“Cassius Clay was down in Miami, and Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Billy Eckstine, and myself were on 9th street at Nat’s Barbershop in Overtown. They all knew me and we were all joking and laughing and then Cassius Clay came in. He had just won the Olympics in Rome. It was 1960. I didn’t like him at all. He was bragging about he was gonna be this and do that. He was a tall good lookin fella and I just could not stand his ass. He was on and on about “My name is Cassius Clay,” and he was punching at the wall and Jackie Wilson was kissing his ass. And then Jackie said, “This is Sam from Sam and Dave,” and the Champ said, “Well what song do they have?” and Jackie said, “Well, nothing.” At the time we were still doing covers and playing talent shows. And everybody laughed and he was fast as lightning throwing those punches at the wall talking about, “I’m gonna knock out Sonny Liston.” And I was just getting mad looking at him and he said, “Well, what’s your problem?”
I said, “I don’t like you.” And everybody in the barbershop know I got a mouth on me, and they say, “Sam, Sam, Sam, calm down, man.” I told Clay, “You gonna get your punk ass whooped.”
He said, “You wanna come to the fight?” And meanwhile Joe Louis was down at the restaurant on the corner having lunch. I said, “Yeah, I wanna go to the fight. Liston gonna knock your dick out your pants.”
So they had some tickets brought over to Nat’s and we went to the Continental Club, and later went to the beach to go watch the fight. Everybody was there. Somebody gave me some money to go get some stuff, I missed the opening fights, and I got back with my drink and I said, “Clay gon get his ass fucked up.” And I set my soda down and put a magazine under my ass and as I was leaning down everybody jumped up to look and I said, “What happened?!?”
And they say Clay just knocked that man out cold.
And everybody started teasing me. And this group of guys could tease you so bad you didn’t even want to fight. I had to stay off 9th street for a long time after that. Goddamn they teased me.
One day I went to go get a hair cut from Nat and when I walked in everybody say, “Hey, come here punk!”
I said, “Fuck yall”
And they said, “Nah, fuck you!”
And then Sam Cooke and I became friends and we were all together all the time down there.
And then when the Muslim thing came in Muhammad Ali got to be a good friend of mine and he would come to the club and say, “Hey, you owe me a song.” I owe him everytime, and I pay him every time. And that’s how we came to be such good friends to this day.”
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