The idea for “Elroy McGrady’s Blues” came from a visit to the Whitefish Bay Public Library with my wife. She noticed that they were having a writing contest with the stipulation that short stories had to be 1000 words or less. Now, I’m not a typical fan of writing flash fiction, or stories under 1000 words, but I started working on an idea for it. My initial concept had to do with a science major reading a peer reviewed study on how peanut butter doesn’t affect the earth’s rotation (yes, that is an actually peer reviewed scientific study).
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite sure what the story would be with that concept, so I scrapped the idea. One day while at work I was listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and that’s where the concept for “Elroy McGrady’s Blues” started to form. Those of you who are familiar with Skynyrd’s oeuvre probably know the particular inspiration for this story, but for those of you who might not know how Skynyrd could have inspired this story, the particular song that I was listening to at the time is “The Ballad of Curtis Loew”.
In “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” the singer reflects on his time going to visit a man who played blues on a Dobro for the singer when he was a kid for the price of some liquor. The tale in the song is allegedly based on the true story of how members of the band would see a man hanging outside a liquor store in Jacksonville, FL with a guitar and would offer to play guitar in exchange for money for booze.
Originally, I really wanted to play with dialogue in this story, so you probably noticed a lot of dialect in the writing compared to my other stories. This came from my work on a one act play that was very well received; you’ll see that play at a later date. I hadn’t really worked with dialect prior to that, but I really enjoyed it and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out I did it well. Eventually, the story turned into an examination of race in the ‘50’s and that’s an examination I will continue since I’m not ready to hang up the character of Elroy McGrady and plan on giving him his own collection of short stories.