Wednesday, September 21, 2011

prelude prologue

The posts below which tell some of the story of my time in the Home for Wayward Musicians cover just a bit of the education received from the experience. It was during that time that I became adept at playing background with bands, finding ways to supply a little excitement to the music and find spots to fill without stepping on the tune.

It is interesting to note that at that time I was incapable of vocally testing a mic. I would test by playing harp into it but couldn't talk or sing into a microphone. Not the case now as I do both.

Within a couple of years after the story told below, I was again in Miami where I spent the better part of the next nine years. I played very little with bands during that time and for about four years after that. But the ability to jam and to handle a solo during the song stuck with me. My actual skill on the harp improved most when I got with the group in Memphis. And everything has improved since I started playing with Copper Creek here on Ballistic Mountain.

Playing is something that I've done and then not done and then done again. Otherwise I'd be better than I am and would have learned more sooner.

Even though I was in serious trouble in ways, the time spent in the world of the Somewhere Else music scene was the best foundation for knowing how to jam that I could imagine. So many quality players and, in my case, the necessity for becoming versatile. I wanted to play and often my only chance was to play on the stuff other harp players wouldn't do because it wasn't meaty blues harp material. I could usually find some piece in the fabric that lent itself to floating in a note or two. Some of those became my favorites.

I've never seen a true jam of the sort they held at Somewhere Else anywhere since then. That is probably because noone I've encountered knew how to hold it together, yet ensure it wasn't overly structured like Aubrey aka McGoo, keyboard player-scratchy wild vocalist. He's since passed on, and he was a good man. Dave the drummer was highly under rated for his ability to help a guy like me feel confident and feel the joy while playing. They taught me to take chances and they tried to teach me to be comfortable being myself on stage.

Sometimes we'd have ten or more musicians on stage and on a good night it clicked. On a really good night, what started as a jam off a particular song would evolve into something that went on for half an hour and took some really good turns.

The real confidence came when I hit Memphis and realized that though the players were good, they lacked much of what was taught at Somewhere Else. I wish I had videos of some of those jams. Otherwise there is no way you'd believe the quality, spontaneity, and energy of those events. Not to mention some of the connections to bands and divas you know.

I should add that when I quit being drunk and drugged, my playing improved.


  1. Sort of like a conversation on a much higher (sometimes) intellectual level. Jams open me up but we usually use them in the songwriting process...


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Ballistic Mountain, CA, United States
Like spring on a summer's day


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