Friday, July 16, 2010

Guitar Hero? We found one

It wasn't long ago and we were watching a great show at a club in downtown Milwaukee. We noticed a couple things about the lead guitarist, besides the fact that he was doing some really fine work on his Fender Telecaster.  He was working up a good sweat all right, and we were drawn to his left hand, particularly the fingertips.  As he ran that hand up and down the neck of the Tele we kept seeing a blur of blue.

Had he painted his fingertips for some reason?  What was going on there?

During a break we bumped into the bass player and told him how much we had enjoyed the set, and remarked how impressed we were with the lead guitarist.

"You should see him play WITHOUT the gloves!" said the bass player.

Now there's a story.  The guitarist, who has been battling significant health issues, got to the point where it felt like razor blades just pressing his fingers on those steel strings.  But he's a guitar player, you know?  What are you gonna do?

He tried wearing latex gloves, which is crazy. He tried applying different types of glue to his fingertips.  He tried a number of different things to blunt the pain he felt when his fingertips hit the strings.  And if you play guitar you know how imporant it is to feel those strings because they become part of you, just as your hands and fingers become part of the instrument.  There was nothing easy about this experiment, and no simple solution that would return the natural magic to the fingertips.

But somehow he figured out a way to keep the tips of latex gloves on his fingers as he played. And we suspect there was still some degree of pain when he played.  But he played all night, and he played well.

Here is your real Guitar Hero.  We learned while he was recuperating from some major surgeries that he recorded an album appropriately titled The Vicodin Sessions.  It was done in one take in his kitchen, influenced by "a good dose of pain pills."  Just him, a 1966 Fender Newport acoustic, an occasional Oahu lap steel guitar, various harmonicas and two channels of a mult-track recorder. And a bottle of Vicodin.

We're putting that disc in the player today.  And we don't want to hear about your problems.

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