When You Don’t Know Where Home Is, You’re Lost.

 

blue guitar 2It’s funny where things take you. Life beats the twists, turns and curves of a rollercoaster by a country mile.

I was born in Chicago — but that’s no longer a felony in most jurisdictions. I didn’t pick real good parents, but I’ll say this for them: they both liked music. My mother had a sweet singing voice, just right for lullabyes and torch songs. When my old man got boozed up – a fairly frequent occurrence – sometimes he’d get into an odd mood, and drag out this old hobo of a guitar. He’d sit in the kitchen, fumble some chords, and croon to himself, in a distant way, and in a language all his own. That was fine with me. When he was beating up on that guitar, he wasn’t beating up on me.

There was music all around, too. On a hot summer night, I could hang out by the fire-escape window, and there’d be music on the breeze. City street noises can make quite a percussion section. Especially when it rains. Lots of radios going, and you could focus your ears in on different stations. Somewhere down the block somebody moaning the blues on a tenor sax. See, in Chicago, you can’t walk half a city block without hearing some kind of good music. If you were so inclined, you could take most of a day, and walk across the city, from neighborhood to neighborhood, and hear all different kinds of music from jazz to blues to Motown to rock to country to several flavors of Spanish. Did that one time, by accident.

Anyway, when things got real bad at home, as they often did, I ran away and hid in some music. Singing along with Elvis or Old Blue Eyes, or whatever was on the radio, I could be someplace else. I could be somebody else — and, man, I needed it. Probably saved my life.

By the time I was 12 or 13, I was spending as little time as possible at home. Hanging out on the street. Black leather jacket and blue jeans. Old Spice brilliantine greasing my hair up just so. Switchblade in my pocket. Just one wrong move away from a bad end. One night it was cold out, and I had scratched up enough spare change to get into the movies, so in I went. It was warm and dark and I could be invisible. It was a decision that changed everything.
The flick that was playing was called “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Story about Hank Williams. Starred George Hamilton, if I recall. In one scene, music publisher Fred Rose, was just a hair skeptical that a poor hillbilly like Hank could have written “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” So he challenged Hank to sit down and write him a song, right there and then, while he waited. Hank came through like a champ, with “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You).”

Stayed to see that movie twice.

Walking home afterward, I wrote my first song. It wasn’t much. A 12-bar blues. But it was mine.

So now we do a Hollywood montage of a lot of years singing with rock bands, and on the road with my guitar as solo singer/songwriter, in countless bars, clubs, coffee houses, colleges, resort hotels, wherever and whenever. Played some great gigs when everything clicked and people really dug it. Played to some huge crowds, and played a few private concerts for the bartender. Once a lady asked me to play a song of mine for her daughter’s wedding ceremony. Played some bizarre gigs – like the dog sled championships in Rangely, Maine.

Fast forward a few years – okay, more than a few. I’ve traded city lights for country nights. I keep company with horses as much of my time as possible. They’re good teachers, even if I’m a little slow. A whole lot cheaper than therapy, too. But I’m still writing songs. Apparently, I just can’t help myself. When I get together with other people, it’s to make some music. Apart from that I prefer to keep pretty much to myself.

These days I’m not locked into a particular band, doing a particular style of music. I’m free to explore, do whatever feels right, whatever feels honest.
I let each song be it’s own thing. Every song has a story and every story has a storyteller who tells it in his own language — and that language might be country, or rock or jazz, or blues or something else entirely. Most of the stories I tell are my own. A few of them are stories that belong to other people, but I tell them because they can’t do it for themselves. Each song is like casting a movie. There are a lot of excellent musicians of all kinds in and around Ithaca, New York, and I try to pick just the right players to bring each song to life and give it the perfect flavor.

I write about things that matter to me, things that I hope matter to you, too. And every once in a while, I come up with something that’s not too bad.

Now, this is where you come in.

You know that old thing about, if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody to hear it, does it make a sound? You could ask the same question about music. If somebody writes a song but nobody hears it, what’s the point? A story doesn’t matter when it gets told. It only matters when it gets heard.

So I look forward to sharing my music with you.
When I do, it stops being just mine.
It kind of becomes ours.

And that’s very cool.

If you’d like to check out more of my music, you can find some of it here.

Talk to you soon. Take care.

sj

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