The other day I received the following E-Mail from my son:
"August 28, I played a Festival called "The Howl Festival" in alphabet
City. I was told I couldn't bring any musicians cause they didn't
have a PA. When I got there, it was a street fair with what had to be
a thousand people there. That is all I could estimate as far as my
eyes could see. I am sure there were way more people milling around
on a hot city day. I was briefly teaching Blues Harp at Tribal
Sounds, a "World Music" store. They sold instruments, lessons on
instruments from all around the world, international music and bad
attitude. (The bad attitude was free).
When I got to the stage a New Orleans type band, with Trumpets and
Trombones and huge masks absolutely killed the crowd. They were
amazing. The stage tech tells me, "You're next!" I looked at her and
said, "Are you crazy?" At that moment my stomach dropped and many of
these people were saying things at the end of that performance like,
"These Guys Are F#@%ING GREAT!" I said, "GOD! PLEASE? HELP
As I got up on the stage with my Harp and nothing else, I said, "Good
Afternoon!" As I went to draw the first note, as if scripted, a
thunder clap burst and rain fell instantly! They rushed me off the
stage. After 15 minutes I was back on the stage. The crowd had
dwindled to maybe 70 to 100 people, but down the street or to the
right or the left.
I had to fill 20 to 25 minutes. I agreed to this but needed to draw
on some inspiration. I started jamming to an Allman Brother's guitar riff from a famous album of
theirs. I'm pretty sure the remaining people liked it. What started out as a disaster didn't end up so bad.
By the way, your old song "Pete The Parakeet" found it's way into my jamming. I guess Pete still lives."
The experience stands as an interesting experience by its self but when you consider something like that happened to me some 50 years ago it becomes a truly amazing story on many levels.
The New York Times ran a blurb that ASCAP was holding a seminar with performances of new compositions being performed as the ending to the week-long process. Submissions for consideration were being solicited. About 20 minutes were allocated for each accepted submission. Since I was pretty brash at the time and I had a few songs already published, I took my unpublished material, if I remember correctly about ten numbers, and submitted them never really expecting to be accepted. But Lo and behold! My stuff was accepted. I called the number to get the details and found out the performance would take place at the hall around the block from Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall(?), I don't remember. I asked if there were any rules to follow and what was needed by the performers. They told me just show up and be prepared to be the last act on the program. I was advised that nothing special was expected. I contacted my co-author and instructor and convinced them that it was nothing special but perhaps we could get a music publisher interested in our works. So on a rainy Friday night we showed up. I would introduce the piano player and singer and get off the stage and they would do the songs.
For about an hour and a half we stood at the back of the theater and watched one production number after another with seemingly a cast of thousands put on what seemed to be Broadway Musicals. They were all very good and had great production values which caused me much consternation since all we had was a piano player and a singer who wasn't all that great. As it became closer to the time we were to go on I became fearful that we were going to embarrass ourselves. I almost became frozen with fear. The piano player and singer had less fear but they told me that they were counting on me to introduce them as a fitting ending act. With all this putting the fear of God within me I did what I always do when I don't know what the hell to do. I cleared my mind of all thoughts as to what I was going to say in the introduction and prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me so I didn't make a fool of myself and my compatriots. The scenery was being cleared and it became time for us to appear. The emcee introduced us as the closing act reminding the audience they would have a chance to talk to the composers and performers at the conclusion of the program And so we entered the wings in darkness and I walked out alone into the spotlight in front of about five hundred ASCAP music publishers and guests without a thought in my head as to what I was going to say. I took a deep breath and reminded the Holy Spirit I was counting on Him and what followed was something like this:
"We have been entertained by some excellent performers tonight who wanted to present their works in the most perfect light possible. But I want to take you to a calmer time. A time past, but a time we all miss. So I ask you to take a step back in time when new songs were presented in an office that had a piano and the composer would play while a singer would serenade. So please keep your eyes closed and remember while we present our works for you consideration."
The piano player took my cue and he came out with a cigar in his mouth and shirtsleeves rolled up. He played, the singer sang and when it was over a standing ovation. We didn't embarrass ourselves. For the night the introduction inspired by the Holy Spirit saved us. Afterwards the three of us talked with many publishers who liked our works but they felt the time was more for Rock and Roll so nothing but a great experience which I shall never forget, happened.
It would be nice to say the result of these stories were a career as a songwriter for me and a musician for my son, which could still happen, but as of now hasn't! How much more nicer is it to say that two guys, four counting my singer and piano player, were saved from embarrassment because the good Lord decided to listen to their prayers even though the situation was not earth shattering or life changing. How much nicer to remember the times we were helped and not forgotten by a greater power who I am sure had more important things to do on those days some fifty years apart.