Did you ever try to play through a bar/club set (on stage) with a bust-up, knock-down drag-out fist fight/near riot going on all around you? If so, did you keep on playing...or did you have to throw in the towel and duck off-stage?
For my own self, I've been there 'more' than a few times... twice in Texas, once in Tennessee, and three times in Vietnam.
Most memorial in Vietnam was in early 1973, if I remember right, like the first week of March or thereabouts. I was on leave for a few days and got rooked into a loose-knit pickup band of G.I.'s that could play/sing a little bit. For some free beers and a few bottles of Jack Black, (and a small amount of cash) a friend talked us into playing a few numbers in a little 'alley-way' club. We'd all been there before and knew the South Viet owner and he was okay, far as we knew, so agreed to it. Everything went well at first, the place filled up about dark with all sorts of G.I.'s and a few Vietnamese (local merchants that were well to do, or so I assumed.) We played a few early-Beatles-covers, a few Bobby Vee covers and the like, then we got a request from a homesick Utah soldier to play a C&W song by Bobby Bare (I think, or maybe it was Pat Boone, don't remember now, called "500 Miles Away From Home.")
Anyway, only two of us knew the song but the rest were good enough to fake it...so we started in. About the second time we hit the chorus, 'Lord, I'm fff-ive hun--dred miles a--ww-ayy' suddenly ALL hell broke loose!
I never even knew what the fight was about, but suddenly every soldier in there was up and swinging, kicking, biting ears/noses, poking eyes...and throwing beer bottles and whiskey glasses at one another! Tables got busted up, chairs got heaved across the room, somebody even started tossing bar stools and heavy ashtrays around! G'ah!
We just kept playing...mainly because it was a tiny stage and the only way off of it was INTO and THRU the brawl (and we weren't drunk enough for that at the time.) So we kept right on singing and playing. And after about ten minutes, as quick as it had started, it was over. I mean over. Just gone. Everybody was laughing and talking and buying one another fresh drinks and the fight had just vanished into thin air. And just in time too...right before the ball-bustin' MP's came rushing in carrying iron-hard nightsticks and with itchy hands on their 1911-A1 pistol butts. It was crazy. None of us players even got a scratch, just got soaked from thrown beer and whiskey whizzing past us.
And once, as a civilian, in Texas... a similar deal. A sudden fist fight (over unknown reasons) with people throwing chairs and beers and busting heads. Me and the guys I was playing with kept right on playing then too, till some dude pulled a pistol and started busting caps; Blam! Blam! Blam! Whereas we took what we could carry of our instruments and ran like hell for the nearest exit and the dark alleyway beyond. D'oh!
Playing in Dew-Drop-Inn's, Honky Tonks and such ain't exactly always for the unwary, unaware, immature, or lily-livered folk. (nor for the brave and the bold either as being brave and bold in a bar fight can get you killed pretty quick) It can get down-right hairy in those places! G'ah!
This is a true story, or as was told to me. There was a LRRP guy (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol,) and I can't remember what unit he was with but it seems like he was with the 25th Infantry, if I'm remembering correctly, that told me this story. I have 'zero' reason to disbelieve him.
The guy's real name I can't recall, but everyone called him, Route 66, cause he looked a lot like the dark-haired dude on the old TV show of the same name, tall and good looking (in a CA surfer dude kinda' way) and very, very on the ball. ---As LURPS had to be, since these boys were on the 'sharp' end and 'in the bush' on every mission.
Anyway, as his story to me went, they were working an area near Hue', close by the border of Laos, a place of flat valley land covered with tall, elephant grass and flanked by tall, forested mountains. Later it would be a place of death known as the A Shau Valley. They'd already ran many patrols out there in the bush, but one day they were up higher, on a peak's actual side, and they came to this stream, a real pretty place with water flowing 'down' the mountain's side in a big gush and the undergrowth all lush and beautiful-like around there. A peaceful place, but these old boys were hard-core combat troopers and they knew that NO PLACE in Vietnam was safe. Ever. And so were their usual cautious selves even though the area 'seemed' so peaceful and tranquil.
They took a short breather there though, and after a few minutes rose to go on, when suddenly they heard a 'very' unlikely sound coming to them through the trees.
It sounded for the world like a guitar and a flute playing perfectly in harmony with each other. What? A guitar and a flute playing out there in the bush like that? Unlikely. So with weapons up they cautiously moved towards the sounds to investigate. The closer they got to the music the 'better' it sounded. Nobody knew the tune, but one guy that had had some musical training 'thought' it sounded like an old European tune, a
German lullaby maybe (but who knows, as he could have been wrong.)
But everyone in the patrol agreed, who ever was playing that guitar and that flute were PROFESSIONALS in every way. The haunting melody was flawless.
They could tell after a few minutes that they were virtually 'right up on' the players, and so with weapons at the ready and the safeties off, they eased on up to the tiny clearing where they 'knew' the music was coming from.
And saw nothing.
Well, not exactly nothing. There was the burned-out hulk of an old French Mission there, complete with fire-scorched stone walls and a discolored, brass church bell in the charred bell tower (everyone agreed that the place had been in ruins for a very long time.) But they saw no people there. None.
Upon examining the area, they 'did' find an old, antique French guitar abandoned and propped upon a row of stone steps near the old, ruined church, with signs that 'someone' had been there moving about very recently. It was no ghost, of course, there 'had' been someone there physically playing that guitar 'and' a flute too (so at least two people.) But though the soldiers scoured the entire area, they did not find whoever it was.
A French survivor or two from 'before' the attack upon the old mission? Living/hiding out there in the thick, mountain forest? Slipping back to their old, former home to play and remember happier times there?
Who knows? Who would ever know? A total enigma, and one they could never answer.
They turned to leave, and Old Route 66 told me that the last thing he did before they left was to take that old guitar and put it back on the stone steps where they'd found it.
He shrugged then, and got this 'funny/remembering' look in his eyes, and said, 'cause anyone that played THAT good, even if it was the enemy, deserved to keep right on playing.'
I agree. And yeah, Vietnam was a land of many mysteries. Some old, some new, some just plain never making good sense.
Yeah, I did a full tour in Vietnam, then a partial (took a hit and had to come home for a spell that last go-round.) Haven't thought about it much, the war I mean, but getting back into playing has sort of reminded me of how it was over there and in keeping with this site, the music we heard over there.
Now there has already been a lot of stuff written about what was being played over the radio over there (even a movie about it,) so that's not what I'm thinking of here for this blog. No, I'm thinking about the club music we had there, i.e. what you heard when you hit the bars. A WIDE variety for sure, to suit just about any taste. There were jukeboxes aplenty, blasting out all sorts of music. But mainly I'm talking about LIVE music here.
Yes, there were USO gigs and some places setup for Service men and women to go, dance a bit, eat, drink a few beers or pops, listen to live Allied bands (American and or even a few British bands.) Normally though, I and my buds never went to those places much because usually you couldn't get rip-roaring drunk there (as we fully intended to do. Ha!) So normally we just hit the bars. And yes, there were some pretty good bars there with some pretty good live bands playing (and yeah, some pretty rotten ones too! The bars, and or the bands!)
There were a lot of 'copy-cat' Vietnamese bands, the best of which could really play and sing as good as the guys they were copying almost. There were some professional bands too, from UK, Europe, America, the Philippines, and so on, that did a bang-up job of playing and singing. And there were a few semi-pro sounding G.I. bands that played regularly, putting out great sounds. Heck, for a little while I even played in a pick-up band of mixed service G.I.'s! And we did pretty good too!
You could hear everything from (copy-cat or cover versions) Hank Williams, to George Jones, to Ricky Nelson, Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Turtles, Beach Boys, Peggy Cline, ---to even opera and classical tunes/songs. And yeah, the Doors (don't everybody know that already.) I mean there was just a lot of music being pumped out in the night life of places like Saigon and other bigger cities (and a lot of smaller ones too.) You could find anything you wanted to hear at just about any time you wanted to hear it.
Oh, and while I'm thinking of it; there was this girl; a beautiful White Russian girl that could REALLY sing and play a guitar, okay, a lot of people may not know it but the Orient was full of White Russians back then. If you don't know what that term means, look it up, but basically it was Russian families that supported the Czar of Russia back in the day, and when the Soviets took over, they were ran out of the country and scattered to the four winds, with many ending up in the Orient. They came from families that had lived in castles and dined on gold plates to the poorest sections of the Orient and lived in huts and wearing rags---for most left Russia with NOTHING but the clothes on their backs, lucky to even be alive.
Anyway, this girl that I'm talking about was one of those, a granddaughter to a once fabulously rich Russian aristocrat, now penniless and living in squalor. But she had a talent (besides being beautiful,) she could play classical guitar...and wow could she SING! Her voice like an angel!
She sang mostly ballads, love songs, mostly old Pasty Cline stuff, and let me say she had the gift for it. She could make even the most battle-hardened G.I. or U.S. Marine cry his eyes out when they heard her play and sing.
Suffice to say, those of us that heard her...loved her. We all wanted to marry her and take her back home. We got in fist fights over her, for God's sake. But it wasn't to be for any of us. One night someone (and we never found out who, but likely it was Charlie) tossed a couple of hand grenades into the packed place and just like that... she was gone.
After that, I never felt quite like listening to love ballads there anymore. All these years, and I still remember her. I bet all of us that knew/heard her, do.
Interesting question, eh? (the title of this blog) Can you love playing even if you're broke, poor, or not blessed with a silver spoon? ---and the answer is YES!
Sure, sure, plenty of guys are only 'too' eager to tell you that when playing the guitar, you're just a loser if you don't spend THOUSANDS of dollars on top of the line equipment. ...that you can't play crap if you don't have the best (like THEY do consequently.) and so on. And that's all bullshite.
Oh yeah, the 'more' you can afford to invest quite rightly the better you'll normally sound (although that's not always so, to be honest.) But simply you don't have to mortgage your house, sell the family business, trade your eternal soul for 'mint' state of the art guitars and other equipment to play well, sound good, love, and have FUN playing!
There are several options... 'used' equipment of high caliber... and good, but LESS pricey choices. Or, either or a combination of the two.
I cringe when I hear some would-be guitar hero spouting off that ONLY his approved top dollar brand is any good, while your cheapy is pure crap. Obviously he's a snob (among other things,) but besides that, he's talking out of his ass too. Great, used equipment is out there...pawn shops, guys leaving bands, kids with changing interest, garage sales, etc... and then there's tons of 'bargain' brands too, many of them name brand but of a bit lower quality than their TOP/Expensive performers.
Do your homework, talk to guys that know...your local guitar pro or a teacher perhaps... check around. You can find a good deal and on a nice bit of equipment too. And don't be a brand snob. Heck, if you love to play, you'll take and use whatever you can lay hands on to do it with...and NAME be damned. But that's if you love to play. Ha! If you're just trying to impress your buds (locally or on a guitar web site) then those 'lowly' brands perhaps ...just won't do. lol!
I love to play. And I'll play whatever I have to play ...to play.
As I said in my earlier bog, me and my family were 'struggling' southern farmers here in Tennessee for most of my earlier life.
We lived in old farmhouses; the earliest being a home (a rental) called, The Old Walker Place, I suppose the name being the original builder/owner. Anyway, I clearly remember us not having a TV (this was mid-late '50s) and so we listened to the radio as 'many' farm people did back then. No doubt younger folk will have a real struggle imagining people sitting around a radio after supper and being highly entertained by it...ha...but that's how it was.
The thing was was that it wasn't a bad time at all. It's amazing how your mind can conjure up images of things spoken/played to you over the radio. We had a lot of fun back then listening to Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Jack Benny, Art Linkletter, and so on over the radio!
But oh I remember the day Dad brought home our FIRST Television! An old Admiral round-screen that sit 'down' inside a round hole in a specially made TV table for it. (the picture tube on the back of it was on the bottom and actually sat into that round hole in the table top.)
We kids were OVERJOYED! Wow! We were pumped with excitement as he brought it in, set up a bit of antenna, then plugged it in and turned it on! Oh we were hyped!
The first show coming on as he tuned it in to the local (and only station we could get, WBBJ Jackson, Tennessee) was Paladin, a western, as most shows were on TV back then.
This was it! ...we kids knew. Now we were in the BIG TIME. lol!
Later than evening and night, we were all glued to that screen, watching show after show...lol. We had that old TV for years (yes, it broke on occasion, but back then people didn't throw away things that broke, they fixed them). Heck, a few years later, I clearly remember watching Elvis (the King) Presley appear on it on the Ed Sullivan Show!
There were some 'great' TV shows (and specials) back then on TV...in particular shows like, 'The Grand Ole Opry,' Arthur Godfrey, Jack Benny, Perry Como Specials, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and so on...and I loved the ones like Ossie and Harriet, from the Nelson's...and watched Ricky Nelson grow up and even heard his first songs on there.
All of those great musicians/singers helped fuel my love for music and singing.... I owe them, big time.
A little history (boring mainly) of me; Now I'm just an ole, slow, fat-ish (or rotund sounds better, lol) guy... ah, but once, I was a young guy like many here. Grew up in the 50's/ 60's in the country (Tennessee, USA) on an old, worn out farm/ranch. And I worked my butt off, till I finally flew the coop swearing I'd never go back. Spent years in the military, overseas and in States, then eventually ended up in Houston, Texas for a spell.
And wouldn't you know, now that I'm retired...I'm right back in Tennessee and right back on an old worn out farm again. Ha! Though this time I just live here and enjoy it. Only thing I 'do' farm is my beloved garden patch.
Musical roots? Oh hell yeah... grew up going to a tiny Baptist Church (called Hopewell) and we sang EVERY time the doors opened there. Baptists love to sing, and my family was no exception. Plus, just about every member of my family could either sing well or play something...a banjo, a guitar, the piano, ---something. So I was around music and singing from an early age and got a bit of ear for it.
I grew up with Country legends all on the radio (and finally TV) such as; Hank Williams, Jim Reeves, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, and so on...and loved it, then as I grew a bit, begin to hear the early Rock and Roll stuff from Rock legends like; Ricky Nelson, Elvis, etc, ...then finally the Beatles, and so on. Such wonderful stuff to turn on the radio or TV and hear this glorious stuff any time of the day or night!
As a kid I plucked around on an old guitar of my dad's, but honestly we worked too hard (plus going to school) and I just never learned a lot. Then as a teenager, I tried HARD to learn it and got a little better, even had a small group for a bit playing around locally. We were pretty lousy, mostly singing 'some' country, plus 50's/early '60s Rock stuff... but people seemed to like it anyhow for some reason.
Later, in the military we had a small 'post' band, but just played for beers. After that, real life and jobs just seemed to get in the way of my playing and honestly I never thought I'd EVER play again.
Then came retirement, then sickness, ...with cancer, heart attack and other assorted physical woes. And also boredom. The sickness had wiped us out financially pretty well, and so fairly broke...nothing to do but sit at home.
Then...quite by accident, I pulled out my old 40 year old guitar and started strumming it. I discovered that I 'still' remembered a lot of old (but good) songs, and still had an ear for playing and remembered some chords too. I haven't looked back.
I've worked hard to improve on my playing...and singing...(though the latter is pretty bad from age and wear, lol) and now after discovering THIS place (UG) I'm really into it full bore. It's a real passion now. And though my fingers don't work so good with my arthritis... I play what I can with gusto.
I'm still pretty lousy... ha! But I'm having a blast playing anyway!
Thanks for this place... and thank YOU to all the great friends I've met here!