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Hannibalism

Sixty-eight years old and as spry as a cricket, R&B's Mighty Hannibal is storming the Scoot Inn Saturday, with the Strange Boys and Carrots riding shotgun and Golden Boys opening. Born James T. Shaw in Atlanta's Vine City neighborhood and performing since his dad put him in the church choir at age 2, Hannibal was labelmates with James Brown on Cincinnati's King Records, selling around 300,000 copies of "Baby, Please Change Your Mind" in 1962, while two of his mates in teenage doo-wop group the Overalls became Gladys Knight's Pips. "I've worked with a lot of beautiful people," he says, listing Joe Tex, B.B. King, and Bobby "Blue" Bland. After a spell in L.A., Shaw returned to Georgia to sing for St. John & the Cardinals, whose drummer, Denis St. John, went on to form "Champagne Jam" Southern rockers Atlanta Rhythm Section. In California, he befriended Texas-born blues-slinger Johnny "Guitar" Watson. "The only time we would fight was over a girl," he says. "Then we'd go smoke a joint and say, 'Hey man, that's over.'" Celebrated heavyweight fighter Joe Louis was also a fan. "He used to pay me $100 just to sing 'I Got a Woman' just like Ray Charles," Hannibal swears. Even better, he once found himself in the back seat of a car with Brother Ray at the wheel. "Let me repeat that: He was driving a car," he says. "Ray had more nerve than a toothache and more guts than a hog," continues Shaw, who lost his own sight to glaucoma a few years back. "I said, 'Look where you're going!' and he said, 'Hell, I can't see no how!'" Look for The Resurrection of the Mighty Hannibal next month. "I lost my sight, but I didn't lose my charisma," he says. "I'm still the baddest mamma-jamma I know."
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Christopher Gray, June 29, 2007

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Christopher Gray, June 22, 2007

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