Hot Fun in the Summertime…

Ah… Summertime. It’s my favorite season. When the hot cow’s breath of summer winds blow down the back of your neck — offering scant relief.

It’s always been my favorite season. Probably because I was born in May. I was a summer baby!

Just as the world is beginning to warm back up after the cold, cold Ohio winter blowing down from Canada to the north, coming in off the Great Lakes.

So, the first few months of my life were lived in the warm sun and the smell of newly mowed grass, and the sounds of a million crickets in summer fields, and glass wind chimes hanging in open windows. And this was in the ‘fifties too. My memories of those early years always seem to take on an aura of a Norman Rockwell painting when I think back on them now.

And, the Music… This, after all, was the fifties and early sixties — my mother always had a radio on. More about the music later…

I don’t know why, but my body always seems to work better in the heat of summer. My joints and limbs all seem more flexible. I seem to have less of the little niggling pains associated with oh, I don’t know, living. My mood is better, more “cheery”. For one thing, you don’t have to wear as many clothes! Shorts and a tee shirt will do just fine. Even shoes are optional! All day long and into the night.

Shedding excess heat in the summer always seemed easier to me than trying to generate personal warmth in winter. Just stay still for awhile, and you’ll gradually return to normal!

This is also the season for one of my greatest of hobbies — playing in a classic rock cover band. That’s how weird I am…

I learned how to play guitar when I was a teen back in the late sixties (remember the radio?). My mother was smart enough to get me to a guitar teacher back then, and I had the fortune of being taught by an extraordinary teacher who, while teaching me the basic guitar chords and structures, gave me the secret of how to play individual notes and chords. Hint — it involves percussion, the guitar being a percussion instrument after all. That and “swing”…

In High School and through much of College, I played in various rock bands who were all the rage back then. This was the time of the great British Blues Invasion — coming in after the Beatles. The Beatles, of course, wove the world together back then, but after them came waves of British bands feeding back American Black Blues to our young appreciative ears. It was the first time we heard it, here in the swamps of Ohio. And we had hell to pay to keep up with the Brits who showed us how to do it.

And I drank it in like a glass of beer on a hot summer day. I became relatively proficient at it, in a sort-of pedestrian way, anyway.

Fast forward to now.

Fifty years have gone by while I worked my career, raised a family, lived my life. I got back into playing in bands back in the early ‘oughts. I found a willing group of old farts who like me, used to play in their teens, but still had the desire to do it some more — to not let whatever talent they possessed lie unused within them. To Rage Against the Dying of the Light…

Me at Woodstock. Yeah, right…

Of course, the world has now changed a lot in the fifty intervening years. For one thing, we’re not teenagers any longer. My demographic, who previously had youth in spades, is now composed of shall we say, “seasoned” individuals.

Somewhat north of sixty, I’m no longer in it “for the Chicks” as they say. Or any of the bright shiny objects that drew my attention back then. Charles Bukowski notwithstanding, long ago I had learned the concept of “all things in moderation”, and that the key to a long happy life was not allowing the things you love to kill you. That’s one thing we all learn if we get older. Self-preservation eventually rules out over self-discovery and exploration.

At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it…

Playing in this present band is good because we don’t (usually) play in dive bars. We become quite active in the summer — playing mainly the local outdoor festival circuit and the animal clubs. Municipal festivals, car shows, various fairs and rib-fests, campgrounds, etc., within the several surrounding counties here in Ohio.

Our set lists are made up of truly the “songs of our lives” — classic rock hits from the sixties through the ‘oughts. Our tastes, coming before the Metal era, are generally appreciated by all the baby boomers who by and large make up the bulk of attendees at these events.

Most of the newer present-day bands are, of course, made up of young people (just like we once were ). And these young bands of today gravitate to the music that is currently popular. Such that it is…

It’s somewhat unusual for the people at these festivals to hear a band that does music from our era. Music that stirs up old coals in the recesses of our minds — music from the far side of some decade, now far away.

Back from when we were in it for the Chicks…

So, here I am, playing outside in the summer heat, before the fireworks display, or rib-tasting contest, or something. I wear a cowboy hat — mainly for self-preservation in the sun, not for any desire to look cool.

Fragrant smoke from the fire pits wafting around us, sweat in the eyes, dodging occasional torrents of rain — it all mixes together into a surprisingly pleasant experience — at least when remembered in hindsight.

Although I’m usually in no mood to eat, some of the food is good as well!

I do have to drink copious amounts of water, however, and an occasional Gatorade. Usually, no alcohol.

You’ve heard of the alcoholic gene? I think I have it’s opposite — the anti-alcoholic gene.

I never could drink worth a shite…

I’ve tried in past lives, but it just never “took” with me, I guess.

So, when we’re done, every single thing on me is drenched with sweat (and sometimes rain). Every once in a while I’ll even pour water down my back if it’s really hot, being careful to not let the guitar get wet, of course…

We usually play two to three hours at these outdoor venues, but indoors in the animal clubs or legions, we typically play for four hours. As the summer wears on, your body gets used to it. You can handle the heat and the exhaustion better. It’s hard at the start of the summer, but by the end, I’ve usually lost a few pounds. And apparently the body is a firm believer of the old maxim: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

By the end of summer, my body doesn’t even mind standing for three or four hours, with a seven pound Stratocaster slung on it! So, here I am after the gig, trundling home in my SUV in the wee hours, loaded up with my amps, guitars, pedalboard, various stands, fans, accoutrements, and appurtenances, with all windows down. Or with the A/C on full blast, pulling into an all-night drive through. With Sly’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime” on the radio. Or, maybe an old Laura Nyro song to tug at the heart, reminding me of an old girlfriend of mine.

Ah, the choices we make…

They echo down through our decades like ghosts, ringing through the rafters of our lives. Occasionally illuminated by brief flashes of lightning…

Now the ghosts are singing ‘bout Texas Radio and the Big Beat…
Comes out of the Virginia swamps
Cool and slow with plenty of precision
With a back beat narrow and hard to master…’

Not many out on these lonely highways tonight. Heat lightning flashes off in the distance. A sublime calmness settles in, as I proceed home for a quick (and highly necessary) shower. For me and my little boat have made it to the other shore, across the stormy seas of an entire working career.

Good thing I am retired. This does make an excellent retirement gig after all…

The present… www.sobosmusic.com

Free-agent (aka: retired). I've turned back into a teenager! (Except without all the angst… better hardware, too).