Up and Back In The Game

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Six weeks have passed since my last writing regarding a case of being “down but not out.” At that time, I shared my feelings and “actions” following emergency back surgery, which resulted in the need to cancel, not just several dates, but an entire extended tour at the last minute. And I thought this was something that just happened to superstars on the road as they collapse from exhaustion after one too many dance numbers!

I am elated, relieved, and humbled that many of the promoters on the receiving end of my forced cancellations have already re-booked me. I believe this really underscores the importance of building a good, solid, and (mostly) reliable reputation as you develop your career. In other words, it never hurts to make real friends along the way. I realize there are many artists who are in and out. It’s just a job to them. There is little communication with the event promoter beyond a standard business deal. More power to the folks who conduct themselves that way, which, of course, is perfectly fine. For me, personally, I get a kick out of getting to know folks on the road and making genuine friends. As a solo artist, it’s healthy to socialize. It’s also nice knowing I can just say goodbye and not have to smell them in a van!

Aside from the importance of socialization on the road, the other point I’d like to make is in regards to proper recovery from surgery. When the doctors say, “don’t lift anything over 10 pounds for 3 months” believe them. It is so tempting to say after six weeks, “Hey, I feel fine, let me help you with that sub-woofer.” I have heard numerous horror stories about folks who just simply didn’t pay attention to this crucial detail of patience and awareness. It is so easy to slip up (literally, as my walking cane did on the ice in Michigan last week) and twist, turn, boogie, or flash dance your way right back into surgery with a doctor frowning on you as he hovers over you with a chainsaw.

The responsibility involved in healing extends further than you may think. The affected include the individuals who took care of you (or will have to AGAIN), along with the promoters whose compassion may begin to dwindle if word gets out that you did something stupid like walk off the stage after an encore without your cane and with a 12-string over your head. (Yeah, I did that one recently, not remembering my leg and back brace, and in the panic of an UH OH moment almost used my guitar as a cane as I took that first step off the stage.)

One thing I will say about walking out onto the stage with a cane instead of a guitar is you can sense the instant sympathy and many times feel empathy. Seems like there might be that extra bit of added “pity” applause, which, of course, I continually soaked up like sponge— at least until that stage exit with my guitar overhead and a paranoid feeling of some audience members shrieking in their minds “Hey, This guy is fakin’”!!!

Another point I’d like to make regarding both recovery and stage presence is the importance of not being embarrassed to walk out, dress up, suit up, or do whatever is required to avoid re-injury. For myself I have to wear a leg brace, back brace and enter and exit with a walking cane. I also have to adjust my sitting position while playing, using a chair with a footstool instead of a bar stool, and avoiding the usual internal “boogie” while playing my tunes. I do not want to inadvertently flinch one of my vertebrae or discs up to my Adam’s apple while nailing—with forte—a flatted third complete with facial expression.

In particular, if you would ask my opinion, since three operations in two years probably qualifies me as a minor expert, I would say without a doubt: Pay attention, be humble, and be grateful for the support you receive. Listen to the advice of your doctors, be resourceful on all fronts and, if all goes well when you were down and out, you’ll recover and be UP and BACK IN playing those gigs before you know it. Just don’t expect surprise packages of chocolate on those re-injuries from not paying attention!