As Satan and Adam, Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee and Adam Gussow were an integral part of the New York blues renaissance of the 1990s, along with Shemekia Copeland, The Holmes Brothers, Michael Hill and the Blues Mob, and Popa Chubby. They burst on the scene in 1991 with Harlem Blues, featuring Magee on guitar, percussion, and vocals and Gussow on amplified harmonica. “[This is blues] so unbelievably raw and real,” wrote CMJ, “it’s hard even to describe it. Satan sounds like the heaviest and scariest parts of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters reincarnated as a whole band and then somehow crammed back into the body of one man, and Adam fills in some piercing harmonica wails that seem to come from the same dark, primeval place as Shakey Horton’s or Little Walter’s.” Harlem Blues was nominated for a Handy Award as “Traditional Blues Album” in 1991.
Magee and Gussow first met on 125th Street in Harlem in 1986, where Magee, an R&B singer and guitarist from Mount Olive, Mississippi, had reinvented himself as a one-man band. Known in the early 1960s as a “Five Fingers Magee,” a dazzling guitar prodigy, Magee later worked as a sideman with King Curtis, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, and Little Anthony and the Imperials. Gussow, a writer and harmonicist with the touring company of Big River, worked Harlem’s streets with Magee for three years before the duo was discovered.
Magee and Gussow followed up Harlem Blues with Mother Mojo (1993) and Living on the River (1996). They toured internationally and played blues, jazz, and folk festivals in Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Winnipeg, Dublin, and many other venues. They were celebrated, among other things, for their 38-second cameo in U2’s 1988 documentary, Rattle & Hum, in which they performed Magee’s original composition, “Freedom For My People.”
In 1998, after Magee experienced health challenges, Satan and Adam disbanded. Gussow’s tale of the duo’s exploits, Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir was published later that year and received the Keeping the Blues Alive Award in Literature from the Blues Foundation in Memphis. (It was republished by the University of Minnesota Press in 2009.) Gussow is currently an Associate Professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. His 2010 solo debut, Kick and Stomp, has received heavy airplay on Bluesville (XM/Sirius satellite radio). Magee lives in Gulfport, Florida and has become a celebrated icon of the Tampa-area blues scene.