Monday, May 19, 2008

Jake Holt - 1997 - 2008

Today is a hard day for me and my family. We lost a member of the family. His name is Jake. He has lived with us for 11 years. He’s never helped around the house, helped me mow the yard, cooked supper, or even fixed his own dinner. But I can’t imagine what it will be like without him here. Jake and I first met in the parking lot of a Ruby Tuesday’s while I was on lunch break from working at a music store. He bit me. He was excited, but it still hurt like hell! For 11 years, he has been with me and Buffy through our marriage. He welcomed us when our daughter came into our lives; he’s been through all of our hard times, all of our moves and our triumphs. When my dad died, Jake licked my face. It was all he knew to do, but it was better than some people could come up with! He never learned to warn us when strangers came around, so when he sounded an alarm, we new it meant nothing but that he was feeling good! I always wanted him to wear a sombrero, but he never did. It would have been hilarious! His toenails were incredibly long, he preferred “bones” over real food, he could crap in the floor after being outside for hours, he could shed an amount of hair the quantity of which seemed like biblical locust!, the list could go on and on. But he never judged, he never harmed, he loved and only wished to be loved. More than that, he simply expected love because he never thought of any other scenario. Love was all there is. He was always a better friend to me than I was to him. His last months were hard ones physically, but he tried to ignore it. Steps were the hardest, but he would hide his embarrassment when I would pick him up to help him up them. He never let us down. I’ve spent the day mourning, holding my wife and helping my daughter process the situation. Jake’s under a tree, with a perpetual amount of shade. It’s been a hard day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Guitar Lesson

If I was allowed to give advice to beginning musicians, it would be, “be you”. That’s what we need more in music. Individuality. As the music business continues to spiral into oblivion, it’s like a giant snake feeding on itself. One successful artist begets 1,000,000,000 carbon copies. It’s one thing to be influenced by an artist but it’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax to try and steal the clothes out his (or her) closet! I’ve seen some musicians who have done that and I’m not sure what they feel like they’re contributing. Unless it’s just to be famous. In our culture, fame is a big one. Maybe that’s why music doesn’t seem to have the same cultural significance that it’s had in the past. When Bob Dylan went electric, people were so angry that they became violent! If some popular artist these days changed style that drastically, I doubt if anyone would even care!
If you pick up an instrument or choose to create music (or any other art, for that matter). Remember that you have a responsibility to contribute your soul to the equation. I’m not just talking about being a professional musician, when you pick up an instrument for your own enjoyment, remember to be you. Embrace that part of you that’s different. It’s fine to learn that Gun’s & Roses or John Mayer song, but at some point as you play it you are adding your DNA to it and embracing that aspect is what making music should be about. As a guitar player, I’m very influenced by Jimi Hendrix, but if all I did was try and copy his licks note for note without ever putting “me” into it, I’m disrespecting the most important aspect of his legacy which is his originality! Just remember “be you!” God only made one of those!
My second piece of advice would be to recognize that Guitar Hero is not the same as playing guitar!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Head N Mississippi

I had an amazing time this Thursday at the Blues Music Awards. Keith M.F. T. and I met Kempf M.F. P. in Tunica and went to the awards show together. I saw and hung out with Denis & Lucy Burns (my favorite Canadians!) Hubert Sumlin, my old friends Arnie Goodman, Rueben Williams, Tab Benoit and even Marty Salzman who was Buddy’s manager when I first joined the band! It was a great time. Even when the casino took my money! I got to say hi to Buddy’s guitar tech Gilbert, Big James (from The Chicago Playboys-a smoking band you should hear!!), Nick Moss, Magic Slim, Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and especially Hubert Sumlin. Hubert’s one of those gifted musicians that inspired all of us that pickup a guitar and want to play the blues. He’s also one of the kindest most uplifting people I’ve ever met. I’m so glad that he and Koko Taylor won awards! Roots!!! May they both live forever.
When we got to Tunica, Keith, Kempf & I had some BBQ and then we went down to Clarksdale and saw the Delta Blues Museum and Ground Zero. Then we headed up to Tunica and hit the reception before the awards show. After we left the casino, they might have had all of mine and Keith’s money, but we had all of their Heineken! I saw great performances by The Holmes Brothers and Bobby Rush. It was a great time. If my wife had been there, it would have been perfect. I’m blessed by good friends.
The next morning, Keith and I stopped off in Memphis to hang out on Beale Street and eat BBQ at Cozy Corner, (best ribs in Memphis!!) before heading home. I am blessed. I am blessed. I am blessed.

Monday, May 05, 2008

New Days

Another quick little run in the books. We hit Hickory NC, Winder GA and Charleston SC on this trip. We got o see and visit with a bunch of our friends including Robb and the crew in Winder, Chip and Sara and all our friends in Charleston and we were happily surprised to see Mark and Libby from Tuscaloosa in Winder. It always amazes me when our friends make a long trip to come and see us. Makes it all the more worthwhile.
I try not to say too much about the negative stuff that goes on on the road, but this is too funny to keep to myself. At a recent gig, (I won’t say where, or even which tour it’s from to try and protect the parties involved), I was getting the very familiar speech about the volume. In the space of about 3 minutes, I was told by 2 different management type people that “we needed to turn down...” It’s a speech that I’m all too familiar with and the reasons why are so varied and boring that I won’t go into them here. Anyway, keep in mind, this is all happening on the break, so I’m told to turn down 3 times (one person tells me twice! Like maybe I’m hard of hearing or something!) Before we’ve even started playing again…very strange. When the first person comes back to tell me again for the second time, this is the exact quote; “I just want to make sure that you guys remember to turn down a little bit, it’s not too loud up front near the stage but in the back… and it’s not so much loud, it’s just the energy…”) I’ve been criticized for a lot of things in my career, but being too energetic was a new one even for me!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I’m at musically/spiritually/philosophically and I’ve been feeling the need to “recalibrate” my self and get back on the point. I’ve kind of dipped my foot into some pretty murky waters at times over the last year or so and it hasn’t made me a better anything. I believe what I’ve always believed; that God put me here to make music and reach people through that music. My passion for the blues, loud guitars and playing from the heart is stronger now than ever and I hope as we hit the road this summer, you can hear a difference in what we’re trying to do. It won’t be anything drastic from the outside, so don’t look for me to wear robes or a beanie or start talking about the cosmos (anymore than I already do!) but the soul of my playing, my interaction with the music and the musicians, the way we present all of that to you, I hope it creates a more positive experience when you are kind enough to come see us.
One last note, I’d like to hip ya’ll to a friend of mine who is writing some amazingly insightful blogs. His name is Chris Kent and he’s one of the best musicians I’ve ever heard. I was blessed to get the chance to play with Chris for some years in the original version of the SHB (for some reason, he didn’t think that starving and going permanently sleepless were that appealing, so he’s since played with a who’s who of great musicians and entertainers). Anyway, he’s listed in my friends section on MySpace ( and if he’s not your friend yet, add him and subscribe to his blogs. This cat has his soul tuner dialed in so tight its ridiculous!