Music, like life, includes diversely random occurrences that lead a person from one point to another. As I reflect on my many paths in life (so far!), I am awestruck by how much difference a small interaction, detail or chance encounter can make in the eventual outcome of a series of events. Music is very similar. Back in my touring days, I used this phrase often “What a difference one fret makes!” If I hit a “wrong” or bad sounding note in a song, it was never a big error. Just one fret off usually. So it is with life. Another musical adage is that “there are no bad notes, just bad timing.” This reminds me of that great Dr. John song “I was in the right place, must've been the wrong time.” For me to end up in music at required a mysterious and complex chain reaction to take a basketball junkie from Boise, ID to Austin City Limits. I'll tell that story later. Here's to some wild misses in my music career.
Buddy Guy Asked Me To Play With Him
This one kept me up at night for years. It's true. I neither said yes, nor, no. I froze. The moment passed and the show went on without me. What could've been? We'll never know. Here's the back story.
I am a die-hard blues lover. I used to listen to the Blues Deluxe radio show on KBSU in Boise as a teenager. Lightnin' Hopkins was the first to truly knock me out with the essence of his music. Many others soon followed.Flash forward to my college years. I am now a Junior at Boise State and I am hosting the Blues Deluxe radio show every Sunday night. I'm also Director of the Student Programs Board. I had a budget and planned music events for the university/city. When I had a chance to bring Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy to Boise, I was ecstatic. It sold out. I picked him up at the airport. I wanted to offer him the height of luxury. I arrived in my mother's station wagon she used for her day care. He sat in back seat. He was quiet, but, respectful. I gave him plenty of space. I then procured a bottle of Courvosier (for Buddy) and dropped him of at his hotel near the venue. The next day was the show.
At the venue, I was frantically trying to tie every loose end together. Wheel-chair access, contract rider, ticketing procedure, having my crew organized and in-place. Buddy arrives and is extremely friendly. He calls me over to the side of the stage. I had told him that I was a big blues fan and was learning guitar. He tells me that he just got a new guitar made especially for him by Fender. He asked if I wanted to see it. Um, YEAH!!! He opened the tweed case and there was his first polka-dotted Stratocaster. Wow! Pretty amazing to be there and see that. He asked if I wanted to play it. Um, YEAH!!! I bristled out a blues lick from his first album “A Man and the Blues” out of respect to him. I played it for a couple of minutes and then he asks “Do you want to sit in tonight?” Um………
I froze in the moment. The moment passed. My girlfriend was standing there and was urging me to do it. Chicago blues legends don't ask you to sit in with them everyday. Of course, she was right. My internal process included a couple of facts that I was wrestling with at the time, and, I still feel are valid today. At least, that's what I tell myself.
Fact #1: I was the promoter of the show. I was responsible for everything that happens at that club for the next several hours. My generalized hyper-vigillance made it hard to say yes to him. I would've had to go home and get my White Strat and Fender Stage Lead amp. That seemed like a judgement error.
Fact #2: I had never played a gig. Ever. I'd never played with a drummer or a real bassist. As I contemplated this fact, I think that I probably made the right in-decision. If it went horribly awry, that might've squelched any chance that I had at playing music. If the opposite were the case, it might've given me a skewed sense of my own talent. In hindsight, I needed years of seasoning before I was ready to be a real musician.
Buddy Guy's first 3 songs were unbelievable. He woke up the rowdy audience by playing at a whisper-like volume and singing 6 feet away from the microphone. You could've heard a pin drop. I get goosebumps thinking about it. I think he sized up the audience and began playing Hendrix covers and enjoyed his Courvosier between songs. The crowd loved it, but, I think he sized them up correctly and delivered accordingly. I remember it vividly after all these years/decades.
Man, this entry was supposed to be one of four in this newsletter. Looks like I will save my tales of missed chances with Terry Riley (whom the Who's Baba O'Reilly is named after,) Chuck Prophet and Curtis Stigers for a later installment.
Once More with Feeling,