Trust and the art of Music Making
The first gig Charlie Dennis ever played on stage was with a Texas Bluesman called Johnny Clyde Copeland. Charlie was 12 years-old at the time and from the way he tells the story, he stood at the back of the stage, playing his guitar as timid as could be. Sometime during the set, Johnny Clyde came back there and grabbed that guitar right out of his hands and says, “Boy, that is not how you play the gi’tar. This here! This is how you play it.” And he commenced to pounding on the strings like he meant every stroke of it. When I asked Charlie what that felt like, playing with somebody like that, so young. Charlie said it was great, but it was so embarrassing to have his guitar pulled out of his hands like that. It was a lesson he’d never forget.
Charlie laughs when he tells the story. Pretty much the same as he laughs when he tells any story about his life in music. Like even a bad day playing is better than a good day not. Besides, is there any better baptism to playing blues guitar than that? Johnny Clyde taught him to trust his guitar. Taught him how to trust himself playing it. What better lessons to learn when you’re only 12 years old? And Johnny did it all without words.
I’m learning to trust me and my guitar a little bit, too, now that I’ve been playing and learning for a few weeks. I’m finally at a point where I don’t have to stare at the strings while I’m playing to make sure they’re where I expect them to be. It’s a damn good feeling, to realize that my fingers know right where to meet them (at least some of the time). It gives me a kind of confidence I never had until now.
Isn’t that the thing with trust? Every single time we learn a lesson about it – whether it’s a new way we trust ourselves, or an old friend we learn to trust in a new way – that feeling can’t help but add to who we are. It adds to the confidence we have in ourselves but also our confidence about where we fit in the world.
There’s something else about Johnny Clyde Copeland; I didn’t think to ask what he meant when he told Charlie, “This is how you play.” Maybe it’s just me, but I wonder if he meant to teach little Charlie Dennis that if you’re gonna do a thing, then DO it. Don’t mess around, just go on. Then once it’s done, so what if it wasn’t quite right? It’s already over, and you always have next to time to do it better.
Maybe those are just my imaginings after watching Johnny play this song called, Flying High. But I wished I’d had a chance to ask him – If you’re gonna do a thing, just go on about it, right Johnny?