This is a failure story. This is the first week of American Idol. Everybody loves a good failure.
I bought my first real banjo in the fall of 2013. Up to that point, I had a poor excuse for a tenor banjo. I spent enough time with it to know that I wanted a better instrument. I went to the banjo store and picked out one I liked. It’s nothing fancy but it suits me just fine.
I promptly went home, learned three chords, and wrote this song:
This was a fun song to play despite my clunky, heavy handed guitar strumming on the banjo. When I started playing with the Lost Cause, the fiddle gave this song the life that it had been missing. For clarification, the version above does not include banjo or fiddle. Stay tuned for the “real” version coming at the end of March.
To coincide with a benefit the Lost Cause was scheduled to play, we had a spot on a local TV show to help promote the charity. I’ve been performing for so many years that I never get nervous anymore. However, the idea of live television failure gave me the old fashioned nervy poos.
We showed up, did our sound check and anxiously retreated to the green room. I had been having some recurring trouble with the bridge on my banjo. At that time, I had been playing the banjo about six months. This was long enough to have changed the strings but not long enough to know how to do it right. We proceeded to perform some necessary MASH surgery, nothing invasive, just a patch job.
The intern came in and told us it was time. We followed her to the studio, relatively confident that we had everything under control. We passed the weather man getting his maps ready for his upcoming report. Single file, we high stepped over cords and gracefully pirouetted our instruments around all invasive cameras. We stepped onto the set. They introduced us on live television, the red light came on, and we began to play. “Bands on the back porch….POP, Twang,….”
The bridge collapsed flat, there was no physical way to play the banjo. Like any true professional, I stomped some ground and faked it. Afterward, everyone said how great we sounded which makes me wonder if I should give up the banjo.
The moral of the story is to make sure you are fully prepared. It’s completely cliche, but no matter what your discipline, do your reps. I was so completely familiar with the song, my muscle memory was able to carry me through. I knew what it should look like if I had been playing. There was no thought, just another repetition. The expression “fake it till you make it” is crap. Practice enough so that if you have to fake it, no one will notice.
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