Friday, December 17, 2010

6th Annual Have A Blues Christmas

Well, another year is almost gone and once again we were able to have our annual Have A Blues Christmas charity event to raise money for the needy kids in my hometown. After 6 years, the generosity of people still amazes/blesses me! This year it seemed like everything was working against us; we lost our venue from the last two years, we were having trouble securing a ‘backup’ venue, the economy remains hard on everyone and by the time we got in position to announce the event and start selling tickets and accepting donations, we were about a month behind schedule. Even with all of that, we managed to sell out the venue and raise over $12,000.00 for the charity.
The heavy lifting for this event is always done by Keith Throneberry. It’s impossible to describe the amount of work that he selflessly puts into this event to make it perfect. He’s in charge of every aspect of the event from securing the venue, to printing and selling the tickets, to handling the T-shirt design and sales, organizing the lights and sound, staffing the event, gathering donations from large contributors, arranging the meal and drinks, coordinating the band’s soundcheck and load-ins, and probably a dozen other items that I’m not even aware of and he does all of this while maintaining his own business, full time! It is a LOT of work. Those of you that have been to the event know what I’m talking about; Keith is there when you get there (no matter when you get there) and he’s there when you leave (no matter when you leave). I can’t praise or thank him enough for taking this responsibility on his shoulders every year for the last 6 years.
Ms. Natalie Stovall and her fantastic band donate their time and talent every year and I truly believe that her show is worth the price of admission alone! Natalie is an extremely talented young lady with a bright future in front of her and it’s an honor and a privilege to share the stage with her every year.
The Xtreme 4X4 club provides the manpower (and woman power!) every year and we literally couldn’t do the show without them. Every chair, every table, every trashcan, every ‘overexerted’ audience member is taken care of by these incredible people and it’s an honor to work with them as well!
We’ve also been blessed with the donation of items to sell through the events silent auction. These include works of art from many local artists (including my extremely talented wife Buffy!) and sports and music memorabilia. This year we had a football autographed by Chris Johnson from the Titans and a guitar autographed by Robby Krieger, Joe Bonamassa, Mick Taylor, Natalie Stovall and myself.
If you still want to be a part of this great event, we have T-shirts for sale (contact Keith Throneberry: ) All money from sales will be delivered to the charity until Dec.24, so it’s not too late!!
Make your plans to make it next year!! Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 05, 2010


“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
We went to church this Sunday with our best friends Keith and Jen. I’ve been a Christian since I can remember. I was raised in church. I was baptized when I was 12. I have a bible with my name on it. My parents sang in church, my grandparents sang in church and church has just been a part of my life, all my life. My momma took me to church every time the doors opened. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, vacation bible school, etc. When I was young I never questioned what I was being told. I was taught that my denomination was the only true denomination. I was taught that not only was everyone not in church on Sunday going to hell, but everyone that wasn’t in a church of my denomination was going to hell as well (my church even taught that a lot of the people in my church were going to hell so I’d better be exceptionally scared!). I thought everyone who sat on the front row, or was old, or had a bigger bible, or who wasn’t me was guaranteed to go to Heaven and I was just lost. There was a secret code or something and I didn’t have it. God was scary because he was already mad at me. I was doomed from the start and I was supposed to spend my life playing ‘catch-up’, trying to ‘fix’ myself and that was something that could really never be done, but I’d better try forever!
I got older, I strayed. I was under my own choice and I quit going to church. I missed Wednesdays first, then Sunday nights and then it was a small leap to missing Sunday mornings. Late Saturday nights full of ‘sin’ made Sundays easy to sleep through. As an ‘adult’ my first exercise of my ‘maturity’ was to stop going altogether. God’s already mad at me, I’m not perfect, even though I know ‘right from wrong’ I still do ‘wrong’ so I’m sure I’m doomed.
Interestingly, for all of the ‘holiness’ that I didn’t posses and was constantly being drilled into me, when I started missing church, no one from my church ever called to ask if I was okay or why I wasn’t coming to church. Not one of the people, that I was sure were going to Heaven, ever tried to help me ‘find my way’. That’s not an accusation, it’s just interesting in hindsight.
I got older, I started to read books and question everything. I still doubt algebra. I doubt that not having good typing skills will stand in the way of me finding work. I was never good in school ( The only thing Ms. Sonya Ingram, my third grade teacher, and quite possibly the meanest, worst teacher in the universe, taught me was to hate school. Thanks Ms. Ingram, wherever you are.), by the time I realized that mistake (long after I had graduated from school), I started trying to compensate in every area, including religion. I read the bible. I read it again. I still believed in God, I still believed in Jesus. I believe that he is the son of God, sent to earth to die for our sins. I still want to go to Heaven. I want my family to go to Heaven. I want my friends to go to Heaven. I want you to go to Heaven. I’m still not perfect. I won’t ever be. I read about a Jesus that turned water into wine. I read about a Jesus that ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. I read about a Jesus that spent more time with the ‘imperfect’ than the ‘perfect’. I read about a Jesus that said;<‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’>
Some things seem to stick with you and that verse stuck with me. I started to realize that while I had been taught that; <...God created mankind in his own image, 
   in the image of God he created them; 
   male and female he created them. > God created people in His image, I had treated that verse as a figure of speech. “Surely God didn’t mean all people, just the ‘good’ people.” ‘People who had a job, who weren’t addicted to drugs or alcohol, people who didn’t ‘sin’, people who were ‘perfect’. ‘ I was sure that God had created ‘special’ people in his image to try and guide the way of the rest of us ‘sinful savages’.
I got older, my ‘black and white’ world started to get some gray in it. My politics changed. My philosophies changed. My view of the world changed. I have friends who are different from me in philosophy. They don’t see things like I see them. They might be a different denomination, they might be a different culture, they might have different politics, they might even be vegetarians(!) they might be a lot of things but they are my friends and I love them. Some of my older friends think I’m a ‘lefty’ or a borderline socialist! I have some younger friends who haven’t found the ‘gray’ yet. It’s easy for them to see right and wrong. They can judge moral issues better than I can. Or at least easier than I can. In their eyes, foreigners, homosexuals, vegetarians, addicts, democrats, people that drive foreign cars, etc. are wrong and if they (or anyone purporting to be representing them) offend us, we should destroy them. I just can’t find that black and white anymore. It’s just not easy for me to say to someone; “you don’t like the Titans, or hot sauce, or Jimi Hendrix, you are going to hell!” I try, not always successfully, to see their side. Or at least accept them for who they are.
I’ve kind of gotten off the point. The point is I went to a church today that had a ‘crazy idea’. That’s what the preacher said anyway. He said; “We’re going to do something really crazy today...” I’m a visitor, so I’m mentally saying; :Oh no!! What’s going on here? I just want to hear a little sermon and get out of here in time to eat lunch and watch the Titans play!” The crazy thing was this; They handed out a sheet of paper with a shopping list on it. Instead of a sermon, they dismissed the service so that the entire congregation could go shopping and fill trucks with items to donate to a family center for families in need. No sermon, no collection plate, in fact, they specified that a collection would NOT be taken so that that money could go to the Family Center. In all my Christian life I never felt like I was closer to the true intent of Jesus than that moment; doing for someone who has less. Doing for the least of these. Giving! My family and I had the best Sunday I can remember. The title of the sermon was “Be The Sermon”. I took that to mean, if you are a Christian, if you say you’re a Christian, go do something “Christlike”. Go help someone else. Don’t just mouth the words and call it a day, go act! Don’t spend your time pointing out to someone how they are falling short or failing. One of my favorite gospel songs says;You may run and hide, slip and slide
Trying to take the mote from your neighbour's eyes
As sure as God made the rich and poor You gonna reap just what you sow” . I fall short all the time. I fell short later the same day. I will forget to be that Christian tomorrow but I pray that I will at least try and remember to be a better version of myself.
No matter what your beliefs are, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. at least agree with me that we can be better to our neighbors. Be kinder. Be gentler. Try and be more understanding. Try and be more forgiving. Be an example of what we want to see in the world. It doesn’t have to cost us anything and you never know, it might just turn out to be the best day you’ve ever had!
Thanks to Maury Hills Church Of Christ for showing me and my family a fantastic Sunday!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I am grateful. I am a blessed person with too much and I am grateful. Right now we are in Sioux Falls, SD. Today is Wednesday. We’re broke down, waiting on a new transmission, that won’t be ready until Friday. Stopped for fuel, got in to drive off and nothing! We still have 958 miles to travel when we get rolling and in the meantime, we’re sitting still. Even still, I can’t be anything but grateful. I’m grateful for the obvious stuff; my wife (my heart), my daughter (my life), my friends and family, my music, etc. I’m also grateful for the fact that we broke down in a place where we could get the transmission fixed properly. I’m grateful that I have a band of guys with me that I can depend on. My guys made a conscious decision to stay here and face this with me, for that I am incredibly proud and grateful. It’s hard to be on the road, to do it alone, for me, is unimaginable. I’m grateful for the people that support me behind the scenes at Gracetone (my company) that work so hard to make our lives run smooth. I’m grateful for the fact that we have a safe, comfortable place to stay while we wait. We started the trip home in Moscow, ID. We traveled 1,000 miles through plenty of desolate country that would NOT have been hospitable to us if we’d broke down there. We broke down 15 miles from a dealership that services and repairs our brand of vehicle. We broke down in a town that has a classic rock station that happened to play one of our songs on the radio last night. Just that little thing (a big thing to us) was special and wouldn’t have happened if we had blown through here like we were intending. I’m even grateful for the little stuff like being walking distance from Starbucks and Mexican food! It would be easy to focus on the cost of being here, the missing of my family and whatever, but I can’t / won’t do that. I’m just not wired that way. I have to focus on what I see which is just an avalanche of blessings. God is great and I am blessed!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My 5 Desert Island Discs

My mind is wandering this morning (yes, it CAN be a dangerous thing...), so I thought I would write a blog about my 5 favorite albums. I decided to call it my “Desert Island Discs List”, because that’s what I’ve always heard it called. The inferred question being, “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have 5 CD’s, what would they be?” Soon my thoughts of CDs were taken over by the idea of being stranded on a deserted island. Would I really be worrying about CD’s? If I was, how would I play them? More importantly, however, how did I come to be on this island? Plane crash? Shipwreck? Was I taken prisoner by an evil genius, like in James Bond movies and left to die here after being interrogated for hours? In fact, if I was the captive of an evil genius, would he allow me to choose 5 CDs to keep me entertained on the island that is supposed to be my prison? If he did, should I take a really long time to decide in the hope that he’d lose interest and I could more easily escape?
If I table the ‘why am I here’ aspect of this already slightly unsettling and potentially horrifying scenario, I am left with the practicality of survival on a deserted island. Is this place truly deserted or are there cannibals or dangerous animals that I will have to fend off? If there are animals, can I eat them if I catch one? (also, can you eat a cannibal? is that morally okay since they would surely eat you...) What about snakes, (of whom I am NOT a fan!)? Would it be like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway? He managed to do pretty well after he got acclimated to the situation. He did however end up with a bizarre assortment of stuff to survive with; ice skates, a volleyball, etc. Apparently he was NOT asked what 5 CDs he’d like to have with him. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that I have a made a thorough reconnoiter of the entire island and found it to be strangely absent of any other life forms...yeah, right.
I think if I was to be stranded on a deserted island and being a fan and longtime viewer of the show Survivor, I would first like to have fire. A LOT of fire. As Jeff Probst is always saying “Fire means life.” I would ask for an entire carton of Bic disposable lighters. Yes, I realize that disposable lighters would be bad for the environment, but I’m stranded on a deserted island at the moment and if and when I am rescued, I will return here in a boat and restore the island to the way it was...I promise. Next, I’m going to need shelter. This one was tough because it needs to be comfortable, dry, warm or cool depending on the outside conditions, etc. Therefore, I choose a tour bus. They are familiar, comfortable to sleep on and if cannibals or snakes attack, I can just lock the door. The following items are necessary without any explanation; a CD player (apparently), a shotgun, ammunition, Spam, fresh water, bathing suit, a big knife, a machete, a small knife, another shotgun (in case something happens to the first one), a GPS, a satellite phone, a flare gun, flares, my guitar, pictures of my family (this is assuming that they are not with me), salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, a skillet, a coffee pot, coffee, plenty of socks, a solar powered generator, crackers, a BBQ grill, a hammock,...
As I look over my list so far, I realize that this is going to cost quite a bit. The tour bus alone is about $500,000.00 and after it’s been on an island, it’s probably going to be greatly depreciated. No resale value there! (by the way, when they deliver the tour bus, couldn’t I just catch a ride back with the delivery person?) This brings me to the question; “ In this scenario, is money ‘no object’?”. Is the question; “If you were a jillionaire and allowed to prepare yourself to live on a deserted island, what 5 CD’s would you take?” I have to say that sounds pretty unrealistic to me. If I’m a jillionaire I could afford more than 5 CDs. Also, if I’m a jillionaire wouldn’t I have a staff of people around me that would theoretically protect me from inadvertently finding my way to a deserted island all alone? A more likely headline would be; “Famous Jillionaire Guitarist Almost Lost On Deserted Island, Saved By Very Efficient Staff Members”. If I am a jillionaire, I would definitely have a personal flying machine, like a jet pack or something (in addition to my Segway of course), so I could probably just use that to escape. (That is if I’m the captive of an evil genius of course) I guess to be fair the question should be; “If you are NOT a jillionaire and you find yourself stranded on a deserted island through no evil machinations of any sort and while money is an important consideration your mind is focused clearly on the 5 CDs that you would like to have with you to listen to, understanding that these are the last 5 CDs you will ever listen I to understand that this scenario contains no ‘happy ending’?!? I’m going to DIE on this island?!? Suddenly my appetite for Spam is disappearing. As are my thoughts of what music I want to hear before I die from starvation and exposure. Or maybe I die of thirst because I can’t get fresh water. When I was a jillionaire, I had plenty of fresh water but now I’m just a poor, unfortunate soul with 5 stupid CDs to my name, dying of thirst on this uncharted deserted island. Or maybe there were cannibals after all and they were hiding in those caves that I saw on the other side of the island but I was tired and thirsty and ready to get back to my listen to my CDs...God this Spam is starting to turn my should never eat Spam in the hot salty air! The salty ocean air is scratching my CDs too! Soon they’ll be unlistenable! What was that noise?! I think I hear something in the jungle...
Okay, so the question as I now understand it is; “You are going to die. You are not rich and no one can save you. You are going to die alone on an uncharted deserted island, far, far removed from any known shipping lanes and the chances for rescue are nonexistent. While you are going to die...soon...for some unknown reason, the gods of fate have seen fit to allow you to have in your possession 5 CDs and a device to play them on. If you can stop your mind from dwelling on the fact that you are DYING(!!!), and can concentrate on music purely for the purposes of enjoyment (in these, your last few hours before delirium sets in signaling that final sweet slumber) what CDs would you take with you to this ISLAND OF DEATH?”
That’s the question?....well...hmmm...alright...I guess...

Live - Donny Hathaway
Stone Crazy - Buddy Guy
Electric Ladyland - Jimi Hendrix
The Violin Concertos II - Mozart
A Love Supreme - John Coltrane

WAIT! I’ve got it! What if, when the cannibals come for me, I play my CDs to them and they, never having seen a CD player before, are fascinated by the magical box of sound and decide that I am one of their gods! They take me back to their caves and give me food and fresh water and through my time with them, I gain their trust and convince them that cannibalism is just not morally cool. Then we all work together and build an outrigger canoe and we row ourselves into the shipping lanes and are rescued by an oil tanker (probably owned by BP!!) we return to the US, get the cover of People magazine, (one of the cannibals gets caught up in a love triangle with Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson and ends up on the cover of the National Enquirer...Hollywood can be more dangerous than a deserted island!) get interviewed by Matt Lauer, meet the President, who gives me the Congressional Medal of Survival or something, we get to make a cameo in The Hangover 3, get invited to be interviewed on the CBS morning show and turn them down...after we stop laughing! (who watches the CBS morning show anyway?!?), we do Leno, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, Letterman (where we jam with the band of course) we do Jimmy Fallon just to jam with The Roots (oh, Fallon’s alright, but he seems like he’s just trying a little too hard..),National Geographic wants to have me host a reality show and the cannibals and I are invited to be Grand Marshals of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! (all of which can only help the sales of KUDZU - out Jan. 11, 2011)

Monday, November 08, 2010

1968 - Martin Luther King's Prophetic Last speech - Remember

Snapshots from Memphis

Recently, I took a trip to Memphis for a project I’m working on. I’ve always had a real affinity for Memphis. Some of my biggest musical influences come from there; B.B. King, Little Milton, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis of course, the flow of music that has passed through Memphis from New Orleans up through the Delta and northward has probably been the single biggest path of influence in contemporary music. So I went to Memphis to soak up some of those ghosts. Feel the weight of the air that men like Howlin’ Wolf pushed out of their lungs to sing something like Moanin’ At Midnight. Even though I live just 3 hours east in Nashville, the vibe is completely different. There is a rhythm to southern towns for sure but at the same time they are all very distinctive in the way they feel, the way people walk and talk and just the ‘texture’ of them.
I went to Memphis to soak in that feel for a while and see if she would ‘shake the muse’ so to speak. “Hello Memphis, I write songs, whaddya got? Anything left in the old tank?” I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what I found, so I can say Memphis is still there!
The coolest moment of this particular trip though was sort of an unexpected one. We went to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is in the old Lorraine Motel, site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The museum is a profound space. A well done introductory film of Dr. King’s life and his pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement begins a self guided tour and it takes you to the actual motel room he occupied on that fateful day as well as to the room where the shot was fired from. All in all, a very profound and thoughtful trip in and of itself, but we weren’t done. The next day was a cold and rainy one and we were sort of wandering around Memphis, talking about the city and what we were seeing and almost as an afterthought, we decided to drive by the Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ Headquarters; the site of Dr. King’s final speech.
We entered, although I’m not sure visitors are even permitted! We were allowed, after signing in, to go into the sanctuary by ourselves! A huge, stately space. I’ve been in a lot of churches when they’re not having services and I’m always awed by the stately silence they have. Just a deep, peaceful air. This one was no exception, a large room, the center of which was occupied by the podium from which Dr. King made his speech. We approached the spot and when I stood there, the feeling was overwhelming. This was the spot where a man, who knew he was destined to die because of his convictions, boldly stood and espoused those very convictions and exhorted the audience to keep the faith. The air felt solemn, heavy with the kind of somber, passive awareness and resignation of a witness. Thanks to an iPhone and YouTube we were even able to sort recreate the speech. Even from little cell phone speakers, Dr. King’s voice was powerful and we all got chills. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve been listening to a lot of Dr. King’s speeches lately and I’m so grateful for the technology that allows us to access these kinds of things! I hope we can put the ideas of people like Dr. King back into the forefront of our consciousness. Just simple ideas; respect, dignity, peace...really simple.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I’m a positive person. I believe in the ‘better’ of life and humanity. Instead of immediately thinking “rip-off” or “watch out”, I believe in the promise of “YES!”. Do I fall short? Hell yeah!! The temptation to flip off a bad driver is tremendous! The desire to berate a bad waiter is compelling! I get pissed off when things don’t go ‘my way’! I wasn’t always so focused on being positive, in fact for most of my life I thought; “It’ll never work, they’ll never go for it, this person is intentionally being difficult, I can’t...”. That IS an easy way to go through life, on the surface anyway. If you say, “I can’t”; you’re probably right. A version of that statement has been credited to Henry Ford. I don’t know if he really said it, but if he did, he’s right.
A few years ago, I was thinking about my career, my life, my music, where I was in the universe, etc, and I realized that somehow, I had been focused on the wrong things. Wrong, in this instance, meaning for me, not the most spiritually healthy things; money, record sales, etc. My wife Buffy introduced me to a book that made me stop and think. I won’t name it outright, because this isn’t an infomercial, but it IS one of the 5 books named at the end of this blog. The book in itself, on the surface, could have been passed off as one more semi-new age bit of mumbo jumbo, but it wasn’t. Buffy responded immediately, reading portions of it out loud to me. When she was through I read it and responded even more! The simple, truth of the book was that we receive the life we create and the life we “see”. If everything looks crappy to you, it will be. If everybody’s out to screw you, they are. I’m not saying that if something bad happens to you it’s your fault, what I’m saying is whatever happens to us, we have a choice to make, as to how we play it. I am a terrible golfer, so if Tiger Woods and I get the same shot, he’ll see more in the shot than I would. (conversely, if we both faced a musical challenge, I’d take him to the woodshed!! That was said with a smile and love!!:))
I realized, some time ago, that because of my path, I have a platform. What do I say? If I have a chance to address the world, what do I tell them? As an entertainer, there must be something beyond; “Hey!!...Ho!!...Wave your hands in the air!!...Do you feel alright?!?!, Let me hear you say yeah!...”. No I don’t believe in the musician/politician. I’m not the guy to pontificate on government policy or the better way to run the world. I’m not even the guy to tell you which brand of soap is better. I do have something to tell you though. #1. You are loved. Plain and simple, believe it or not! Run from it if you will, but it is true. Someone, somewhere, loves you, values you, needs you and wishes/prays the best for you. #2. Someone watches you. Not in a voyeuristic way (well...some of you...) no, seriously, someone watches you to determine how they lead their life. They watch the decisions you make, the hands you play, and they pattern their paths after yours. YOU have a platform, wether you realize it or not! #3. EVERYONE is more like you than not; that’s important so I’m gonna write the whole sentence again in caps; EVERYONE IS MORE LIKE YOU THAN NOT! What I mean is; everyone is scared, in love, nervous, shy, hurt, insecure, unsure, happy, lost...all the feelings you have. We spend a lot of time looking at the differences in each other, “how is “X” different from me?” When all the time the easier question is; “How are we alike?”
In my short time on this planet and in my limited ability to understand, I’ve watched ‘ignorance’ be the cause of a lot of trouble. Often times, the cause of aggression has been not understanding, plain and simple. Every war has ignorance as it’s source. People are persecuted because they are misunderstood. They’re beaten, marginalized, imprisoned, murdered and even crucified. The bottom line is, all it takes to change this truth is US. See you in someone else and you’re less likely to want to hit them with a brick. If you see YOU in someone else, it gets real hard to wish bad upon them! Now I grant you, this philosophy could make the Super Bowl pretty crappy! Ha! (I refuse to type ‘LOL’ as a way of showing you that I am smiling or laughing) but other than sporting events, wishing/working towards a more peaceful world is a noble, beautiful thing!
This blog is not really about ‘conversion’ so much as it’s about explanation; daily, I post quotes on my Facebook page and my Twitter page. They are positive quotes from people I admire. They are intended to point your mind North of this plane. If you read them and they don’t hit you, that’s cool, it’s just ideas. Sometimes I post videos and it’s the same intention. You don’t have to actively engage my “musings”, I just want to get them in the air. The more ‘positive’ energy in the air, the harder it is for the ‘negative’ to get through! If you see me quoting Ghandi or John Lennon, even if you’re not moved to thought, just know that I’m just trying to pollinate the air with positive. There’s plenty of opportunity in our world for negative, sometimes it seems like grains of sand on a beach! The truth is, I think, that we’re better than we think, more than we imagine, braver than we fear and all we need is a little push...nudge...:)

5 Books it wouldn’t kill you to read;
The Traveler’s Gift
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
The Secret
Three Cups Of Tea
The Chosen

Friday, September 03, 2010

My Babe...

So, we go back some years. It doesn’t feel like a long time, but it’s a bit. I’m a junior in high school and not really feeling the whole education thing. Low and behold you get to pick your courses in the 10th grade and for one of mine, I choose art. I figure, it’s an easy grade and I like to draw so no problem! First day, I enter the class and a girl walks in with gorgeous brown hair and wearing greenish/yellow pants. Yes I’m superficial and yes it IS the 10th grade, but she was HOTTT!! Come to find out she was a year behind me and I was in love. PERIOD. IN LOVE. I can not stress enough what a life changer that day was for me. She had a boyfriend, she had plenty more waiting in line, but I knew that she was the one for me. I did everything I could to direct those brown eyes my way. I even resorted to arm wrestling her just to hold her hand! (yes I let her win, yes I am a nerd, yes she’s that hot!)
We dated for a while, (secretly at first, sorry ex-boyfriends,,,), and then I asked her to be my wife. Best move I’ve ever made, bar none! I’m better for knowing her, better for being with her, better for being part of her life. She makes me who I am, the better part of me, the me I’d like to be. If you’ve met my wife, you know she’s an angel. If you know her, you’re blessed. It’s been 19 years and it feels like a week. Thank you Buff for making my life complete!! Happy Anniversary Baby, I Love U!!!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A shout out to the past!...

Recently I was looking for a certain CD, (actually, I’m always looking for a specific CD). Joe’s Garage by Frank Zappa. Nothing really obscure, just something that came out several years ago. First I checked iTunes, no luck. Then I checked Amazon and found it but I wanted it sooner. I called the closest store, Best Buy and spoke with a very friendly salesperson who had no idea who Frank Zappa was and actually had me spell the last name. In a matter of minutes, I realized how much we’ve lost with the death of the record store. When I started falling in love with music, I was a constant at record stores near where I grew up. That’s how I first found Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, etc. When I started working with Buddy Guy and traveling the world, I became an avid collector and was constantly in search of the best record store in what ever town we were in. Not only was I able to satisfy my desire to hear and own every record in the universe, but record stores were also incredible reference points. Employees knew and loved music and could direct me to the best recordings by artists that I was interested in. They could also point me toward similar artists or new artists. I learned about the historic independent labels like Chess, Kent, RPM, Sun and Ace, among others, by hanging out at record stores and talking to employees and other customers. I learned about European and Asian reissue labels like Pea-Vine by talking to people at independent record stores. I’ve got a lot of CDs and records and some of them are really prized to me; my CD copy of Folk Festival Of The Blues, my T-Bone Walker CD The Hustle Is On, too many of BB King’s Kent/RPM albums on CD to mention, my Otis Spann CD with Fleetwood Mac backing him; “The Biggest Thing Since Colossus”. The point is I wouldn’t have known about these records if it wasn’t for independent record stores. Places like Grimey’s in Nashville, Ear X-tacy in Louisville, Twist & Shout in Denver, Amoeba in San Francisco, Dobell’s in London (I once went in there looking for a CD that Robben Ford had recorded with Jimmy Witherspoon, the clerk’s pithy reply was; “I feel sorry for Jimmy Witherspoon.”), Jazz Record Mart in Chicago, Electric Fetus in Minneapolis, Revolver in NYC, the list goes on and on. Some of these stores are still around, but many are gone. The ones that remain are selling more T-shirts, incense, and assorted knick-knacks just to stay afloat. As we move into a much more digital era of music, we think nothing of buying a song on iTunes and other than the sound we’ve bought nothing! When I listened to BB King records I read the liner notes to learn who Sonny Freeman was (find out!), when I listened to Stone Crazy, I read the liner notes to learn that it was Phil Guy playing that amazing rhythm guitar. When I bought a Jimi Hendrix record the salesman might tell me to check out Eddie Hazel in Funkadelic. If I bought a Earl Hooker CD, they might say check out Robert Nighthawk. The point is it’s more than just having something to hold in your hands, it’s a cultural element that we’ve lost. Also, when I buy a song from iTunes, I never speak to a soul during the entire process. Yes they might have some kind of graphic that says; “people who bought this also bought...”, but it’s not the same thing. We do have some great resources on the web that can help, such as, Rhino records website or Wikipedia, but there’s just something about having someone who’s excited by music suggesting music to you that makes a difference.
You can walk into Wal-Mart and buy a Beatles CD, but you’ll be hard pressed to find John Lennon’s Walls & Bridges album or a salesperson that even knows such a record exists. They might not even know who John Lennon is! Best Buy is more likely to have 3 copies of Tom Petty’s greatest hits than one copy of Damn The Torpedoes but “We can order that for you...”. I realize that my line of work might make it more likely that I would be interested in this stuff, but I was into it before I started playing guitar and my love of music dates much farther back in my life than the first time I thought about being a guitar player. I’m not against progress, but support your local independent record store. It’s more than just a physical thing you’re buying, it’s a spiritual thing as well!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Stevie Ray Vaughan

I first became aware of Stevie Ray Vaughan around 1984 or ’85. I was a freshly minted disciple of Jimi Hendrix and my guitar teacher mentioned someone else who had recorded a version of Voodoo Chile. I tracked down a copy of Couldn’t Stand The Weather and immediately fell in love. Stevie’s tone, his choice of notes, his singing style and the songs just all came together in a perfect way for me. I, like a lot of people, was an instant fan. I bought his first record Texas Flood the next day and anxiously waited for the next record to come out. I first saw Stevie live in Tampa FL. My dad arranged to get me backstage and I had 6 row/center seats for the show. What a show! Meeting Stevie that night after the gig, I was star-struck and literally speechless. The photo I have from that night shows me in full on ‘deer in the headlights’ mode! I saw Stevie play two more times, both in Nashville. Once at the Opry House with BB King and The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and once at Starwood Amphitheater two months before he died. Buffy and I went backstage at that show and I found my words enough to tell him that I was playing guitar for Buddy Guy and that I hoped we’d get a chance to play together sometime.
August 24 and 25, 1990, we played Buddy’s club in Chicago. The place was always packed when Buddy was there but it was especially packed when people knew Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Cray were nearby and would probably come by to jam. I remember playing both nights with one eye on Buddy and one eye on the VIP section (If you never got to visit the original Legends, the VIP, which was probably the worst seats in the house, was just to my left off stage). Eric and Stevie didn’t come in but Chris Layton did make it out for the Saturday gig. Buddy mentioned that he was going up to the Clapton show on Sunday and I was scheduled to return home to Nashville that day. I wasn’t invited, but I thought about sticking around and trying to ‘hobo’ my way to the show with Buddy. In the end I decided that I really wanted to get home to my then girlfriend (now wife, thank God) Buffy and that there’d be plenty of chances to hang with those guys later, since we were always crossing paths. I went home and Buffy woke me the next morning, calling to tell me that a helicopter had crashed and someone was dead, but they weren’t saying who. I called Buddy and the phone was busy for a while which really made me nervous for him. When he finally answered he told me Stevie had died. It was like the floor fell out from under my feet. Stevie was just coming into the best part of his career. He was a strong presence on MTV, he was recording with people like Stevie Wonder, doing shows with Jeff Beck, Clapton, Joe Cocker. It really seemed like he was going to shift into the mainstream in a real profound, positive way. The latest record In Step had come out and the songwriting and performances from all the guys in Double Trouble was stellar. His passing was like a punch in the gut. How could something like that happen to someone who had just beaten some real demons and come out stronger and sharper than ever? My mother always taught me that we’re not in this world forever and when it’s your time, it’s your time. As a Christian, I believe God’s got a plan and a design for everything. Whatever his plan was for Stevie, it happened and thank God we got the music and the person here for as long as we did but man I sure wish he was still around!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A 'Strapping' Birthday gift!!

Recently, I celebrated my birthday in Chicago. I was joined by my wife and some of my dear friends. Three of my friends make up the group we refer too as the “MF Mafia”, Chuck MF Lanza, Kempf MF Poole and Keith MF Throneberry. For my birthday, my friends got me an awesome gift; a new guitar strap from renowned strap designer Jodi Head ( )! The purple strap you may have seen me with for the last few weeks, with my initials on it. As a cool added touch, they included my wife and daughter’s initials on the inside of the strap so they’re always with me, right next to my heart! Old Number One is enjoying her new “outfit” as well! Hope you get a chance to come out and see us soon!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rock n Roll...

Rolling across Montana on our way to Chicago. I am always awed by the beauty and diversity of our country! I love driving through the mountains and then the plains and crossing the great rivers. For a kid who loved to read about history in school, it’s always a thrill to see these things in person, even if it is often through the windshield of a van doing 80 mph!! We just stopped for lunch in Missoula, MT at a great burger joint called The Missoula Club. Awesome, old school cheeseburgers!! (If you’ve ever been to the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, it’s like that)
The shows have been going great and we’ve really been enjoying the addition of Lightnin’ Joe Peterson on keyboards. Joe is also a great harp player and that’s really added a great dimension to some of the more traditional blues songs that I love to play.
Since my last post, I celebrated my birthday in Chicago with my wife and closest friends. We played Buddy’s club on Friday night and then I got to accompany Buddy to the Crossroads Festival on Saturday and watch Buddy in action with Jonny Lang and Ron Wood. After a quick trip home, we hit the road for Boulder, CO,; Moscow, ID; Salt Lake City, UT (best sushi restaurant Takashi!!); Anacotes, WA & Ritzville WA. At every stop we’ve been welcomed by great crowds and had a blast playing. The new record is almost finished (really!) and should be out in the next few weeks. I’m excited to get it out and see what ya’ll think of it. It’s a different kind of record from anything I’ve done in the past, that’s for sure.
The next couple of weeks will find us in Chicago, Milwaukee, London ONT and Windsor ONT, Baton Rouge, as well as a rare Nashville show early in August. We’re playing material from the new record every night and I’m really excited that people seem to be digging it. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

My Gateway Drug

Riding down the road today, my mind started wandering about how I got here (with a GPS! Hahahahaa...sorry I couldn’t resist!). I love my job. I love making music and performing, I love recording and working with other musicians to create something bigger than ourselves. I have grown up being a musician. From my earliest memories, music was always around and I look at those times as an indoctrination of sorts that enabled me to become who I am. Music has always been there. I started playing music seriously (I think that‘s an oxymoron) late in respect to years, but I think I was studying lessons that would serve me in that regard all along. Church, my parents record collection, television, radio and later MTV, all of these factors contributed to my education. I can still sing the words to Gilligan’s Island, Love Boat, The Brady Bunch and Green Acres (back when TV theme songs had lyrics and cool melodies!). Little did I know that I was practicing remembering lyrics!
So what was my ‘tipping point’? My ‘gateway drug’, so to speak. James Marshall Hendrix. I distinctly remember the first time I came across his name; it was at school. We had these wooden desks that prior classes had carved into. Pot leaves, call letters for the local rock radio station (WKDF in Nashville, now a country station, my how things change!), girls’ names, boys’ names, band names (Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Deep Purple, etc.) and on one desk that I sat at, I can remember seeing the name Jimi Hendrix. That’s it, just the name. No explanation or even a clue as to who he was or what he did. I remember asking a classmate who Jimi Hendrix was and they said, “I’m not sure, I think he’s a guitar player or something.”
My local record store was called Sound Shop. It was in the local Mall. I came up during the cassette era and they had a good sized selection of rock and country. I bought my copy of Rebel Yell by Billy Idol, my copy of Heartbeat City by The Cars, the Footloose soundtrack, I could never manage to buy the .38 Special tape Wild Eyed Southern Boys, because it was never ever on sale... NEVER! I grew up with 5 really close friends. At some point, for some reason that I’m sure made sense in my youth, my friends and I decided to get really heavy into “60’s” music. I doubt if we even really knew exactly what that was or why we should even care, but we decided that The Doors would be a good place to start. Probably thanks to the fact that we were watching Apocalypse Now about twice a week, (I had that soundtrack on VINYL thank you very much). The Doors were cool and spooky and no one else at school was listening to them, so we liked them even more! I remember going in the store alone one day and seeing a white cassette that said ‘Jimi Hendrix: Soundtrack to the Motion Picture’. It looked interesting, guy in a cowboy hat sitting on a stool on an otherwise white cover. I wish I could remember what I paid for it, $7.99 probably, but I do remember the thin, plastic yellow bag that said Sound Shop in bold black letters on the outside. I remember walking out of the Mall past the video arcade (Pirates Cove!) and getting in my truck, tearing the plastic off my new purchase and cranking the old Pioneer (with an additional booster with graphic equalizer in the glove box!). I remember all these details because they would forever be marked in my life as the before part, as in ‘before and after’.I had never heard any of these songs before and I had never heard any songs like them. The songs were interspersed with interview clips from Little Richard, Jimi’s dad and some others I can’t remember. The acoustic version of Hear My Train A’Comin” with Jimi asking “did you think I’d do that?” at the end, The Star Spangled Banner, Johnny B. Goode was ferociously cool but the song that really stands out in my memory was Purple Haze. It was my first time hearing that song and it sounded huge! Metallic. I have since become a devoted student of Jimi’s music and I have probably heard every version of Purple Haze, from live versions to every studio take of the song, but it never hits you like the first time. I currently have 135 different versions on my iTunes alone!
I think it’s interesting how past memories seem to condense. I’m trying to remember how things happened sequentially after that, but it really seems like a blur. I do know that I immediately fell in love with Jimi Hendrix’ music and had to find and hear all of it that I could. My next purchase was Kiss The Sky a compilation tape that Warner Brothers put out in the 80’s (probably in response to my interest!). That’s the first time I heard Are You Experienced?. Again, I was hooked. It’s hard to relate to now, but I had no real resource for my interest in Jimi. There was no internet, no YouTube, none of my friends knew who the hell he was, much less the best way to approach learning his music and his story. I’ve always been that way, if I find an artist or an actor or a writer that I like, I tend to devour their work and learn as much as I possibly can about them. In the case of Jimi, I had no idea what albums came first, where he was now, or anything. This is the time before DVD and music videos were in their infancy. I had probably heard all three studio albums (Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland) before I had even seen any video footage of Jimi. I found a book about Jimi by Jerry Hopkins in the school library (the only thing I think I ever stole) and then I could get the discography together, understand when he died and how, and try to gain some initial idea of why he was significant. I was blessed with parents who gave me confidence and self value so that I was able to appreciate the music that I liked because I liked it instead of being told ‘this is good, you should like this.’. I liked Elvis long before I found out he was the King of Rock and Roll and still liked him when it was no longer cool to like him. I loved Jimi Hendrix. He could have just as easily been some kind of cult figure in music and I would have still devoured his every note.
Around the time that I acquired the soundtrack and heard Purple Haze for the first time, a voice I had never really heard in my head told me that the time had come for me to learn how to play the guitar. It wasn’t the voice that told me that it might be time for some fish sticks and ketchup after school, or the voice that told me algebra was a waste of time, it was a new, confident, clear voice that left no doubt that I would do what it said. Get a guitar, learn how to play it like Jimi Hendrix, simple! I asked for an electric guitar for Christmas and my parents, God bless them, got it for me. I doubt if they ever dreamed that that act would lead to the tattoos, ear rings, loaded passports and closets full of guitars and amps that followed, but they knew that their child wanted something and they figured out how to pay for it. That didn’t always happen, we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my parents broke their backs to give me and my brother everything they could. Along with the guitar, I got a Mel Bay Chord book. A big Mel Bay chord book with thousands of chords that I had no idea how to play. I didn’t know how to tune my guitar or even where to start. It was a catastrophe! My dad loved to tell this story, especially the part where he said “either you’re going to take lessons or I’m throwing that thing out in the yard!” he said it with a smile and with love (like he said everything to me) but he meant it! The short version of this part is that I found the best teacher in the world, Doug Thurman, and he had me bring in a song I wanted to learn and he showed me how to learn it from the cassette. That song was Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), (from my Kiss The Sky tape!!) and I was off! That was a long time ago, I went on to work with and become friends with one of Jimi’s biggest influences Buddy Guy, I recorded with his final rhythm section Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, I became friends with Band Of Gypsys drummer Buddy Miles, met Jimi’s dad before he passed. I can’t believe the path my life has taken, but i still put on my Jimi Hendrix records (or Cds or MP3 files) and search them for some new hidden treasures. I am never disappointed, Jimi never lets me down!
We just passed the exit for Clear Lake IA and the Surf Ballroom where another Strat player played his last gig, now about Buddy Holly...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who's Dog Is This?

Sitting here listening to the rough mixes for the new record and I wanted to write about some of the times we had creating this thing. First off I should say that I am more proud of this record than anything I’ve done creatively, ever! I went in with the intention of making an old style “album” (remember album’s from your ancient history books kiddies?). 10 songs, a side A and a side B, and you can drop the needle (figuratively of course) on the first track and listen to it all the way through, or you can embrace the iTunes world we live in and sequence it any old way you choose!
We recorded in Minneapolis, at The Terrarium, with my band and co-producer Truth on keys, (anybody remember Machine Gun at Shaw’s that night???). My friend and amp guru Tim O’Brien made up the third member of our production team and with the help of our ninja – engineer Rob Oesterlin, we cut 13 tracks in 6 days, counting all overdubs!! 8 songs the first day alone! Trust me, that’s pretty quick. A friend pointed out that I always say the latest record is my best yet, so while I say that again this time, I really mean it!! I’ve never been involved with a record project that has this much soul in it. Every single person involved with this record gave 110%.
Things I learned and observed while making this record;
1. The human body can exist on a scone and 3 gallons of coffee with a quart of black tea for dessert per day for a period of 6 days!
2. You can haul $100,000.00 worth of really cool vintage amps into the studio and set them all up and if you use O’Brien amps, it will be a waste of time.
3. Start every project with a prayer. Invite God in on the deal and you’re guaranteed to have an environment of positive energy and creative bliss.
4. The following things are nuisance in the studio; sleep, food, chairs.
5. Unusual but necessary items for this record; Big Nasty, Dave Gardner albums, a shotgun, iPhones, WD-40, lighter fluid, a really really (really) nice pen!
6. Making records is supposed to be fun.
7. Truth is the best vocal/acting coach in the world!

We started planning this record about a month ago. Truth, Tim and I set up a Skype thing and had several pre-production meetings on line, picking the tunes and getting them into shape. (Our last meeting was supposed to be at 10:00pm on an off night at home for me and I fell asleep and missed the meeting!!). We drove in from our last gig in Vegas to my business partner/manager’s house in St. Paul and spent the next two days rehearsing the songs (and basically destroying his house in the process! Seriously, both toilets, washing machine, garbage compactor…it was pretty amazing considering we were being really careful!) First day in the studio, we cut 8 songs. Our rule was simple; no more than 3 takes. Anything more and the vibe’s in danger of being lost. If we couldn’t get it in 3, we left it. We never had to do more than three takes!
So what did we end up with? A record like nothing I’ve ever done before. The best thing I’ve ever done and a record that I am so proud of that it’s hard to explain. Stay tuned for more info soon! LIG!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010 kind of town...

Here we are in Las Vegas, getting ready for the last show before we hit the studio! I love Vegas; the Rat Pack, Elvis, Howard Hughes, Liberace, Wayne Newton... My wife finally explained it to me once, when I told her I didn’t know why I loved Vegas so much, she said, “It’s because it’s on ‘11’ all the time.” TRUE!! So how did we get here you ask. We drove straight out here from Nashville and what a trip!! The first day was a good drive and we got to Oklahoma City by 2:00 am and decided to stop for the night. The next day it was a killer lunch at the Cattlemen’s Cafe (16 oz. Porterhouse w/salad and potato and a piece of coconut cream pie the size of my head!) and on to Vegas...or so we thought! Just outside of Albuquerque the weather went from mild and breezy to wild and freezy!! After dodging our share of wrecked vehicles on the interstate, we finally went into a ditch about 17 miles outside of Gallup NM. The only real damage was a flat on the trailer. Gallup NM closes at around 10:00 p.m. and no one was interested in helping the SHB get to Vegas before 6:00 am. Unfortunately, this information didn’t become clear until we had exhausted 3 hours or so trying to find help. Get yet another hotel room, this one for roughly 3 freezing hours of sleep (by the time the room started to warm up it was time to hit the road). We find a tire store to fix the tire, find a roadside service to get the tire on (yes I can change a tire, but it’s too many details to explain why!) and we hit the road at 9:30. Now, here’s the challenge; We have to be in Vegas by 3:00 p.m. local time to go do some local television, it’s 365 miles to Vegas, after getting my MF brother Keith to help me figure out the mathematical formula to determine what our consistent speed should be (yes we really did use an algorithm!) We started rolling at said speed (not the legal limit per se...)which, on dry clear surface, would be no trouble...then it starts to snow...again. Then, it stops snowing, the sun comes out, the roads are clear and we get up to speed. Then it starts to sleet...the roads are solid white, which could be just a covering of snow or something slicker! Then it stops snowing, clears up and we think, “whew!” Then it starts to hail...I’m on the phone with my wife and she mentions that sometimes hail is a precursor to a tornado...Dan, who’s driving, says “look in the rearview mirror” know what it is, A TWISTER!!! At this point, we are committed like the proverbial pig at breakfast, so I decide that if the next things falling out of the sky are frogs and locusts, we are NOT gonna be late to Vegas. By this point we’ve called the PR people and assured them we’ll be on time. It is live TV so it’s kind of a big step to be 235 miles away and say, “We will be there for sure.” but if you’ve been following us you know the SHB is not easily dissuaded. I am proud to say that even with a trailer search at the Hoover Dam and more rain and traffic, we pull up to the front of the hotel at 2:58 p.m. local time! We celebrated with dinner and a trip to the strip for a while. Marshal was fortunate, Dan was wise, Milburn was giddy and I was reassured that guitar should remain my focus rather than professional gambler! Tonight, if you’re in Las Vegas, and why wouldn’t you be, I hope you can make it out to see us. Tomorrow we start making our way to Minneapolis to record our next record tentativley titled; “Who’s Dog Is This?” (no that’s not the title, but it would be a mysterious one don’t you think? The phrase comes from one of my favorite movies, that’s your clue...western...John Ford...John Wayne...that’s all I’m saying!!) L.I.G.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Opinions are like...opinions

Many people think I’m opinionated. My best friends don’t say it out loud, they just think it. I don’t think I’m opinionated, but I do have opinions. Here are some;
1. Loud is good. In context, I don’t think anything is too loud. A hand grenade wouldn’t sound right if it were quieter; neither would an O’Brien amp…
2. Ron Howard is a great story teller. Something that we need more of in the world and something that will never go out of style. No everyone that makes movies or writes books is NOT a great storyteller.
3. All you need IS love. With love as your guide all of our societal problems would be solved.
4. I think the most unfortunate word in the English language is ‘but’. Conversely I really like the word ‘butt’, go figure!
5. Art is art and it comes in all varieties from Van Gough to Sesame Street.
6. Tiger Woods only owes apologies to his wife and his family, not me and you.
7. And finally a word of caution; I believe that we are living in ‘Roman Times’ excessive luxury and massive consumption of goods, services and resources. Remember what happened to the Romans…

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

The road that we travel is unusual in some ways and very similar in others to everyone else in the world. A musician’s life is like a traveling salesman’s in that we “go to the customer” we’re away from home and hotels/motels and restaurants are the major lifelines to our existence. We’re like doctors on call, our hours are screwy and usually the opposite of our families. Same thing with truck drivers and the aspect of many, many miles on the road. As a musician, you are bound to “go where the work is”. This means that you travel thousands of miles to play shows, you go North in the winter or South in the summer, you play in Minneapolis MN on a Friday night and then you play Jonesboro AR on Saturday. You play till 2:00 am and then load out and still make a 7:00 am lobby call to hit the road again. Your loved ones are cell phone calls and emails rather than flesh and blood too much of the time. We just played for two weeks in Northwestern Canada and were continually asked, “why did you come up here this time of year!?!” The answer is simple; “because that’s when and where we were hired to work.” After the 50th time of being asked that question I can’t promise that one of us isn’t mumbling “F.O.” under our breath :) but from that person’s perspective it must seem like we just decided to come at the most unfavorable time of year and maybe they think that “No” is something that we actually have the ability to say. By ability, I mean the fiscal ability more that the Physical ability. The reality is that we are constantly working to get that next job. It’s rare that a musician has the time or opportunity to sit back and truly enjoy where he is because the foot has to stay firmly on the gas and tomorrow’s gotta be made for. All musicians deal with this regardless of where the decimal point lands in the discussion. Eric Clapton knows where and when his next gig is!
Having described this, I have to say I love my job. I would do it for no money (I have actually!!) and it’s something that is in my blood. Hard wired into my psyche. I tell young prospective musicians every day; “Don’t do this unless you have to.” Actually what I tell them is; “Don’t do this. Just don’t do it. If you can live with that answer then you have nothing to worry about, but if it’s impossible for you to accept, maybe you might can try it. Maybe.”It’s not something that you can learn to love or teach yourself to deal with, it’s something that you do because there simply is nothing else. You don’t do it for wealth. The ones that do always end up unfulfilled. There’s just not enough money in the world to make this life bearable if it’s not in you. As far as financial “rock star” success the odds aren’t just ‘not in your favor’, they are stacked against you.
The point of this ramble is we recently lost a great musician, Lil’ Dave Thompson. Dave was killed driving home, overnight, from a gig in South Carolina. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re in SC right now, having driven here overnight (actually 17 hours, all day and night) and the fact that the gig he had just played is one we’ve played as well, or maybe it’s the wreck that we had two weeks ago in Alberta at 3:00 am that left us stranded on the side of a slick and busy interstate for 3 hours, but the truth is everyone in the band reacted the same way upon hearing the news; “That could have easily been us.” That’s not a selfish thought by any means, our prayers go to Dave, his family, loved ones and band members. The point of this is more about the conditions that all musicians work under on the road. For every episode of Behind The Music that you watch with private jets, limo’s, even tour buses, there are tons of guys out there doing what Dave did; get in the van and hammer the miles out. Just as a small example, our current van was purchased about 18 months ago with 100,000 miles on it, today it has 276,678. That’s just gig miles. When I joined Buddy Guy in 1989, that’s what we were doing. The miles are there and you just get after it. I’m determined not to infer any blame in this blog so I won’t speculate on the details of why they were rolling overnight and in the end it’s a tragedy that blame could never undo. I only met Dave once at a gig that we were playing together, but he was a classy guy, great musician and I remember hoping that we’d cross paths again. The point is the risks are real and they’re always there. Yes they’re there for airline pilots, bus drivers, lion tamers, soldiers, etc., but I’m a musician, I’ve seen my contracts with hotels crossed out to save $100.00, I’ve had agents tell me that “you’ll just have to run it over night, but it’s an important gig.” I’ve also been so ready to get home to my girls that I’ve left perfectly good, paid for beds empty to get back to Nashville, so as I said, I don’t know the details so I’m not casting any blame. If you’re in the music business and reading this, remember Dave. If your a promoter or a club owner, try and remember Dave before you cancel the rooms on a contract to squeeze an extra $80 - $100 bucks out of the gig. If you’re an agent think about Dave and remember that the artist is supposed to be your first responsibility and fight for the safest conditions possible, even if it makes you $100.00 instead of $150.00. Finally and most important if you are a musician/band leader making the deals think of Dave remember that no gig is ever going to pay you enough money to make it worth risking your life. EVER.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Stars In Their Courses

Well we made it to the great white North for a week of shows in Edmonton @ Blues on Whyte and a couple at Bud's in Saskatoon before heading back to the states to do ND, MN, IL & SC. Yes, by the way, Illinois is quite a drive from South Carolina! Yesterday was one of those adventure days we run into some times. After a late start out of Helena MT, we crossed over into Canada at the Sweetgrass Border crossing without a problem, (really nice border guards there, every time!) and started making our way to Edmonton. The whole way we're trying to decide if we'll stop on the way or make the whole drive. It's not that far, but it is pretty bad weather for a group of guys from the south. Make it to Calgary around 7:30 pm and decide to grab dinner and press on. Extroidinarily sloooooww service makes dinner last 2 hours and we get back on the road and decide to press on. At Red Deer, we stop for coffee and Marshal takes the wheel. I take shotgun and rare back to sleep for the 3 hours or so we have left to drive. I wake from a dead sleep to see nothing but white, the van is spinning and Marshal and I are both yelling, (mine was "we're okay!!, we're okay!!; Marshal's was something to the effect of "shut up!! shut up!!)
Next thing, we're in a ditch, 3 foot snow bank, front of the van about 4 feet from the right hand lane. After assesing the damage and calling for a tow truck to get us out of the ditch, we spent the next threee hours thanking God that we had plenty of gas to run the van and keep the heat on (-11 degrees!! brrrrr!!!), and not letting us get killed of course, and watching as 18 wheelers screamed by 4 feet in front of our grill! Several kind people stopped to check on us, including a Dodge Neon containing one very inebriated giant, (we thought he was going to eat Milburn, but he just wanted to be friends) he offered to push us out of the ditch (with his bare hands from what we could understand) when we told him we'd just wait for the tow, he wished us luck, told us we sounded like Garth Brooks, a slowly drove away with his flashers going and his trunk open. We all said a prayer that he'd get wherever he was going safely.
the tow truck arrived and pulled us out of the snow bank to reveal a flat on the trailer. First we think maybe the wreck just knocked the tire off it's bead and lost air but using Mr.Tow Trucks compressor revealed that there was also a large hole in the tire. We unload the trailer to get to the spare (remember the picture; edge of the highway, -11 degrees, sleeting). When we lift the trailer to change the tire, we realize that the springs on the right side are broken off! After a quick call to my mechanical advisory data base (Uncle Wayne!) we decide that the only choice is to make our way sloooowly to Edmonton and get it fixed on Monday. As we make our way (every knuckle white I promise!) we see a small Dodge Neon in the distance; could it be?, IT IS!! The Drunken Giant!! Flashers still going, trunk still open, pulled over the shoulder of the road! Thank God! the rest of the story is basically the same; get to Edmonton, get lost and drive around the city for 1 hour before we finally find the hotel around 6am. All that aside, God continues to take care of us and I've got a really great gig, great family, great friends and a great life! Sorry if that sounds like bragging, but none of that is my doing!!