My first gig was at an all-you-can-eat crab leg joint, in Florida, where I’m from. I was a boy. This was shortly after the close of the Civil War.
I owned a guitar, but that was as far as my musical talent went. Even so, my uncle asked me to play my little guitar alongside him at a joint where he played on Mondays.
So one night, he drove me to the seafood joint on the beach. We rode in his beat-up Ford Ranger, with its three mismatched tires, missing windshield, no passenger door, and a little hula girl on the dashboard who was missing her grass skirt. And her coconuts.
We pulled up. This place was an authentic Florida dive bar. The real thing, such as you cannot find in Florida anymore. They served seafood, yes. But they also served beer. They even had an authentic malfunctioning neon sign which read “COLD EER.”
My mother would have killed me if she’d known I was here. And I am not speaking figuratively, but worse.
Metaphorically. She would have brained me with a 1611 King James Bible and buried me in my christening gown.
My uncle shut off the truck. “Welcome to heaven,” he said.
“This is where we’re playing?”
I asked my uncle what kinds of songs we were going to play.
He slapped my back and said, “The kind that earn tips.” The he smiled. “Watch and learn, son.”
It was your basic Florida seafood joint. Sandy parking lot. Big deck, constructed of rotting wood and rusted tetanus nails. Waitresses stood outside, puffing Virginia Slims. The dumpster smelled bad enough to affect the weather.
My uncle sidled up to the bar and ordered a “cold eer.” I ordered a chocolate milk.
Then, my uncle plugged in his guitar to the PA system, sat on a stool, and announced, grandly, to the joint that his nephew would be…