Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The One-Dollar Gig

As a guitar player, I've played a lot of gigs over the years - but the best was an unplanned gig with my brother David. We didn’t even have our own equipment with us, but it worked well.

It happened 40 years ago, 1980. We were both visiting our parents at Christmas time. Neither of us had any money, but we wanted some beer. The problem was, we had exactly two dollars between us. We could have bought two six-packs of Kohlers - the skunkiest beer ever made (99 cents a six-pack), but we decided we wanted to get out of the house and have some decent beer.

We drove into town on a bitter cold December night. No one was around; we went first to the Wooden Nickel Tavern on Main Street, but it was closed. We knew there was only one other place - a bar on the north side of town on Route 28. I can't remember the name of the place, but it was for locals; they hated college students.

We drove up there and saw maybe three trucks in the parking lot, so we went inside. We expected to be thrown out, but the bartender saw us and said, "Hey, come on in from the cold and have a seat."

We sat at the bar and ordered two draft beers, probably Budweiser - a much better brew than the toxic Kohlers. They were fifty cents apiece, and we had just spent half of what we had. We sat at the bar, nursing our beers, knowing we only had enough money for two more.

Then I noticed an acoustic guitar on a shelf behind the bar, so I asked the guy about it. He said, "Do you play?" I said yes, and he handed it to me. I tuned it up, strummed a few chords and it sounded pretty good.

The bartender said to David, "Do you play too?"

"I play bass," said David.

"Well you're in luck," said the bartender. He pointed behind us in the dark. "There's an old stand up bass over there."

David walked over, picked it up and played a few notes. Then we started playing a song, and the bartender poured each of us another beer. I started to reach for my money, and he said, "Oh no, the band never pays for beer in this bar."

We played more songs; the bartender kept pouring more beer, the other people in the bar (all four of them) started dancing and applauding. 

We played for about two hours and the bartender kept pouring beer for us. We only paid for the first two - one dollar. By the time we left, we still had a dollar and we'd played a lot of songs and drank a lot of decent draft beer - all on the house.

I've played a lot of guitar in the 42 some years since I bought my first one. That was the most fun time I've ever had playing. Happy Birthday, David. That bar in A small town on a bitter cold December night with two dollars in our pockets was one of the most fun times I've ever had.

Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'Twisted Logic: 50 Edgy Flash Fiction Stories', 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts', 'Beyond the Fuzzy Parts,' 'Jonathan Stephens Is Just A Kid', 'Jonathan Stephens Is Moving', 'Suspended Logic', 'Descended From Royalty,' 'Covering the Astros,' 'Food Adventures,''The Set List,’ 'The Racing Line: Green Flag,’ and ‘The Racing Line: Checkered Flag.’ His books are available in paperback (some in e-book.)

He writes about sports for Season Tickets, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

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