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Delaney & Bonnie

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Earlier this week Rolling Stone reported on the passing of Delaney Bramlett, the Mississippi native who co-wrote Eric Clapton's “Let It Rain" and was credited with teaching George Harrison how to play slide guitar. Here's a look back at a classic 1969 feature on the songwriter and his then-wife and musical partner, Bonnie.

Bonnie Bramlett is the female part of a new recording act, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, and the wife of the Delaney part. She, like her husband, is from rural America and when she speaks, it is in an accent that used to be called hillbilly, but now it's called soulful (as in soul-full).

Bonnie is a Scorpio, a Strong One and unlike most Scorpios, she likes to tell stories on herself, stories that make her seem somewhat the brunt of her own joke. One of these stories has to do with one of her first public appearances as a vocalist, five years old and singing “Beautiful Golden Harbor" at the family church in Granite City, Illinois (pop. 6,900 when she left), a steel town; she says her daddy worked in one of the mills from the day he was 15 years old.

“The Pope," Bonnie says, “that's my aunt; we call her the Pope, she's sooooo religious, everything you do is sin, but she's soooo puuuuuure! She played piano at this church and I sang. She worked me for two weeks to learn this song. I was only five years old an' it's the longest song. 'Beautiful Golden Harbor ... harbor of God's love....'"

She was singing the words to the song now, still running the sentences together in one great enthusiastic paragraph.

“It was a lot for a little kid like me to remember. An' boy, she stressed: 'Don't you do innything between words. Don't you add words. Don't you forgit inny either.'"

Now Bonnie was doing her aunt's voice.

“Every night, boy," Bonnie said, returning to her own voice, “she stood me at that piano for two weeks, learnin' that darned song. By the time we got there, to the church, I was so petrified of messin' up that song--'cause she'd-a killed me--I stood up there and sang that song and I didn't miss a word. I didn't miss a lick of it, but I was so scared of my aunt, the Pope, I pee'd a stream right down my leg all the way through the song, an' it was at a revival, where everybody comes and sees you."

End of story.

Beginning of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, a story that ranges from small country bars in southern Illiniois to Ike and Tina Turner's early days in St. Louis to a house and two kids in suburbia; from rural Mississippi to stardom on Shindig to contracts with Elektra and Apple.

And beginning with Delaney, because that's the way Bonnie says it should be, even if Bonnie & Delaney is more euphonious than putting Delaney first. “You don't say Missus and Mister, do you?" Bonnie asks. “You always say the man's name first. That's the natural way."

Delaney is from Mississippi, he said, where when his grandma died, his grandpa, Papa John, married again and now his grandpa has a little girl just nine years old--which means Delaney, who is in his twenties somewhere, now has an aunt less than half his age. Delaney also tells you his grandpa's first wife, Ludie Mae, was the granddaughter of a Cherokee Indian chief--which makes Delaney one-fourth redskin.

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