Will Pick For Food
I know all of you have seen some poor soul on the side of the road with a sign that says “will work for food.” I don’t know about you, but I always feel sorry for those folks. At the same time, I am a bit unnerved to stop and help someone on the roadside. I don’t like the idea of a gun being pulled on me, so I keep moving on.
That makes me feel a bit guilty, so when Irish rocker/folk/old time singer songwriter Al Donnelly asked me to help out on a benefit to feed the homeless, I was tickled to get the opportunity. After all, I’ve begun to realize I’m gonna get all the way to the finish line and never miss a meal, so I figure it’s the least I can do.
Al is a musician with a bit of an activist bent- not the type to burn your house down if you have a different point of view but at the same time has a quiet but relentless insistence on all human beings being treated with respect and dignity. I like that. I believe the right music can change folks’ perspective, so I am all about a gig with Al.
The band Al put together was an interesting mix. His wife is a fine bass player and singer, and he got Johnny Rich, a retired beach band veteran and the the owner of our local music store, Johnny’s Jewelry and Loan, to play the drums. Throw in an old bluegrass boy willing to pick for food, and voila, you’ve got a band.
Al kept the show moving along, and as you might expect from the diversity of our backgrounds, there was a variety of music. Al opened with a few soft rock/pop numbers where I backed him up on the mandolin, and his wife and I sang the harmony parts. Then he fiddled couple of Irish jigs and old time numbers and I played flat top guitar.
Al did a nice tribute to his wife; a new love song none of us knew he was going to do, and it was quite touching. It reminded me of the old days when Marfar and I lived in a trailer. The heat would go out in the winter and you could see your breath in the house. Our old black and white T.V. only got two stations in the winter, but in the summer we could open the door and pick up a third one.
When you play with Al you have to stay alert and think on your feet. After the song for his wife, he asked me if there was any cure for the love sick blues, and I said mine got cured in 1975. (The year I married Marfar.) One time I did write a song about the love sick blues, though. The chorus went:
“Love sick blues, that’s the diagnosis troubling you
Doc knows a lot but he sure ain’t got
No cure for the lovesick blues.”
Oh well, no one ever accused me of being a romance writer. (See old posts.)
The lovesick blues were a good lead-in for some Don Gibson tunes. Being the bluegrasser I am a lonely mandolin kick-off solo to “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was a natural. Gibson was a lonesome country poet if there ever was one. Al’s only prerequisite was to play it the way Don Gibson would- sad- and that’s right is right down every bluegrass alley. We also did “Sea of Heartbreak,” and I knew it well; we do it in bluegrass all the time- it is one of my favorite numbers.
After that we rocked some old Creedence numbers. Recently I saw John Fogerty’s new CD in Starbucks. I hope he is doing well with it. The first time around the record execs painted him in a corner, and he couldn’t even do his own tunes in public for a while. I find it a shame when some sharp penciled rascal who can’t play a note rips off an artist that way. Absolutely devoid of soul, it is. I hope Fogerty is gets what is due him this go round; he’s a fine artist. (By the way, Ms. Annalise, he loves that Bayou country.)
Those CCR tunes were fun for me, ’cause I got to pull out the old Telecaster, and I’d long wanted to do a rock’n roll show with Brother John Rich. (I’m getting to the age where there ain’t much to cross off my list.) Given I’m a bluegrasser they were surprised I knew any rock’n roll, (don’t tell my bluegrass buddies) and Al asked how I got started on guitar.
It brought back memories of Jr. High when we started our first garage band. A couple of us knew how to play but none of us were singers. We called a meeting and being the planner I was, elected Scotty McGill as be lead singer. Scott didn’t play an instrument, and for that matter he didn’t sing either, but none of that mattered. He was the right choice ’cause all the girls thought he was cute, and we figured they’d come to our shows.
Like all teen-aged boys I got into music back then, and electric guitar in particular, to try to meet girls. After Marfar came along, I had no need for the Telecaster and became a bluegrass mandolinist, but she insisted I get out my old electric guitar and play a few for old times sake. After all these years, she’s comfortable with my priority for her (number one) and besides all the women wanting to meet me just want to know if I’m taking new Medicare patients. (Except for the young lady who wondered if I was related to Captain Kangaroo- I’m not.)
All in all, it was a good laid back show that brought back a lot of memories. We had a truck load of groceries to show for it, so picking for food turned out to a worthwhile effort.
I’m already looking forward to next year. Who knows, maybe I’ll just fiddle one.