News From The Pit

This Old Guitar
By Jimmy Brown

Hello race fans, music lovers, and party animals, in general. It's Derby Time in our beloved town, and for all you musicians out there, it's pretty much the best time of year to be gigging. From late April through the first week of May, opportunities abound. The music horn of plenty is yours. As Keith Richards once said to me, "Go ahead, have some cake." Now, for me personally, most Derby-related gigs have been nothing but good times.

My general philosophy has been to either have fun or get paid well but, ideally, both. With this in mind, I thought about going over some of the do's and don'ts for the festivities. To be on the safe side, I had better just stick to band and guitar-related stuff. Most musicians can do themselves a big favor by ascribing to the Boy Scout motto: "Be Prepared." That is a year round idea that needs special attention at Derby time. Whether you are playing a club gig, high-profile party, concert or whatever, chances are someone is going to want to set in with the band. Now, this could be a good thing, or it could be a not-so-good thing. My feeling is: take advantage of possible once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. You may never get the chance again. Be a positive force, and add something good to the affair.

In the best of worlds, our longtime idols would show up, with their own guitar, sober, and be ready, willing, and able to fit into the groove we got going. Past experience has taught me that this is not always the case, however. So what do you do when so-and-so decides to take the stage - in some varying degree of sanity - and not only wants to play, but wants to play your guitar - while you watch. Well, here in Louisville, known for its warm and friendly folks, musicians included, we try to accommodate. If you really do not want someone - famous or not so famous - playing your beloved vintage, or new, for that matter, guitar and cranking your amp up to `ten,' then this is perhaps a good time to bring a spare guitar/amp along. Besides, with an extra in tow, you don't have to give up your spot on the bandstand.

I mainly want my guitar to play well, sound good and stay in tune. Though I do play a bona fide vintage guitar most of the time, these three `musts' have to be in order for me to use it. Since it is a fairly rugged electric bass with plenty of wear and tear, I don't have to worry about it so much. I guess it's sort of the Man O' War of electric basses. I would not want to bring along something that I do not want somebody else using. Also, how embarrassing it can be to have someone - a celebrity in particular - come up to play your guitar and have it mess up on them! Or, how upsetting it could be to have someone use your stuff and tear it up.

I once loaned a friend a sunburst 1964 Fender Stratocaster. He in turn let one of his fellow bandmates use the guitar. When I got it back, it had a place the size of your wallet on the back wear all the finish had been scratched off by the person's belt buckle. Ouch! I do not think my friend was aware of what happened, and I never mentioned it. I just chalked it up to experience. Now, if you already know that people will be setting in on your gig, you are one step ahead. For most of us playing just a regular gig, chances are it will be just that: a regular gig. Nonetheless, whether it's the Governor's mansion or the juke joint, the Louisville Palace or the Pegasus Parade, be prepared. You just never know. Derby time is just once a year. Make the most of it. It is our chance to not only show off our town, but also showcase all the great musicians this town has to offer.

And may all your gigs be a winner.

Until next time,

Keep Rockin'