I am the Mighty Rufus!
When you meet me I am a 20 year old Cadillac Eldorado forged in Detroit in 1982, but by the time of our meeting, the summer of 2002, I was a little down on my luck living in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Bought for just $1,500 and rechristened ‘Rufus’ by two British brothers. We all embarked on a road trip. One that would have elements of an odyssey. And echoes of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’.
Eldorado, the last of a long pedrigreed line. Conjuring visions of a lost city shrouded in the mists of Central America, but instead of the promise of ubiquitous Gold, the gift is Chrome, and a fortune that comes as a declaration of Freedom and Independence. An encapsulated Dream. The American Dream. The Soul of America itself. It took you years to reach your prime, but I came off the assembly line ready to realise these ideals. As I aged, I saw the doctrines that inspired my creation, and the aspiration that my ownership represented, slowly decay, and make way for different conceptions of the good life.
But these doctrines left their mark and the echoes of their hope, and follies, could be the essence of nostalgia, yet, they are the very fabric of a unique, sublime, cultural inheritance.
It is real freedom, in the form of breaking from tradition to create new meaning and new purpose in existence. A purpose that the Brothers were searching for. One that we entered into together. The boys shared love of Rock’n’Roll & Jazz was an easy one for me to understand. What was more complicated was highlighting the delicate balance of factors and influences that led to the creation of the unique legacy of this great American art form.
Even before my lineage, it had sprung first from New Orleans and then spread up through the Mississippi Delta to the rapidly urbanizing centres of Memphis, St Louis and Chicago. I wanted them to see it all and experience it for themselves with few preconceptions. Share with them the stories, the secrets and what had been striven for by those who had driven me with such passion in my early days on the road.Where was this to be felt, found or was it destined to be forgotten?
On the open road? At the gates of Graceland? In the heart of the city?
The howl of the trumpet, the wail of the guitar, the unstoppable groove, polyrhythmic, swung below and straight on top. It is in all of them and in none. It is a zephyr. It can’t be bottled. This was to be a two-month adventure, from Independence Day to Labor Day, the ‘Classic American Summer’. We drove 7,000 miles to those great Music Towns & Cities that have shaped America. We observed the unstoppable momentum of gentrification. The insidious purification of the grit from the clam that had in the past grown pearls.
Like George Washington’s axe, or the ship of Thebes, when one bit is too broken and old replace it. It still has elements of the artifact, until all of it has been repaired and nothing of the original remains. Yet it looks the same. Doesn’t it?
But has it retained its essence? What does that even mean? Why does it even matter?
Maybe, we just try to capture a part of this ‘essence’ while it still has enough of the old to carry some level of verisimilitude.That was the purpose of the photographs. Some of the Native American Tribes refused to sit for early photographers for this reason. Perhaps, some of that still rings true, when you are in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on Highway 61, at the Crossroads weighing your soul at the point of sale?Together we lived, breathed, sweated and imbibed the complex cocktail of American heritage. Here, as proof, is a drop of the distilled essence. One thing for sure. I am one of a kind. I am the Mighty Rufus.
The car that dreams are made of.