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!

Different Eyes, Different World 

As I celebrated the arrival of 2014 with my wife at home, instead of performing, I found myself not looking forward to the New Year, but instead reflecting on the year coming to a close.  It was a tough year personally, except for the time I spent with my youngest children, and, of course the times I spent on stage.

As I said, it was a tough year personally, but I found a way to get through it!  I watched my children.  Children have a different way of looking at things than most adults.  Oh sure, they question events that are dark, but they are not over-powered by it.  They don’t see dark out-comes.  They see happy endings, lights at the end of tunnels, rainbows after a storm.  They see hope. 

So, I began trying to see life through the eyes of my children.  I heard truth and joy in their laughter.  I saw honesty and love in their eyes, and felt the real joy in their hearts.  I remember my late Grandmother always saying, “Children are God’s way of saying the world will go on.”

So, bring it on 2014.  I’m ready!

Veggies Aren't Going To Eat Themselves 

Awoke this morning feeling kind of, well, blah.  I navigated my way to the kitchen, made a pot of coffee, and stood there, staring at the carafe until there was enough coffee in the pot to pour myself a cup.  Took the first sip and as usual, burned my lips.  You’d think after 63 years of life on this Earth, I would have learned by now!  This old, repeated act made me wonder, just what else one would think I would’ve learned by now.  Within some of the Twelve-Step fellowships, there is a saying, “Insanity is repeating the same actions over and over, expecting different results!”  Now, when I think about that, that old saying makes perfect sense!  For instance, driving or walking the same route to a job isn’t going to change the view.  But more to my heart, repeating the same show over and over isn’t going to make the audience hear something different.  So, step out of your comfort-zone; shake it up; change it up!  You want different results, then DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

​THE POWER OF NOW 

Often times one hears musicians talk about “the Zone.”  This is a perfect example of “The Power Of NOW!  There is an old saying one can hear inside 12 Step Fellowship meetings: “If you have one foot in yesterday, and one foot in tomorrow, you’re pissing all over today.”  Crass, but let me try and explain.

While playing, I often find myself pulling off riffs from somewhere deep inside.  These passages are not based on what I have learned, and they’re not sought out from where I may want to go.  They are from the “Now!”  They just happen!  I have talked at length with other players about this experience, and they all say the same thing, “Just go with it!  That’s when the magic happens!  That’s the ‘zone!’” 

The Power Of Now is that moment when something intrinsic to creativity takes over.  It’s awesome to be there; it’s awesome to see and hear when it happens.  It’s the time when a player ceases to really think about the music and just let’s the “magic” happen.  That’s The Power Of Now!