Tools of the Trade

So much has changed since I last considered myself a professional musician. These days, there are digital tuners, spring loaded capos, butterfly finger picks, computer printed lyric sheets, and who knows what else. I’m used to tuning my guitars by ear, of never having a capo that’s adequate for a 12-string, trashed fingernails (or none!), and hand-scribbled lyrics. Mind you, these new tools are improvements as far as I’m concerned. For instance, how many times have I struggled to tune my guitars in noisy bars and coffeehouses? Fortunately, my Luna Trinity has an onboard tuner, unlike my Briarwood 6-string, for which I have one of those tuners that clip onto the headstock. What I’m most excited about, right now, anyway, is the new Butterfly Finger Picks. I’m ordering some tomorrow. No more ragged fingernails, and they look cool, too. Almost like Elven rings. I’ll be reviewing them later, after I’ve tried them out.

butterflyfingerpicks
Butterfly Finger Picks

These babies come in three finishes: gold, silver, and copper, depending on the sound you want. I’m going for the copper as it will lend a softer, mellower tone to the robust 12-string.

In other music-related news, I recently got back in touch with Andrew Austin, who used to perform with me as my backup guitarist back in the early 1980s. He was a lot more than just a guitarist, though, he was my friend and we enjoyed many happy times together. Andrew went on to become a top notch animator with Disney and Warner Brothers, contributing to many of their films. He now has his own business, Fowler Amusement, that produces animation, storyboarding, video games, and music videos. So glad to have him back in my life! Hopefully, he’ll be coming to Oklahoma this year on a video shoot for a Country artist. We’ll see! I’d so enjoy jamming with him again over bottles of wine.

We’re in the midst of our storm season here; lots of rain, tornado watches, thunder storms… Meanwhile, I listen to Dan Fogelberg and Gordon Lightfoot, and try to remember long-lost lyrics. I sure wish they had a tool for that.

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Stools, Straps & Jeans

Performing two one-hour assemblies at Adolfo Camarillo High School in early 1972.

I’ve always used a four-legged stool onstage. Well, there was that time I was one of the opening acts for the early Doobie Brothers. I swore I’d never perform standing up ever again if I could help it. My knees shook so much, I wasn’t sure I was going to remain upright, which distracted me from really getting into the music like I wanted and needed to do. Lucky for me, in the 1960s and ’70s most folk singers sat down to perform. Hell, Donovan even sat on Persian carpets and floor cushions and looked so damned cool.

As I get myself ready to join the house concert circuit later this year, I’m using one of these stools just as I did before. Being able to have my left foot planted on the floor helps me to support my upper body, including my lungs and diaphragm. It also makes me feel more solid, more grounded, and will keep me from keeling over if the dreaded Stagefrightzilla shows up unannounced and uninvited.

The problem is, where once upon a time I could sit for hours on a wooden stool, these days my bum and lower back start hurting after only an hour. No big deal. I’ll just pad the seat. The fun of this will be shopping for just the right fabric. Since it will be part of my performance gear, I want it to look cool, but not too contrived. Cats? No. Dogs? No. Flowers? Definitely not. Guitars? Too obvious. Paisleys would be cool, or maybe some other Indian fabric.

JP Deni in 1969

I won’t be using a guitar strap because I no longer see the need for one. The one in the picture was handmade and embroidered for me by my old sidekick, the late, great JP Deni. I wish I still had it. Now that she’s gone, I really regret it being lost in The Big Dump of 2001. Actually, I’d go back to using a strap if my talented son, Micah, made one for me. He makes beautiful custom straps professionally.

Man, I wish I still had those flared two-tone jeans.

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Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

insomniaMaybe I spoke too soon about no longer being an insomniac. Maybe it’s something that’s become part of me, or at least has woven itself into the fabric of my life. I didn’t nap a lot during the day; just one nap in the afternoon after an amazing Easter dinner. And I had only one cup of coffee all day, and that was in the morning. No other caffeine drinks, either, just water. I have nothing bothering me, no worries or stress. So why in hell was I up until 5 am?

When I finally got to sleep, I had bad dreams. Well, bad dreams always go along with insomnia. For me, anyway. I think I finally fell into a good sleep somewhere around 7:00, only to wake up an hour and-a-half later. Looks like I’ll be fighting off the nap gremlins around 3:00 today, their usual time of appearance after a night like last night. Usually, I use my late nights for writing, but I’m still kind of beat after Friday night’s party and I wrote throughout the early evening. Maybe that’s the culprit. No! Don’t tell me I can’t write in the evenings anymore! I can’t write in the mornings because I have too much brain fog! No! Go away!

I know how this goes, though. I’ll feel like this until around 2:00 and then I’ll be chipper and wanting to do things. So I wait.

My friends and I had a great time at my party on Friday night. Just the usual silliness, but we haven’t gotten together like that since… when?… New Year’s Eve 2013? Really? Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve been uncharacteristically introverted—nah, I’ve been downright anti-social—for over a year now, so having my closest pals over to play was especially uplifting. Maybe I’m just still wound up from that. When I was a kid my mom had a hard time getting me settled down after I’d been to a birthday party. If she didn’t I’d fall into a tiredness that often left me with a fever. What the hell was that about?

We’ve entered the worst time of the year here in Oklahoma. The entire middle of this week will be spent with one eye on the western skies and the other on weather alerts. Stillwater is relatively safe due to its topography, but we’ve had a tornado or two fall within the city limits. We have no shelter at this house, and only one tiny closet to hide in if we have to (I won’t go to a public shelter because I can’t bring my pets), so if we got hit, it would be iffy for us. But I don’t really worry about these things anymore. I’ve been here long enough to become one of those stupid people who go outside to have a look-see when the sirens go off. Well, you know how it is, don’t you? Our sirens have to go off if a tornado of any size touches down anywhere in Payne County, and I’m not going to stuff myself into a tiny closet with three other adults, a dog, and two cats if the touchdown is 20 miles away. When we’re in a tornado warning, or even a watch, I keep my laptop set to this awesome page. Just the visual facts, no sensationalist weather anchors vying for ratings.

And it’s Monday. Hope you make yours a good one. As for me, it may require another pot of coffee… and a Benadryl tonight.

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