YEAH, HOLIDAYS STILL PRESENT A CHALLENGE... 

Having stopped using drugs back in 2010, I stopped drinking alcohol in February of 2016, and that ended my addictive struggle with alcohol and drugs.  Well, at least it represented an end to my active addiction.  But, the rest of life, well, THAT struggle is ongoing!  And holidays in particular still present a challenge. 

Being a musician, I spend a lot of my time performing in venues where alcohol sales and consumption are paramount to those venues survival.  Over the years, my desire to drink has been replaced by my desire to not drink!  Well, not drink booze anyway.  Coffee?  Well, me and the doc’s still argue over that one!! 

When the holidays roll around, there are a crap-load of things that pop-up that could, if I let them, make those special days really eat at me.  And, as any long-timed recovering addict can attest, really make alcohol and drugs appear attractive!  But the key here is, as I said, “If I let them!”  There is a long list of not so admirable things I have done in my past.  And even with as long as I’ve been involved in recovery, and with as long as I have been clean and sober, a little guilt still rises and lets me know about the things I did.  But, unlike my early days in recovery, I don’t carry little whips around in my shirt pocket and pull them out every now and then and beat myself up over the guilt I feel.  Instead, I acknowledge the pain I have caused, and I feel, and move on.  Hey, I can’t change anything I’ve done.  ANYTHING!  But I can NOT do those things again.  And hopefully, the injured parties can recognize that the fat man standing in front of them has changed and sincerely regrets those wrongs. 

Anyway, holidays can wreak havoc on recovering people, if they haven’t learned how to deal with whatever feelings creep up during those days.  In my early recovery, I depended on attending sober functions during the holidays if I found myself uncomfortable in “earth-people” situations!  And that’s a safe alternative.  Now, don’t take my next statement to mean to NOT rely on sober circles for a safe alternative.  But it doesn’t really add to your abilities to deal with everyday situations when temptation is everywhere.  That is where understanding yourself, your shortcomings, and your strengths come in.  And most important, where “forgiveness” comes in.  And the forgiveness to which I am referring is “forgiving yourself!”  It’s not enough to be just clean and sober, to reap the rewards of life in recovery.  Forgiving yourself is key! 

So, Happy Thanksgiving!!  Merry Christmas!!!  And Happy New Year!!  Life is awesome!  YOU are awesome!!  

I’ll catch you folks down the road!

NOT INTERESTED! 

Man, oh man!  What a week this has been!!  From getting a reply from a venue to a gig inquiry of, “Not interested.  Thank you.”, to last night finding my left hand from the first finger knuckle all the way around to the thumb pad was purple, this week has been very eye-opening, disheartening, and frankly, possibly life changing. 

Oh!  Hello.  If you don’t know me, I’m Michael Murphy.  I’m an old musician, singer-songwriter, sort of a poet, sort of a cartoonist, sort of a guitar player, sort of.  “from the dog house” is possibly going to be a weekly (if I’m pissed enough – daily) blog, sort of.  Now you’re up-to-date, sort of!! 

Back to the week.  I discussed with a VERY few close friends that “not interested” email response.  One friend replied, “Consider the source.”  Another replied, “LOL!  Don’t contact them again!”  And another replied, “Can’t win’em all.”  While they’re all right, it still hurt and still stings a bit.  Now, full disclosure, I emailed back and asked why?  A less terse reply received was “fully booked” and “not the style” they were looking for.  A bit easier to swallow, but looking at their schedule and type of acts, not fully truthful either. 

It really doesn’t matter how talented one is any more.  What matters is what the venues figure sells their products best!  So, maybe I am just too old for millennial music lovers.  I’ve actually heard that as a reason I wasn’t considered for a popular annual music festival, years ago.  Too old.  

I am old.  I’m 72.  I’m still writing songs.  I am still making records, er, CDs.  I still play as often as I can.  And, when I was a pup, older musicians were my, and other players of my age, heroes!  Sure, the Beatles came along and turned our heads around in more ways than one, as did other younger artists in a variety of genres.  Guthrie, Seeger, Dylan, Joni, Baez, Byrds, Robertson, Stones!  Too many to remember.  But, even while they were burning up the airwaves, we never lost respect for or interest in the trailblazers who inspired all those young artists who were changing the world of music and ideas!  

I’m not trying to change the world.  I’m just an old musician that has paid his dues and who is lucky to not have died from the life I lived, as did so, so many others.  By no means am I going to quit playing because somebody said, “Not interested.”  I’ll continue finding a corner to sit in and sing and play to anyone who will listen, or who is just in the room.  Maybe something I’ve written will help you, or make you laugh, or make you think.  Maybe a song I cover will bring back a memory of some fleeting moment that changed you in some way, bring a tear to your eye, or a smile to your face.  Because that’s what we do, we wordsmiths and songsters and artists.  We connect with you, to the world through the music.  And when we connect with you, we did what we set out to do.  Not to be put on a pedestal, not to be adored.  Just to be a part of the world, the only way we can. 

“Not interested.”  That’s okay.  Someone out there is.  And we will find them.  We always do.

71 YEARS OLD!! DAMN!!! 

I had a birthday the other day.  The result?  71 trips around our sun.  In my wildest dreams, when I was in my twenties, NEVER did I imagine getting to this age.  But, here I am.  Now what?  I'm a bit slower these days, but I still love to play!  Sometimes, I get a little unsteady on my feet.  Solution?  I sit when I play now and have done so for a few years!  The songs I write these days seem to be more reflective of what I've seen, heard, and done throughout all my years.  Take, for instance, "Empty Table."  True story, and NOT just once!!  Or, "Mama It Hurts."  I was personally, deeply affected and touched by events like this.  When younger, I wrote songs that more or less did not require deciphering like many of the songs that are written today.  They were straightforward in their message, whether sad like "The Ice We're Skating On Is Thin,"or bouncy like "Supermarket Blues."  

Seventy-one!  Whether you write it out or represent it numerically, it's a long time.  What it means to me is that I have way more years behind me than I have in front of me.  And, that's a heavy thought!!  

Now what?  Now, I'll keep playing, even though it's a bit more difficult to find gigs these days.  I'll keep writing, words still come to me!  I can't say I know from where the words come, but they do, from somewhere.  And it seems that every time I pick up my guitar I learn something new, and that's awesome!!

Sadly, making it to 71 (so far) has seen many of my friends, and fans called home.  And also called home have been some stellar talent we all knew and to whom we listened as we spun around on this rock.  But, that's life, I guess.  

I have much for which to be grateful and thankful.  My wife, Wendy, continues to get an ALL CLEAR result from her cancer checkups!!  YAY!!!  My youngest daughter graduates from college this year, as does my youngest son from High School!!  My oldest daughter has been invited to join a sorority, Phi Theta Kappa, and accepted at her college, down in the Keys.  PLUS, she is celebrating beaucoup days of being clean and sober!!  THAT is a miracle.  And my middle son is also changing his life.  My oldest boy?  Well, he's still paying the price for very poor choices, something for which I am truly thankful I made it through.  I won't get into all my years of addiction, except to say, I have beaucoup years now, on the other side of life!!  

Seventy-one.  Yep.  I guess that officially makes me a sage, a deep thinker, wise.  What that makes me is 71, plain and simple.  What I am officially is on my way to 72!!

Love you cats!!  I'll see you down the road!!

Michael Murphy

THOUGHTS ON A SUNDAY MORNING  

Not playing SUCKS!  In the old days, (a couple of years ago actually), Sunday morning would have found me up early, regardless of the time I sought the cool side of my pillow in the hours before, drinking coffee, thinking about the gig the night before, and more than likely working on a song.  As most of you know, 2018 and 2019 kind of slapped us in the face.  But Wendy and I got through it, in huge part because of your love, support, and prayers!  THANK YOU! 

These days, I find myself "gig-less" most weekends.  Now I don't desire a return to the 250 plus gigs a year days, though that period in my life was amazing!!  I'd just like to play at the very least every weekend.  Truth is, next April 5, I will be seventy (70) years old!  And being on the road, days at a time, is more an awesome memory, than a desire I can realize. 

And another quandary, I don't know if I want to play with the band or return to the way it all started for me back in the early '70s, solo in coffeehouses and listening rooms.  I love the band and the camaraderie.  We have fun on stage!  I also love the acoustic solo side, because I can play songs I've written that are better suited for the solo style.  My band, being primarily blues-based, could do them.  But that would confuse the audience who came to hear us bend strings and growl, the way for which we are known! 

Getting back to the not playing.  There are few agents with whom I will work.  The cats that actually did the work to get my butt into venues have retired, or, as in the case of Frank "Frog" Seebantz, (Frogwayz Productions) the guy I love the most, has been diagnosed with cancer.  He still calls me occasionally, to gig, and I go!  He has always been there for me, and for my family!!  Not many of the other kind of agents will do that!  I don't even refer to the other kind as agents.  I call them, among other things, "opportunists!"  Sure, they have their favorites, their long-time money makers, but cats like me, they have us in the "Solution" rolodex.  They pull us out, blow the dust off the card, in response to a venue calling and saying, "Our band canceled.  Send me somebody quick!" 

Now, the well-meaning "Devil's Advocates" all say, "Book yourself if you don't want to use an 'opportunist!'"  Another quandary.  I can chat up a storm with folks when I'm onstage, with a mic at my lips.  But, off-stage, I don't communicate so well.  I don't know why, but everyone who knows me knows that! 

So, here I am, Sunday morning, March 1, 2020.  Thinking about the way it was and thinking about Frog.  But I will see you folks, somewhere down the road!

DECEMBER 2019 • YIPEE! CANCER FREE!!! 

Thanks to all the prayers and support from friends and family, and the doctors' commitment to fighting, my darling wife (and sound tech!!!!), Wendy is now CANCER FREE!!  Now, probably about February, I'll be back hitting the road hard and heavy, watching those white lines as they disappear in the rearview mirror, as we barrel down the road to a venue near YOU!!

It has been a weird road for us this past year and a half, but, not only was there a light at the end of the tunnel, it is now lighting our way back to the people we love to play for, and friends we have not yet met!  So, see all you cats down the road!!

June 2019 • "Down the Road... Finally!" 

Yeah, I know.  It’s been almost four years since my last blog. And believe you me, an awful lot has happened during this absence.  Like it’s been since August of 2018 since I’ve played.  Reason being, both of my hands’ fingers just suddenly lost their sense of feeling.  In other words, they’re numb and the doctors have no idea why!!  Playing guitar, for the most part, was difficult because I could neither feel the strings nor frets.  But last month I began messing around with my acoustic a few minutes a day, to see if I could find a way to play through the numbness!  And, I’ve developed, sort of, a different kind of sensing where I am on the frets and strings.  Hopefully, with continued practice, I will find a way to the stage. 

The worse news came in February or so, of 2019, when Wendy, my wife and “soundtech”, was diagnosed with a tumor in her colon.  It was determined to be cancerous.  The tumor was removed, and now, although the Doctors all feel they got it all, she is receiving chemo treatments to track down and kill any remaining cancer cells that may be hiding somewhere in her body.  She is not happy!  But, she’s a real trooper; an amazing warrior!  She’s got this. 

With all the recent crap, with which we are dealing, and okay, a heavily diminished income, I have decided to give it a try.

I have booked five gigs for the summer months, to see how well I can play.  To keep me company on-stage I called on some old friends, and both former Mobsters, drummer “Randy “RD” Dean and bassists Tom “T-Bone” Bongers or Rick “Smokey” Smith.  Not having performed in almost a year, I wanted artists with me that know the music and have previously played every song with me.  I am still plagued with numb fingers on both hands, but my return to the stage will be made much less stressful, with these two cats backing me up.  First gig is getting closer!

Christmas 2015 

Christmas Day, 2015. I’ve been up since 4am, looking at the Tree and all those gaily wrapped boxes that have the magical property of bringing happiness and smiles to the faces of all my children, and as well to yours. The Tree stands prominently in it’s place right smack dab in the middle of our huge living room window, just like when I was a child. Not forgetting the birth of Christ, one can find no greater symbol, (except for St. Nick himself), to show the power of the season, or express the season’s sentiment, better than the Christmas tree. 

Our Tree sits in our NEW house, and is a testament to the fact that this is no longer just our house. It is OUR home!  

Merry Christmas, folks! Let the “magic” begin!

 
 

Changes! 

One of the great things about band member changes is the opportunity to perform with some outstanding new talent.  One of the worst things about band member changes is the departure of artists who have become not only valuable members of the the "team," but as well, good friends.  Now, while it's true, some changes, for various reasons, are necessary for the success of the band, still you have to come to know an artist as a person, with feelings and personality.  More often than not, it's the personality that becomes the impetus for change within the band.

I am not going to hire a band member who is not on the same talent level as the existing members.  I am not a "school" for teaching someone how to play, although every member learns something every time we take the stage!  I know I do!!!  I also am not going to hire someone who I believe does not share the same vision for the music as I do, although time can prove that aspect wrong!  That same "time" can expose personality traits not evident when initially bringing a new member on board.  And no matter how much research is done on potential members, negative behaviors can often rise to the surface as time passes.  Also, an individual's career path can and often does change for various reasons, which in turn affects their idea of how their music should be perceived and heard.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  An individual artist's growth is always a good thing, for the individual.  But, if the new path does not reflect the vision of the band leader, or the band's brand, then change must happen to assure the continued success of the band, and continuity of the band's sound.

Expect change.  It is often a wonderful thing!

BLUES IS A NATION 

Blues players and supporters are a nation, albeit a small one. Our champions are not necessarily those folks with award covered walls and instruments of the trade named after them. Most of our champions occupy small stages and even smaller corners. They play not just because they want to, but instead because they feel they have to. They know fame and fortune in this genre is super hard to come by, and for the most part, they don’t care. They just play, and every song not only tells a story, but the way it’s played tells you about the performer; how their day is going; how that minute is going and how they are feeling.

Yes, Blues is a nation; a nation of feeling, of sincerity, of honesty; a nation that loves their music. The Blues Nation! Come join us.

Is There A Doctor In the House? 

Most of the blogs I read concerning bands and gigs prep and behavior are aimed at gigs with multiple bands performing, and are aimed at making transitions between acts “hassle and stress free.”  Important stuff for sure!  But most of the gigs we play are just us, no one opening and no one following.  So, I decided to try and compose an article aimed at single act performances.  And with that in mind, here we go! 

I recently read this in an article:  … there is no such thing as ‘just another gig’!  That is probably the MOST important thing ANY band can remember!  EVERY gig is important.  It doesn’t matter if you’re playing to five people or five hundred.  They’ve come out to have a good time, and if you’re really lucky, they’ve come out to see YOU!  Do your homework!  Ask the venue owner if there is something special they wish to promote: An anniversary, a birthday, a product, even an upcoming band!  That venue owner’s future is also YOUR future!  Do it right, do you’re homework!
 
BE PREPARED!  This is not just for Boyscouts!  Before going into a club, make sure you know the “lay of the land!”  If possible, visit the venue to scope out several important things: Stage area, available power, electrical interference possibilities (neon lights, venue’s cooler proximity, etc.), speaker and/or lighting placement area, cord and cable run (is anyone going to be stepping on them), wedge placement (any danger of an “over-beverage-consuming-patron tripping over them).  There are many obvious considerations to be examined, so it’s best to make a list of potential problems, and try to eliminate them.  This is especially important if visiting the venue prior to a gig is not possible.

If visiting the venue prior to the gig is not possible, make sure to be ready for any situation that may arise!  Always carry “ground lifts.”  These are an S&L person’s best friend!!  Make sure you have extra mic, instrument and speaker cables! Cables are notorious for failing when you least expect it, even if they’re new!  And be ready for distance from the power sources!  Have several extension chords of various lengths. 

Carrying doubles of everything is really something most musicians can’t afford!  So, to that end there’s a musician’s most valuable asset – Duct Tape!  When you aren’t able to get a mic or speaker stand to stay in a raised position - Duct Tape!  When a mic clip breaks, (and that does happen), - Duct Tape!  Long cable runs from stage to sound-board with no way to hide them – Duct Tape!  Duct Tape is really a HUGE problem solver, so always carry some!

Well, I’ve addressed only a few items for now.  I’ll talk about more in the next post.  The best thing to do is simply remember “Murphy’s Law!”  Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong!  

Now, go out and have a great show!