Looking for Mr. (or Ms.) Right
I am doing my show at Schlotzsky’s Deli when this 20-year-old guy comes in with his lady friend and they sit down and start getting into the music. How that fills my heart with joy, a young person getting off on music performed by some 50-year-old hippie era relic. There they are, young lovers, eyes fixed on my band, mouthing the lyrics to “Teach Your Children” and “California Dreaming.” Impressed with the man’s love of my favorite music, I ask him if he is a musician. It turns out he plays guitar.
Now, it just so happens that my act is looking for a guitarist. That’s not a hard thing to find in Reno—the place is full of pickers. For several years my now retiring guitarist, Mike Healy, had made a good living performing. When awestruck wannabes ask him how he was able to fulfill every musician’s dream, he answered, “I went to work sober, on time and did my job.” The young hopefuls would walk off downhearted.
I ask my young fan if he will leave me his contact information, and his eyes light up. My heart swells with hope as well. Maybe this will be the guitarist I’ve been looking for. The feeling is not unlike when I was single, seeing the pretty girl on the other side of the room, eyes meet, a smile—the prospect that this chance meeting might provide the one destined for me. Oh, the anticipation!
The audition process is a study in frustration. The prevailing stereotype of musicians being flaky may not be too far off the mark. Potential performers who are qualified don’t show up at the appointed time or prefer to stay local, performing the casinos six hours a night. Experienced performers know what the road is like and aren’t interested. Then there are those poor souls whose sensitive creative genius has gone unrecognized and has been crushed—along with their ability to tune their instrument, play chords and sing on key—by the evil, corporate, sell-out star machine.
An audition is also like a date. Initial hopeful anticipation slips into friendly but guarded politeness, which morphs into, “How can I get out of this gracefully?”
I’ve compiled a list of attributes I would like to see in my next sideman (or sidewoman).
LOOKING FOR GUITARIST: 20 years experience. 18-30 years old. Has a passion for ‘60s acoustic rock music. Looks like a hippie, but doesn’t act like one. Sober. Financially stable (independently wealthy). Has steady, well paying job. Shows up to work on time. Will leave job at a moment’s notice to accept a band’s pay scale of next to nothing. Not tied down by job, family, school, or life in general. Free to travel. Owns own equipment. Reliable, upstanding, community-minded citizen who has permission from his parole officer to travel. Serious musician who has worked hard learning the craft. Loves to be silly and have fun in front of people we don’t know. Apply at Schlotzsky’s Deli.
This isn’t too much to ask, is it? By the way, the young prospective sideman can’t join the band. Instead, he will be studying flamenco guitar in Spain. (Sigh)