I can recall the incredible moxie and belief in myself I had early on, in the days when I really needed to get out there and be heard. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be in Woodstock, for example, and to jump onstage with the likes of Paul Butterfield, The Band, John Sebastian and other musical luminaries, and to proceed to blow the house down! Getting out there and really being heard in the right situations is key to success, I believe. Far too many great players have wasted their talent by sitting at home, and just wishing something would happen. The truth is…YOU have to make it happen, and it is only YOUR belief in yourself that can truly spur you on to greater things.
Certainly, you’ll never know where that “big break” may come from, but I know that for me it was being heard by as many people at the right time, and at an early age. It’s a great feeling when that phone starts to ring, and folks want you to record with them and to perform with them as well. It opens up new doors every time, and of course, one good thing always leads to another. I remember that first record date I got called on to do, when I had just torn my ankle horribly in a playground basketball game. There was just no way I was going to miss that session! Harvey Brooks was playing bass, and there were many other luminaries on the session who made it seem even that much more of an important gig. The producer, John Simon, whose name I knew from producing The Band’s first 2 albums, had heard me and played with me at the Joyous Lake restaurant in Woodstock, NY, on a night when many of us all were sitting in and playing together. Sure enough, I had made enough of an impression upon him that he decided to call me totally “out of the blue” for this recording session, and I was not going to disappoint, regardless of how much pain I was in. So what if the other players had to carry me from chair to chair, or to even have to help me get out of the bathroom! All of the embarrassment was certainly worth it in the end, and it was the kind of session that definitely led to more. It was also exciting for me to know that I was filling in for Cornell Dupree, the wonderful R&B guitarist who I knew from the King Curtis records I had, and who later became friends with me, and who did a video for me at Hot Licks.
So as you can see, it is all connected, and you must really make a point of getting “out there” and really being heard in the most advantageous situations possible. It’s really quality rather than quantity of gigs that makes the difference, and anyway, you know that “quantity” will come soon enough….often the kind of “quantity” we don’t necessarily want, but still must do to be a true working musician. You never know which gig will be the one, so of course, that means you really can’t afford to turn any gigs down, not yet anyway! Here’s to your success!