Cheerleader Flips For Music… Literally
Back in the day if you liked r&b, rap and rock… you were a half-breed. Since I was a half-breed preteen, I’ve always had a unique POV. As an adult, This POV lead me to jam with two very different guys both in The Hall of Fame: Larry Graham from Sly and the Family Stone and Bill Kruetzmann from The Grateful Dead… An honor. But after it was over, I found I just wanted to play, bring joy and inspire folks but I still couldn’t categorize my style. Taking the direct advice I got from CD Baby creator Derek Sivers, I just created my own style: “Bass Pop.” But how did I become so weird?
6th grade, on the couch, watching black and white clips of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and my Dad turns and asks: “Which one of those instruments do you want to play?”. I thought for a moment and said, “Bass. Guitar’s too popular, not enough people play bass!” Even Paul McCartney played trumpet as a boy, but quit that for a cooler instrument because a trumpet was in his mouth, and he wanted to sing. I got a clue and quit playing clarinet.
Around this time, a middle-schoolmate was learning bass from a blind man. When I met him, he held his hand out for me to shake and his dog led us to a tiny practice room where he proceeded to blow my mind… Slapping and tapping the bass, mixing up bluegrass and funk into a metal solo ending in “Amazing Grace”! I didn’t even know a BASS could SOUND like that. I was absolutely SOLD. In fact, I was so inspired by the “feeling” of bass that I even started drumming, because I loved the “feeling” of a bass drum in concert.
Our very first gig was at a high school fundraiser. A co-ed event~ we set up our tents inside the track and spent the night on the field (Just 2 or 3 chaperones dozing in and out of duty!). Our band was booked to play as the sun was setting, and after we finished, all the girls who wouldn’t talk to me if I delivered them a winning Lotto ticket were suddenly begging me to sing them Dave Matthews songs on my acoustic. The most popular one, a cheerleader, even did a standing backflip for me to scribble our lyrics on a piece of her binder paper.
Countless gigs later I joined a big band as their lead singer, signed some papers and hit the road hard in an MCI, 40 ft. bus. We tore out the seats and built bunk beds inside and man, we toured constantly from the west coast to the Rockies… in frigid winter weather with no heat and in summertime, smoldering shirtless with no A/C. We worked with Oz Fritz on our 2nd album, the producer who made a Grammy Award Winning Album w/Tom Waits. We played clubs, theaters, festival stages, weddings, backyard boogies, even someone’s 100th birthday and sold out the legendary Great American Music Hall. Hearing the crowd roar after I sang a long note, and later stopping at a natural hot springs in Montana to relax road-weary muscles was a great balance.
But it wasn’t all fun. I remember driving in a snow-storm while most of the band was snoozing. Only the driver (drummer) and I were awake, and at one point we were driving on the freeway blind, for 7 long, paralyzed, life-montage-like seconds. Our vision was completely whitewashed with thick snow and cloud fog…
The kid in me who played just to fit in and feel normal around girls lives in my heart, but the man who has taken the wheel since then loves it when a woman says, “you steered my 19 year-old son back on track with your music. Thank You.” Or when a high-schooler sees my show and says, “I’ve never seen live music! Never heard someone play like that!.. 0nly heard the stuff they play on the radio, I didn’t know that existed!!”
The greatest compliment came from my cousin. I have great memories of trying to memorize fast rap verses with him in the 90’s, laughing about the lyrics and walking around Disney World practicing our verses to each other. That was when he could still walk, before his disease stole that skill from him. Now, when I email him an unmixed, rough recording of a fresh song before anyone else has heard it, my heart is overjoyed when I read his reply: “I listened to it like 20 times in a row. I LOVE it.”
These are the moments when I realize I am doing exactly what my original mission was: “I want to bring joy to lots of people with music.”
If you would like to join me on this journey, I would love to have you aboard. I’ll be sending out more emails like this one with funny stories, crazy moments, and
straight up strangeness. As long as there’s beauty in the journey.
- If you would like to hear the most recent milestone of this journey,
click here to listen to my most recent album “Single”
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter.
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