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MR. SATAN is Sterling Magee, legendary Harlem guitarist and songwriter

who has performed and recorded with James Brown, King Curtis,

Etta James, George Benson, Willis "Gatortail" Jackson, and others.



  Ain't Nobody Better Than Nobody

Satan & Adam Playing the Blues


1991 Harlem Blues Harlem Blues sounds exactly like how Satan & Adam would sound playing on a street corner -- it's raw and tough, with a surprisingly adventurous streak. Satan and Adam stick to a basic acoustic blues duo, but their rhythms and techniques occasionally stray into funkier, jazzier territory. And that sense of careening unpredictability is what makes Harlem Blues so entertaining -- they might be playing blues in a traditional style, but the end result is anything but traditional. Thom Owens, All Music Guide

Sterling “Satan" Magee and Adam Gussow are the Harlem curbside duo who spin the listener in the vortex of a most idiosyncratic and restive brand of down-home blues. .— Frank John Hadley 1993

Harlem Blues the duo's first album, was released by Flying Fish Records in 1991 and soared to #10 on the "Living Blues" national radio playlist. Mixing street-raw originals with distinctive covers, the album drew rave reviews from ROLLING STONE, CMJ, BLUES REVIEW QUARTERLY, and many others. In 1992, Harlem Blues was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award as "Traditional Blues Album of the Year." 


1993 Mother Mojo Mother Mojo was an excellent follow-up to Satan & Adam's first-rate debut, Harlem Blues. The duo hasn't abandoned their minimalist guitar and harp blues, but there is a loose energy that keeps the music fresh and consistently engaging. Thom Owens, All Music Guide

Satan and Adam produce more incredible blues from two people then the average ten piece band! Satan on vocals, guitar and percussion and his sidekick Adam on harmonica, weave a sophisticated web of raw blues that at times puts the hair on the back of your neck on end.— A music fan

Their follow-up effort,  Mother Mojo . was released by Flying Fish in 1993 and rose to #8 on HARD REPORT's National Blues Radio playlist.  Mother Mojo , which features butt-funky remakes of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," and Ike Turner's "Crawdad Hole," also includes "Freedom For My People," the street anthem which first made SATAN & ADAM semi-famous when Irish rockers U2 included cameo footage of the Harlem pair in their 1988 movie "Rattle & Hum."


1996 Living on the River   Satan & Adam continue to mine the same two-man street corner busker groove that has served them so well on this, their third album. The music is kept raw and alive in pursuing this, but on several tracks their sound is fleshed out with guest appearances from Ernie Colon on percussion, the Uptown Horns and background singers appearing on their version of "Proud Mary." But despite the additions, their basic sound is every bit as unfettered as one would expect from these two blues anomalies.Cub Koda, All Music Guide

 Satan and Adam  . . . . I have seen them all over, they appeal to the masses, unifying and inspiring all they touch. . . . I am more than happy to say "Hey Man, Check this out", when something really gets me good.—Dan Utter

Living on the River, released in April of 1996 on the New York-based independent RaveOn label, is our best yet: our first multi-track recording, the first time Mr. Satan has played not just his six-string Ampeg Superstud electric guitar, but also his 12-string Rickenbacker and a couple of acoustic cuts. "I Got a Woman" is the killer cut; we turned it up, stomped down, and jammed. Also getting a lot of radio airplay are covers of "No More Doggin," "Little Red Rooster," and "Ode to Billy Joe"--the last done as a deep Delta funk, guitar soft and low with a djimbe (African drum) in the back and Mr. Satan's raspy voice big and low, almost punk-folk style. Straight-ahead blues lovers will love the New York-meets-Mississippi groove of "Unlucky in Love." Plus "Stagga Lee," "I'm a GirlWatcher," and many more.

MR. SATAN is Sterling Magee, legendary Harlem guitarist and songwriter who has performed and recorded with James Brown, King Curtis, Etta James, George Benson, Willis "Gatortail" Jackson, and others. ADAM is Adam Gussow, former harmonicist with the national touring company of "Big River," the hit Broadway musical. Performing together since 1986, SATAN & ADAM have evolved an immediately accessible yet astonishingly original sound -- a new take on the classic American combination of guitar and harmonica.

Imagine Delta blues guitarist Robert Johnson reborn as a jazzy 1990s model funk machine and you'll have some idea of what to expect when Mr. Satan takes the controls. Seated at his homemade trapset -- a pair of Zildjian hi-hat cymbals topped with tambourines and anchored to a wooden sounding board -- Mr. Satan lays down a driving groove behind his hoarse, soulful vocals. Occasional guitar breaks give him a chance to demonstrate his fingerboard wizardry. Adam's amplified harp fills out the duo's sound -- riffing, warbling, insinuating itself through Mr. Satan's music like a juke-joint sax at a Saturday-night fish fry.

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Dear Satan and Adam fans:

"I have great news, of a sort, for Satan and Adam lovers. This past weekend (May 8-10, 1999), I drove down to Lynchburg, VA to see and play with Mr. Satan for the first time in more than a year. I'm happy to report that he's in very good shape, fully recovered from his illness of last spring and summer. He's given up smoking, is on medication, and still manages to enjoy a couple of beers. He lives these days in a small hamlet called Volens, about 40 miles south-southeast of Lynchburg. Blues pilgrims who care to track him down may well be able to find him, as I did, hanging out at a local cafe next door to a small convenience store called Roark's, located on the tiny highway that runs through Volens. He might even strum his 12-string acoustic guitar and sing you a song, if you ask nicely enough.

We played our gig on Sunday afternoon at a Lynchburg sports bar called Mudpuppy's. I'd expected that we'd be rusty in a bad way after the one-year hiatus, but we pretty much picked back up where we'd left off. A friend of the band, Tom Weston from Bensalem, PA, made the trip with me and videotaped the whole show. A local harp player and siding contractor named Pete Turpin sat in with Mr. Satan for a couple of tunes, and did just fine; I owe Pete huge thanks for hanging out with Mr. Satan over the past couple of months (ever since a big story entitled "Satan's Blues" ran in the Lynchburg News & Advance) and convincing him that the world was waiting for him. Since Mr. Satan doesn't have a telephone, Pete has been acting as the go-between--setting up the Mudpuppy's gig, donating his band's PA,etc. Thanks, Pete!

The future of Satan & Adam remains very iffy. 470 miles separates the two of us; I anticipate driving down to VA occasionally for a gig or two, but we're not likely to get back out and tour again, barring a radical move like Mr. Satan moving back to Harlem. Meanwhile, Mr. Satan seems to be developing a bit of a solo career in the Lynchburg area. The owner of Mudpuppy's has already booked him again, for a 7-10 happy hour on Friday May 21, and there's a fundraiser in Roanoke at which he'll play on Sunday the 23rd. He's also played a couple of times at Percival's in Lynchburg. So anybody passing through the area might call those two clubs and ask if he's playing.

MISTER SATAN'S APPRENTICE, my "blues memoir" about life with Mr. Satan on the streets of Harlem and beyond, published this past November by Pantheon Books, has sold out its modest first printing. It will be reprinted as a Vintage paperback and issued sometime in the Spring of 2000, according to the publisher. If unavailable at your local bookstore, you can find it on and/or

There's a Satan & Adam documentary in the works, too; it's being put together by award-winning filmmakers Scott Balcerek and Craig McTurk and should be released around the same time as the paperback. That's all for now. 

Keep the faith! 

Adam Gussow

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Steven Levine Questions Adam Gussow on Technique 

March 13, 1996

I wrote to Adam Gussow yesterday about his use of overblows in traditional blues playing (since he mentioned it in his post about the upcoming Satan and Adam album). Here is what he told me:

In answer to your question about overblows--which you can feel free to forward to the list, if you want: 

I learned my overblowing technique from chromatic player (and occasional diatonic player) William Galison, back in 1987. He had me begin on a C Marine Band harp, with a 6-draw note. You draw moderately hard on this note, apply "bending pressure" with your mouth to bend the draw note down a bit, then quickly reverse direction, so you're blowing hard--almost popping it--while maintaining bending-pressure. If you're lucky, the overblow will kick right in. You'll know if it does: you'll be getting, in intervallic terms, a bluesy flatted third. 

If, while doing the overblow, you relax your mouth, the overblow will fall back, so to speak, into a normal blow note: the flatted third will fall back into tonic, B-flat to G. (I'm speaking in cross-harp terms when I mention intervals here.)  That's how William got me started. It seemed like a neat trick. It wasn't at all obvious to me how to use it, how to make blues music with it. 

I quickly developed workable technique on holes 4, 5, and 6--those are the only overblows I could do, and do today--but it was obvious I wasn't going to be able to pull overblow licks off records the way I'd pulled traditional harp licks off records, since no harp players on records (with the exception of the transcendent "Harmonica Jazz" tape by Howard Levy) were playing overblows, except as an extremely occasional technique on one or two old records. (Jimmie McFadden (sp?) of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band pops a couple of overblows on a couple of tracks on "Will the Circle Be Unbroken.") 

But basically there was nothing in the Chicago (amplified) or country blues tradition to get me going. So I started working with sax solos by guys like Stanley Turrentine,  Houston Person, King Curtis, Bobby Watson, Arnett Cobb, and the like. Maceo Parker  being a New Yawk blues harp player, I had a fondness for the funky jazz take on blues; "Now's the Time," "Jes' Smoochin," "Tenor Madness," "Blue Monk," "Night Train" --all those tunes were a great way of stretching the 12-bar thing, with the help of a few overblows. ("Blue Monk" is quoted in the "Sweet Home Chicago" harp solo on HARLEM BLUES, for example." 

"Chicken Shack" is another tune overblows work well on. A couple of technical tips. I take the coverplates off every new Marine Band I get and make a few adjustments with a jeweler's file, to facilitate overblows. Most important by far is to close down the gap between the 4, 5, and 6 blow reeds and the brass face plate to the point where the reed is just about to stick but not quite. If this doesn't make the overblows easy to pop in, I'll also close down the 4, 5, and 6 DRAW reeds a little. 

I also open up the gap on the 1, 2, and particularly 3 hole draw reeds, for easier draw bends. Lastly, I file a bit of brass off the tips of most of the 1-6 Hole draw reeds, so the holes will be in perfect tune when I draw hard. This is particularly important on lower harps--G, A, B-flat. Higher harps may not need this workout. 

You asked about positions. I play mostly cross harp, but overblows are incredibly useful, for blues and funk-playing, in third position; the 5-hole overblow is a major third, so going from 5-draw to 5-overblow gives you the boogie-woogie flat third/major third melodic motif which can be used in a dozen ways. 

The octave-to-octave ascending run in "Thunky Fing" on "Mother Mojo" uses this. Overblows also work in first position; at one point I worked up a full arrangement of Scott Joplin's rag "The Entertainer" (theme song of "The Sting") using overblows at crucial moments. I can't pretend to be an expert on the subject of overblows; lots of guys out there--Larry Eisenberg and Carlos Del Junco, to name two I've been lucky enough to meet--are doing far more complicated stuff. 

I have no idea how to do an overdraw, for example. Maybe somebody can pull me through that hoop. Overblows have given me a way of creating and playing around with funky/jazzy/bluesy legato triplet lines that I wouldn't have had if William Galison hadn't come along and challenged me. You may be SURE I looked at him funny the first time he threw an overblow my way.  Now I can't imagine playing the kind of blues I play without them. 

Check out "Watermelon Man" on "Mother Mojo"; the first note I play on the IV chord (repeated three times as part of a V/IV chord pattern) is a 6-overblow on an A-harp. Hope that answers a few questions........ Yrs. Adam

Adam Gussow is assistant professor of English and southern studies at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Mister Satan's Apprentice: A Blues Memoir and has been a professional blues harmonica player for many years, touring widely in the 1990s a s part of the Harlem-based duo Satan and Adam.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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Related files: Seems Like Murder Here (book)  Blues Recordings   Mister Satan's Apprentice (book)  Excerpt of Apprentice   Lynching & Racial Violence     Wiki Satan and Adam  Hear Them Play