Inspiration - 11/22/2015

     I took Mom and my son Kelley to see Skaggs, White, and Cooder, a collaboration between Ricky, the Whites, and Ry at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont on Monday night.  I had promised Kelley I would.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Kelley is a huge Skaggs fan.  He met Ricky backstage at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival several years ago, and Ricky was kind enough to let him play his prized “Peewee” mandolin, a Gibson Lloyd Loar that Peewee Lambert played on legendary Stanley Brothers recordings.  I’d always been a Skaggs fan, but he permanently sealed it that day with that act of kindness.  If you’re good to my son, you’re good to me.  I had to go to the concert, even though I left Maryland early that day after playing a gig, got home to pick up Kel and Mom, and had nearly two hours more to drive to the concert.  It was worth it.
     The whole band played and sang with such joy.  It was hard to take my eyes off Ry Cooder as so many ideas were hitting him at once and his fingers were doing their best to respond.  His playing is so “in-the-moment,” inspired and exciting.  It was great to hear Ricky on not just mandolin, but fiddle and Telecaster as well.  I marveled at Buck White, 84 years old and playing piano like a man possessed.  The Whites’ singing melted me like it always does.  Ricky’s singing, of course, was on the money as well.  It was fun to steal glances at Mom and Kelley throughout the show, to see their faces lit in enjoyment.  Ricky had invited us backstage after the show in a text earlier in the day.  My mom brought him some of her prized raspberry jam that she makes from berries she picks at home.  Ricky has lost a lot of weight and I said, “Maybe you’re staying away from stuff like this.”  He said, “I am, but this is worth eating a biscuit for.”  Mom told me later that he said to her, “Mrs. Gibson, you and your husband did a fine job raising those boys.”  He talked to Kelley about music, encouraged him, and gave him a pick.  A thousand dollars wouldn’t have made that boy happier. 
     I don’t get to sit in the audience for a lot of shows.  I play so much music that when I am off the road, I really don’t want to leave the yard.  That said, I need to do it from time to time for inspiration.  To see people like Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, and Merle Haggard, guys who have done it all, still doing their thing, still following their muse, gives me hope that I always will.  It is fun to see Del playing not only with his sons, but in other situations with people like Sam Bush and in concept shows in tribute to Woody Guthrie.  Merle is STILL writing songs as he nears 80.  It was so enjoyable yesterday to listen to Tom Petty Radio for a long drive.  He is still cranking out great records, still loves the music so much.  This is a good time in my life as I see my son immersed in music, improving and feeling that feeling like all of us get when we get the fever, like we are the first to discover fire.  I have never attained anywhere near the level of success of these heroes I have mentioned, but I think I love music as much as anyone I’ve ever met.  Eric O’Hara, the man who gave Leigh and me lessons early on, told me once that he “wanted to keep learning ‘til the day I die.”  Me, too.