Guitars R Us

They pick guitar as their instrument, and then they stick their necks out

At least he got better. Amazingly, my own skills have scarcely improved since I blew out my buddy's Fender Bassman playing my last make-out party. Perhaps that's another reason why the Boss and I are so tight - we're both primitivists. Given enough time, anyone can learn a few cheap tricks - trills, pull-offs, harmonics, hammer-ons.... It takes a rugged individual to ignore these techniques for the better part of two decades. Mike Fair, Rob Shaw, and Lou Jurika are among the handful of local guitarists who understand this logic, and that goes a long way toward explaining why they often end up in Little Haiti at 2:00 a.m. on a Tuesday night, furiously jamming away on "Stepping Stone" or "Gloria" for the benefit of Dave Daniels (proprietor of Churchill's), Joaquin (notorious panhandler who will draw anyone's caricature for a cigarette, guaranteed to make you look satanic), and whatever gracious soul Daniels has tending bar.

Of course, most guitarists don't have the luxury of a glamorous career as an incredibly high-paid music writer to fall back on, so they are forced to learn all that technical garbage so they can be asked to perform in one of the thousands of working bands competing for a handful of pathetically low-paying gigs. This is why you always see guitarists making those bizarre facial contortions while playing on-stage - hunger pangs. They probably haven't eaten in weeks. Which brings us to one of the cardinal tenets of the working musician - when the going gets tough, the tough give lessons.

Nothing pisses off a serious guitar player more than seeing a duffer make it big. That is why accomplished musicians usually hate acts like Springsteen, the Clash, or U2 - they feature guitar players who never made it all the way through Mel Bay either. The more these blithe, blissfully ignorant players rake up scads of money and critical accolades, the tougher it is for the serious player to justify all the years he or she has spent locked in a squalid room somewhere, voluntarily living a life of abject poverty; practicing, practicing, practicing.

I think that if I actually had to make a living playing the damn thing, it would lose a lot of its appeal to me. Wenzel, who has been a working pro long enough to acquire the perspective of a survivor, sums it up best when he says, "I've always wanted to play music. It's my only real creative outlet. I love it. I don't know what else I could do."

Neither do I, but I think I know how a certain singing cowboy would respond. Happy trails, partner.

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