Music has always been a big part of my life. Most of my father’s family were and many are still involved in music. Our family has deep roots grounded around gospel music. From my years as a child, me and my cousins would pretend to be band while playing and singing along with records. Later at the age 15, I began singing with the same cousins in a gospel quartet along with my Uncle Mitchell. The was the start of playing and singing with various bands for nearly 3 decades.
Prior to taking my work assignment in Germany, my last band in the Detroit area was quite successful. But as bands do, we broke up around the year 2000. After performing part-time for over 25 years, traveling and having the opportunity to play in front of thousands of people and most importantly making great memories; the realities of life (family and work commitments) were such, I thought it was time for me to stop playing. It was also my impression that no one wanted to see a gray-haired aging man playing music. Hence, I sold my guitars and miscellaneous equipment and assumed my playing days were over.
For a short time prior to coming to Germany, I managed and produced a band of young musicians and had a great time in sharing my experience and knowledge of the music scene with them. They actually became quite successful on the local music circuit (perhaps another story for the future). So, other than that project and hitting karaoke night from time to time, I had all but stepped away from music.
When I came to Germany, I started to call in on local Jam sessions in town and over time thought I would give it a go on some open mic nights. I must be honest, it was not good, too many years of not singing had taken its toll on my voice and often I was singing songs I barely knew. The town that I live in has an amazing music community with many very talented musicians, ranging in styles (blues, jazz, tango and rock).
It was approximately 3 years to this day that I received a message from a local musician I met (Stephan, lead guitar in my current band) that his band would be interested in me joining them. I was very honored, as I knew my vocals needed some work and I actually said jokingly to friends that because many of the blues/rock bands in Germany mostly perform their songs in English, they simply needed a guy who could sing in English without an German accent. Now that I think about it, that might still be true. ☺ I have heard some very “interesting” renditions of “Sweet Home Alabama” here in Bavaria.
Now some 3 years later, the band I joined has grown into something I am very proud and pleased to be a part. My band mates are all generally the same age, all with a similar back story and combined have over 100 years of performing experience. Gosh, that is frightening. Over the past years we all have grown into more than friends to more of a musical family and are talents have grown with our relationships. Last year we played over 20 shows in the local area.
I am so thankful for the Stephan contacting me and these guys allowing me to be a part of their band. It just goes to show you, that no one should ever give up or walk away from their passion in life. In the U.S.A. we often call part-time musicians “weekend warriors”, these types of musicians are sharing their music mostly because they love it. Trust me it is not about the pay; in Germany the concept is to pass the hat (like the offering bucket at church) and most venues typically do not pay band for performances, it just not affordable to the small local business owners. The money we often receive does not cover one’s new guitar strings and the batteries required to power some of your equipment.
My personal reward, in addition to having a hobby that takes me away from the daily pressures of life and enabling me to explore an old passion, is seeing people enjoy our music, dancing, smiling and singing along to a familiar song. And at my age still getting to be a weekend warrior. Trust, me I am still fair from the best singer you will ever see, but I can say with confidence that I am the best American singer over the age of 50 in my town. LOL
The next time you see a band or an artist perform, remember that there is probably a good back story and they have without any doubt invested a lot of time and effort into their performance. So, whether it is good or bad or even if you do not like the style of music; take time to honor them with your attention and applause. And finally……….keep my story in mind, as if you have a passion that you may have put away. It is never to late.