Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Changing from a Kid into a Musician (Part 4)

How I found out music could heal!

My girlfriend at the time had a brother who was trying to learn bass. He was a great guy and I helped him however I could. Soon, he got invited to a party by some friends at work and the word was that there would be a jam – bring your instruments. He asked if I’d go so I grabbed my battery amp and my Strat and we went! He had his bass and a small practice amp.

One of the attendees at the party was this biker-looking dude. In New York, there was a widespread biker culture. But only a tiny fraction of these biker people owned motorcycles! Bike-less bikers!  But, I digress. This “biker” guy was all off by himself, grinding his jaws, frowny, bad vibes… then we found out he played bass.

For the next 2 solid hours, biker dude and I played a non-stop improve rock jam that got everyone’s solid attention. They shut off the stereo. It was serious! By the end, the biker guy was all smiles and hugs. Completely changed. I had been actually trying, intending, to send him healing vibes through the music. It seemed to work, at least to my satisfaction. At that moment began my continuing fascination with music as a healing medium.

All good things, however, must come to an end. And while there are innumerable stories from the Brooklyn 80’s as yet untold, we come to the part of the story where I was compelled to leave Brooklyn. For Las Vegas!

But why leave Brooklyn? Well, there was the unemployment thing….

I had a job as a suit-and-tie-wearing pavement-pounding cold-calling salesman for a corporate floral contractor. Basically a florist that wanted to corner the market on office buildings and their tenants’ floral needs. Reception desks, conference room tables. They all needed flowers. Business was brisk and I was a corporate floral sales rock-star. Then the Dead came to town. Our office was right around the corner from Madison Square Garden. The Dead had booked the Garden for something like 9 nights. There were barefoot long-haired freaks everywhere. MY PEOPLE! And here I was in a suit. I saw two of those Garden shows and shortly thereafter, my conspicuously absent work ethic resulted in my termination from the world of corporate floral sales.

But why not just get another job in Brooklyn?

Tried that…failed. Remember the Gulf War? It resulted in a recession and some high unemployment. I had a high school diploma and had done some construction work and some flower business work. There was no work for me in New York. People with Masters Degrees were competing for $5 an hour jobs in NYC. The rest of the country was the same story. Except Las Vegas.

So how did I come to know about Las Vegas? Steve Two-Thumbs! When I was jamming in Big Jim’s studio, most of the time the drummer was Steve. His right thump was deformed. It split into a Y-shape above the last knuckle. His right hand had two thumbs.

He had gotten into both of the wrong kinds of trouble at the same time (cop trouble and mafia trouble). Finding himself with a need to get gone, he hopped a bus west. By a number of random circumstances he found himself in Vegas and the economy and all other prospects in that fair city were good indeed.

Of this I was informed via a series of letters he had written me from The Promised Land. I was urged to come out west and things in Brooklyn around that time were turning in a way that resulted in my departure.

I gave my amp away and took my P-Bass, Strat and acoustic and some clothes on a plane and split.

Years passed in Vegas. A few bands, some solo acoustic shows in coffee shops. Some recording.

I became a family man! As soon as my first child was born, I sprouted a career by accident. Computers, software, databases. It all started then. Until then, it was whatever job paid the most but still allowed me to play music all night every night. Now I was feeding the babies. But the money came with a hook and I took the bait.

Next thing you know I’m relocating to Memphis, Tennessee. Must have been 1998.

I played a LOT of music in Memphis. Never really had a band, but still played out a lot. For the first year in Memphis I buddied up with a pair of guys that did an open mic. I would usually accompany them on slide guitar, and get to do my own set.

Next: Why I was paid to NOT play in a bar in Downtown Memphis on Saturdays from 4 to 7.

-Tom