Looking back a half-century, I started writing songs when I was around 16 years old – back when I could barely play guitar and long before I could play one even passably well.
Looking ahead four days, none of the songs I was writing those days will be on the setlist Sunday in the CD Release Show for CDC: A Lifetime in the Making.
And that should come as a relief to any of my friends and family (F and Fs, as Skip Prosser used to call them) who gather at Muddy Creek Music Hall at 5 o’clock for the grand occasion. What they don’t hear won’t scar their eardrums.
As I mentioned in the, to my mind, fabulous profile Lisa O’Donnell wrote in last week’s Winston-Salem Journal, if there’s an artist around who bloomed later, I haven’t met them. Though I played guitar and wrote songs over the years, few if any of the songs I wrote in my 20s, 30s and 40s are anything I would want anyone to hear today.
Then came my midlife crisis, about the time I turned 50 and realized that the two kids (Nate and Rebecca) that my bride Tybee and I had devoted so much time to had matured to the point they had their own interests and aspirations – leaving me to feel almost superfluous around the house.
But instead of trading in the family van for a fancy, red sports car to tool around town in, or buying a stupid rug to cover my rapidly balding noggin, I addressed my midlife crisis by throwing Buckshot, my 1967 Gibson J-45 in the back of the van and scouring Winston-Salem for Open Mic Shows in which I could perform.
That was around 2002, and all but one of the songs I’ll play Sunday were written since then. The exception is Trail of Tears, the one I wrote on the removal of the Cherokee from their ancestral homeland that I dedicate to my mother, Frances Cooper Collins.
A couple were written when I was playing the Open Mic at the late-great Rubber Soul on Burke Street, until that place closed in 2007. Some more were written during the 4 ½ years I ramrodded the Open Mic for Richard Emmett and Kim Lawson at the late-great Garage before our show ran its course in January 2012.
But most came along in the 5 ½ years I’ve been ramrodding my current gig, the Open Mic at Muddy Creek Music Hall. Making Sunday’s show all the more poignant is the realization that the current Muddy Creek will also be closing down in a month and a half and moving its operation, lock, stock, guitars, sound system and barrel to its new digs in Old Salem.
Which is why I debated over the acknowledgment found on the back of my CD: A heartfelt thanks to all my friends and family down at Muddy Creek Cafe and Music HallMuddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall in Bethania, N.C. Should I really, I wondered, be looking backward instead of forward at the outset of this new and exciting endeavor?
What sold me eventually on doing so was the realization that so many of the songs I’ll be playing Sunday may not have ever been written in the first place without the support, encouragement and inspiration from so many of the regulars I’ve played so much music with these past 5 ½ years. I’ve told my fellow Open Micsters that if they listen carefully enough to these tunes, they can hear themselves – or at least their contributions – in them.
Regardless of how many people make the scene, I know it’s going to be a day I’ll never forget. My younger brother Joe, the lawyer whose lawyering over a Workman’s Comp claim financed the recording and production of the CD, will be there from Franklin, along with his bride Pam and other assorted members of his family. My older brother Tom and his bride Jenny, who have made Dexter Furniture a thriving concern in Raleigh, will be there.
And barring hell and/or high water, The Whippersnappers, the band I put together for the grand occasion will be there backing me up. It promises to be a star-studded assemblage, with Geoff Weber (who engineered and mixed my CD at his Fireside Studio in Winston) on keyboards, Will Huesman on his telecaster guitar, Lucas Moomaw on drums, Jeff Shu (of the Bo-Stevens fame) on pedal steel, Dennis “Bubba” Spear on harmonica and the one and only John “Hootie” Hoots on electric bass guitar.
Here’s hoping that you will also be there as well. So many friends and family have rallied around this old boy from the time I first envisioned this project that I know Sunday will be a day to remember.
In the words of James McMurtry from his timeless tune Choctaw Bingo, we’re going to have us a time.