[Harp-L] Meeting Randy McAllister (long and rambling, but humorous)
Somehow, I've been playing for just over a year now, but had yet to discover Randy McAllister. Good thing, because an otherwise life-altering event probably would have turned out differently.
Following is a post I made to a local harp group on 12/3/07 that I thought maybe a few of you might enjoy reading. (Sorry for the less important details, but I'm too lazy to edit...like I know how to be brief and concise anyhow.):
Lost ego, found Good news, I found my ego. I lost it last night after it was crushed under the boot of some no-name musician at Hwy 61 Roadhouse. I found it this morning after a quick search on the internet completely changed my view of the evening. I guess it's all just a matter of perspective... After a brief stop at the Gateway Harmonica Club 6p blues hour, Fred and I made our way to Hwy 61 Roadhouse for an evening of the usual mix: 85% average/mediocre/amateur, 10% train wreck, and 5% musical genius. I had never seen the place so crowded, but I had also never seen the place before 8p. The crowd thinned as the dinner patrons left leaving behind the musicians and their friends and family. The first hour is typically young talent spotlight, where a bunch of kids make us wonder why we even bother trying. These kids can't even drive yet, but they can hold their own with anyone on stage. The highlight for me...and he wasn't even old enough to have pimples to call him a pimply-faced teenager...was when one of the youngin's sang Jimmy Reed's Big Boss Man. A couple of grown-ups on bass and drums just followed along as these three kids took turns playing convincing soulful blues solos between verses of lyrics that this kid couldn't have known anything about. Big Boss Man? C'mon, you haven't even had a job yet...but I guess I don't work on the railroad and my woman didn't just leave me last night either. So bedtime rolls around and the kids have to go home, which leaves a few spots open for...a band. Okay, they were good...but, I didn't come here to listen to a band, I came here to listen to, and be a part of, a bunch of individuals getting together and somehow making music that maybe doesn't sound half bad. I'm a patient guy...the result of years of diligent practice...so it didn't bother me...too much. Besides, I just wasn't in a big hurry to get up there...just didn't feel the pull...which in retrospect was just part of the big picture that leads to...hang on, there are more details before we get to that. Jeff's anxious...not so much to play, but for either Fred or me to get up there and play....I mean, fidgety anxious. Eventually, once the band wraps up their 12+ minute finale, it's time for....oh, wait...it's time for the fretboard picking jazz guitarist. He's just going to play one song, so it's a brief delay...so he plays his one song...and another...and another...and (I think) another. This guy's good, really good, but, again, I'm not here to hear fingerpicking jazz guitar solos. I'm not entirely sure of the details...I think I fell asleep...and I may even have the order of the next few events mixed up...but next thing I know, a blues jam breaks out and Fred is laying down some sweet harp. I don't care what he says, Fred's spent more time practicing lately...or maybe not. Either way, Fred's recently gotten noticeably better. Then Jeff plugs in and plays some good good stuff. His playing has improved a lot lately too. Jeff...ah, Jeff...mentions that he's all but threatened Alvin if he doesn't call me up to play...and after a break, that's exactly what Alvin does. So there's Alvin on guitar, a bass player, a drummer, another guitar player, a female vocalist, and I'm side stage with the green bullet. Also on stage at a vocal mike is some college student, or maybe a truck driver that stopped by for dinner...cowboy boots, jeans, untucked western shirt, and trucker cap pulled down over his face...(and I'm assuming the cowboy boots...I didn't actually make note of his footwear). I figure he does backup vocals or something. He looks shy...but comfortable on stage. Maybe he's so scared that he's frozen with fear, so it just looks like he's shy. Anyhow, enough about the participants, let's get this thing going. So the song starts, and it's a strong soulful blues number...but seriously, with this singer, we could be playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and it would be described as "strong and soulful". This girl can sang...(and no, that's not a typo...the word is "sing", it's just pronounced "sang"). It's one of those songs (or maybe she's one of those sangers, er, singers) where the harp part isn't the star...it's not upfront and in your face...at most, a few fills, and eventually, maybe, a harp solo, but this definitely isn't a harp showcase song. I try to lay back a little, get a feel for the song, before I play my first note...(something I've consciously been trying to do for a while now)...and just about the time where it feels like a good strong harp fill will be appropriate, I look up and the shy trucker guy has a harp. I didn't expect that. No problem, I play well with others...(another trait, like patience, I learned through diligent effort). I'll let him set the table and will do my best to join him with a similar style in another register or maybe something contrasting...you know, a Fred and JC special. He plays a simple three or four note fill and my first thought was "say what?" Seriously, I'm the musical equivalent of speechless. It was that kind of thought like, "did I just hear that right?" At the next opening, *wham*...yeah, I heard it right...and he just did it again, only better...and more...but not really more...actually, better and less, but it was still more. Yes, these are the thoughts going through my head. No wonder I felt dazed and confused. I was trying to resolve this apparent contradiction...but you know what I'm saying. We all do, it's just hard to sort it out when it's live and so unexpected. So we're into harp solo territory, and I'm hoping that maybe, just once, for the first time in the history of Hwy 61 open mike night, Alvin will overlook someone at a solo break...but he doesn't. I very briefly considered passing it up, but I didn't walk up there to not play, no matter what this other no-name harp player was doing, so I gave it a go. It was okay, I guess. Honestly, I don't remember much about it at all...and I couldn't hear myself much at all either. (Turns out, not many others could hear me either as I had the mic turned down too low. Once that was corrected, I was still too low. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to not play.) I figure the crowd was thinking the same thing I was at this time..."okay, that's enough from you, let's get back to that other guy." The song ends, and I'm in an awkward spot. This guy is good...I mean, *really* good...so do I just go back to my seat? I stayed. They kick off a no-name harp guy spotlight song, and now I'm feeling really awkward. Fortunately, "awkward" is my middle name, so I'm okay...but I admit, this was slightly uncomfortable. So I grabbed a chair and made myself comfy. I kept my harp and mike, because....well, I'm not entirely sure why. The smart move would have been to turn it off and make it more evident that I was done playing and ready to listen. Later in the song, Alvin tells me to jump in...so, harp and mike in hand, I do. Again, no idea what I played. I probably mailed in a seriously mediocre solo, because good harp playing takes confidence, and at this point, I had absolutely none of that. I trudge back to my seat, exhausted, while whatshisface plays another song. This guy is just plain scary good, but in a way where you just know he's holding back, way back. I call Mark...(no idea what time it was...sorry, Mark, if it was too late)...and hold the phone up to see if he knows who this guy is, but bad timing as he hardly plays at all through the rest of the song. As I sit there, recalling the past few minutes, I envision a scene where Jeff throws me into the street, where I'm run over by a bus driven by the harp-playing phenom that we've never even met...but I resolve that meet him, I will...nay, I must. If someone is going to destroy me, I must know his name. Randy McAllister. Sounds vaguely familiar, but...no, not real sure why. From Texas? Darn, he can't join our group (and my ego says, "good, he won't be here every night"). When I found out who he was the next morning, I was dumbfounded. "No freakin' way. No freakin' way. Hey honey! You know how I joked last night that he probably had six CDs and was touring nationally? I was close. He just released his seventh. He was a freakin' Grammy nominee! (Her response was something like, "Big freakin' so?")" So looking back on the experience, my ego wasn't crushed by some no-name harp player...instead, late last night, Alvin Jett called ME up on stage to perform with Randy McAllister. How sweet is that? Jonathan "perspective is everything" Compton
Original post that I made the morning after, shortly after discovering who he is:
www.randymcallister.comRules for living #274: If you have to be completely blown away on stage, it should be by a Grammy nominee.Jonathan "what just happened here?" Compton
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