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Sault musician honours old friend and bandmate with new book

Sault Ste. Marie's Joel Poluck has compiled a 'tell-nothing' book in remembrance of Floyd Lee, a blues musician he first met in a tunnel beneath the streets of Manhattan before spending more than a decade recording and touring together
Joel Poluck is a Sault Ste. Marie musician and author who recently penned 'Songs For Floyd – Blues Poems And Other Things' in honour of his friend Floyd Lee, who died in 2020. Poluck will be doing a book signing March 23 at The Artesian from 6 to 9 p.m.

A Sault Ste. Marie musician has penned a book in remembrance of Floyd Lee, his friend and former bandmate, three years after the bluesman’s 2020 death.

Joel Poluck was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, but lived for a time in New York City, where he met Lee over 20 years ago.

“My girlfriend was on the train back from the Upper West Side and said this old blues guy sat beside her and told her how he was the last of the Mississippi blues men,” recalled Poluck. “He said he was going to Grand Central Station to play there so I would go through there and look all through it and could never find him.”

Eventually, Poluck was able to track Lee down, where the then-68-year-old blues man was playing in a tunnel near Times Square.

The next time they met, Lee invited Poluck to pick up a guitar and they eventually ended up playing together in Floyd Lee & His Mean Blues Band.

Thus began a 12-year relationship of performing and recording together, until Lee’s health began to decline at about the age of 80, said Poluck. Lee died of heart failure on June 7, 2020 at the age of 86.

The band was even the subject of a documentary, Full Moon Lightnin’, that won awards as it toured the festival circuit and it made an appearance at the Sault’s Shadows of the Mind Film Festival in 2008.

Those songs, as well as poems from the time and other writings, are part of Poluck’s new book, Songs For Floyd - Blues Poems And Other Things.

“It’s songs that we did in that time over our career together — roughly 12 years. There are songs, there are things that are inspired by stories he told me or things that happened, people we knew,” said Poluck.

He called it a tell-nothing book because it doesn’t use the standard narrative style expected in a tell-all bio of a musician’s life.

“I thought it would be a nice tribute to him after he passed away, if I could just get everything together. Even though I am not telling a story, it all tells a story — in a more artistic way,” said Poluck.

On March 23, Poluck will be on hand at The Artesian at 514 Queen St. E. For a book signing from 6 to 9 p.m.

“If you come down our music will be playing, we will have books to sign and I may have a few poster reprints. I will have a few artifacts from back in the day — a few things of Floyd’s to show,” said Poluck.

Lee had a storied career as a musician before they met, said Poluck.

Among other bands, he played with Jimmy Reid — opening for The Supremes and Little Stevie Wonder.

Later, Floyd Lee & His Mean Blues Band had a hit on the blues charts in 2001 with Mean Blues.

"He had a great singing voice. He had a great personality. As a blues man he had it all," said Poluck.

Born in Lamar, Mississippi in 1933, he picked cotton in the cotton fields, went to school in Memphis and got put on a train to Chicago,” said Poluck. 

Lee went on to shine shoes on the streets of Chicago and moved to Cleveland, where he was a major league bat boy. He moved to New York in 1973 and worked as a doorman and played as a street musician on the side.

He never looked at playing as a career, he was a doorman for 27 years, but he always played the whole time,” said Poluck of Lee. “He just liked singing and playing.”

Poluck will have softcover versions of the book with CD for sale at the book signing or by email, while hardcover versions can be purchased from Amazon.

A musical companion to Songs For Floyd - Blues Poems and Other Things can be heard here.

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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