Erik Blood, 2014 Stranger Genius nominee, producer of Nightmare Fortress, Shabazz Palaces, and THEESatisfaction has the best mother in the world. Shirley Blood is what firecrackers are made of. When meeting Shirley you’re immediately taken away by her effervescent spirit. I like to describe her as a cross between Lena Horne and Sally Fields. It was my ultimate pleasure to sit down, imbibe the best red wine and talk about her amazing self and the daring boy-wonder that is her son.
RF: I think it’d be really neat to know about your history with music. Like how do you listen to your music right now?
Shirley: What I do is I think of songs from my past and I pull them up on YouTube. I have a box of albums, and I used to sit and drink wine and listen to my albums. And when I have my poker women over here we put on my music. But my favorite thing is just sitting and listening to my albums. Nothing new. I’m not into the good stuff. It’s not like the good old stuff. I like the oldies.
I’m not a musician. I cannot sing. Well, I think I can, but I really can’t. But I remember always loving music. And I remember back when I was about 11, and I have two older sisters and a younger sister. My father came home from work one day and brought a stereo. We never had a record player and he put up the stereo and we were so excited and we danced to Gary U.S. Bonds “Quarter to Three”. And we just did the jerk and then we started to buy 45s and we’d watched American Bandstand every day after school. That’s really the length of it.
I don’t really listen to radio these days. But when I start feeling the need for music it’s not new stuff. It’s The Cookies and it’s James and Bobby Purify. Songs that didn’t necessarily make the big charts but they just hit a nerve in me. That’s one of the things that I love about Erik. I think it was Christmas and he was here. I said, “Erik, I just thought of this song that I haven’t heard in like 30 years.” And he said, “Well, I’ll try to pull it up.” It was The Cookies “Softly in the Night”. As soon as it started playing, Erik was like “Oh, yeah…” Now he’d never heard it before in his life. But he was like “Oh, yeah.” And he and I was just like— (Shirley grooving and swaying in her chair) and, of course, I like to stand there and dance and watch my reflection in the window. I just like to listen to music that evokes good memories. Just that feeling comes right back to you and takes you to another place and time.
RF: Most definitely, because when you hear music it goes through your eardrums and through your body so those memories become part of you.
Shirley: Exactly. As soon as you hear the song it takes you right back there. And when I do my thing of going into the living room. Drinking my wine and listening to records. George (Shirley’s husband) would poke his head in and I would say “You have to get out.” And he would say, “Well, I won’t say anything.” And I would say “No because I’m thinking about stuff you don’t necessarily want hear about.” Because it takes me to – it’s such a magical place to be. You get it.
Shirley: Well, I was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Raised in Sumter, South Carolina – my father was military. And then I spent my junior high and high school in Victorville, California. But I graduated high school in Okinawa because daddy transferred there.Then I married a military man – not this one, but that took me to Klamath Falls, Oregon and then to St. Paul, Minnesota where I had my daughter, Tracy, Erik’s sister. Then my parents retired here and I had to be around my mother. So I moved to Tacoma and that was the end of that marriage, which was a good thing.
And then I met George. And then we fell in love and got married and had this little boy. Oh, my God, the sun started shining. It was wonderful. I had the best time raising him. He and I were best friends. We joined a bowling league. George would be at church because he’s a religious man and Erik and I would be at home watching Fatal Attraction or The Exorcist. There was never any raising of his voice, he’s just like his father. He has George’s gentle soul and my sense of humor. We laugh so much. He was a blast.
I look at this tall, salt and peppered, bearded, giant man and I say to him “Child of my womb, you gotta listen to me.” And he just lifts me up. He’s just a gentle giant.
Erik was born on December 18th at 8 o’clock in the evening. I brought him home from the hospital on the 20th. I literally brought him in the house, sat down in the chair, turned on the – the first music he heard was Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band because that’s the album that I played over and over. So he heard music since he was two days old. Both of the kids loved Dr. Buzzard. I think their favorite song was “Sunshower”.
I worked full-time and every Saturday I’d get up and clean house. And the first thing I would do is put on the records and just let the music blare throughout the house. And little baby Erik is on the coffee table shaking his butt. So it was just in him. And our neighbor gave us an electric organ that her kids had. Erik was three. So we’d put it in Erik’s room. So two hours later we would hear “Chariots of Fire”. He would go and listen to the song and then go back to his bedroom and play it. Did he tell you that he composed his first song in like the fourth or fifth grade? There was big meeting at Point Defiance Elementary and they let him play his song.
RF: So please tell me this, you don’t liken yourself a singer or musician. Do you express yourself artistically in other ways?
Shirley: I’m not artistic. No. I don’t do anything. I don’t paint. I don’t draw. Okay, in the winter time I might make an afghan. My thing is I work out every day, I like to go to the movies, I gamble… you know -casino stuff. But other than that, I’m pretty much a homebody. I used to fantasize when my kids were in school and I worked full-time, about being a stay at home mom. And shining up your coffee table and kitchen counter… Now I’m doing it. I’ve been retired for 13 years. I like being at home.
RF: Please tell me more about your ritual. I’m all about rituals and self-care and making space and time for oneself.
Shirley: I don’t have a daily ritual. It’s not even every week. I have to feel right. I have to feel like I have to hear some music. Now, what I’ve been doing is I go back to our bedroom and turn up the Bose and dig around my cds. And I have to just be by myself, unless, it’s with Erik and Tracy. We’re on the same wavelength. But I have that hunger. I too crave music periodically. I don’t go out dancing. I’ll stand in front of the mirror and dance by myself in the bedroom. I love to do that.
Shirley: And sometimes, maybe not realizing it, I’m at a low point and the body just knows you need to be energized by some music. And again, it takes you back to good things. Very, very few negative things. There’s only one negative thing that the music takes me back to. I had a younger brother, named George, who died of AIDS when he was 30. And there’s a song by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, it’s “Christmas Without You”. For some reason, when I first heard that, I thought of my brother. And so now whenever I hear that, it makes me think about him. I miss him. But other than that, music usually takes me to positive places.
RF: What is something you’re listening to right now? What is your go to song at the moment?
Shirley: “There Is No Other Like My Baby” and “Softly in the Night” by The Cookies and “Caravan of Love”. Erik reminded me of that song in February when he was here. And I’ll play the same song over and over again.
Now when I was a teenager, James Brown didn’t interest me. As I became an adult I rediscovered James Brown. I didn’t have any of his records and stuff. When Erik was about 16, he called me into his room and said “Mom, listen to what I just bought,” and it was James Brown. We just laid on his bed and listened to those songs. He just was so open to everything.
You can catch Shirley Djing the perfect ‘60s Rock and Soul set in her living room. Break out your bobby socks and Bourdeaux.