Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Day My Music Died or How Bob Jones Ruined My Chances to Become a Famous Bass Player

I mentioned this event briefly, and Jamie mentioned it when blogging about her hesitation in visiting South Carolina, so I thought I would flesh out the whole event.

Like most kids the first musical instrument I ever played was the piano. It's the gateway drug of musical instruments. My first piano teacher was a chain smoking old lady. She'd sit there and listen to me play. She'd take a drag from her cigarette and say in her smoke stained voice, "Not bad, kid, not bad."
In fifth grade I was able to actually pick the instrument I wanted to play. For some reason I was drawn to the double bass. Maybe it was that low end sound, or the whole manliness of playing such a big instrument (mark it), but I think I chose it because it seemed easy to play.

The one main drawback of the bass was that it was huge. It became quite a chore carrying the thing from one end of campus to the other. I imagined I looked very much like an ant carrying something five times it's size. Actually, I probably looked more like a stick bug, but you get the point. Four years I hauled that monstrosity around.

For the most part I stunk. Every year I was "last chair." In eighth grade I made the jump to "first chair," but that was because I was the only chair. Since this was Bob Jones, the only music we played was orchestra music. Every now and then we got the chance to play a movie's theme. You might ask, how is it we weren't allowed to go see movies, but we could play their music? My only explanation is, "It's Bob Jones."

While enjoying my reign as the only person who had the balls to play bass, our teacher through us for loop by including the spiritual "Down by the Riverside." I was thrilled for a few reasons. First of all I got to pluck through the whole song. I hated using that damn bow. Also, there was a part that I loved to play. I called it the "Buh dup bump" part. "I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield" Buh dup bump "Down by the riverside!" Buh dup bump. "Down by the riverside!" It was like having a solo after every line. For the first time in my life I really had fun playing an instrument. I actually looked forward to practice.

Every few months our school would throw a concert where the orchestra would put on a concert so parents could gush and little siblings could complain that they had to sit still and listen to music that was nothing like Patch the Pirate. This was going to be my time to shine. I scooted up on my stool and sleep walked through the boring songs. Tonight was all about "Down by the Riverside." Finally the time came. I was in the zone during the whole song. I plucked the hell out of that bass. After it was over I had that rush of publicly performing a fun song. I loved it. Apparently, I loved it too much.

After the concert, I was approached by a few students and parents, and a teacher. They had a big problem with my performance...I danced. How could someone sitting on a stool during the whole song be accused of dancing. Again, "It's Bob Jones." You see I was in fact bobbing my head and moving my torso to the "Buh dup bump." This was deemed dancing in many people's eyes and I was rebuked for it. I was punished for having fun.

All the wind was taken out of my sails that night. Of course the one song that I really enjoyed playing was wrong because it caused me to "dance." I was stuck playing songs that I had no fun playing. So, the second I got a chance I bailed. If I hadn't had been brainwashed into thinking rock n' roll, jazz, or other "secular" music was wrong I might have stuck with it. I might have become a mediocre bass player with a small drug habit. I wouldn't have to rely on my good looks to get sleazy groupies. Oh the life I missed out on.

For a short time I dabbled in playing the trombone simply because I wanted to play the Star Wars theme. That's right. At one point I could actually play three musical instruments. The trombone didn't take. This is probably a good thing. If I had stuck with it, I'd probably have wasted my years in a ska band. Shudder. Anyway, thank you Bob Jones for ruining my musical career.

1 comment:

bobby said...

I played bass too, but in Junior High, and it wasn't a stand up bass, but the tuba kind. I was a tiny boy with a giant instrument (yes, please mark that), and it was absurd. I wanted to play sax (thank you Cagney and Lacey theme) but the band teacher *made* me play bass. You should have seen me carrying that thing home on the weekends. It was like a golf ball on a tee.

[Musical highlight: The Curly Shuffle.]