RIOT RUTH a senior citizen blues singer



Senior citizen Ruth, 77 years old, who has sang blues for half a century, has triggered riots in 11 of 12 jail concerts in the last two years. Many wardens hate her. A late-bloomer, she became a legend at the age of 75, when she saw the “Light”. Before that, she was a blues singer in many insignificant waterholes for half a century, until Warden Joe discovered her. From utter poverty, she became one of richest blues singer ever, cutting six golden-award albums in just a year. She was at the level of Tina Turner and Joss Stones.


eastwind journals 162
By Bernie Lopez


Seeing her in her long flowing snow-white hair, skin as shriveled as crepe paper, her froggy voice belting out Joss Stone’s When Love Comes to Town, a radical idea flashed in Warden Joe’s mind. The slow beat made him tingle. It was a powerful soul song by a gyrating septuagenarian.


“What if?” he asked himself. The convicts just had two riots in the last six months. Maybe she could calm them down. What if she did a solo concert for them? Ruth hesitated, afraid of rotten tomatoes from tough murderers and perverts. But Warden Joe offered a deal she, in her utter poverty, could not resist


One day before her concert, she went to a church and knelt there for three hours, not praying, just looking at the image of Jesus on the cross. Then she said, “Lord, I am too old. I am of no use to You and the world. Let me just die a simple painless death. Just take me.” Then something odd happened. She felt a warm ‘embrace’ and she knew it was Him ‘talking’ to her. And she knew instantly He wanted her to do the concert not for herself but for Him. It was a big mistake, Joe quipped later. Instead of calming the inmates, Riot Ruth fired them and they soared to the stratosphere.


Warden Joe is interviewing Riot Ruth on a nationwide broadcast of a talk show.


            WARDEN JOE – This is your last chance, Ruth. Either you stop the riots, or we show you the door permanently. Not just here. Across America. You have a reputation.
            RUTH – I know, Joe. I promise.
            WARDEN JOE – You know what happened in Tulsa. They broke every chair in the auditorium.
            RUTH – But there was no brawl. No one was hurt, just chairs flying away. They were just releasing stress you guys have caused.
            WARDEN JOE – Okay, okay, blame it on us. But, really, it’s amazing how your music can bring out the adrenaline of people.
            RUTH – Gentle peaceful adrenaline, Joe, the kind that inspires.
            WARDEN JOE – Adrenaline is never gentle, grandma? But you mingled with them and they did not touch a hair of your body.
            RUTH – They love me. What can I say? And I love them back. Now I use monobloc chairs that I bring in myself in two 16-wheelers a day before the concert.
            WARDEN JOE – That way, you don’t get sued for breaking a thousand chairs.
            RUTH – Not even Hercules can break a monobloc.
            WARDEN – Of course you know I am a fan. Tell me, how do you do it? What’s your secret.
            RUTH – No secret Joe. I just whisper a one-minute prayer before I go on stage. I ask the Lord to touch these people through me. Then He takes over. It’s His concert, not mine.
            WARDEN JOE – Wow. It’s His concert, you say?
            RUTH – Sure, Joe. His concert, not mine. He takes over.
            WARDEN JOE – Okay, let’s watch this TV broadcast of your concert.


Cut to a jail concert. It is an open-air affair. The concert is broadcast live nationwide on television. Ruth has a portable stage that can be install and disassembled in two hours, which she uses in all jail concerts. There is a labyrinth of lights and microphones, a 24-track sound board, and mammoth speakers that would put Woodstock to shame. She had a giant electric fan installed, hidden at stage left, so that her flowing snow-white hair would fly in the wind. She has a 90-man crew, and three 16-wheelers parked outside. The prison jazz band is on stage right. Ruth has organized and funded 16 prison jazz bands in a year’s time, performing regularly for inmates. She plans a Monterey Prison Jazz Festival if security would permit it. Ruth has metamorphosized from a lethargic senior citizen to a charismatic blues warbler.


The California jail is a large one, 1,853 rowdy inmates, plus 220 security guards. There are 2,000 white monobloc chairs glimmering in the moonlight. Ruth is wearing jeans, nothing famous stars wear. She raises a hand, gives her legendary smile and there is instant silence, then total darkness.


At this point, readers are requested to listen to the song as you read along.


            RUTH – Hi, guys. I must explain to you why I sing blues. Blues is my god. Why, because it is, for me, an adrenaline-inducer. It brings out the best in people. It brings out the cosmic energy the Lord has put inside us that we sometime don’t even know exists.


She signals the rhythm guitarist to start in a slow beat. The laser lights explode. The lead and bass guitars follow. The giant fan creates a powerful eastwind and Ruth’s hair flows, turning from white to electric blue then to avocado green. Ruth raises a hand, dips, and gyrates slowly, nothing a 77 year old lady could not do. Then she comes in. As soon as she starts to sing in her croaky voice, there is pandemonium. The crowd screams. The auditorium trembles from a thunder of claps. The song cooks, boils and goes into a climax, and a riot is born, nothing Warden Joe could stop. After the first song, the monoblocs fly away, and everyone is standing. Riot Ruth tells the crowd to sit on the grass. There is a mountain of monoblocs on the sides. Her two-hour concert extends to 3. Riot Ruth quips, ”Next time, no more monoblocs, just grass. The kind you sit on.”


Riot Ruth became an evangelist of sorts. She would, for five minutes before the concert, give a homily, telling people that the Lord invented music for them to go to Him.


when I sing a song, Lord
it is my vocal chords but You are the singer
when I write a verse, Lord
it is my pen but You are the poet
when I paint on canvas, Lord
I am the brush but You are the painter




More on Joss Stone, ETAL
Son of a Preacher Man
Super duper Love
Sarah Connor – son of a preacher man
Tina Turner – Proud Mary


%d bloggers like this: