It’s a very difficult thing to deal with when a longtime band member leaves, and there never seems to be a convenient or proper time for this to happen. (That is provided you want them to stay!) It is especially hard when you have to deal with someone who played many different parts in the course of a show, and who you rely heavily upon for support. It’s not an impossibility to find a replacement, but I suppose the most important thing is to be open to new people, who play differently. A lot of people make the mistake of trying to exactly fill the shoes of the person who’s leaving, which of course, we know is impossible. So instead, it’s far better to keep open ears to new people, and to what they can bring to the table musically!
I can remember in my early days of auditioning, how sometimes a group would already have a certain player in mind, or who they already accepted, and then I’d walk in, blow them totally away, and then they’d have to deal with the new circumstances! I can recall this happening with BILLY JOEL when he was first ready to come out with “The Stranger”, the album that really broke everything wide open for him. I played, and they were all incredibly impressed, and I remember him taking the whole band aside and whispering “what are we gonna do now, this guy’s really good!?” Well, as it turned out, they offered me the gig anyway, passed over their first choice, but then were turned down by me since I realized there were no guitar solos in the show, the guitar player was always the “odd man out” socially in that band, and most of all, I had a better offer from Art Garfunkel! Still it was a very nice compliment how they felt about me, and that Billy was willing to shift and change their plans simply based on the fact that they never expected someone like me to walk through that rehearsal studio door!
That taught me a great lesson, and even though I love to mentor players into my band, and have guitarists who can really do “what it say”, I still want players who I can trust, and who can really deliver their own “goods” and input into the sound of the band!
So if you ever find yourself in this kind of situation, be sure to keep an open mind to new players. Let each one who tries out for your musical venture really try to put their own best foot forward before you make any hasty judgments, or before you try too quickly to make them fit into the mold of what you think they should be or play like!