I bet most towns have five great guitar players. And another 25 damn good ones.
Guitar players know how hard they have to work at their instrument (practice makes perfect, Eddie.) So those five great guitar players in every town know their skills. They all love doing music. Circumstances and desire sometimes allows one or two of those five to seek fame and fortune. Or just to make a living picking and grinning.
Half of those two guys from every town in America end up in Los Angeles or Nashville.
Los Angeles has thousands of great guitar players. Nashville has many hundred. Picking and grinning can happen, but it can be just for tips…(putting food on the table sometimes involves learning other skills like saying those famous words…”Do you want fries with that?”)
Back in my birth town of Lafayette in Hoosierland, I saw some great guitarists. And yes, even some of our banjo players, like Larry McNeely, made Nashville take notice.
I left Lafayette and my old music store to work in the music biz in California. Shortly after I left, one of a new breed of fine guitar players, Jay McDowell, started teaching at my old shop. My friend and partner, who took over the store, Dave Grimes, used to tell me how he’d hired another great one in Jay.
Jay was one of those ‘top five’ guys and he had the desire to pick and grin for a living. Off to Nashville he went, hoping to get his guitar on a big stage…any stage would do to start. It was the nineties and Garth, Wynona, Dixie Chicks, Alan, Billy Ray, Shania, and George were on top the charts. Rock clubs were starting to spring up and change the atmosphere of downtown Nashville and jazz players also had some nice venues to jam.
But the phone for guitar gigs stayed quieter than Jay wanted.
But, Jay also played a great bass and took a few bass gigs. The word got out. Nashville needed bass players and Jay started working constantly. In the mid-‘90s he joined a band that had a gig playing for tips at Robert’s Western World on Broadway in Nashville.
Playing for tips– divided by FIVE.
The band named themselves after a phone number from a funny skit on Hee-Haw. Remember this guy?
BR-549 was discovered at Robert’s Western World by Arista Records in 1995 and the rest is history. Albums and singles on the country charts and three Grammy nominations, Smilin’ Jay and the boys were picking and grinning all over the world.
(Jay is the tall one)
After many years on the road, Jay found a love for the production side of music, especially video. He worked for Sony doing some wonderful music videos and doing a few video jobs at the newly built “Musicians Hall of Fame.” That led Jay to the “best job in the world.”
He is now the curator of that Hall of Fame and it is a wonderland of history for any lover of music of the past sixty or so years. From the birth of rock on…
Instruments that belonged to my heroes, plus letters, records, rare photos, entire studio equipment and even the sound proof walls from the most legendary music factories of all time are right in front of you.
I invite all of you to never leave Nashville without seeing the Musicians Hall of Fame. Not only nostalgia lives there, but I felt some ghostly spirits still hanging around.
Say Howdy to Jay.
What a fun place! Thanks, Jay.