When I was 14 (or maybe 15; I really can't remember), I saved up money to buy my first guitar. This was hard as I didn't have a job, so I just took the money my parents gave me for school lunch and hid it away (sorry, mom). That first guitar was a Chicago-branded Les Paul clone. It wasn't really what you could call a great guitar. After a few months, the pickups started to fall out, and my brother had to screw them back in with wood screws. Still, I wish I still owned it, but, after I upgraded, my parents made me sell it (out of revenge for using my lunch money, maybe). I thought about looking for one online, but I can't find records of any of them existing.
I practiced a lot and basically learned how to play off of AC/DC and Black Sabbath records. I really wanted to play in a band, but bands kept eluding me. Jacksonville FL had way too many guitar players, and I never got in a situation that survived to getting a show. I was also working a whole lot (a probably illegal 35 hours a week while in school), and I'd often drop the guitar for months on end...and that certainly didn't help me on the band front.
Still, I kept trying right up until I got accepted into doctoral school. I dedicated myself entirely to my studies. Strangely enough, though, this is when my guitar playing started to really improve. In spite of my improvement, I always thought that playing out would just elude me forever. Then one weekend I went to the bar, and when I came out, I was in a band. We practiced, learned enough songs, and then we actually got a gig. At the age of 39, I played my first show.
The first band lasted a couple of years. After they broke up, I joined another band. I got band number three a few years later, and then band two broke up. I started playing in band four (an alt country outfit) about the same time I started doing solo shows. Band three broke up. I got my own band, which then broke up, new lineup, broke up, new lineup, and repeat a few times. Alt country band broke up, but I still kept playing shows.
Lately, though, I'm in a dead zone of shows. I used to do sets for a local booker and was playing about every month for a while. Then they quit booking shows. Then they started booking shows again, and I got one every few months. Then they quit booking me. Then, nine months later, they quit altogether.
Right now, I've had one gig in the last few months, and that was a songwriter showcase that had four people in the audience even though I invited everyone I know. I have absolutely nothing on the books right now, and that is way too familiar of a feeling.
By all rights, I should be panicking about the lack of shows, but if there's one thing I've learned on this voyage, it's that all movement is cyclical. As long as I keep working, something will happen. I'm just trying to keep myself ready.
Earlier this week, I was flipping around YouTube guitar videos, and I caught one about B.B. King taught by Tomo Fujita. I went down to the basement and ran through some of the material, and a lightbulb opened. Suddenly, the guitar just started making more sense. I realized that I've been doing this almost 35 years, and I'm still growing. If that's not motivation to keep going, I don't know what is.
So I'm about to pick up Reverend Guitar number two and get back to practicing. Later this week (after I get some grading done), it's time to turn back to album number three and get those guitars recorded. I am also contemplating other ways to get my music out. So look out for new moves.
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