My years in the spotlight had quite a humble start
For a young singer songwriter, a chance to be in the spotlight, even for just a few bucks, is something you gotta take. And that was me, way back in the early 70’s. After a couple of years teaching myself how to bang out some chords and riffs on the piano…and after writing a lot of world-changing songs…I knew I was ready for the big time! And one of my first opportunities to play for an actual audience was in the world renowned, Dinkledorf’s Deli in Kansas City, Missouri.
I remember going into just about any place that had a piano, in the River Quay area of Kansas City, and asking if I could audition to play there. Believe it or not, several of the owners and/or managers let me. My repertoire consisted of nothing but Tony Funderburk music, so it wasn’t enthusiastically received in 99% of the places I tried. But at one place, a little delicatessen with the motto “Thin Is In, But Fat Is Where It’s At”, the manager liked my confidence and booked me for a weekend. A whole weekend! That meant two whole nights of playing for a real crowd! I was stoked!
Who knew being in the spotlight could be so challenging?
The first night of my booking arrived, and I made it to the deli extra early to get ready. They kept an old upright piano in the place, and it was mostly in tune. So, that was a plus. They also had a built-in sound system…and a microphone on a boom stand next to the piano. Who could ask for more in a first time booking? Well…not so fast.
Like I said, the piano was mostly in tune. But what I didn’t mention was how it faced a wall that didn’t face the audience. In other words, when it came time to perform, I was playing with my back to the crowd. Just like all those honky-tonk piano players you see in the old western movies. And that’s not the best (or worst) part. The microphone stand had a boom attached with duct tape. Yep, you read that right. Duct tape. And I could position it where I wanted, but as the song progressed, so did the mic boom. Slowly dropping down.
So, there I’d be…singing my heart out, with my back to the audience, and slowly lowering my head to keep singing into the dropping mic. Can you picture it? A young guy singing his own songs on a microphone that wouldn’t stay in place and all the while wondering how the crowd was reacting. Talk about the glamor of showbiz!
I learned a valuable lesson in my very first music booking.
No…not persistence. And not embracing failure in order to succeed. My first lesson wasn’t even about how to get everything in writing. It was that duct tape doesn’t actually fix everything after all. Ha! Just kidding. The first lesson I learned about being in the spotlight was some sort of combination of those first three things I just mentioned. I didn’t give up, or see myself as any kind of failure, and I did go on to enjoy 25 years in the music business. In fact, I’m still in it thanks to the power of the internet…and YOU! And for that, I thank you from the bottom of my duct-taped heart.
Stay tuned to the Rhyme and Reason Podcast, and I’ll share an old recording of me from way back then.
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