Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If All My Heroes Are Losers

I haven't talked very much in Growing Old With Rock & Roll about my action-packed acoustic rock & roll singer-songwriter persona; partly because I was lazy about getting the technology together to post actual tunes (thank you, SoundCloud) and partly because the blog was a prose activity as opposed to a musical one and, at least in my head, seldom do the twain meet.

My solo career began one night in 1990 when I exceeded my roadie duties and played guitar onstage with Willie Phoenix and his True Soul Rockers during one of Willie’s forays into the audience.  (see Willie Phoenix blog, May 2012)  On those occasions Willie would toss me his guitar at my roadie station on the side of the stage and I would hold my position onstage until he got back for his final solo and The Big Finish.

That particular Friday night I decided to pound out the riff to “Gloria” along with Mike Parks while Willie was shouting & shimmying away, preaching the gospel of the rock & roll rama-lama to the crowd.  It went great; Willie didn’t fire me on the spot and later drummer Jim Johnson said, “That was cool.  I didn’t even know you PLAYED guitar.”  And that’s when it hit me; I had known Jim since 1982 when he started drumming for Willie and he didn’t even know I played an instrument.  The only band I’d formed after Nicole left me (see After The Second Set and that story about yellow springs blogs, January 2012) had broken up earlier in ’82.  It had been EIGHT YEARS since I’d set foot on a stage with a guitar around my neck.  How WOULD Jim know I played guitar?
I went home that night, picked up my Ovation acoustic and started working on material.  That weekend I played through almost every song I’d written since high school, started trying to figure which ones still mattered, which ones had held up, had stood the test of time.  Originally I thought I’d work up a solo acoustic set just to see if I had the energy to start a new band.  But the more I played the more I realized, “What if I just became a solo acoustic rock guy?  What if I didn’t have to care if the bass player has a drug problem or the drummer just broke up with his girlfriend and has thus been rendered homeless?  What if I only had to answer to myself?”  (Years later my good friend & inspiration Hamell On Trial codified those thoughts into his quote/creed: “I played in bands for years but I realized as a solo guy that now we would all show up on time, we’d all be sober, and we’d all agree on the material.”)

It was 1990, the start of a whole new decade, only 10 years left in the 20th century.  MTV Unplugged had just debuted and was really popular.  Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman had hit big with “Luka” and “Fast Car.”  Elliott Murphy had just released 12, his great acoustic-based American-in-Paris double album.  It seemed like the time for a change.   



      © 2012 Ricki C.
 (song © 2000 Ricki C.)

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