Listening to some old John Prine tunes on my streaming service and my mind drifts back to my late teenage years. I was an aspiring musician, albeit with a minuscule amount of talent. I had hooked up with an older guitar player and singer, who had taken me under his wing as a side man. We’ll just call him GVS, and those of you that know me will immediately agree that this feller holds a unique position in the musical hierarchy of my home town. In any event, I thank him for launching my career as a no-talent hack that still is playing music 40+ years later. God bless us every one!
Now the role of side man is often overlooked in the lore of musicianship. In fact, some dude wrote a little ditty about the glories of the job, which pretty much sums it up.
I want to be a sidemanDave Frishberg
Just an ordinary sideman
A go along for the ride man
Sounds pretty good don’t it? And it ain’t bad as long as you have a good boss. Same as any job, except you are not responsible for anybody but yourself. You still have to tolerate your boss, but as long as he pays you and there are no strings attached, who cares? You can nuke the dumb ass sombitch any time, cause let’s face it, you didn’t sign any contract, non-disclosure, or letter of commitment other than for your next gig. And on top of that, they can fire your ass at any time, which is their prerogative.
And so, we get a gig at the infamous Four Point Tavern as an acoustic duo. On this particular night, we have our tiny PA system set up next to the juke box and kick off our set with various Bob Dylan and Beatles songs. I’m accompanying my partner on harmonica whilst he bellows out Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, One After 909, and a variety of moldy oldies from the 60’s. About the middle of Hickory Wind, a fight breaks out at the bar between a drunken mountain of a man and some skinny dude with green teeth. The fight was kinda one sided, and the melee was rolling towards our PA and the juke box. We started grabbing our shit and running for it just about the time that the local police chief, leaped off of his barstool to tackle the big man. They rolled around on the floor for a while, knocked over the juke box, and tumbled towards the front door. Several others joined in and rolled that big guy out of the front door and down the steps. The front door was subsequently locked and calm was restored. There was a bit of banging on the front door, that eventually subsided.
At this point, our equipment was all disconnected and in disarray, so my partner and I retired to the bar to serenade the patrons with our angelic voices. Pulling out my guitar, I break into a melancholy rendition of Sam Stone. For those not familiar with this song, I give you the refrain, which pretty much sets the tone for the entire song.
There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goesJohn Prine
Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose
Little pitchers have big ears
Don’t stop to count the years
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios
Upon finishing the song to mild applause, a handsome older women goes nose to nose with me and whispers “You need to cheer up”. So there you go. Wisdom for the ages. I do wish to revise and enhance this proverb to align with the edginess that has accompanied the year 2020. And you may feel free to quote me on this.
Why can’t we all just cheer up and get along?Hammdawg