My parents were very religious and did not allow any other music in the house besides Gospel. As soon as I was old enough, I joined the Army to “see the world”. Well, I landed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and there I would stay for my entire hitch of 4 years, driving trucks for the Special Forces.
My barracks roommate was from Texas, and his collection of cassette tapes was like a gold mine to me. All of these people I had never heard of, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, were right there in front of me now, and I was soaking it all up. It was 1986, and all of these people were new to me.
While at a record store off-post in Fayetteville, NC, I saw a flyer for Chuck Rhodes and The Heaters, a Blues Band, and they were playing that very night. I rounded up a few of my Army buddies, and we headed down to Lib’s Place, a very small club on the main strip of Fayetteville.
The lady at the door, Dot, was not going to let us in, because Lib’s was a private club. Disappointed, I started to walk out when I heard a loud voice say, “I’ll sign them in!” It was Chuck Rhodes himself, calling out from the stage.
We paid our $2, and went to the bar to get a beer. I sat at the first table right in front of the stage, and thanked Chuck for getting us in. After talking for a bit, it turned out he was in our same Army unit at Fort Bragg, and a Special Forces soldier to boot.
The band started to fire up for the night, and I had never, ever, heard the blues in a live setting before. A 3 piece band, they kicked off with a shuffle, and I never left that seat all night long. I never even finished my first beer. I was hypnotized by a Stratocaster, a P bass, and a shuffling ride cymbal. I literally could not move out of my seat. I had to see, and hear, what was next. It was like watching a magician doing his tricks right in front of you, and still not being able to figure out how he was doing it. [pullquote]I will never forget that night, and the kindness of a blues-man from the stage, signing in 3 strangers to that little private club.[/pullquote]
Chuck found out that I played guitar and invited me to sit in with his band the next time I came to the club. Well, I didn’t know any blues, but I spent about 3 weeks trying to learn Red House good enough to play with my new hero, Chuck Rhodes. He kept his promise, and I sat in with him many times after that. From then on, I considered myself a blues guitar player, and listened to everything I could get my hands on. Jimmy Vaughan, Anson Funderburg, Ronnie Earl, Buddy Guy, and Eric Clapton were always playing in my barracks room.
While in the Army, I entered a “Blues Guitar” contest sponsored by Guitar Player magazine, and Buddy Guy was one of the judges. I was fortunate to win one of the several “3rd places”, a blue Marshall jacket that I wore with pride.
After the Army I went to see Buddy Guy play at the Blue Note in Columbia, MO. It was a show I will never forget, Buddy went out and played in the street! Afterwards we took Buddy to the local Dennys and I got to sit next to him and try to eat my breakfast, but could only drink my coffee. [pullquote]I was sitting next to Buddy Guy! [/pullquote]I finally worked up the nerve to ask him to sign a show flyer for me, and he did, and I told him about that Blues Guitar contest I had won 3rd place in, and he was gracious enough to say that he remembered listening to my tape. I know he probably didn’t remember it, but he wasn’t going to let me down. He even invited me to Chicago to the Blues Jam at Legends.
I finally made it to Legends a few years ago, playing guitar with Kent Burnside’s band. Buddy was there, and the place was packed. Otis Taylor was sitting on the side of the stage smiling at me, and Buddy even stuck his head around the corner when I was playing a lead. I broke a string, but kept on playing. It was the best night of my life. I am still playing guitar, and now teaching about 40 guitar students a week in my shop. I sneak the blues in on them when I can, and I tell them that they have to feel the blues, not just play the riffs.
I have lived the blues, and have been paying my rent as a guitar player and musician for a long time now. All because of one night at Lib’s Place, and a kind hearted blues guitar player.
Thanks for the chance to share my story. We love you Buddy, and thank you for keeping the blues alive, and for being so kind to me. Every once in a while, I try to get away from the blues, but you can’t. It’s inside of me, and it is here to stay. Long live the Blues.