Thirty plus years ago I was playing my first bass. A Kramer V bass with the fork headstock. The thing weighed a ton and it was very top heavy. At the time though this was my favorite thing on the planet. I played it for 2 years and made it from learning AC/DC songs to venturing into Rush. My goal at the time was to be as much like Chris Squire as I could and everything I did was to make it to that level.
I was lucky enough to stumble onto a Rickenbacker for sale that my "musical life partner" Tom heard about. Working as a dishwasher I’d been saving my money for a Rickenbacker but was a long way off, so a used one in the wrong color would be ok!
I showed up at the guy’s house. He had a hot mom, an indoor pool and his bedroom was bigger than some apartments. Amongst all this eye candy, sitting on his bed in its case was the Rickenbacker I’d been longing for and in the right color! No haggling on my part at all. $400.00 and home I went.
The feeling this Rickenbacker gave me was like the first time I played that Kramer. The difference with the Rickenbacker however is the magical feeling never wore off. I played it hard for 32 years and finally it died.
From the time I got the Rickenbacker until now I’ve probably owned about 70 basses (give or take). I loved and continue to love many of those basses but I Never could get that feeling I had with the Rickenbacker.
So where is this leading?
When I left Betty Bleu Band in early 2015, it was probably the most lost I’d ever felt as a musician. I tried forming a lot of projects in a wide variety of genres, including but not limited to, folk, country, blues, alternative, rock and amalgamations of any of those. None of them ever got off the ground. Maybe it was my lack of focus that scared people away? Some of them I just backed out of knowing I would lose enjoyment quickly. I was made offers to do cover bands, tribute bands and even a party band. I said no to all.
The odd thing about this period is I began listening to Hip-Hop more extensively. I love the Death Row stuff. Wow! I listened to it every day and marveled at the powerful bass lines, rhythms, and precise and very well annunciated vocals. It was like listening to new music, as I never really dove in head first like this. There seemed to be magic with music again. Magic I hadn’t felt in decades; something new to extricate inspiration from.
Then out of nowhere I get an offer to come jam at this guy’s house. No pressure, just come jam and improv with some other guys. It was awesome! The first joy I had playing in almost a year. One thing led to another very quickly and Pete and I figured we should make a band and that’s what we’ve been doing. I can’t tell you the thrill of hooking up with a musician who thinks like I do as much as I think like he does.
Back in early January of 2016 Michael sold me a Fernandes 5 string fretless. I really needed and wanted that damn B string on a fretless. I installed some awesome EMGs and put on some DR Flatwounds. I’d never used DRs before. They felt terrible when I pulled them out of the package, like they were going to fight me when I wanted to slide. Boy was I wrong about those. Somehow all this came together and truth be told, other than cleanings, I haven’t picked up my other basses since I began playing this one. It just feels so good in my hands and the bond I’ve grown with this will be with me the rest of my life.
With this band and this bass I feel I’ve been let off of my leash. There are no rules for me to follow. I’ve reinvented myself as a player but I haven’t lost any of my old self, I’ve just added a couple new layers. I guess that’s what we do as musicians but somewhere along the 15-year cover band trail I forgot about that. I realize that my “being lost as a musician” is not a calamity or something horrible people have to live through. If that was the worst of my problems, life would be just fine. However the old adage, “It’s always darkest before the dawn” really held true here. I went from a completely lost, unhappy and uninspired musician to an engrossed, delighted and motivated one. In a two month span I had a whole new pallet of music to listen to, a new bass to fall in love with and a fresh new band to put all of that creativeness into.
I can't wait to get out to Dell Rhea's in February. We finally have some time to get our show to the level we want it to be. We had a whirlwind beginning to our band by playing with Jim Kahr and followed that up by supporting Chicago's own Dirty Dan and the Kool Rockin Daddies. We decided to take a little time off to get our set's tightened up and zone in on the song and style that suits us best. This will be our first show out of the gates and we'll keep on running after that. Dell Rhea's is a fantastic place to play. Great food, great bar, great service and on February 15th, Betty Bleu with a special Valentine show. x0x