TheBig Issue April 1998
On the trailof a living legend
My love affair with Rodriguez'smusic began in 1972 at the Airforce base in Valhalla, Pretoria. I was doingmy compulsory military training, when one night someone in our bungalowbrought a home-recorded tape of the new album 'ColdFact' by Sixto Rodriguez. It was unlike anything we had ever heardand it soon became our anthem - as it was for thousands of other SouthAfricans from all walks of life - for the remaining months of our training.
Roll the movie forward almost20 years later to December 1994 when a seemingly unimportant event setoff a train of events that ended with Rodriguez, who many believed waslong dead, doing a sell-out concert tour in South Africa last month. Sittingwith some friends on Camps Bay beach when a woman who had been living inthe USA for several years asked me if I knew where she could find a copyof the album 'Cold Fact' as she had been unable to find it anywhere inthe States. I told her that she could walk across the road and buy it atthe local CNA, which she did. I then set out to try and find the firstRodriguez album which I knew as 'After The Fact'but had never heard. A hunt of all the record stores in Jo'burg provedfruitless - until a friend Andre casually mentioned that he had a copyof that album in his record collection. To cut along story short, we handedover the album to PolyGram, who had lost the master tapes, so they couldremaster it. We handed it over to them with some liner notes - and finally,about 3 years ago (actually April 1996), it was releasedon CD.
We had been unable to finda single reference to Rodriguez in any music reference book or on the Internet- the man had simply disappeared. Finally music detective extra-ordinaireCraig Bartholomew struck gold when after months of searching, he finallydicovered Rodriguez was very much alive and well and living in Detroit,Michigan.
Then, on Sunday 14th September1997, I received an e-mail from Eva Rodriguez Koller, Rodriguez's daughter,who asked me to phone her at her home in Junction City, Kansas. She toldme her father was something of a recluse and she did not want to give outhis phone number without his permission - although she added he might bewilling to discuss the possibility of a tour to South Africa. An hour later,the phone rang and it was Rodriguez himself, speaking with a soft Americanaccent, asking to speak to me. I told him about his cult status in SouthAfrica, he told me that he would love to tour South Africa as he had completeda very successful tour of Australia over 15 yearsago.
In early February 1998, Evaannounced via email and on the web-board that the tour details had beenfinalised and that Rodriguez would be touring South Africa during March1998. People all over South Africa were stunned to hear Rodriguez wouldsoon be walking out onto a South African stage to receive the cheers, applauseand overdue adulation that he had waited so long to receive.
The rest, as they say, ishistory. Rodriguez played sell-out concerts inCape Town, backed by Big Sky and a tour of Australia and maybe the US,where he has never appeared on stage, are on the cards. So watch out forRodriguez, who just could be the next big thing out of South Africa.
Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman
See the original "Sugarand the Sugarman" story at TheGreat Rodriguez Website.
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