It was late. The bar was overrun with good-timers who were out past their bedtimes. The night-crowd was dwindling.
Bartenders were ready to go home.
I’d just gotten off work, I stopped by to see the band.
The boys played Merle Haggard’s anthem, “Are the Good Times Really Over.” The young man singing was not yet thirty. He had a dark beard, his eyes were closed, and he was testifying.
The bar fell silent while he sang.
The old man next to me stared into his beer glass at his own reflection. “That boy’s the real deal, ain’t he?” he said.
Ain’t he though.
When he finished singing, he picked up a banjo and nearly tore off the strings. The whole establishment stomped its heels on one and three.
“God, he’s good,” said the man next to me. “That kid is something else.”
I ordered a beer, but forgot to drink it. I was too carried away watching the virtuoso fly through the Great American Songbook.
During a break, I introduced myself. He was standing outside, looking at the stars. I told him how
much I liked his music.
He smiled, but said nothing in return.
So, we stood for a few uncomfortable minutes, silent. I decided I must’ve said the wrong thing—as is often my custom.
Another man joined us. He was staggering, slurring his words. He lit a cigarette. He stood beside us, too.
"Damn son,” he said, slapping the kid's back. “You were fabu-lificent.”
The young man finally answered, “Thanks.” Then, he wandered inside and picked up a mandolin.
Later, the young man switched to guitar. Then electric guitar, then banjo, the list goes on. And I’ll bet if you handed him a Campbell’s soup can and a number-two pencil, he could’ve played Brahms’ Symphony Number 4.
Years later, I saw him again. He was a little older. He was even more accomplished than the…