The kid was playing guitar in a beer joint. He was pretty good, too. He was mid-20s, he had a ponytail, tattoos, and his face looked like someone dipped it in a bucket of hair. He was a big guy, nice-looking. Maybe six-one. His voice had experience in it.
I was in the seating area, watching him work. Nobody else was paying attention. Everyone else was at the bar, lost in their own world. The male patrons were flirting with anything that moved. The female patrons were trying not to move.
The kid was providing background music. He was playing Merle Haggard, and he wasn’t just playing hits. This kid was playing B-side stuff. Such as, “This Time I Really Do,” “The Longer You Wait,” and “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive.”
Then he started playing Willie, Lefty Frizell, Tex Avery, Bob Wills, and Spade Cooley.
Most folks don’t even know who Spade Cooley is.
This kid deserved someone to pay him attention. Might as well be me.
I used to play music for a living.
Just like him. I played music in rooms where people smoked fistfuls of Marlboros and laughed too much.
On my plywood stage was a repurposed Sam’s Club mayonnaise jar labeled: TIPS.
My highest aspiration was to play a song that would inspire someone to leave a $100 bill in my jar.
That only happened one time. I have played thousands of gigs in my lifetime, from Atlanta to Chiefland. But I have only played one gig where a man tipped a hundred bucks.
I was playing “Amazing Grace” in Pensacola, Florida. The man in the audience was weeping. His son had just died in a car wreck on I-10. The man said his son loved “Amazing Grace.”
The man tried to give me a hundred bucks, and I refused. Namely, because he had been overserved. His breath was potent, and you wouldn’t have wanted to light…