Eight days on the road with a group and of course, the inevitable occurs. Sickness. While some bands deal with other issues such as personality conflicts, financial woes or a broken down vehicle, this year’s experience was a confirmation that three good road dogs – Tim May, Gretchen-Priest May, and me – were able to accommodate each other in a professional manner, which also allowed our friendship to remain intact.

There is almost no way to play for a few thousands children in sub-freezing temperatures at high altitudes, as we recently did for a week in Rock Springs, Wyoming, without one of us inviting a nasal nasty or looking for a lung transfusion.

On this particular trip Tim volunteered to become the infected (for all you zombie lovers out there). Suddenly, as Tim would put it, “We’ve got a zombie problem.” As I watched Tim demonstrate a will tougher than woodpecker lips, staying in the game until the bitter end while playing his heart out, beads of sweat pouring off his forehead, I knew I would never again be able to wuss- out during a tour for whatever reason. Of course, even Brett Favre had to end his streak, as was finally the case with Tim, bowing out of our last engagement, a Sunday morning church service. Gretchen and I easily handled the event as Gretchen’s enthusiastic guidance led me by the musical hand through the morning’s performance.

Modifying tempos on the fly with just a look of anticipation from Gretchen or a quick simple whisper from her (“ Key of F!”) was all I needed as we periodically adjusted to a slightly new format in Tim’s absence. Understanding music theory at the most basic level came in handy for our Key of F situation. I quickly slapped on my Shubb Capo at the 5th fret of my guitar, which allowed me to still think in the Key of C, something that I had planned for this particular tune because the congregation might launch into somewhat spontaneously singing – which they did!

Adapting, improvising, and overcoming obstacles are parts of the never-ending life of a road musician. As a solo artist I am grateful that these two seasoned musicians joined me on my yearly Wyoming tour. I realize how fortunate I am to have avoided the rigors and growing pains of start-up bands. Once again I have skipped that part and have landed in the midst of another group of professional road dogs.

Photograph taken by Steven Goodman
© Taras Oceanographic Foundation

 

Originally posted 2010-12-28 02:36:12.