The misplaced sound of two hands clapping

I’m working the Opry with a Big Star and when it’s time for me to play the 4-bar turnaround the Big Star points at me and says, “Here’s Cal Sharp on the black Emmons steel guitar!”, and applause ensues, drowning out my 4 bars like a flood engulfing Opry Mills Mall. Nobody hears what I play, and I don’t think they care. This tells me that most country music fans are more into the show and the personalities, the rhinestones and the hats, and that they’re not musically sophisticated enough to tell a steel guitar from a Farfisa organ. There is, though, a small minority of country fans who are fanatic about who played on what record, and will go into more detail than you ever want to know.

Middle-aged housewives listen to Alan Jackson while they’re cleaning the oven in the nude and think about how cute he is and what a lovely smile he flashed that time when they got his autograph at that show in Abilene, but they don’t know who played steel guitar on their favorite Jackson songs, not even on that song about the waitress where Paul Franklin played his ass off.

Jazz fans, OTOH, hold their applause ‘til the soloist is finished, and the next guy will wait a few bars to start his solo. Jazz fans probably don’t ruminate about Charlie Parker’s heroin habit or his untimely death or the rumpled suits he was wont to show up in when they listen to “Billie’s Bounce”. They most likely wonder where all his fantastic ideas came from, and how he could play so goddamn fast using a number 5 reed, although he might have filed it down a little.

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