We were going to call it the “one guy, one guitar, two states, one car, 6 schools, 1,273 kids tour.” But, we settled on “The Pet Snail Tour 2004.” (Catch it quick because it’s moving slooow.)
After wanting to be a touring musician for my entire playing life, I was finally able to realize a dream. I had help from friends and family booking the tour and they’re even still talking to me! Unbelievable.
My gigs in Ohio are always fun because I’ve played there a few times and the kids know me, and I get to have Mike Barrick play bass. We converged on Columbus Sunday night and had a few hours of rehearsal to work out the new material. Which means I play the songs and Mike writes out the chords because he never listened to the tape I sent him months ago. The first shows were hot. Literally. Put two musicians and a bunch of kids in a non-air-conditioned gymnasium and it can get uncomfortable real quick. Some people play stadiums but I prefer the close, intimate settings of a sportsplex. It’s easier to interact with the audience, and you can see which kid is picking his nose. Yes, there’s one in every crowd. Somebody opened the gym doors and we got a breeze for the second show.
At the next school, a nice teacher asked me if I had brought some CDs to sell. I replied positively. She said “Good, because we have orders for 65 all ready.” I’m huge in Ohio!
That afternoon, we had a little girl ask, about half way through our set, when Bill Crosby was going to be here to play.
“Ummm, that would be me…”
We were buzzed from the day’s playing, it’s always great to make music with good friends. I was nearly hoarse from all the singing and talking I’d been doing so it was early to bed and time to shut my yap.
The next day we went to one of Columbus’ premier day care/ nursery schools. OK, we basically set up in a rumpus room. And if you put forty 5 years olds in a room with a guitar you’ll get one request: “Can we dance?” It was about as close to pandemonium as you can get, but I loved the joy and unabashed enthusiasm for the music. After Mike played a jazzy bass solo during one of my new songs, the kids actually applauded for him. I was amazed! These kids weren’t even old enough to know “what to do” at a concert.
Tuesday afternoon: another school, another gym. A few songs into my set, I looked down at a small black child curled up and sleeping. I didn’t take it personal. The “Wedgie song ” was a big hit. I thought some of the more conservative teachers would be offended but the general response was they hear way worse stuff on the radio and TV. Which is why everyone should get Sirius satellite radio (they’re playing my CD on there hint hint ). Drove to Rochester (a six hour trip) for a day off. Then, drove to Albany (a five hour trip). Day off?
I was excited to play in my home state of NY (even though I ‘m huge in Ohio). My sister, Karen was in the audience for one of the first classes I played for, in the gymnasium of course, and she overheard a kid say “This is great camping music!” I guess I don’t really know how to respond to that…
Most of the performances at that school turned into the “can we dance” party. It was only me on the guitar but if you got the rhythm, and I got the rhythm, you keep ’em dancin’ as long as you’re able. I would try to rest between sets, but the second I asked when the next group of kids would be coming in, I could see them parading down the hall. All in a dazed work…
Friday: The last day of the tour. I was glad to hear that the school was very close to my cousin June’s house so I just had to meet her there. Saved me driving around a strange city stressed that I would be lost and late.
June had told me I would be playing one concert for about three hundred kids! That’s an instant adrenaline rush! So, I get to the school and set up in a corner of a cafeteria. I was told to play a few songs for the “morning program”, just a little preview for the big show later that morning. June insisted I wear my new Yankees shirt because one of the teachers was a big Red Sox fan. They introduced me and I played a song or two. I could see June’s daughter, Molly, out in the crowd mouthing the words. She’s a great kid. Then, I was ready to sit down and they said to play another and anotherÉthere’s nothing like a group of three hundred kids shouting and applauding for your music. I wonder if the Beatles started this way?
After the cafeteria emptied, I asked one of the teachers coordinating the event when I would do the big concert, she said “That was it…”
Um, I only played five songs! I, the ARTIST, want to do a big concert!
I was originally scheduled to perform in the outdoor courtyard while the kids were eating lunch. Kind of a meet and greet, informal setting. But, since it was New York, it was raining I would not be playing outside. So, I stayed and played while the kids were eating in the cafeteria. One group of kids would sit down, I’d play a few songs. They would line up to leave and another group would come in and I ‘d play a few songs. I did this for an hour and a half.
The whole time in my mind I’m saying to myself “I’m getting paid very well for this.”
But, it was also work. School lunchtime was over and I packed up my gear and went to lunch with cousin June. I didn’t have to play for that one…
So, I drove back to Rochester Saturday (a five hour trip) spending a few hours with friends and family. Dreading the next day’s trip. So, Sunday, bloodshot and bleary eyed, dodging exhaustion, extreme boredom and even a Louisville tornado, I drove 14 hours back home to Tennessee.
All in all, it was totally great to be playing, getting paid and watching the kids enjoy my songs. Who, as an artist, could ask for anything more? Maybe less driving?
Special thanks to Brenda, Karen and June for all their help. And to all the people who listened.
God bless you!