Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hello My Friend

 I am a pretty good musician and had I not reached beyond my local surroundings I probably could have played for life. I was in a band from Ft. Pierce that was the toast of a one horse town. Then one fateful night, while trying to get gig's in Tallahassee, I ambled in to Bullwinkles and saw "John Kurzweg and The Night". I stood slack jawed as his band put on a demonstration of what a real band should sound and look like. The chasm between what we could do and what they did was vast.

Growing pains drove me from my home town in 87 and I ended up back in Tallahassee. My first week in town I saw him again in Finales doing a crazy solo act on acoustic guitar. He played with a drum machine and beat his guitar like a drum in the spaces where the playing stopped. I made a promise to myself that he and I would play together some day, but he was living in Jacksonville. I was a nobody that couldn't get arrested, much less land a gig with a former Atlantic recording artist. I formed a band with other outcasts and we we began to do gigs under the moniker of "The Reign". We had a devoted following that always came to see us. Our dance floor was packed every night. I was bitter that my life wasn't going according to my plan. I had an awful ego problem and a huge chip on my shoulder. I was at the top of my game as a musician and at the bottom of my humanity.

One night while playing "Gimmie Shelter" at the Flamingo Cafe, I looked up and saw John in front of me. As the solo approached I lifted the guitar off of my band mates neck and handed it to him. What took place after he started playing was a transcendent moment in my life as a musician. We traded lines on the remaining vocals and when the song ended we took a break. John and I exchanged small talk and he left the club. After that I fired and hired three other guitarists trying to get that feeling. Finally John agreed to fill in for a few weeks until we could find someone to fit. My anger and ego put him off  and a few months we parted again.

Over the following years I had two or three other bands and I tried to get John in all of them. Finally in 94 I convinced him to sit in with my new band "Radio Bikini" and he stayed for five years. He never officially joined the band. I was married and had children and playing with John and Dale softened some of my edge. Through all his time playing clubs he had a day job as a home recording engineer and producer. He recorded a band called "Creed" in his living room and the rest of that story is too big for this page and not mine to tell. He became a multi platinum producer and worked with some of the best musicians in the business. I became a part time musician, then later quit playing to manage "socialburn" "No Address" and "Go Radio". The next six years were a roller coaster as I found myself again working with John this time as the producer of the bands I managed. There was tension, good times, big hits and crushing lows. John's life took him to Santa Fe where his career settled down his marriage ended. We were both left with huge wounds no one really understood except he and I. It was then that we became the great friends we are today. John and I would spend hours on the phone discussing the merits of Grand Funk, Muse, every band, singer, drummer and guitarist imaginable. We talked like Nam vets about our days in the thick of the music business.

John's band from the eighties "Slapstick" did a reunion show at The Moon and it was a huge event. He looked happier and more at home on stage than ever and I felt just like I did when I saw him in 84. They decided to make it an annual event and this year John wanted to do a show of his originals at The Mockingbird Cafe. He asked Dale (the ambassador of joy, and bass player from Radio Bikini) and I to back him up.

For five glorious days I was a musician again. We practiced for hours, but we didn't have the time to get the show up to the standards. We did our best, but in the end we had to wing it. The show sold out and the place was filled with John's fans, our friends and family. It was a great shinning moment I never dared hope for, having been on the bench for so long. In the end it was a good night and I think everyone there got their moneys worth. For me it was a dream come true and I was reminded again how lucky I am to have a friend with such talent, but also the grace to lift me back up to the stage. I have no words to express  my gratitude. If you were there I hope you felt the magic and overlooked the imperfection. If you weren't there, dare I say, you missed something pretty special.

A week and thirty hours went into that gig but it really represented a lifetime of friendship.



Juancho said...

Don't make me tell my story of my tour with the Reign. I'm crushed that I missed the gig.

downtown guy said...

Dale used to play with my dad and stepmom. Heck, you may have, too. Jerry Thigpen and Lucia Fishburne.

JessMo79 said...

... and John's niece, Jessica loves her some Terry Clark!!! :) BTW, I know John loves you too!

WheelDancer said...

Nothing better than mingling with your heroes; great story.

BIGWORM said...

I cannot begin to tell you how much it pained me to miss this, but you know I had good reasons.

I'm stoked to hear it went well!!

Human Wrecking Ball said...

Thanks all. This blog was weird for me. I think I have revised it about twenty times.
No worries to those that didn't make it (and thanks for saying you wished you could go). We are planning another show now and since the last one sold out so quick we may do two nights. I'll keep you posted.

Human Wrecking Ball said...

BTW Juancho, I would be honored to hear your take on the worst gig of my life...way back in the day.

Human Wrecking Ball said...

DTG, I know your Dad and Lucia real well. Super nice people and real pros.

Magnorum said...

great post. I, obviously, missed out on something really special. Damn.

Tracey said...

Wish I could email you but don't have your address. I would LOVE it if you thought to post an inspirational moment (either with your music or cycling) to Check it out and hit me with any questions:

Thanks! Love your posts. Humour and energy. Love it.