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Facing The Music

The other day I had lunch with a friend from work. While I usually don't hang out with friends from work because I see them all the time, this occasion was different. It was to say, "so long" to a man I've come to really trust. People like him are rare in my life. I'll really miss this guy.


It made me realize, as I sat there munching on my pulled pork sandwich, how much time has gone by and how much I've witnessed. I don't believe people with stories like mine are rare, I just believe we're missing in action.




When Jon Bonjovi launched out of Red Bank, I was there. I saw Tom Keifer from Cinderella (Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania) play the Satellite Lounge in Somerville. And when Sebastian Bach and Zakk Wylde played weddings. And I was there when Dean Dickerson (Black Eyed Susan), Tommy Conwell (Young Rumblers), and Mike Lecompt (Tangier) nearly made it big with their bands.


My friends, Paul and Jimmy, where good enough guys and had solid talent, but putting something together with our finances and lack of equipment just wasn't happening. Jimmy took up physical therapy, Paul became a teacher. And Paul's girl (whom I'm still friends with) got married and made her own family. I started going to college.


And it was at New Mexico Tech, in Socorro, where I met Rob Lopez and started developing a band with Owen Ford, Rob Long, Jessica Roth and Tracy Depew. Things finally started coming together with Gene Cole, Dan White and Billy Sevadra. I met Carlos and spoke at length about his cover band, The Remedy. Rob's history with ZZTop is amazing one you must hear.


Still, as much as I tried, I couldn't seem to find my way to the next level, especially after my motorcycle wreck in Fort Myers. I couldn't ever seem to find the right guys.


And out of all of this, I especially remember how hard it was for Keifer to keep his band together seeming to switch guitar players and drummers every other weekend. And in the background, there were always guys like me, dying to just have the chance to be on stage.


Even before my bike wreck in Fort Myers, having beers with Paul Chapman (UFO) at the Gator Lounge after work were some of the most rewarding conversations I'd ever had. Paul was encouraging. His girlfriend at the time was from Boston was cute and well read. He showed me how to work a club. He showed me how to make friends with the bartenders and how critical they are to getting gigs and building your audience.


Many people don't know Paul's wife died of a heart attack, and about two years later, Paul died on his birthday. I never met Debby. That's a whole different story.


In truth, I was never a good enough guitar player or a good enough singer. Nor was I smart enough at the time to switch to bass. I think everyone knew that.


But in all musical endeavors, for better or worse experience, I learned one thing: trust is as rare a thing to find. Some band folks worry about loyalty. I don't. Every musician is on their own mission. So, if we can help one another out, great. Even if it's temporary. But being helpful and making long lasting friends only comes after time of being in the foxhole together.


As my friend Rob Lopez once told me, "Guitar is like a burrito. The more stuff you put in there, the better it gets." Knowing this, I still feel that somehow my burrito is half full.


So, when I was talking about all of this stuff with my friend over lunch, I realized I keep half my story to myself. I am one of those guys who makes music with the hope of being successful even as I'm aging. Plus, I'm hooked on engineering with too many cool problems to solve, which I'll never have enough time to get to.


I'm also 14 years behind everyone else who's an engineer at my age. And I'm 30 years 40 years behind everyone's who's working as a musician to make it pay.


It's time I face the music. I'll never be big. I'll never be famous.


What folks never told me? The stories get better as you age. You just don't know it when it's going on. But when you look back, it's been a pretty cool ride. And that makes the songwriting better.


One day, even if I never sell one song, or get on TV, I can still look back and be proud of the work I've done.


Love & Rockets,

Russ





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