It was 188 days ago that I made "The Promise" that may well turn out to destroy my self-image, mourn a milestone, make me afraid to ever show my face in public again.
Or it may well be "The Promise" that fulfills my dream, celebrates a milestone, gives a little bit of pleasure to a lot of people, provides a few laughs and a chance for cocktails, and turns out a lot better than I thought.
It is exactly one month from today when I will step on stage, armed with a guitar, and sing some songs. January 11 is the date. So let this serve as an open and free invitation. If you are a hater, come and watch me stub my toe. If you are not a hater, come and celebrate with an old man trying to check off the No. 1 item on his bucket list.
As I sit one month away, a little background ...
Performance has been a strong, present part of me for most of my life. I have acted in both amateur and professional stage plays. I have been in a movie. I have been on television and radio. I have been in a rock and roll band. I have played sports in public in front of crowds both big and small. I have given countless speeches, and taught courses and seminars.
Suffice it to say that crowds have never scared me, and I’ve always thought I acquitted myself fairly well. No starring roles, but comfortable and workman-like.
And now the bucket list has one big, big performance left.
Take a guitar, step on a stage in front of people, take a seat, tap a microphone and play some songs. Not surrounded by a band where I could look like I was playing but was really missing the strings by about a quarter inch. My guitar as a prop, so to speak.
The idea came to me after reading a book called "Guitar Man" about a British guy (Will Hodgkinson) who had done much the same thing. I started to have dreams about it, and I decided to go for it.
Lots of help was on the horizon. Jim Linneman, who runs Linneman’s Riverwest Inn was kind enough to offer his wonderful stage and sound system. He’s a wonderful guy who has had a dedicated commitment to local music for decades. This will definitely qualify as local. Music? We’ll see.
John Sieger, perhaps the best singer-songwriter Milwaukee has ever had, stepped up with lessons and coaching. I’ll also be doing two of his songs, just to prove how daring and foolish a grown man can be.
Bill Dwyer, who lives in Montana and is one of the very best guitar players I’ve ever seen, contributed coaching and lessons via Skype. What a country.
And Phil Lee, known throughout the music world as the Mighty King of Love, contributed one of his songs.
Through a halting process of sifting and winnowing, I’ve come up with a list of 11 songs that I think I can do. I’m pretty sure I won’t do all 11 unless there is an overwhelming demand for encores. Yeah, right. The biggest applause all night will be when I finally either step – or get dragged – off the stage.
Most of the songs you will have heard before. That’s a problem because you can’t help but compare my version to the original you know. I have no illusions about which version is better, but I hope to bring my own kind of unusual brand of charm to my attempts.
A few things that should be mentioned to everyone who is coming.
I will be 70 years old at the event. It’s a birthday party, as well as an evening of potential embarrassment. If you come with a present, you won’t be let in. And you have to buy a cocktail or two just to reward Jim Linneman for his courtesy, generosity and courage.
I hope everyone who reads this will be there. Doors open at 6-ish. Music starts at 2:30 a.m. the next morning after closing time. Just kidding. First chords struck in anger around 7:30-8.
Let the music begin.
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