This column is going to be an update but it really might be the announcement of my comeback.
I don’t know whether you have noticed or not but my appearance on the pages of OnMilwaukee.com has been sporadic at best over the last several months.
Simply put, I have had some very difficult health issues to deal with. It’s had me in and out of the hospital and in and out of the mainstream.
But I think I can announce at least with some measure of safety and certainty that I am now back and raring to go.
And I want to start with an update on my quest to become the guitar man.
The original story can be read here. The first update of that story can be found here. Now, what I've decided to do is to learn how to play guitar and sing and do a solo gig on the night of my 70th birthday in January 2014.
I have been on stage a lot in my life as a member of theatrical casts and as a member of the band. But I have never been up there all by my lonesome with a guitar, some songs and hopefully people in the audience. That’s what’s going to happen.
The process is underway and there have been some highlights and an occasional lowlight or two.
The most important thing, of course, is the music. I have about six or seven songs chosen. I'm being taught by outstanding musicians in Milwaukee, Montana, Nashville and California. Thank God for Skype.
The venue is set. The famous Linnemann’s Riverwest Inn, 1001 E. Locust St. Jim Linneman opened his place in 1993 and he has graciously offered a beautiful facility to be the venue for this crazy dream of mine.
One problem and I hope it's a minor problem is the result of some recent surgery that I had. The last three fingers on my left hand have turned numb. That is a very difficult proposition for somebody who is trying to play the guitar. But I’m starting therapy next week and hope that we will be able to overcome this minor problem.
Linneman bought his building in 1993. Shortly after he opened the bar, he and a carpenter friend stayed up all night to build a stage (over the end of the bar) so that music could be played that weekend. The first performers: Sigmund Snopek and Friends. The stage was designed so it could easily be taken down and put back up, but was never taken down after being installed!
The stage in the front room lasted 10 years, still exists and rests in the basement today.
It is estimated that nearly 10,000 performers have graced that stage, including: Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Ray Davies of the Kinks (who did not perform but only walked on the stage), Woodstock legend Country Joe McDonald (three times), famed British saxophonist Dick Perry (Pink Floyd, The Who) – who was stuck in Milwaukee during Sept. 11 and hung out nightly at Linneman’s! – all four core members of the Violent Femmes including Brian Richie, Victor Delorenzo, Gordon Gano and Guy Hoffman – plus countless members of the Femmes famous "horns of dilemma," including Sigmund Snopek, Peter Balistreri, Jeff Hamilton, John Sparrow and many others.
Sam Llanas, founder of the Bodeans, is a dear friend of Linneman’s and has performed here regularly over many years with several other Bodeans. Peter Tork of the Monkees walked into Linneman’s one night to see The Mosleys play, and stayed for hours. Many other high-profile Milwaukee musicians have played Linneman’s over the years, and continue to come back.
In 2003, after 10 years in business, Linneman’s added a large area that included a new, larger stage.
Linneman’s Acoustic Wednesday open stage continues to operate after 20 years, fostering quality songwriting and songwriters in Milwaukee. Today many of Milwaukee’s popular bands have members who started performing at Linneman’s Acoustic Wednesday.
Being a music venue in Milwaukee is not a pathway to riches. It can be difficult and problematic. But Linneman has persisted and his commitment to local music is one that should be the envy of every promoter in town.
And so, his venue awaits and practice continues. I’ll keep you up to date.
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