This showed up on my feed today:
And it’s absolutely true. Once upon a time, I merely existed, my aural life mostly cold and drab except for the occasional bit of Top-40 better-than-dreck. Not that I didn’t listen to music, of course.
Growing up, Mom was as big a fan of Reader’s Digest’s record collections as she was of their books, so she had everything from ragtime to Big Band (single bands like Glenn Miller’s, and at least one set covering the late ’30s through the end of WWII, even the novelty songs like “Three Little Fishies” and “Der Fuehrer’s Face”. Her favorite radio station played mostly pop, as it was defined then: Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Perry Como and the like, stretching occasionally into the modern realm with Anne Murray, Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck, Jeannie C. Riley, John Denver… Funny story about the last name on that list: after Mom’s 30-year class reunion in 1971, she had friends over and we were all looking at both her graduation-year yearbook and the “mini” update edition put out by the reunion committee, and there was a gal whose photo — blonde hair (yes, you could tell that even in a black-&-white photo from 1941, don’t bog me down with details) in a slightly longish pageboy, roundish glasses — looked very familiar. According to the updated book, this young woman had married an airman and had two sons, the elder of whom was trying to make a go of it in the music business.
Her elder son, Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my mother went to high school with John Denver’s mother. Bask ye in the weirdness and wonder that is the world! Or…something…anyway…
And riding in Steve’s car generally entailed bouts of opera or musicals or, yes, better-than-dreck (Billy Joel, The Eurythmics). But what I’m talking about, the reason that meme above resonated with me, has nothing to do with any of that, and everything to do with the fact I know a lot of damned fine musicians and if you’d told me that would the case sometime before 2000, I’d have thought you were nuts.
Now, I’d just wonder how you knew. 🙂
It happened like this. In May of 2000, I started massage therapy school (details on what a life-saver THAT was for me will undoubtedly make their way into another post). It was a rolling-three-month program, meaning there was a mix of newbies and near-graduates every month. In my last month, one of the newcomers was a very nice young woman who worked at Universal Studios in some job related to one of the stunt shows.
That last month we had a particularly good group, and we made sure to swap emails to keep in touch. A few weeks after my course ended, I got an email from Stunt-Show gal, saying that she and some of her friends were taking over the [famous coffee purveyor named after a character in “Moby Dick”] cafe in one of the local Barnes & Noble stores, and please could we all go and show our support on the appointed day?
Having been in Corporate America more than a decade at that point, I assumed she and her friends had bought the bookstore’s coffee-shop franchise. And as I had nothing else planned for the appointed evening, I drove on over after work because hey, supporting my friends! I walked in, looked toward the cafe…and saw my fellow massage student and three other people setting up speakers and plugging in guitars.
Oh. Musicians. That actually makes MUCH more sense, I said to myself. But I bought a cup of coffee anyway, found a table, and had an incredibly good time. Because she was good. And her friends were good. Really good. So the next time I got one of those emails, I hotfooted it to the bookstore and had another great time. Got onto everyone’s email list, and one day one of the guys, David, very tall and very slim with shoulder-length blond hair and the wingspan of an albatross ( 😉 ), emailed me about a show at the bookstore.
I lost track of Stunt-Show gal, but I kept track of David, and one of the other guys I’d seen that first night, Larry, who was a spectacular guitarist as well as a singer.
I went to shows when I could manage it, through the end of 2000, and maybe a couple in 2001 — that was the year after Steve died and between that and the changes at work at the beginning of the year and burying myself in as many massage classes as I could manage, I don’t remember making it to many shows in 2001. But in early 2002, I got back into it at a show at a real live coffeehouse in the Valley, with David and Larry and a couple of their friends I’d never heard of…wait, what exactly is a solo bass player, and what does he want? Both the other guys on the bill that night were singer/songwriters who played solo bass, one of whom I didn’t much follow and later lost track of, and the other of whom, Seth, added to my list of indie musicians by leaps and bounds — Joel and Amber and Rodney and Kerry and through them, more musicians and more great people.
I’ll save the rest of the details so that, should we actually be live and in person in the same general area of the space-time continuum, I can tell it to you if you’d like to hear it.
But know this: I am so very grateful I went to that show at that bookstore. I have heard more good music, and met more amazingly wonderful people (musicians and not), and made more terrific friends, than I would have ever dreamed possible.
They have given my ears, and my life, immeasurable joy.
And since I believe in sharing a good thing…
Rodney Branigan (who plays two guitars at once!)