A few years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to play at open mics around town. That meant I had to sing and play with no backup. It went well, sort of. I had horrible mic technique as I was always looking down at my left hand on my guitar. I was off mic more than I was on. I’m getting that figured out.
I’m pretty much over stage fright which s a good thing and I’m learning how to relate to the audience as I sing and play. It ain’t easy.
Last night I was at a local joint where I have previously played. There is a house band so I had a backup bass, drums and guitar. These guys were good. I said ” Satin Doll,” and the drummer asks me if it’s in the usual key? Usual key? Beats me. Besides, he’s the drummer – the key doesn’t matter to him. I think it was in G.
Played that tune, then another and finally got around to ” Route 66″ in A. I met a harp player earlier in the evening and asked him to sit in with us and suddenly I’m counting off and leading a 4 piece jazz/swing band, 5 including me. It was a gas. It was over way too quickly.
I’m always apprehensive since I don’t think that Duke Ellington and the like gets much play in that establishment but the audience was appreciative ( there’s no chicken wire to hide behind) and I received several compliments. I thought we were too loud but I think that everything is too loud anymore.
I think I got this resolution under my belt now. It’s taken a couple of years to get comfortable in front of strangers and not break out into flop sweat. I have managed to talk myself out of playing on a couple of occasions. The first time I played last night’s venue I looked around and realized that I was clearly the oldest person in the room. Oh well. Nobody seemed to mind so now I’m pretty comfortable playing there. I’m guessing that in most places I’ll play I’ll most likely be one of the oldest people in the room.
I’m happy playing what I want to play and not what I think the audience wants to hear since what mostly goes on is pretty raucous rock and roll. I’ve even rolled out a couple of Gershwin tunes.
This year’s resolution will be to start getting some paying solo gigs. But first…
In watching this clip I’m struck by the strength and power I see in his forearms, hands and fingers. And I also that I think I’m seeing a hint of a smile in the midst of his intensity and concentration as he crashes through the chords. He left school at 15. Died way too young at not quite 39 years old.