I have to apologize because this has to be the single longest piece of writing that I’ve done since my novel was shelved in ’96!
I just wanted to check in and say that I am still on vacation until May.
I went back to my day job, but I am still on vacation from teaching and making videos. Poor Amber is having knee surgery tomorrow so I am going to take off the next week or so to stay with her and help her get around.
I am not giving up because I have a lot of fun creating the videos. I usually make them at break-neck speed so that I have enough time to process and upload them. I am often asked, why I do these videos and the answer is really, really simple: PASSION!
You have to have passion if you want to be successful at anything. If you want to be a good banjo player, you have to have passion to achieve that goal. If you have a thimble full of talent and a bucket full of passion, you will be become what you want to be. Passion is the key to success with anything that you do in life. If you have passion you will push yourself to higher levels of achievement because it has become part of you. With passion, you won’t sit around and wait for the skill or ability to come to you, you will go out, grab it with both hands and beat it into submission.
There were two times in my life when passion led me to something better.
The first was playing Irish Pub Music in as many places as possible and the second was learning to play the banjo the way that I wanted to play the banjo. I was never really inspired to play like any other banjo player because I was inspired by the Irish bouzouki playing of Terry Murphy from Detroit, MI. I couldn’t stand playing the guitar and I really didn’t want to play the Irish bouzouki, but I thought that the banjo would be cool.
I have so much passion for these things that I’ve kept every email I have ever written or received since 1998 on performing and playing the banjo. Sandy tells me that I should just publish them as a book, but I don’t think there would be too much of market for that sort of thing. I am just glad that they are there and every once in a while, they inspire me to do something.
For over 10 years, I traveled the highways and byways of this country dragging a group of fun musicians with me to every Irish Pub we could find. I did everything that I wanted to do with Another Pint, because I had passion. I loved performing and I would do just about anything to make it happen. If a venue wanted me to be a guest on a local radio show, I made sure that I was either in the radio studio or on the phone with the host to plug the show. If I was asked to stay after the show and schmooze with the patrons to make them feel like they got their money’s worth, I did it. I would stay even if I had an eight hour drive home after the show. I traveled everywhere and anywhere, because I had a passion for it. I always wanted to go further, see different people, play somewhere new, mix it up with different musicians. I had a passion for the performance that made me a better performer and made me go not just the extra mile, but the extra time zone and region. I loved it because it was who and what I was; a traveling musician. There were many times that I turned down a regular local gig to travel somewhere new. I wanted to go somewhere else and experience that first night in front of a strange crowd as much as I could.
There were some places that I loved going back to again and again. Why? Because they had passion! They loved the music and knew what they wanted to hear and what they wanted the band to play. They knew the songs, the stories behind the songs and every version of the song that had been recorded. You could see it in their eyes, they weren’t just in the pub for a smoke and few pints. They were there because they wanted to hear the songs and sing along.
I’ve held off telling this story for years, because I didn’t want anyone that was involved in the venue to feel bad. The guys in the band call this episode the “Mick Foley Promo Night.” We had been playing in a particular pub for a long, long time and over the course of six months, the crowd started to dwindle. There was a new bar in town, just down the street that had loud music, cheap beer and waitresses wearing short skirts. They were killing this pub and you could see the writing on the wall.
The parking lot at the pub had more open parking spaces every time we went back and the other place had two overflow lots full of cars. It was just a matter of time before this pub went belly up. It was a long, long drive for me to get there. I would work a full day at work and then drive four hours to get to this place, but it was worth it because the patrons who were there, got it. They knew what kind of entertainment they wanted and they came every month to see us no matter what. I had performed the night before and went straight to work without more than a couple hours sleep and then drove all the way to this pub. When we walked in, the place was only half full. I knew the names of each and every one of the patrons. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just finished reading some of “Have A Nice Day” by Mick Foley. I had read the book before and once a year or so, I would re-read it because his passion for his business was something that I could relate to. He would travel as far has humanly possible to get beaten up and make $25 or $30 because he had passion for what he did. I felt the same way. There were so many times that once I figured out hour many hours I spent performing and driving, I was under minimum wage.
I’m no Mick Foley, but, by God, I had passion too. As we were performing our first set, I kept looking out at the audience and saw that they were all singing along. But seeing all of those empty seats really started to bug me. The manager seemed happy as he told us that we brought in more people than the other bands, but I knew that there was no way they could keep paying us for what we were doing. I figured that it was our last night in this place and all of the passion that was inside of me for performing, came to the surface. Just before our last song of the set, I couldn’t contain my feelings any longer and gave the “Mick Foley Promo.”
I don’t like to brag and don’t have time for those that do, but I am very proud of my one and only “promo”. I have to say that as life-long wrestling fan, I can see how doing something like this and getting it right, could be very addictive. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I was possessed by the spirit of Mick Foley.
I remember it almost word for word, because I wrote it down at the behest of our fiddle player at the time. I have redacted the name of the venue, but everything else is here:
“You know folks, I am standing up here and I can’t help but be moved by what I see. When we started playing here a couple of years ago, this place was filled to capacity. There was a line out the door just to get in here. It was one of the loudest pubs I have ever been in during my entire life. Even with these monitors pointed directly at us, we could barely hear ourselves play.
I noticed then, that out of that sea of humanity that there were some that were here to listen to the songs. While the pub filled up with endless chatter there were those that moved closer to the stage so they could hear. There were some that begged us not to stop playing because they were enjoying what we did. They laughed at my jokes and learned the names of everyone in the band, bought us drinks and sat with us between sets to get to know us better.
I saw people with passion! People with a real passion to find the one place in this town that played the music you loved. And you came every time we were here. It didn’t matter to you what was going on down the street, you were here because you wanted to be. I see that passion today and I am damn glad to be here!
Some of you have asked me before, “Why do come so far to play here?” My answer has always been the same, I have a passion for it. It was that passion that got me to find these great musicians that are here with me today. It was that passion that had me put over a hundred thousand miles on my car in less than a year driving to shows all over the Midwest! It was that passion that brings me up here on this stage to sing this music for you! It was that passion that had me go bankrupt to continue doing what I do! It is that passion that will have me still singing these old songs when everyone else has moved on to rock and roll! It is that passion that will be marked on my tombstone, “He played what he loved!” when I am dead and buried! It is that passion that brings me here tonight to be here with you and, by God, it is that passion that will make me come back to see you all again! And I swear that it is that passion that will make me never quit!”
I signaled the band to go into the last song of the set and as they played they stared at me but I was too wound up to really notice it. I looked out into the crowd and they were giving a standing ovation and a couple of them had tears in their eyes. I really didn’t know what to think, as I was still riding on the adrenaline from my little speech. As soon as the last song was done, I bolted through the side door and sat down outside. The guys in the band weren’t too far behind me and I remember The Colonel laughing at me and saying “What was that?” I told him that something just pushed the right buttons and I knew I had to say something, but I didn’t know what I was saying as I said it. I just remember the guys in the band saying “That was awesome!” and patting me on the back. I told them that I thought I had channeled an old Mick Foley promo before his retirement and we all laughed together.
At that point the manager of the pub came outside and told me that he had never heard anything like that before. He promised me that we would continue to perform there every month until they closed their doors. We did!
Shortly after the pub closed, I started teaching the banjo and the passion that I had for performance started to transfer over to teaching.
First I did it face to face and then after being dragged into uploading videos on YouTube, I made the next step. Now I use that same passion for performing and put it into teaching and playing in people homes for private parties. I am very happy and spend more time at home. The only problem is that every once in a while, I look at my car and think, I know a new place only 6 hours away that would be a fun place to play……
I’m sorry folks that I didn’t give any notice, but I’ve been busy trying to catch up on some last minute things. I am on vacation for the next couple of weeks. I am not sure if I’ll be checking in or not because I’m planning on relaxing and drinking a lot of good, cold beer. If the mood strikes me, I may put up a video or two next week. I am taking the cameras with me, just in case!
I’ll see you all later in April!