When he came up for air, Cassius Sr. asked if he could sing one more. He sang three: We Can't Go On This Way, taking special pains with the release, "Hiding behind the mask of laughter...," which he pronounced "the mosk of loffter,"
Meanwhile, Mrs. Clay was chatting merrily away about her son the prizefighter. "Wait a minute!" Cassius Sr. said. "Let me break in, make an entrance!" He ducked into the kitchen, came running out in the mincy style affected by some nightclub singers, extended his arms like Bobby Breen and began: "Careless, now that you've got me loving you." At the end he was breathing hard, clearing his throat and gulping and still trying to talk.
He was asked if Cassius Jr. could sing.
"Cassius? My brother? I mean, my son? If he kept on, he could sing. All of them, when they start out they're nothing. Nat King Cole was nothing when he started out. And Dean Martin was nothing. Frank Sinatra was sickening! Cassius is a good singer, but none of 'em got a voice like I got. But he's a good singer. Not as good as me, but he's good. His voice got to be cultivated. Rudy can sing. But none of 'em got a voice like I got. They can't whistle like I can. 'Cause I can whistle! Indian Love Call, all them kind of songs."
The conversation veered suddenly from music to religion, and Senior stated his personal position without prompting: "I'm a Methodist, and I'll be a Methodist till the day I die! 'Cause my mother took me there and had me christened when I was 6 months old. And anything my mother did I know was right, because I was born from my mother and if it wasn't for my mother I wouldn't be here. And I wouldn't change my name for nobody. Because my mother named me Cassius Clay."
His fast delivery grew faster, and he jumped to his feet. "My mother brought me up, and she's the cause of me being where I'm at today. My mother had a talent and I was it, and it's been brought out to the world and my sons! My mother wanted me to be a musician. She did everything to make me a musician."
Without breaking stride, he said suddenly, "Eh, now wait now, what about some money before we start talking about Cassius here? I'm gonna give you a heck of a story, starting off now. There's got to be some money. This story's gonna be worth millions, because it's Cassius Clay's life. The greatest fighter ever produced. The greatest contract ever written was written by Cassius Clay Sr., and it was handled in Louisville by honest men, rich men.... So where's the money? I'm a money man. I'm crazy for money! I need money!"
Both the senior Clays share with their prizefighting son the conviction that the mere mention of his name is worth barrels of cash. They are certain that a book about him would be an instant bestseller, articles about him would automatically double any magazine's circulation and food products that used his name would drive competition off the market overnight. "We're gonna make a lot of money in advertising," the father said. "You know, endorsements? So we don't want to spoil that by giving away the names of foods he ate, things he drank. So we'll just say in his life story, 'I believe he was a born champion, waiting to be cultivated. And one great cultivation was Pet Milk'!"
"No, no," Mrs. Clay interrupted. "We won't name the milk, we'll just say 'the milk his mother gave him.' And we'll say, 'His favorite baby food, he loved and ate so much of it.' But we ain't gonna give the name of it. Then we can sell advertisements to them later."
But it is not possible for Cassius Clay Sr. to keep up an interest for any length of time in subjects other than Cassius Clay Sr., and soon he was taking the visitors on a guided tour of the basement room he had refinished. It was a sprawling room, paneled in plywood and dominated by four glassed-in pillars, which threw a dull ocherous light from their innards, a type of illumination seen in some taverns and a few nightclubs in Tijuana. On the walls he had affixed wooden musical notes and a G-clef sign, a handful of wooden playing cards and two wooden pairs of dice with the spots placed incorrectly. In a corner were a dusty 27-inch television set, a stereo radio, another television set and a phonograph, all relics of the days when the big money was flowing.