(CBS Local)– Adam Gussow and Sterling Magee come from two different ends of the spectrum, yet they combined to become one of the most iconic duos in blues history.
The two rose to fame after they started playing together on the streets of Harlem during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In a new documentary called “Satan & Adam,” director Scott Balcerek tells the story of how an Ivy League educated man and a legendary musician took the blues world by storm.
“It was 1992 and a friend of mine took me out to see them,” said Balcerek in an interview with CBS Local. “I’m a musician and I remember walking in the bar, paying the fee and I heard this real big sound. Instead of seeing five people, I see two people and it’s two people that seemingly come from two different worlds. It kind of didn’t make sense, but the music did.”
Balcerek calls Gussow and Magee an allegory for American music. While Gussow had played in the jazz clubs in Harlem, nothing compares to playing with Mr. Satan on the streets.
“I had never really spent much time on the street in Harlem until that point,” said Gussow. “I got out of my car and asked who is this guy. The guys said ‘oh that’s Satan. Everybody in Harlem knows Satan.’ I went home and wrote that line down because it was such an unusual thing to hear. We didn’t call ourselves Satan and Adam for the first four years. We didn’t have an indoor gig. We didn’t have a CD or a cassette to sell.”
Gussow and Magee ended up playing all over the country and all over the world. They played at places like Central Park, the New Orleans Jazz Festival and Europe and changed the game in blues.
“There have been a lot of blues duos, but the one man band nature of Sterling’s playing is something that I feel like should get more attention,” said Balcarek. “Although on one hand I want to say he’s the greatest one man band, we have Adam here. So, that means Adams is the best one man band accompanist.”
“He didn’t mind me being loud, but he didn’t want me stepping on his vocals,” said Gussow. “He would get the feeling going and once he got that, why would stop. There was a lot of learning that went on between him and me. Mostly me learning from him.”
“Satan & Adam” is in theaters now in New York.