Flashback to 1969. It was after dinner and I was sprawled out on the living room floor. My old man told me to pay attention to what was about to come across our flickering black and white television. A craggy faced man appeared on the screen, illuminated by a single overhead light.. "Hello. I'm Johnny Cash." He launched into "Folsom Prison Blues." I was stunned. A man with a guitar and a story to tell. I never got over it.
A couple of years later a friend and I grabbed a bus over to Ford City, a local shopping center. We went see "The Concert for Bangladesh." It was a benefit concert that had been released as a movie organized and hosted by George Harrison. The lineup included many top performers including Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton and others. Somewhere in the middle of the show George Harrison stepped up to the mic and announced "Now a good friend of us all, Mr. Bob Dylan." The crowd (it was filmed at New York's Madison Square Garden) went nuts. I was curious because I had absolutely no idea who this man was. He walked out in a jean jacket and picked an acoustic guitar. He sang "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Just Like a Woman," and "Mr. Tambourine Man." I immediately knew this was someone I needed to pay attention to and I immediately sought out his records. A man with a guitar and a story to tell.
Now, almost forty years after hearing Cash and Dylan, I'm still mesmerized. It still comes down to the basic format - a guitar and a story. It pervades any genre whether it's Irishmen Shane McGowan, Christy Moore, Scottish folk legend Archie Fisher, old rock n rollers John Hiatt, Neil Young, and Richard Thompson or new artists such as Justin Townes Earle and Jay Farrar of Son Volt. A guitar and a story to tell.
I thought of these things last Friday night as I headed home from a gig. I hit a "G" chord, closed my eyes, began to sing and I was still that kid watching Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan for the first time. A man with a guitar and a story to tell. Cheers.