RIP Mr. Satan, aka Sterling Magee

Satan is dead.

Sterling Magee, the singer, songwriter, guitar player who recorded with legends, busked for change in New York City where he was known as Mr. Satan, and saw a revival of his musical fortunes in the little town of Gulfport, Fla. in the past decade, died Sept. 6 at the age of 84 in Gulfport.

Sterling Magee at the Peninsula Inn & Spa,
Gulfport, Fla., in 2009. (Jim White photo)

However you classify him, Magee was a guitar player out of Mississippi, raised in St. Pete, Fla., and was an Army paratrooper, songwriter, guitar-player with James Brown, King Curtis and Big Maybelle, among others.

He came to the attention of more contemporary blues fans in the 1990s, when a young white dude named Adam Gussow, who played blues harp, fell in with Magee (then called “Satan”) and they busked together on New York street corners as Satan and Adam.

The two went on to real concerts, record albums, and Gussow wrote a book in 1998, “Mr. Satan’s Apprentice,” which told the story of their life together.

Then Magee kind of dropped out of sight for a few years with health issues, but turned up later performing in the St. Pete area. He and Gussow reunited occasionally, performed nationally, and a documentary film — “Satan and Adam” — was made and is now available on Netflix. It’s worth a look.

I found him by accident on a winter’s vacation in St. Pete when I saw his name come up on the weekly list of blues shows published by the Tampa Bay, Fla., area blues society — the Suncoast Blues Society He was playing Tuesday nights at the Peninsula Inn & Spa in funky little Gulfport, not too far south of St. Pete, at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.

It turned out that Magee had been showing up and playing his blues history on the inn’s fine little tree-shaded deck every Tuesday for a couple of years. And that’s where the photo above was taken.

Sterling Magee had a fascinating musical career. I’ve included a few links to more information, and there’s a lot more out there.

I’m going to have to go back to the Peninsula Inn one of these evenings, sit on the patio with the appropriate libation, and remember my nights with Satan.

In case you missed the link above, here is a fine summary of his life in the Tampa Bay Times.

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