Feels like the first time

Today is a very special day. My sixteen year old son Colin starts his first job! He’s following in the footsteps of his oldest brother Brandon at Chick Fil A. This is part of my plan for world domination through the Chick Fil A empire… today chicken sandwiches… tomorrow the world!! lol

Firsts. A babies first steps… first words. Your first grade school crush (and note/survey “I like you/do you like me? Check yes or no” lol). Your first kiss… your first child… I could go on and on.

Life is so full of firsts that so many go unnoticed. Sure we remember the milestones, but I contend that we are missing more than we should.

But for Colin, today is his first day of his first job. Wow. Unless you win the lottery and don’t misplace the ticket, this is an adventure that will last the rest of his days. I’m so very proud of the man that he is and is becoming.

I remember my first recording session. Wow. I was the ripe old age of 15 and two guys in my church owned a “recording studio”! I had been playing for choirs and groups, etc. and had actually played on a live album our church had done. There must have been a world-wide shortage of bass players, because I found myself bright and early one Saturday morning at the Solid Rock Sound recording studio in Center Point AL.

I remember it vividly. The artist was a Christian singer named Anna Bone Thorn. She must have been a visionary as she pre-dated the obligatory female worship leader requirement of using all three names by a good 20+ years… lol. Don’t remember if she was wearing a scarf…

Anyway, armed with my trusty Fender Mustang bass, I arrived the customary 20 minutes early to set up, etc. I actually had woken up at dawn due to the excitement! I knew that this was what I wanted to do… my dream, and here it was becoming true!

Walking in I saw the familiar faces of engineer Noah White, keyboardist extraordinaire Charles Harnach, the always hilarious Hugh Carpenter on drums, and local Zen guitar master, THE Tommy Calton of the rock group Hotel! OMG… his band was on national radio, had just opened for Toto, etc. Suddenly my excitement turned to ‘what the heck am I here for??’

But with the bullheaded confidence that is my prideful trademark, I swallowed my breakfast trying to make an encore and plunged into the session.

First jobs always are special. Special in that there’s ALWAYS something to laugh about in later years (and much later blogs). This session would be no exception.

It had been going well; fortunately the bass players’ job is to play the bass note… duh! I could DO that! lol But all my fav bassists like Paul McCartney, Chris Squire, etc. always seemed to add the unexpected, something really cool that adds a subtle touch or riff that makes the song take off.

We were doing a tender ballad if memory serves. I had an idea!! Remembering ‘The Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles and the long but cool bass slide at the very end, I had found the perfect mark to leave on this song.

We had rehearsed the song a couple of times and was ready to record. “Tapes rolling” Noah informs through the talkback mic. The red light goes on and here we go! I had saved my fabulous bass finale for the take, not wanting to spoil the surprise. Oh man, I could see all these older and cool musicians gathered around me in praise! Maybe I could become a partner in the studio… Tommy could fire their bassist and bring this 15 year old wunderkind on the road… my mind was reeling. C’mon bring on the end of the song!

And the take was magically perfect! One of those moments when time stands still and the wonder of music envelopes you in a way that can’t be described.

And finally… the outro! We hit the final chord and off I go. I fret the final pitch, pluck the string, and then begin the longest and slowest slide known to man… up, up, up to the last note a couple of octaves above the root. My eyes were closed, and head thrown back in what I’ve been told has become a trademark move of mine.

The track is done. We hold the note for the fade out, and we get the all-clear. Silence. I look up to find the band all sheepishly looking everywhere but at me.

Charles looks at me, clears his throat and says… “maybe you shouldn’t do that at the end.”

Too funny. A great first session and great lessons learned. But what I remember most is not the mistakes (there were many), but the excitement of the first time.

Since then I’ve played thousands of sessions and concerts, and have worked with artists on every level. But I absolutely love working with new artists. I get to live vicariously through them when seeing a studio for the first time. Their excitement is infectious… their passion unbridled. And I get to not only play, but get to guide them through the process. To help make their mistakes minimal, but to allow them nonetheless.

But at the end of the day, we’ve made music that will not only touch us, but touch others in ways that only Holy Spirit can know.

Wow! I can’t wait for my next first time! Let’s go!!

And I promise… no bass slides!! 🙂