that we live under


Ain't nobody ever look up and
say, oh, what a jazzy sky!

They look up and say,

oh, look at that beautiful
blue sky up there.

I had a fear, that
if I allowed myself

to get closer and
start to get into

the philosophical aspects,

that it would definitely be
a negative to the business.

And I didn't want to have a
philosophical argument with him

and not show up for a gig
or something, you know?

I definitely think
Adam was willing to do

what a lot of people
do in these kind of

co-dependent relationships,
which is just,

whatever comes up, deal with it,

even if it's really complicated,

and stuff that you wouldn't
consider normal, is normal,

when you're in
that kind of thing.

What does that have to do
with blues versus jazz?

But I missed the transition.

Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.

From the very first
meeting, I did know

that I had a problem with
Satan, and Miss Macie.

Miss Macie!

Reach in my jacket pocket
there and get my pick.

It's tempting to think
that he and I on the road

were kind of a buddy movie.

And it's Butch and
Sundance, right?

But every single gig that
we played on the road,

his wife, Miss Macie
was in the back seat.

She never drove.

She never sat in the front seat.

She was sometimes smelling
smells that weren't there.

She heard my car speakers
say things to her

that they weren't saying to her.

She was counting the
money that he gave to her.

That's one way he
kept her happy.

She occasionally got
pissed off at me or at him,

and would come right up front.

And occasionally I would
play my harmonica, and,

go right back at her.

And she'd shake her head

like she knew I was saying
something to her with that music.

And I was.


Got cold.

Hey, Miss Macie.

Thank you Mister Satan.

That's why you act the way
you act, 'cause you're cheap.

Oh whatever.

But he loved her.
That's my baby.

For Adam, not only was
he the road manager,

but he was a shrink.

In the sense that, he had
to deal with Miss Macie

in their personal
arguments and/or not.

Why don't you sit
around there, and...

I don't feel like
you should go there.

She wants to be in the back.

Now Mr. Gussow,
you can take it to your room.

Take it to your room, Gussow.

No, you gonna tell me I
shoulda went around there.

No, I won't!
No, no, no, he said

maybe you might want
to be in the film.

No, I hate these movies,
they're too cheap for me.

I remember one time,
Sterling and Miss Macie

were fighting as we went up
the Connecticut turnpike.

She hit him on the back of
the head while he's driving.

That was the last straw for me.

I said, Mister Satan, that's it.

Pull to the side of the road.

It's a very, very difficult
job, to move an act.

And I couldn't hang any longer,
if you know what I'm saying.

With love I had to
walk away, because,

I had to maintain, for myself,

I had to evaluate what
that project meant to me.

And it was becoming a negative.

Today happens to be,
almost exactly, to the day,

10 years from the day that we
met on the streets in Harlem.

Our 10
year anniversary!

That's right, 10 years.

I developed an acid
stomach at that point,

from just knowing that I
could not control anything.

I just had a kind of
surrender and submit.

It's me and Miss Macie
and Mister Satan.

From start to finish.

And a lot of acting out.

We'd moved from Margo,
to a brief thing

with another agent that
didn't work out at all,

to a guy named Hooter.

But it wasn't building.

The act was on a slight
descending thing.

They have a little
bit of lead in there.

But that couple
years, '96 to '98,

he was no longer
living in New York.

They had a slumlord.

And the apartment
got in bad shape,

and the landlord
was doing nothing.

And I think the landlord
almost wanted them out,

at a certain point.

That was the beginning of
the gentrification of Harlem.

And people were pissed off
about them being moved out.

So Miss Macie's mother
lived in Virginia.

And so when they decided they're
gonna leave their apartment

instead of just moving
around the corner,

or moving down the block,

they moved a nine
hour drive away.

We continued to tour.

He would drive up, sleep
in his car with Miss Macie

kind of on the same block where
he used to live in Harlem.

And then we would go off
on the road, in my car.

And go and play a gig
or two on a weekend,

and then he'd drive
back down to Virginia.

So there was a lot
of stress on him.

I never understood
how he could do it.

How could you come home
from a 300-mile drive

from Portland, Maine, and then
sleep in your car that night

when I get to go home?

That's rough.

Not being a pampered artist,

or an artist with
a travel budget,

and at least a roadie
helping move things,

and tour managers.

When you're doing
that all yourself,

after a while that
has to grind on you.

And this is what I hate.

The playin' ain't no problem,

it's the work
that's the problem.

It's not good food.

It's coffee.

And it's the long drives.

Too much to drink and
not nearly enough sleep.

In early April of
'98, I noticed,

for a couple months before that,

he just seemed
kind of dispirited.

I didn't know what was going on.

He actually started, he
was dying his beard black.

At it had always been gray.

And I thought, why is
he dying his beard?

This is a guy, he's totally
about just being who he is.

Miss Macie.

The last gig we played,

we just started off and
he missed some lyrics

for the first song.

And I said, this is strange.

I mean he's never, he
doesn't lose lyrics.

He's my hero, so I mean,

he's my hero 'cause his energy's

always been impossibly strong.

And when it wasn't I
naturally got worried.

We had a gig on a Friday.

And that Thursday Miss Macie
called me up, and said,

that they had gotten
up to New York,

and had just turned around
and drove all the way back home.

470 miles up, he
got to his throne.

Something happened, and
he drove all the way back.

I wasn't on
e-mail contact with him,

the phone number didn't work.

Sterling had really just
kind of fallen off the grid.

And it was basically,
he was gone.


He was gone.

I mean apart from the
sadness and concern,

I mean, huge concern.

What are you going to do when
somebody just disappears?

Come on.

He's a blues musician, his
instrument, the harmonica.

He was educated at
Princeton and Columbia,

but he learned about
music on the street.

Adam Gussow describes
his odyssey and growth

in his new book, Mister
Satan's Apprentice.

So I went off on
the road, on a book tour.

Mister Satan's Apprentice.

The natural question is,
so how's the act doing now?

Where are you guys?

It's hard to answer
that question.

I had to basically, the
kind word is finesse it.

The truth is sort of lie.

'Cause I didn't know
what was going on.

And I was losing a lot.

My father had died
in May of 1997.

Sterling disappears
a year later.

So I'm having my own struggle.

It's missing him, it's being
aware of things in my life

that are not right, it's
all that stuff together.

So in the spring of 2000,

my plan was to go
and visit Sterling.

And I had a heart attack.

I was in intermediate
intensive care

for three and a half days.

And it was an
incredible life shock.

So I never got to
see him that time.

I never got to see him.

Losing a father,
losing Sterling.

Talk about things falling apart.

First time that I met
Sterling was when I was

the brand new activity
director at the nursing home.

Of course I had to
get to know everybody

there in the facility
and try and find out

some of their likes and
dislikes in the past,

to give them a nice time
while they're there.

And why I started asking
Sterling some of his past,

and he wasn't really
that forthcoming,

he was kind of quiet.

Kept to himself a lot.

You would see him with his
head down just a little bit.

And he was always
stomping his feet.

And of course in health
care, sometimes you think

it's just some kind of
a medical condition.

When I was asking around
and a couple of folks said,

well, yeah, he was some
type of a music man

or something, at one time.

There was just
something about Sterling

that I knew needed
a second look.

I was curious enough
to go on the internet.

And I was blown away.

I got the call from Kevin.

Sterling was at this
Medicare facility in Florida.

As I walked into this facility,

I did not know what
I was about to see.

You know, I never
associated Sterling

with medical facilities.

You know the strange thing
is Sterling hated doctors.

And I remember being
led out onto the patio.

Hey, Mr. Gussow.

It had been a
couple years, I think.

Yeah, let me get this.

He couldn't really
play guitar at all.

My thought was, god,
he can't play a note.

This is a man who could
play circles around

any guitarist in the world.

I was shocked.

Took a while for
that to sink in.

It's a struggle when you think
of somebody as so powerful.

And you're forced to
recognize the fact

that they're not what they were.

And I had to recognize that.

'Cause I thought of
him as all-powerful.

That's Mister Satan on
the band, right here.

We played y'all all
that, you know that!

How you feeling?

You are beautiful!

You are handsome!

You're kind!

And most of all,

y'all is applauding.

I'm about to move,

after basically a
lifetime in New York City.

I've been hired
as a tenure track

assistant professor of
English and Southern studies,

at the University of
Mississippi, in Oxford.

And I'll be teaching courses
in American Literature,

and African-American Literature.

I may do a course

on the Civil Rights
Movement in the Spring.

I'm about to move to Mister
Satan's own native state.

And it's a very
interesting, unexpected

kind of New
York-Mississippi connection.

The digital delay that I used
on the street all those years.

I thought about all the
things that, you know,

had taken place in this room.

I mean, Mister
Satan and Miss Macie

were here at one point.

In fact we had a little
vodka toast shortly after

our first recording session.

Well, it feels like I've
done a lot of living here.

And it's time for
the next chapter.

So anyway I did my
mourning last night.

I've been letting
go for a while.

And trying to get ready.

Music has always been
a very big part of my life.

As I stepped into healthcare,
and seen the responses

that you can get from
people with music.

So my development with Sterling,

it went way beyond me

having him as just
another resident.

Hey there!

Sterling Magee!

Good morning.

How are you doing?

A-okay, sir.


There was just something

that emanated from
him in some way.

You know and it was like some
type of magnetism or whatever,

but there was just something
about him that made me

take that extra step,

in getting him back on
the right track again.

And here we are at
the dentist's office.

And here's Sterling
getting his new choppers.

Am I coming home, Mr. Kevin?

Yes, you're coming home.

What do you think, Sterling?

I like it.

You like your smile?

Hell yes, I like it.

Behave yourself.

I shall.



Thank you, sir.

You remember going to
this, playing here?

Folk festival.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival.

Yes sir.

There's your little bio.

Read it for me.

It says, this is a wild and
very original new blues duo.

Satan, Harlem's
legend Sterling Magee,

kicks, stomps and roars on
an electric, and percussion.

While Adam Gussow blows
up soul jazz harp,

earning them a W.C. Handy
nomination for their debut,

and creating a sound that is
not for the faint of heart.

That sound like you guys?

Ain't got him no more.

You know when you get
into a nursing home,

you don't have too
much left of your past.

He did have a guitar that was
on his chair, in his room,

but he was using it
more for a clothes rack

than anything else.

It hit me that even what
I was doing at the time,

wasn't enough for him.

A lady who had her mom
there at the same time,

she knew a blues guy

who was really super
here in the area.

By the name of TC Carr.

She said, there's this
man, this music man here,

he's full of music.

And he's a real nice black man,

you got to meet him sometime.

I said okay.

And the next time I came,

I brought a harmonica with me,

and I ran into Mr. Sterling.

And I just said, well I play
harmonica, he says, you do?

Can you play it?

Yes, yes, yes!

And he just lit up.

His eyes just went...

And Kevin brought out a
guitar, and he strummed,

and I played, and man,
it was cool, because,

I could see it
pouring out of him.

And I knew this was something
that I was supposed to do.

TC recently had some
heart surgery himself,

so he was recovering too.

He'd come over every
once in a while,

and play with Sterling
on the back porch.

Sterling wasn't doing any
singing or anything like that,

but he was playing along
with TC.

We sat back
in the patio back there

once or twice a week.

And it's become a good thing.

It's like medicine for me.


This is my wife Sherrie.

That's our wedding photo.

I mean it's a photo that we got,

that was at the wedding.

And everybody who came
to the wedding signed it.

That's Shaun, at about
a year and a half maybe.

That is Mila, so that's
Sherrie's daughter.

That's the wall.

I thought I was gonna
play more music down here.

The truth is, I've had a lot
of other things on my mind.

I'm in a very different position
in my own life, I think,

kind of been my own
spiritual development.

Would I have ended up
here if I hadn't met him?

To the extent that I'm an English professor,
it was because

literature was what I do.

And my interest in
that was partly fueled

by my experience with him.

I wouldn't have had the
qualifications to get this job

if I hadn't met him.

And had that whole
life in Harlem.

When you've had
a powerful experience like

playing with him for 12 years,

what do you do with it
for the rest of your life?

I got kind of
spoiled, it's like,

why would you want to go
on and find another group?

I think most of the music
I had it in me to make,

I've already made.

I think you're
allowed to let go.

When you've given
the blues a good run,

you're allowed to let go.

With Sterling,
TC would bring him out

to a little local place in
town called the Peninsula Inn.

This old gentleman
I knew from way back

was playing piano down here.

Introduced him to Sterling and
we jammed out a little bit,

and he was real raw.

And then he just
started to sing,

and then all them songs
started to come out.

Every day!

Every day!

Every day I have the blues.

You know I had a lot
of heart problems,

and I wasn't playing
harmonic hard

because I was afraid
it would kill me.

Sterling helped me
in letting it loose,

and it's sort of
an attitude, like,

I don't care if
I die doing this.

I'm gonna die happy.

TC called me up, he says,

you've gotta come down
here and see this.

And when I went down there,
I didn't see the same guy

that I saw in the nursing home.

Between myself and
the town of Gulfport,

came together and we
found the exact same

golden superstud guitar
that he had played.

But we needed a drummer.

There's Dave.

Yes sir!

Say hey
Dave, good morning.

Good morning!

Of course he was
the heartbeat of the band.

I am Sterling's roadie.

Satan's roadie as
they would say.

Then we sat him on that
stool, picked up that guitar,

and put it around his neck.

He put them feet in them pedals,

and he was Mister Satan.

Thank y'all!

From then on, there
was no stopping him.

And there was no stopping this
flow of what was happening.

People coming out of the
woodwork to come and see him,

and to have heard
his name before.

The players of the band
that played with Sterling

three to four hours a
night, every single week,

they'd come down, bring
all of their own equipment

and everything,
not one single time

did anybody ever ask for a dime.

And they did it
for the privilege

of just playing with Sterling.

Playing with Mister Satan.

With Adam, the last
time that he visited,

he resigned himself
to the fact that

Satan and Adam is no more.

And I said,

far from it.

When I started to come down,

it was incredible, to see the
rebirth of Sterling Magee.

One, two, one, five,
something like that.

We often want people

to play the role that
we've assigned them,

in our own little ongoing drama.

You want him to be all
powerful Mister Satan.

That's not where he is
or who he is right now.

It was hard for me to
let go of my memories.

And then I could look to Dave,

and Kevin, and how lovingly they

made Sterling just kind
of part of the family.

Gave him human community.

Joked with him.

That was one more lesson
that I had to learn.

And it was a lesson he
taught along the way,

which is the lesson of
surrender or acceptance.

And it was letting it
be exactly what it was,

as opposed to
dwelling in the space

between what you wanted
it to be and what it is.

So I think for me,

learning how to let go,

and then you know, it was, what
can we do with what we have?

Suddenly, our sound
blossomed out of nowhere.

And it was just
amazing to have that,

after really not imagining
that we'd see it again.

And so we decided
we'd keep going.

We'd go on these little tours.

Play a festival or two or three.

There was this kind of
excitement that blues fans

who would say, Satan
and Adam again, really?

People thought we disappeared.


We made this decision
that we were gonna do

a Satan and Adam return album,

with me and
Sterling, and Rachel.

It was great to
be back with them.

These two guys
are like a couple.

They belong together.

No matter what form it takes,

or how many years go by.

There's always that feeling
that they are together.

Satan and Adam.


Alright put your hands together.

Thank you!

Of course then, Sterling really
had something to live for.

New York hat.

It's nice.

Shortly after, an agent
called me up and he said,

I've got a really
big one for you.

I've got a big get.

When Adam gave me
the call, and said,

we had the opportunity to play

at the New Orleans Jazz
and Heritage Festival.

And I said, really?


You know, America's
a tortured place, racially,

and we all feel right now
these particular evil days.

We can't know kind of
where that's gonna lead.

Sterling and I, we were
very conscious, both of us,

of the racial politics that
were swirling around us.

Welcome back
to the blues tent, y'all.

Are you having fun yet?

So one of the lessons

I've learned from all of this,

is how important it was
to have seen Sterling

that very first day in Harlem
and have taken the risk

to be able to sort of
push past my own fear.

And if I'd let racial fear
keep me out of Harlem,

keep me from asking
him if I could sit in,

you know, the story
wouldn't have happened.

So that's, you know,
the blues ethos.

You gotta keep walking forward.

and gentlemen,

please welcome Satan and Adam!

You're beautiful
and you're kind.

There's nothing
that could happen to him

that could negate the
explosiveness of his gift,

and the way in which
he completely gave it.

and Adam, y'all.

I mean, I
really love the man.

Miss Macie!

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

We gotta do that, right?

Make a wish and blow.

I wish to be 155.

The mother mojo!