I can remember in the years when I was really heavily into being on the road for various gigs, it was important for me to always be aware of really making the most of the experience. This means not only to take in all that the gig itself has to offer, which can be a lot, but also what the town, the travel, the hotel, the Museums etc., all have to offer as well.
To me, being on the road afforded me opportunities I just would never had had otherwise, and to be able to be in those special places at those times were really priceless opportunities. I can recall being with far too many musicians who felt that the road was just a never-ending “grind”, where all the places were the same, and the only excitement was how many girls they could find to party with, how much drinking or other recreational substances they could do, or anything equally typical and destructive. I never really subscribed to that kind of “road” lifestyle, and preferred to “take in” as much as I could possibly see and discover while in any given area. It’s my belief that good people are found everywhere, and the beauty is finding how these folks differ from region to region. This was also one of the reasons I liked doing clinics so much, because a clinic to me, felt like being on the “campaign trail”; Shaking hands, talking to the fans, getting their reactions and questions, and basically creating a memory for them that we all will equally remember. It’s funny, because now so many years later, true to form, I literally have a perfect recollection of all these different experiences, and as I set off to write a book about my life’s journey, all these memories come rushing back in.
I can recall one time when I was playing in Pittsburgh with Phoebe Snow, and how I had to make a journey, in the middle of a blizzard to see a certain painting at the Carnegie Museum that my father had always wanted us to see. On a road trip we as a family took to Chicago in 1960, we went to that same museum o see that painting only to find out it was on loan to Seattle, to which my Dad replied, “which turnpike do we take!?” So this time, I was hell bent on seeing Georges Roulalt’s “Old King” in person. This was a painting we saw all the time as the result of having a reproduction hanging in our house. My Dad, a cartoonist and a painter of incredible ability, had always been influenced by Rouault’s work and longed to see this painting in person. I remember I saw it, reported to my father about it, and was able to make it back to the gig literally 5 minutes before we were to go on!! The gig’s promoter was so impressed that I went and did this “Pittsburgh-only” cultural thing that he said he’d never seen another musician he had play there do such a thing before!
Needless to say, that statement certainly shocked me, because I thought everyone was as interested in their new surroundings as I was! But anyway, to sum up, it’s so important to see the good in everywhere you go….when you are playing music in a new town, you are afforded a glimpse into that place that you otherwise would’ve never had. Be sure to make the most of it, and always “take in” as much as you can! You’ll never know when that memory might come back to pay you a visit!