A story of escaping the prison of professionalism after finding love inside the music.
Like a coal miner’s son I was born into a trade and a tribe that I would serve, through good times and bad for the rest of my days. They’d bury me with my guitar and my union card.
I had a dinner suit for the bigger clubs and casino shows, blue jeans, black T’s and doc martins for the smaller pubs and seedier clubs, an array of guitars and amps, skills and ‘guitar licks’ enough in the genre’s of jazz, blues, rock and country music to make a decent living. After several hundred club gigs I graduated up into the recording studio brotherhood and, as a professional I was on time, I played my parts proficiently and I got the job done. I continued to rise through the ranks and soon I was performing on network Television.
I had made it and as much as a guitar player can be, I was model professional.
Now and then in the midst of this professional journey I would be foolish and play music for fun… on my own of course, in a room somewhere private… where no one could hear me… and I would fall upon little treasures that I didn’t understand or know what to do with… and so, I would keep them to myself and then go off onto my next professional gig, keep my head down and do my job.
But, like a child reading his first Agatha Christie novel… I could not put ‘the book’ down… or stay away from my closet musings with my guitar and these little noodlings or melodies of childlike lyrics… all of which… was very unlike the professional I was trained to be. For, without realizing it, I was falling in love… with music and these simple little musical ideas and chordal shapes.
I would stumble upon a basic uncomplicated chord progression and begin to imagine a rock pool or a mountain stream and I would sit there and let the peace wash over me. Then I would hear someone walking down the hall towards my hideout and I would hurriedly put my guitar away as if I had been caught doing something naughty.
For I was a professional. Apart from ‘serious’ practicing, I only played when I got paid. I even got paid for rehearsals. (Those were the days)
Friends would ask me over for a party now and then and after the usual salutation of ‘bring whatever you want to drink’ they would usually add ‘oh… and bring your guitar too and play a bit of music for us’. And for a long time, the professional in me would reply with something very cynical and cruel like…
“Oh yeah right… Pete, as you are a plumber, next time you come over to my place for a drink, make sure to bring your tools so you can work on our kitchen… and tell Dan to bring his calculator so he can do my books.”
Being locked in the mind of a professional can be the worst kinds of prisons. And these prisons… well… they are full of other joyless ‘criminals’ who drag one another down into all kinds of sad small minded ways of living.
Many of us have been caught up in these webs of poverty. I am sure good reader, just like me, you have also endured the ‘care’ of doctors and accountants and teachers and landlords and shopkeepers and bank clerks and priests who, while ‘just doing their job’ rarely gave a serious thought or care to your real physical, emotional or spiritual needs.
It is a poor way to live. I know… for as a professional, I lived inside this poverty mindset for too many years myself.
To escape this prison… we must be brave… and garner the strength to jump over the barbed wired fences and make a run for it, hoping above all hopes that the keepers of the keys (the union reps) in the higher towers do not shoot us in the back… and then drag us back to our designated cells.
Often times you have to break away from your very own tribe, escape the ghetto as it were… even for a season… only to return when you are fully healed.
How did I escape… well… I somehow allowed the love inside the music to flow through me long enough to wash all the crap out of my stinking thinking.
At some point I forgot that I was a professional and came out of the closet and started to share my little foolish noodlings, melodies and childlike lyrics with others.
And in this love for the single note, the simple melody, that gentle strum of a chord or two that effortlessly carries my folksy lyrics… I learned to be generous with the gift that was first given to me.
And how freeing and joyful this has been.
I am no longer the professional musician I was trained to be but the curious child I was born to be.
Another affirmation that love just never fails.