Caught by the River

Jeb's Jukebox

Jeb Loy Nichols | 29th January 2015

13. collection box

Collection Box
Marjoe Gortner


This afternoon I walked up to the top gate to get the post. On the way I watched the sheep that live in the surrounding fields. Their thoughts, their desires, their needs, being a complete mystery to me. It’s for this fact, this impossibility of understanding them, that I most like them. As I walk along my lane I thank them for this gift, this gift of not knowing.

A friend of mine recently gave me a biography of a musician I like. A well meaning, well researched, reasonable book. When asked, a month later, if I’d read it, I had to confess that no, not only hadn’t I, I had no intention to. He asked me why. I tried to tell him that, for me, the attraction of art, the feeling I get of excitement, is bound up in mystery. Reading about an artist, about their lives, their likes and dislikes, having them explained, ruins the art. It robs the art of mystery. It becomes about the singer and not the song.

I know very little about Marjoe Gortner. I wish I knew even less. I know his name is a contraction of Mary and Joseph and that, as a young boy, he travelled America preaching the gospel. I also know that, as a young man, he had a crisis of faith and left both the church and the sanctified entertainment business. I know that a documentary film was made about him. I know that he made one album, the brilliant Bad But Not Evil in 1973.

What I really know is that the album is great. Collection Box grooves like a snake and floats between funk, roots and country. He did songs by Willis Alan Ramsey (which is always a good thing), and Dylan. He cut a masterpiece called Hoe-Bus. He sang brilliantly. He made me dance, think, sing and wonder. And for that, for the gift of not knowing, I thank him.

Jeb Loy Nichols
Jeb’s Jukebox archive