"Stuttering is critical," he says, "because stuttering may have been one of the reasons I stayed in the Navy so long -- nine years. I wasn't quite ready for the world. It wasn't until I was twenty-eight that I really got a handle on my speech. I saw that I had an acute fear of what a listener might think of me. Shyness was part of the emotional mix. It was also frustrating. Because of my chronic stutter, people assumed I was sstupid. I realized I had a gift for language -- I was probably more verbal than those who were taunting me -- but that gift was stifled. When I processed the fear -- looked at it and understood it -- I found the strength to move on. I found expression in writing songs. Blues lyrics seemed too restricted to me. Blues is certainly in my blood, but my heart required a freer form. If there had been a commercial mainstream outlet for pure poetry, I probably would have done just that. Saying something was far more important than musical virtuosity. Truth is, I lacked musical virtuosity. So my stuff stayed simple. At the same time, if I hadn't been protecting something macho deep within me, there's no telling what I might have said lyrically in my songs.
Looking back, I see that as a stutterer I was extremely sensitive. Any stutterer lives with a lifetime of hurt feelings. That sensitivity served my songs. I didn't start this little music career of mine till I was nearly thirty, so there was already a degree of maturity.