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Arlen Roth on Gigs for Friends and Family

05.01.2013
Arlen and Lexie Roth

Sometimes we all end up doing some gigs that we may not necessarily really want to do, but we end up with a sense of “having” to do it! This occurs very often when friends or family ask us to do them certain gigs as “favors.” It is amazing how these gigs can come about, and sometimes for me there have been some really funny circumstances!
 
A very commonplace one for me is to be at a wedding or some kind of family event, and when there is a band or even an orchestra, everybody asks me to get up and play. This can often be rewarding and tons of fun, especially with the interaction with the band, and can sometimes be a total disaster! There was even one time at a cousin’s wedding when the band actually would not let ME play their guitar! That was certainly just about the most obnoxious group of people I have ever encountered, and it almost created a riot, where my family was ready to literally storm the stage, and demand that they let me play!!
 
Other times have been beyond amazing, like the time when I was asked to come up and play with a large band for a friend’s 50th birthday celebration, and I called out Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher”. Not only did I discover that the killer horn section knew the horn solo from that song, but all of a sudden, I had three soul sisters backing me up on vocals!! I couldn’t believe it, it was like being in gig heaven, and I felt like I never even had to turn around once to even give any cues to the band! What an experience that was!
 
There can also be very fun ones where I play solo acoustic or electric, and it’s low-key and laid back. At those sorts of gatherings I get to do a lot of mingling, have some nice meals and generally feel like I am part of the overall feeling of the event. On this next Sunday I am doing this for a friend and his new bride, and they want certain things like me playing “Here Comes the Sun” when they walk down the aisle, etc. I even have done it for Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen’s wedding, with President Bill Clinton and many other luminaries in attendance, and the President’s appreciation of the music was incredible! Of course, I was playing with James Taylor and his sister Kate, which also didn’t hurt!
 
So keep yourself “open-minded” when it comes to gigs such as these because you just never really know how they will turn out. The main thing is that if you are truly “commited” to the gig, make sure you go with the flow and don’t be defiant about what the folks really want you to do. That can sometimes be my tendency as an “artist” who doesn’t necessarily do these kinds of gigs, but we can find it extremely rewarding, fun, and often an experience that stays with us forever! It can lead more work too!
 
Gibson.com’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.

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