Tag Archive: singing


Dan at Pig 'n' WhistleBefore I went to the ASCAP conference, I wanted to line up a place to play while I was in LA. While I was checking,  I found that it so happened that  the Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Hollywood Blvd., a block from the hotel, had an open mic on Tuesday night.  Not having any kind of following in LA – other than fans on Reverbnation and Facebook – setting up a solo gig would have proved difficult. So an open mic was my best bet.

But it was good fortune that it was an open mic in a historical building. The Pig ‘n’ Whistle was founded in 1927, next to the Egyptian Theatre where the premiers of movies were shown.  You can imagine the movie stars and celebrities that ate there.  The restaurant  has been restored to its original glory. What is called Backstage or the Back Room is down a hall to the back of the restaurant. There was a bar, but it was only used for parties and special events.

Backstage is a funky little room with an even funkier stage. Which is a good thing. Again, you can imagine the private parties held back there over the years. Cameron and I got there before they had everything set up. I was one of the first people on the list. I prefer to go on after a couple of people or acts to get a feel for the crowd. I shouldn’t have been concerned.

When it came time to start, everyone in the room had to pay $3. Which was new for me. If Dan Roark at Pig'n' Whistle 2there is any charge at an open mic in the Dallas area, it is a request for a drink minimum. But it was also Hollywood  Blvd. – you don’t want just anybody wandering in and hanging out.  The McDonald’s has a security guard and police patrols drop around regularly.

The crowd was made up of mostly performers, although there were a few people there to listen. When the show began, the MC asked for the hands of those who wanted to play. I hesitated, to see how  it went. About three people raised their hands. They were the first three to play – with the order corresponding to the raising of hands. The next time around I raised my hand and played in the second batch of performers.

Dan at Pig 'n' Whistle 3It was an eclectic group of people and performers, to say the least. A man who sang cover tunes a capella – in stops and starts at times.  A girl playing her songs on a ukulele, and not too shabbily. A comedian who apparently calls into the Howard Stern show and had jokes that I’m surprised Stern would appreciate. One of those there to listen was a guy made up like Will Farrell in Semi-Pro. He had been out on Hollywood Blvd. near Grauman’s Chinese Theater, posing for pictures for tips.

When I played my songs, I told them I was from Dallas out for the ASCAP conference, and introduced the songs as I always do. I felt like the veteran of the group. I received a good reception from the audience. We listened to a few more performers after I played – including a blues player with an interesting style – before we headed back to the hotel.

It was a great way to end the first day in LA. It’s a more authentic trip when you get to mingle with local people as a traveler and performer. And the journey had just begun.

Peace be with you.

scan0050 As I meet other creative types on reverbnation.com and other channels of social media, I often wonder at what point they felt they were meant to be or called to do whatever it is they do: write, paint, sing, play, or whatever the case may be.

My own story begins on the Friday before my senior year began on Monday. We had just had a new compressor installed for the air conditioner. I picked up my friend, Brian, and headed to Greenville Ave. to go to Milo Butterfingers. We had heard about Bowley and Wilson’s show and wanted to check it out.

The beer was the coldest I had ever had at the time and few times since. Bowley and Wilson was not my type of show, but they had other people playing in between sets who were more interesting to me. I was just glad that they could not see me from the stage because they made fun of everyone. I don’t remember staying all that long before we headed home, but it could have been a couple of hours. When we turned onto Snow White from Royal Lane, I saw smoke above the trees in the distance.

“That’s my house!”

Brian told me that we couldn’t tell from that distance which house it was. But I was sure it was my house. When we reached the end of my street, the police and firemen had the street blocked off and we had to park on the next street. We ran down the short street between the two in the middle of the block, relatively. When I turned the corner, the top of the house was in flames. My mom, my brother, Dennis, our dog Lady, some neighbors, and assorted onlookers were in the yard of the house across the street.

I asked mom what happened. She said that she and Dennis smelled the smoke, saw flames at the fuse box on the garage wall opposite the compressor, and got out of the house with Lady. I was standing there watching our house burn. I thought I knew which flames were coming from my guitars, but who really knows? I said something about my guitars and Brian tried to go up the firemen’s ladder to “save” my guitars. They had to hose him down and I concluded that he had a few more beers than I had. But I appreciated the effort, albeit misguided.

I heard someone watching the fire ask if anyone had any marshmallows. I did not take it well. I let them know that it was not at all funny and asked if they would think it was so funny if it was their house. Friends came over, calmed me down, and pulled me away.

After the fire.

After the fire.

My father returned from a trip about that time and had to walk up the street with his suitcase and suit bag when the taxi couldn’t get through on the street. After the fire was under control, so to speak, my parents and Dennis stayed with the couple next door. I stayed with a friend up the street.

In the days following the fire, we were going through the house, packing what was left that could go to storage. My mom, aunts, and grandmother were going through the kitchen – which was mostly intact – although the smoke had permeated what it could. Dad and my uncles were packing up the books which the firemen put on the couches they had shoved into the middle of the room and covered – during the fire. (A quick shout out to first responders!)

I was in the back yard looking at the pile of ashes that used to be my personal belongings. You would not believe how long a guitar string will stretch after it’s been through a raging inferno. Parts of items were left because the firemen had shoved everything out of my room into the yard before some of it burned completely. Talk about smoldering memories!

With older people around, I was trying to contain myself, but the tears came anyway. I felt better when I found my Neil Young songbook for the Harvest album, even though it was stiff, brittle, and burned around the edges. Then, when I spotted them, I was completely speechless. Okay, I wasn’t saying anything anyway, but if someone had said anything to me, I would have been speechless. It certainly took my breath away.

Earlier that day I had placed my stuff for school (which included a new notebook) on Monday in the center of this large table my uncle, Jack, made that I used as a desk – there was only one drawer. What I saw that took my breath away was what I had put in that notebook. There before me, burned around the edges but still intact and readable, was every poem and song I had written, except for the first page of the first song I wrote.

20140307_170525 With the exception of one book my grandmother on my mom’s side gave me and a high school annual, the poems and songs were the only thing I had left except the clothes on my back. Well, and my stereo, which I had in the bathroom so I could listen to music while I took a shower. In addition to the songs’ survival, my mother had loaned my first guitar to a friend for their son to learn to play – as you can see I still have it. I took that as a sign that writing and music was what I was meant to do. Granted, I was a teenager and thought that’s what I was meant to do anyway, but the “sign” sealed the deal. And, while it hasn’t been easy, I was right, it was a sign, and I’ve been writing ever since – whatever form life and the writing took.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your story? When did you know what you were meant to do? And I’m not asking just to get comments, clicks, or whatever. I really want to hear your story, because it’s worth hearing. And it might make a good song.

Peace be with you.

Conner and Dan in the Studio I was at the Patrick McGuire Recording Studio last Friday, working on songs for my new CD. Randy Talbert, Steve Smith, and John Tepper of the praise band at church played on three songs. My oldest son, Conner, who also plays with the praise band when his schedule allows, played guitar on several songs. Cameron, the middle son, helped with taking pictures, videos, and assisting the engineer. He also plays with the praise band and helps with sound. The session went well and I’ll discuss it later, perhaps, but I want to back up a bit.

While I was getting ready to go into the studio, I naturally thought about Joel Nichols, my musical partner of twenty-five years until he died in 1999. We recorded our last CD in 1996. My wife, Cyndy, introduced me to Bruce Gibson, and later to Joel when he came home from college at Scarritt in Nashville. When the three of us began to gel as a band, I moved out to Nashville while Joel was attending his last year at school. We lived with two other people in the top half of a house that had been around for fifty years, had been home to a hippie commune, and no longer exists.

Joel and I were driving around Nashville in his car one morning. After stopping for John Tepper in Studio coffee, we continued on our journey, going over several bumps and through several turns. Throughout the drive, I managed to keep from spilling my coffee by acting as a human gyroscope. Then I made a mistake. After we we went through the next dip, I turned to Joel and opened my mouth.

“I haven’t spilled a drop. I’m pretty good.”

A short while later, Joel grinned and slammed on the breaks. Coffee soaked the front of my last clean shirt. And going to the laundry mat had not been in my immediate plans. I objected, but the more I objected, the more he laughed. Seemingly in an increasing vindictive manner.

I was somewhat used to taking crap for my stuttering. But a prank like that from someone I considered my closest friend was painful. It illustrated that even the best of friends have a few, even if small, irreconcilable differences. The darker side of their personality that you hope you seldom see and avoid if you see it coming. Joel’s vindictive prankster side was one of those sides of his personality that switched my defensive tendencies into high gear.

photo When I continued to object, Joel realized how much it bothered me, and he apologized. Despite the times when our personalities conflicted, there were more good times than bad times in our twenty+ years of making music together. Going into the studio reminded me of the good music we made together. When I play the old songs, I can still hear him playing his part. I am playing both parts in the studio and I hope I do him justice.

Peace be with you.

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