The Cold Hard Fact

A newbie steel guitar player who was feeling discouraged asked me if I’d ever felt like I was never gonna get it, never gonna learn to really play this fucking thing. I said hell no, I just holed up in the bedroom practicing for 6 months and then went out and started playing gigs. Never a moment of doubt.

Which was contrary to my original plan. When I bought my first steel guitar at the rather advanced age of 22 I figured I’d just fuck around with it for a few years and then maybe get a weekend gig with some local band at a VFW or something. I had no intention of being a professional musician. But once I started playing it I realized that I was progressing a little faster than I’d prognosticated

But after 20 years of playing full time, professionally, the doubts began to set in, and I thought, WTF, is the best I’m ever going to play? That’s when I realized that, nope, I’m never really going to learn how to play this fucking thing. I’m sure a lot of musicians have undergone a similar epiphany at some point, realizing their limitations, so I didn’t feel especially alone or like a failure. Just reality setting in.

So, almost 20 years from that point I’m still playing the best I can, and having fun doing it, and I’ve inured myself to the Cold Hard Fact that I’ll never play the way I want to, or be able to play all the the things I hear in my head.

Is there any hope, some lingering shred of optimism? Well, Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice the cello 3 hours a day at the age of 93, and he said he thought he was seeing some improvement.

The ugliest place I’ve ever played

The Bon Aqua Hoedown in Bon Aqua, TN. The whole place is lit by two ugly fluorescent lights over the snack bar and two bare light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling above the bandstand. Notices and warnings on the walls are done in stick-on letters or hand-printed, odd these days when these things are usually printed in 24-point Times New Roman from a computer. They’re not real big on ambiance; the theme is post-modern redneck. In this building you get the feeling you’re in a shop or a warehouse, not a dance club.


Back in the old days before digital photography Charlie Pride had a steel player who would gladly offer to take a fan’s picture with Charlie with their camera. When they got the prints back from the drug store they found that all their heads were cut off. Well, hell, if you can’t have fun, why do it?

We don’t do requests

I was working a big package show in Oregon with Faron Young, and we followed Marvin Rainwater. Faron was smashed. You can’t get drunk on wine, he often said. Well, that’s one opinion. He’d been backstage partaking of the grape with Willie’s guitar player. He stumbled around the stage for awhile singing excerpts of some of his songs and acting entirely too exuberant. He kept asking the crowd what they wanted to hear and finally somebody yelled “Marvin Rainwater!”