Sometimes the spotlight finds you - even when you're not looking

By WES BROOKS,

It’s boogie woogie rock and roll again this week as I’m air-guitaring to “Go Faster” from The Black Crowes 1999 release By Your Side. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen, just be sure you turn it way up when you do.

It’s been a couple of weeks now and I’m still riding the high of being on stage at the Best of the Pine Belt Awards Show. The entire performance was a blur. However, I can vividly remember standing on the stage thinking “How did I get here, and how lucky am I?!”

Since that evening, those questions were replaced with “Did that really happen, or did I dream it?” I still get that high when I play with my guys, The 6550’s, and I had it especially when we played the BOPB show in 2016. However, those were my guys and we’re about as synchronized as you can get.

In short, the thought of playing with strangers was completely out of my comfort zone.

To be clear, it wasn’t that I didn’t think I could pull it off. My worry was that talent like theirs deserved a Guthrie Govan and I was going to be bringing them Johnny Thunders (see my PS at the end of this column for an explanation of who those cats are).

Here’s a quick rundown for you…

Lana Wakeland (singer), Gay Polk Payton-White (singer), Joel Ingram (drums), Jessie Vasser (bass), Jaime Jeménez (keys), Joel Gallaspy (keys), and singing backup was none other than the cast of Selma the Musical. To give you some perspective on the Selma singers, five days prior to my meeting them they were performing live for Robin Roberts and the rest of the nation on Good Morning America.

I’ve never really considered myself a musician.

To me, musicians can read music, charts, or tablature. Of course, I can’t do any of those things.

I know the names and shapes of chords, and I can play one scale with elementary proficiency. That’s it.

 

What kind of trouble did I get into?

Gotcha moving, gotcha moving

 

Not staying long just passing through

Keep you rolling, keep you rolling

 

I got a clearer understanding of how deep the water I was diving into was at the first of only two practices we had prior to performing.

Here’s the set up.

We’d run through the song a couple of times before the Selma singers arrived.

When they got there, I could faintly hear Lana and one of the Selma singers talking about the singing arrangement. Lana asked if they could do one section in three-part harmony. To me, the answer she gave Lana was as intimidating as it was hilarious.

“Girl, I got you… we’re gonna do 7-part harmony.”

Intimidating? Yeah, because singing 7-part harmony is scary hard. Hilarious? Yeah, because she said it as nonchalantly as if it were no more difficult than tying her shoes. And if you saw the performance, they sang it just as easily.

Immediately after she said it, in an effort to be facetious but equally self-depricating, I looked over at Jaime and said, “7-part harmony, huh? Sure, and I’ll knock out a couple of diminished scales in dorian mode.” However, the joke was on me because he looked right back at me and said, “I love dorian mode.”

Humble pie? One slice for me, please.

I hope the expression on my face conveyed the fact that I haven’t the foggiest idea how to play in dorian mode, because that’s the direction I was aiming.

Then it struck me that I haven’t been asked to improvise, and I thought, “you wouldn’t have been asked if they didn’t think you could do it… just get out of your own way and play the song.”

 

I know the chemicals you like too

Gotcha moving, gotcha moving

And if you ask me nice

I'll take you to school

Keep you rolling, keep you rolling

 

I took all I need

I don't need no more

Then I'll take what I want

Until I want some more

 

I’m glad that I did, because it made for a truly memorable event. And I don’t just mean the musicians I had the honor of collaborating with, I mean the entire evening.

It was an honor to be part of an event that, from start to finish, was loaded best our little part of the world has to offer.

And I got to be part of the grand song. For that, I am most humbly appreciative and thanks are due.

 

You can't stop

Or I might pass ya

If you slow down

I'll out last ya

But when you're down

You won't find me laughing

 

Just one question I might ask ya

It might sound like a disaster

Can you make this thing go faster?

 

To David Gustafson and his staff at Hub City Spokes, thank you for the vision and the insane amount of planning, coordination, and work it takes to put on an event like this. This event has become such a gift to our community, and it’s one I look forward to throughout the year.

Most importantly, thank you for asking this guy to be a part of it.

For you, the reader, if you are one of the few who hasn’t experienced the Best of the Pine Belt Awards Show, the bad news is you missed this year’s. The good news is you have 11½ months to plan for the next one. And I’d make sure to do that because, although it’s not quite there yet, you can bet this is going to become an event where the tickets sell out in minutes. Until then, I will remain…

Most sincerely and humbly yours,

Wes

 

P.S. Please forgive the reference to the two guitarists you probably never heard of (Guthrie Govan and Johnny Thunders), but my inner guitar nerd couldn’t be helped. Guthrie Govan is a mind-blowing, technical guitar wizard, while Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls) was a literally the opposite. Look them up on YouTube and it’ll make perfect sense.

 

When he’s not rocking his socks off, Wes Brooks spends his days as the Development Coordinator at the DuBard School for Language Disorders at The University of Southern Mississippi.