How A Guitar Saved My Life by anonymous

Inferno Guitar Logo

This article was sent to us by a woman who was so inspired by another article we published that she wanted to share this very intense and intimate story with us. She asked to remain anonymous and we respect her wishes.

How a Guitar Saved My Life!

by a woman/guitarist/mother who wishes to remain anonymous

This is a story about how a guitar can change a life.
No, that’s not quite right. It’s really a story about how a guitar saved my life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s not how this story begins. It begins with "Once Upon a Time," as all well-told stories do, and with conflict and tragedy

After 15 years of becoming quite comfortable being married to a man I loved and respected and experiencing the joy of being mother to our son, our lives were forever changed one night by crushing pains in my husband’s chest. Although doctors performed routine angioplasty surgery and painted illusions of a "happily ever after" storybook ending with promises of a quick recovery and better-than-ever health, that’s not how this story’s plot unfolds.

Over the course of the next twenty months,
I did my best to nurse my husband, work full-time from my home office, manage our personal business matters and shoulder full responsibility for our 13-year-old son. I had to watch my husband–my best friend, the caring father of my son, and the most talented and smartest man I ever met–deteriorate, physically, emotionally, and mentally, as my attempts to find a doctor to correctly diagnose and treat his condition failed. He was hospitalized eleven times during his illness, the majority of which began with a frantic call to the paramedics. As his physical condition waned, his mental and emotional health followed. He became extremely depressed and would vacillate between episodes of depression, rages of anger and remorse. Although untreated until the last three months of his life, he had developed bipolar disorder (also called manic depressive). As in the classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he would transform from the wonderful person I had loved and admired into a monster that kept my son and I isolated–captive in a state terror.

At first he would remember the rages and would become severely remorse and depressed afterward, but eventually he didn’t remember the rages anymore and our lives were reduced to just trying to cope with each day as it came. During an episode of depression, he tried to end his life by shooting himself, only to change his mind at the last minute, blasting a one-inch hole in the bedroom wall. My son and I sat paralyzed by fear in another room, knowing what the loud boom was, pushing the thought of what we might find out of our minds, and fearing that the depression would turn into anger directed towards us. All three of us suffered a great deal of emotional pain as our family deteriorated. Neither my son or I will forget the sound of my scream when I found my husband dead after passing away in his sleep. My son suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder and can no longer remember the kind and loving father his dad had been prior to his illness. I have grieved over the loss of my one-true-love, puzzled over why it had to happen to me, worried about the future of my son, and faced the reality of being over 50 and alone.

By now you may be saying to yourself "That’s a sad tale,
but what does that have to do with music?" To that I reply, "There really is a happy ending to this tale of woe and it’s all about music." Shortly after my husband became ill, he told us that he wanted to take up playing music to keep himself occupied. With high hopes that it would raise his spirits, my son and I filled the house with musical instruments–saxophones, flutes, guitars, and a keyboard. Three months before my husband’s death, I bought a guitar for myself….

Now to the good part.
The part where the guitar saves the heroin of this story’s life. (Okay, so I’m not a heroin, but it sounded good!) After my husband’s death (two years after the nightmare began), I looked in the mirror and wondered what the hell happened to me. Obese, out of shape, feeling mentally and physically exhausted, with symptoms of newly-diagnosed diabetes, lonely and sinking into a pit of depression from which I feared there would be no escape. I knew I had to do something or the remainder of my life wouldn’t be worth living. So, I found a guitar teacher and signed up for weekly lessons thinking that would at least get me out of the house. At first, I just showed up each week, knowing that I hadn’t practiced at all. But I kept on showing up and little by little my life has been transformed.

Playing guitar makes me happy!
In fact, I’ve named the studio where I take guitar lessons "The Happiest Place on Earth." Music must make other people happy too because my guitar teacher is the happiest person I’ve ever met. I love my guitar and have bought several more to keep it company. I practice as much as I can.up to four to six hours each day. The amazing part of this story is that the happiness I found playing the guitar has spread through all aspects of my life. I try each day to make happiness my top priority, I’ve lost 105 pounds, overcome diabetes, do Pilates for exercise, just bought a bicycle, and swear I look at least ten or fifteen years younger. Oh, and did I mention that I’m reaching out, actively searching for a band to join and looking for friends to jam with? Or that my musical goal is to play lead guitar in a progressive metal band? And here’s the son started taking guitar lessons shortly after I did and now has his sights set on attending Julliard to major in composition. Guess I’ll have to give that guitar credit for saving two lives!

Don’t get me wrong. Life is not perfect.
I still grieve for my husband, worry about my son, have normal mid-50’s aches and pains, occasionally get frustrated over the search for band mates, and have days when I’m down or feel lonely, but life is worth living. And when I get blue, I just go do what I like my guitar.

My love affair with guitars began when I was 52
and was the catalyst that helped me through personal tragedy. Music and the path I’m pursing to perform is now my passion. I hope that sharing my story will inspire those that, for whatever reason, believe they cannot change their lives. All that’s required is action, even a small one, to start the ball rolling. Mine was making the phone call to inquire about guitar lessons. What’s yours?

** I met the writer of this article and she is truly remarkable. Plus becoming a fine guitarist. **

Read all our Articles

Rocking Moms Mothers Who Rock – Mamapalooza

Joy Rose Rocking Moms

Joy Rose is a rocking female musician who also happens to have a bunch of kids. She founded "Mamapalooza" an organization to network with other "rocking moms" and her band "Housewives on Prozac".

Mothers Who Rock – Rocking Moms – Birthing A Movement! How We’re Doing It.

by Joy Rose

The interviewer shoves a microphone in front of my face, as my cell phone rings – A little voice on the other end wants to know when I’ll be home. I’m not a celebrity. Nor am I aiming for that. Or am I?

As founder of The HOUSEWIVES ON PROZAC Band, I’ve spent the better part of the last eight years on stage when I’m not mothering my four kids. Why?

Since nearly dying in 1994 from LUPUS and then going thru a kidney transplant in 2001, I learned first hand about incredible healing properties of music.

Music saved my life.
Simple and easy. After my fourth and last child was born, I landed in the middle of my own dark novel before going back out into the world imbued with a fervor for the healing properties of sound, and a kind of youthful zest normally enjoyed by people half my age.

As the 47 year old mother of 4 kids, I wasn’t thinking about ‘fame’, I was thinking about getting off dialysis and saving a few more souls, just as mine had been saved. I was looking for ways to offer the Martha Stewart wannabes a kind of colorful zest that can be used in more than just cooking.

These were the things I learned when I was bald and bloated on chemo and steroids, when red lipstick was the only way I could light myself up, and songs floated through my head long after the babies had gone to sleep.

I was looking not to find the art in my surroundings, but the art in myself! I wanted to turn my whole living breathing body into a magnificent sashaying miracle.

When other people noticed my enthusiasm, I was proud.
Proud to have inspired them, just as I’m inspired daily by people around me. When I picked up a guitar and started strumming, I was happy when other people came to witness it, and then jumped on board, only to wake up years later in the midst of a rush of enthusiastic peers.

I didn’t invent the idea of Moms Who Rock. We were always out there, busting at the seams of our too tight fifties sensibilities that didn’t exactly coincide with our college educations.

As a Mom and a performer
I’ve struggled with similar issues at home and on stage, finding time to squeeze everything into an already overflowing life. Celebrating every moment even when the moments grow dull and monotonous, and it seems as if my car wheels are spinning in circles but, I’m not getting anywhere. Learning to love myself and the tiny beings entrusted into my care.

It’s a full time life!

I have a lot of feelings about The Mom Rock ‘Movement’ and all the attention it’s been getting. Someone recently told me they heard a NPR radio show and 14 new Mom-Bands have formed in this area since January. Are these people who are entrusting their passion to their art, or simply jumping on the ‘famous’ bandwagon?

How do I land at the top of a heap
that has no top and no bottom? How do I distinguish myself, when the whole goal I set out to achieve was the kind of soulful abundance that is available to everyone, if they’ll just open their eyes to their own creativity? My Mother was a frustrated housewife. I was too, until circumstances laid a destiny at my doorstep that was much bigger than I ever could have imagined.

"I left my husband so someone else wouldn’t have to." I said, nodding to the reporter.

Somewhere in my head I believed if I’d started out my marriage as an empowered woman, I wouldn’t have ended up disempowering myself 18 yrs later as a mother and a wife. This may be overly optimistic.

We still haven’t successfully redefined ourselves as women,
let alone middle-aged women, let alone mothers, let alone artists. The work force cannot ever completely prepare someone for the isolation, lack of financial restitution and mundanity that stay at home parents routinely face, and the raging sense of stuck-righteousness every mother needs to remind herself to let go of from time to time.

The MAMAPALOOZA Festival was the only way I knew to give back to a life that has been overly generous to me.

Now, as I face mounting costs, and the reality of single-parenthood, I’m faced with a whole different list of challenges. As I look for new ways to empower myself financially, I force myself to grow into a whole new kind of person. One who demands material rewards for hard sweated labor, both on my behalf and the behalf of other mothers.

If I can do it, then so can you.
So can my daughter. If I can find a way to slightly widen, expand and invigorate the role of motherhood, which is only part of my job description, then I’ve done a good job.

If I can work the miracle of the moment by turning the banal into the extraordinary, then I’ve done a good job.

If the world view of Moms changes to incorporate concepts of artistic, gorgeous, vivacious, intelligent, sexual beings living out their soul and passion collectively, and reverberates just a little more loudly, then I’ve done a good job.

And so have you ….And you …..And you.

It is up to each of us to examine the glass ceiling of our lives and stretch the perimeters of what is acceptable. Who determines ‘acceptable’ behavior, attire, attitudes? Is it an outdated patriarchy or the hierarchy of our soul calling?

I can honestly say that to climb up the burning heap of nearly-famous, for the sake of being a Rock Star at any age, doesn’t interest me in the least. Or, least not the idea of being famous for famous sake.

It is brave just to get out of bed everyday. Brave to feed the children when they call out. Brave to make the beds, start the car, and stir the pasta. Living is brave. Singing about it, doesn’t take bravery. It has takes blood and guts and madness. It is a messy business this show-biz life. The kind of madness that only a mother can safely negotiate in a truly heroic manner.

I think we all know what it takes to make a hero?
And what are Moms, if not Everyday Heroes?

If this Movement is meant to be more than just a Baby Boomer s last whine, or a newer narcissistic heave of thoughtless mayhem to simply reduce stress, then there must be a collective energy softening and surrounding our consciousness. We have to work hard to blur the edge of Me, Me, Me and make it about Us . That s what wise women do. And, at the same time, honor ourselves enough to know when financial restitution is available– We will use it, and use it to our mutual benefit.

Birthing a Movement isn’t easy.
I suppose it is a lot like having a baby. There is lack of experience. Growing pains. The need for financial independence, and at the end of the day, the Baby doesn’t belong to any one person.

The Mom-Movement springs forth as a result of all it is Mother’s best intentions — Every sister who has raised her voice and waddled her hips to a beat.

We give birth to set our children free in the world. Hopefully, filled to bursting with ideas of what it is to have a full, fat, round, red human heart.

As I soften and grow,
and the years turn themselves into a more wrinkled version of what I once was, I find the kind of agelessness that is perhaps to subtle to shine out from beneath my laminated cereal box dress: "The day is ours to inherit. As I shine, may others shine. May I not take anything without giving something back, and may I humbly make my way in the world as a proud, bodacious babe of infinite abundance, leaving behind more smiles than pain, more friendship than solitude, and more harmony than discord.

** Joy wrote this piece several years ago because there has been a resurgence in women musicians who have kids. Having overcome obstacles and illness, these are some of her thoughts. **

Read all our Articles


Bobby Borg - Music Business Author

Bobby Borg is the author of: The Musician’s Handbook: A Practical Guide To Understanding The Music Business. He is a Music Business Consultant, Author and Musician.

Getting to old to rockn roll? How to overcome Age Discrimination in the Music Business!

by Bobby Borg

is a sensitive and real issue in our society. After a certain age you can’t become a police officer, join the military, or become a flight attendant. In the music business, artists often find it difficult to get a record deal after age 25, and after that big break, it’s even difficult for the established artist to sustain a career into their later years. As ridiculous as these rules may or may not be, you can always find success in the industry as long as you’re open minded, proactive, and creative in finding new ways to survive and thrive.

Sign With A Major?
Major labels make up the majority of commercial recordings sold in the United States. As of this writing, the five largest record companies (or five majors) are Sony, Universal, BMG, EMI, and WEA. Each major is also part of larger corporations that run a system of distribution channels, regional offices, international divisions, and other music business companies. Therefore, bottom line profits and corporate reporting are of primary concern and reps most typically seek younger more "commercially viable" artists who can theoretically ensure a faster return on their investment. Additionally, the benefit of seeking younger acts is that if successful, they could potentially reap a return on the label’s investment for several years to come. "It’s a young man’s game," said one A&R representative who wishes to remain anonymous. "We look for artists from age 15 to 25. It may seen harsh, but it doesn’t makes sense to invest in an older race horse when you can get the younger thoroughbred crossing the winner’s line for years to come."

Unless a dramatic shift takes place in the industry in the next few years (which is very possible – more on this later), then seeking a major label deal may obviously not be the wisest focus for more adult artists: plain and simple.

2) Go Independent
Independent record companies (also called indies) are usually not owned or controlled by the majors, and are generally distributed by smaller regional distributors. With less overhead and investment risk, indies are more open to signing less mainstream and perhaps more adult artists than the major record companies. Said one indie rep in a recent music connection A&R poll conducted in 2003, "We tend to stay away from age discrimination. I look to the music first and people who have maturity and a strong business sense. Of course they must still have a marketable image even when they’re older-but it’s the professional performer who keep their health and image a priority and can convince the masses they’re younger than their
years. If they have talent and look the part, then who cares how old they are."

Indies may not just be more open to signing more adult artists, but also older "brands" or "genres" of music. Indies are known to be the sanctuary (literally) for veteran artists who were once successful and no longer can find a home with the majors. Case in point, Sanctuary records (formerly CMJ) made a name for themselves by signing several of the hard rock bands that were once very popular in the 1980s. Surely, labels like Sanctuary aren’t trying to market to the masses nor do they have the budgets, but by signing artists who still have a modest (albeit dwindling) fan base and who are still willing to get out on the road and tour, a potential profit can be made for all parties involved.

3) Do It Yourself (DIY)
If you’re still not having much luck with getting a record deal after several years of trying, then perhaps you’re long over do for taking a more proactive approach and resorting to a DIY (do it yourself) method. A situation where you can make all of your own business decisions and you don’t have to let the record companies or any one else dictate what you can and cannot do or be, whether it be age or anything else. Home recording equipment has become more accessable than it was in the recent past and the number of opportunities to manufacture and sell your own CDs are plentiful. Create a buzz! Build a following. You may even make a decent living.

Singer/songwriter Ani DeFranco is the classic example of someone who by-passed the record companies altogether by starting her own label out of her parent’s garage in 1990. She was only twenty years old then when she launched Righteous Babe Records. And at the time of this writing-at age 34, sales of her albums are still known to reach up to 30,000 copies per month. This brings the old saying to mind "You ever notice how fast firewood burns when you cut and then chop it yourself?"
Though Defranco is a rare example, it shows what you can accomplish over time when you take the initiative yourself. So get busy!

4) Show Them You’re Unstoppable
Another advantage to taking the DIY approach is that it may ultimately promote that coveted record label deal after all. In a recent issue of Music Connection magazine, A&R Pete Giberga of Epic records explained that when an act brings a list of accomplishments [record sales, airplay, song placements, and fan base] to the negotiation table, they can ask for concessions and get premiums for all the hard work they did. Some bands may even be able to get joint venture deals with higher royalty rates-something that was impossible in the recent past. But more importantly, doors may be opening for the older and more proactive DIY artist.

Said James-Foster-Levy A&R 143/Warner Bros. Records. "I’ve definitely seen more successfully DIY acts today than at any other time, and that promotes label attention. The problems the industry experienced last year [with the illegal downloading] opened the door for more mature artists. Acts that may have been making records and selling a fair amount, but weren’t on a major label."

Taking this development one step further, older artists whose compositions target an older demographic audience, may become even more attractive to record labels in the not to far future. Adds Virginie L. Parant, attorney with Artist Law Group, "I think labels are beginning to realize that the ‘over thirty crowd’ is a desirable market: Not only do they have higher levels of disposable income, but they also are less likely to participate in unauthorized file sharing over the Internet. One can only hope A&R departments will come to recognize older artists and more mature forms of music as viable alternatives to teen pop and other teen-oriented genres." So rejoice. The music industry may not be in as bad a shape as you thought.

5) Reinvent Yourself
If you’ve been pursuing a career in music for several years now and still feel that you’ve exhausted every available option under the sun, nothing seems to be working for you and no one seems to be interested in anything you do… then perhaps the real problem is that you’re still trying to appeal to a demographic audience that is far younger than your years. Rather than waste more time and valuable energy continuing to do the same over and over, why not reinvent yourself and focus on a genre of music with a more sophisticated demographic audience. It’s not about abandoning your original dreams or succumbing to this prejudice, it’s about looking at age and image in the music business and using your acquired wisdom and experience to re-brand yourself to find new audiences. Even more established artists must continually re-invent themselves and evolve throughout their years.

Sting’s career is stronger than ever after trading in his punk hair-due and new wave songs with the Police for a more sophisticated look and jazz influenced style on his solo albums. Eric Clapton transformed his career from the raw electric sounding style of Cream over 25 years ago, to his mature by-focal look and elegant musical style today. Madonna-the mother of reinvention herself has unarguably sustained a long-term career by reinventing herself over again. From the boy-toy look and bubble gum pop in the early part of her career to a more maternal goth look and evolved sound of Ray of Light. Surely, these artists have resources to make transformation process easier than the rest of us. But the truth is, there are no lifetime guarantees for any artist in this business. To paraphrase theorist Charles Darwin, it’s not necessarily the strongest of species that survive, it’s those most adaptable to change.

6) Diversify
Taking the concept of re-invention one step further, artists may even find great purpose in diversifying to more "behind the scenes" work. Composing for other artists, scoring for motion pictures and even writing for video games. These avenues are less restrictive of age discrimination and note that the financial rewards can be substantial. Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo diversified his life from touring rock star to movie composer finding success on recent films like Big Fish. Aimee Mann, best Known for her work with Till Tuesday, became more involved with film music with her acclaimed work in Magnolia. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo found much success scoring music for film and TV with projects such as Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Rugrats.

Korn, with two platinum records to their credits and no sign of their careers slowing down, took precautionary steps to ensure longevity in their careers by starting their own record label, called Elementree Records, distributed by Reprise/Warner, in 1997. According to author Leah Furman’s book "Korn" Life In The Pit," the majority of the group members now had families to support and could not risk relying solely on the success of their next CD. They also didn’t want to spend as much time out on the road and away from their families as they had in the past. People grow up and their lives and responsibilities change. And so do dreams. The band Orgy, Elementree’s first signing, sold over 500,000 copies with their release "Candyass." Though Korn’s musical career is still going as strong as ever, they certainly have the mind-set for long-term success in the music business. Niccolo Machiavelli in his famous book The Prince said it this way: "One who adapts his policy to times prospers."

7) Side Step It
Another potential alternative for creating longevity in the music business is to side step out of the more creative realm of the music and investigate more "business-related" careers that are typically less restrictive of age. These possibilities may include: Personal management, business management, music publicity, musical equipment design and manufacturing, music supervision, music education, studio proprietorship, or starting your own music licensing company (to name a few).

Derek Sivers, founder and president of CD Baby; one of the largest music-related companies on the Web, once said, "As a Berkeley graduate and devoted musician first and foremost, who ever thought I would be spending my days in the music distribution business. But I love it." R&B singer Pebbles stepped into the more business side of the music industry when she went on to form Savvy records and created the Atlanta Georgia group TLC. She also guided the group as their personal manager for many years.

These examples are nothing to sneeze at. Sure, side stepping or changing gears may not be what you originally set out to do with your musical career, but let’s face it-if you can be successful and still be in the entertainment business-more power to you!

8) Find Your Fountain Of Youth
We’ve all seen the infamous ads: In Reader’s Digest’s November 2003 issue, the headline read, "The New Pill That Can End Aging." Good House keeping magazine recently featured an article titled, " Zap 10 years gone: Amazing Ways To Erase Wrinkles." And People magazine shares its "Nip and Tuck Secrets of The Stars." Whatever, beauty secrets, potions, and formulas you may prescribe to, you can bet that looking well is an important part of your career and is one way to take-on age discrimination head on.

Singer Kylie Monogue, who had a hit in 1987 with the Little Eva’s song "Loco Motion" only to disappear for several years, recently made a comeback in 2002 as an older woman looking fitter and trimmer than ever with her hit song "Can’t Get You Outta’ My Head"-she even was the spokesperson for Bailey’s Fitness Gyms and ran a series of sexy commercials. In an interview on Carson Dailey’s show in 2003, singer Shery’ll Crow expressed her good fortune and gratitude that people were still interested in her career being that she had just turned age 40. The audience responded with cheers and whistles of lustful approval. Motown legend Tina Turner got away with showing off her legs and looking and acting sexy into her 50s with her video Private Dancer which aired all over MTV years back. And finally, long-timer Cher, from her scantly clad video "Turn Back Time" to her present day appearances on TV and films, is the ultimate example of an artist who never seems to age.

Surely these stars have the money to care for their looks with the most extreme measures available today. However, why not try a simple gym membership and healthy diet for starts? Oh-and don’t forget, "Lying about one’s age is a time honored
tradition in Hollywood, "Jokes producer Sam Brown. "From theater, movie and TV to records, remember, birth certificates are not a prerequisite to getting signed to any record label."

9) Build A Loyal Fan Base
So, you’d rather not change a thing about yourself or your music and prefer to hang on to the past? Well then, you’d better build a strong and extremely loyal fan base that will continue to support you for several years to come.

Artists such as Journey, Styx, Poison, Warrant, Great White, Vince Neil, Slaughter, and Quiet Riot are all artists who have stuck with the "very same formula" as they did back in their hay day, and interestingly, are all still touring and making a modest living doing so to this day. Surely, these bands have shown very little development over the years and are somewhat living in the past (perhaps you’ve even denounced these bands with a chuckle wishing they’d all just throw in the towel along with the tight pants and eye liner). But don’t be so quick to judge. From a purely business perspective, these bands have actually done something incredibly right! By relentlessly hitting the road and performing live before audiences around the country, interviewing with radio stations and the press, visiting record stores, and making a special effort to connect with their fans, these bands were all able to successfully built a grass roots following and "brand" name in their day that was so powerful they are able to continue their careers today far beyond current trends and the support of their major record labels.

Personal manager and booking agent Chris Arnstein, who has worked with Bad English, Bret Michaels and Journey confirms, "If you’re smart and lucky enough to develop a substantial customer base by making every effort to connect with your audience one fan at a time, you can almost bet on a career in music through touring for several years to come. Loyal fans will grow old with you; that’s long after you’re label drops you and the next generation of consumers is brainwashed to believe you’re no longer cool."

10) Hang With The In-Crowd
Sometimes, survival in the youth-conscious world of the music business may mean aligning yourself with more hip or current artists. Singer/songwriter Liz Phair, who was regularly mentioned in the industry alongside more adult artists such as Sarah McLachlan recently aligned herself with the hit producer team The Matrix on her latest release self titled Liz Phair and is now mentioned alongside younger artists such as Michele Branch, Avril Lavigne and Hilary Duff. Veteran guitarists Carlos Santana collaborated with the modern sounds of singer Rob Thomas on Santana’s Super Natural album earning Santana a Grammy nomination and award for the first time in his career. Burt Bacharach, who turned 70 years old in 1998, received rave reviews when he teamed up with the much younger Elvis Costello and wrote and recorded the album Painted By Memory. Music critic Stephen Thomas called the resulting collaboration "timeless." And finally, it can be argued that the Queen of pop herself-Madonna-cleverly choose to partner with pop princess Britney Spears on the song Me Against The Music on Britney’s In The Zone album in order to keep in touch with a new and younger generation of pop listeners- that’s not to mention the infamous kiss between the two artists on the MTV awards in 2003; creating a great deal of publicity.

11) Cover The Recent Hits
Under a provision in copyright law called compulsory licensing, as soon as an author/owner of a composition records an original composition for the first time on phono-record, and (2) it’s distributed for commercial sale to the public, (3) anyone can license it as long as the lyric or melodic content is not dramatically changed or modified. Older artists can essentially attract the attention of a whole new generation of fans by covering more current and hip stars. Case in point – long time show singer Tom Jones had a hit collaboration with the Art of Noise a while back when covering the hit song "Kiss," written by Prince. Jones received the attention of a completely new and younger audience. Country legend Johnny Cash recently covered the techno hero Trent Reznor’s song Hurt earning him a great deal of notoriety. Cash’s video for "hurt" was nominated in 2003 for best video of the year, male video of the year, best direction in a video, best art direction, best editing, and winner best cinematography in a video. Not bad! And note: it works in reverse. Younger to middle aging artists can look to covering the classic hits in an effort to win a more sophisticated audience.

12) Be Honest With Yourself?
A wise quote from a Yogi Master read, "Be really honest, with yourself, and nothing will ever betray you." Perhaps you’re getting tired of working odd day jobs and waiting for that big break when all your friends are now buying houses and starting families? Perhaps being broke and living off of your girl friend well into your 40s for "just one more year is not really the way to go about life? And perhaps it really is time to stop squeezing into those tight pair of leather pants and trying to pen that rock 80s hit and forget about a career in music altogether. Though, this is an extremely touchy subject for all artists to come to terms with, it may be important to stand outside yourselves for a moment and ask, is this what I really should be doing with my life? There’s no point in feeling defeated. It may actually be a huge catharsis in your life. Perhaps there is a whole new part of yourself waiting to be discovered that you have never been open to searching. Just keep the old expression in mind: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Perhaps you really are ready for a life change?

13) Rock Till Your Drop
Even successful artists have to deal with the issue of: Just WHEN is too old too old. Bands like the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and Kiss are just a few examples of successful artists who appear that they’re going to be around forever. But society both worships and pokes fun at them all the time. Certainly these artists could all retire in that proverbial villa in Spain never to be heard from again-but they proudly keep on putting themselves out into the public eye. From movie soundtracks, to major tours, to records, to DVD sets … these artists aren’t going away any time soon. They’re rockin’ till they’re droppin. Says front man Steven Tyler: "I don’t buy into the idea that you’re not supposed to rock & roll after a certain date. Maybe I should be in Bellevue, but I’m just having a good time." Stones Guitarist Keith Richards puts it this way, "This business isn’t just for teenage kids’ This is a man’s job, and it’s a life-long job. And if there’s a sucker to ever prove it, I hope to be that sucker."

14) Remember Why You Started
Last, but definitely not least: Always remember why you got started in this business in the first place… Music! Right? Remember .. it’s all about the music! The greatest and most legendary musicians that serve as our inspirations didn’t get involved in the business simply because they’re looking to cash in. In fact, to most, music is akin to a fever that never goes away. It’s an addiction. A need to express one’s self. Regardless of your age or career position, it’s important for musicians to understand that their passion for music is already their success. They’ve found something that gives them true meaning; and that’s something that many people don’t find till late in life or sometimes not all. Make sure to hold on to this emotion. Don’t let your love for music be contingent upon getting a deal, being wealthy, or selling millions of records. That’s only the icing on the cake. Always remember that you choose music for your life because you loved it first and foremost. This way, whether you’re performing before 5 people in a coffee house, or 30,000 in a stadium, you’ll feel blessed by the gift of music forever.

By Bobby Borg " 2004 – All Rights Reserved

** Good points made by Bobby! We like to hear some female perspective here. Don’t be shy to comment!

Read all our Articles

Debby Hastings Female Bass Player with the Blues and Bo Diddley

Female Bass Player Debbie Hastings and Bo Diddley

Debby Hastings was the musical director and female bass player for Bo Diddley.

(Editor’s note..) Great article on one of the premier women bass players.

Debby Hastings – The Lady still rocks with the Blues and Bo Diddley

by Lorraine Kay

There is no argument that Bo Diddley is a legend
by any standard, even at 77 years old. There aren’t many music lovers that do not know who he is. But not so many people know who the lady behind the legend is and has been for the past 20 years. I was privileged recently to visit with her on the phone and found out that one of the nicest and funniest ladies in rock and roll hangs out behind Bo Diddley.

Fifty something, bassist Debby Hastings has been the lady
behind the legend longer than most bands have been together – longer than most marriages have been together in the music business. And when you hear her tell it, it hasn’t been so different. "I have been with him for 20 years and I really am so happy that he has kept me this long," she laughs. "Because sometimes we fight like we’re married and we’re certainly not married but sometimes we get into some real rows – usually it’s about political things. We’ve been known to go at each other. He knows just how to get my goat too and I fall for it every time."

Debby Hastings isn’t just one of the best woman bassists in the business,
she is without a doubt one of the best bassists in the business. But that isn’t the only thing that makes her unique. She is the bassist in a band supporting a male icon and not just his bassist but his music director to boot. Kudos Debby! And according to Hastings it’s been a premiere gig – "It’s really interesting. – never a dull moment. You never know what he is going to throw at you or come up with and that’s a wonderful part about him. The other wonderful part about him – from my point of view – you never know where it’s gonna go or what new tune he may have in his head at the moment. That way he gives me the freedom to kind of experiment with it and the whole band, although I do direct the band. And then I have the freedom to stop it, start it, turn it left, I can pretty much do what ever I want within it which is a lot of fun for me. It’s very improvisational. It’s really fun. He really is very good-natured also. He’s a very good-natured guy to talk to and hang with."

I recently sat close enough to the stage
during a Bo Diddley concert to watch Debby in action. Close enough to watch her chops on the bass and was amazed. It wasn’t just that every beat and note was right on, or that the lady has style – and she does – but she was up and down the fret board of her Fender P-bass with such ease that I wondered how any sound was coming out at all. She attacks the instrument so smooth and effortlessly that it appeared as if she didn’t even touch the strings, much less pluck them strong enough to create such a powerful sound.

The lady is awesome.
The power in her playing brings it all together on stage for Diddley. Directing from the side of the stage, bass in hand, she keeps everyone on their toes. As leader of the Debby Hastings Band, she has been Diddley’s right hand for 10 years. But according to her, it was all serendipity that she got the job in the first place. "I was playing in a small bar in Greenwich village when I first moved to New York in 1984 or 83. His management was looking to put a band behind him and I was asked if I wanted to be the bass player and I said ‘absolutely!’ So, I went and did a gig with him at a college up here and so it went really well and that’s how I came to play with him. Then I became the bandleader in 1994 and so I have been the bandleader ever since. So it was serendipity. I was really lucky."

On stage the lady is a powerhouse
delivering a brawny bass line on every tune, whether it is a pounding Bo Diddley beat, or seductive ballad, Hastings conveys control with an air of ease all the time calling the shots to the rest of the band. But the way she tells it – it wasn’t always that way. Hastings only learned to play the bass in the first place as a joke. Not coming from a musical family she just started out on her own. "Nobody in my family can sing their way out of a brown paper bag so none of them were musicians. My mom was a water colorist and potter so I certainly have the arts in my background."

Her desire to play music was encouraged
by her musician friends in high school. "Many of my boyfriends through high school were musicians. I always got crushed-out on the bass player in the band. One of my boyfriends was the bass player for my best friend’s band. He and I thought it would be really fun if I went out and surprised my friend sometime so that if she looked back and saw it was me on bass instead of my boyfriend, Mark. I thought that was a real fun idea too because I tried to play guitar and I just didn’t like it very well, it just didn’t speak to me. When the guitar didn’t work I thought, okay, well what can I travel around with. So I thought the harmonica, but I hated the feel of the harmonica on my teeth because I had a lot of cavities and believe it or not a mess of metal on my teeth just creeps me out.

"So then I was going out with Mark Healy,
who actually plays bass now with Badfinger. So one day Mark taught me how to play a blues progression in the key of A and when I got it down enough I played it with my friend’s band and yes, she was surprised. The funny thing was I had never played standing up and I could only play sitting down. So I had to sit on the stage to actually play this blues and consequently, I completely butchered it." "But, the next day I said, ‘Oh! this is fun – this is the one! I really like the bass! It’s the bass I love!’ So my brother loaned me $50 bucks and I bought a bass and I proceeded to practice 12 or 14 hours a day literally because I’m kind of compulsive that way. I’m kind of a perfectionist and really practiced my butt off. I just started building on my chops and then I got lucky." In the beginning it wasn’t so easy, though. After just a few months of playing she tried her hand with a band. "This band was so bad – my first band. They had a manager and he asked me, ‘How long have you been playing the bass?’ It had only been like two months, but I said, ‘I used to play for two years – two years ago,’ so I that I could sort of justify my being awful but he was just as awful. So he bought it. And so I joined the band right off."

When she first joined the band
she didn’t know how to pick out her own parts. But my boyfriend, Mark basically would help me – because my ear wasn’t very good at first – and you know bass is kind of hard to hear, you really have to get the hang of being able to hear the bass note. So he would help me somewhat with that. Basically, I am pretty much self-taught and I just am a really big studier and practicer." But Debby didn’t actually move to New York just like that. She paid her dues around Wisconsin for a while first and moved around a bit. "I played in Wisconsin for 10 years or so. I started out playing rock and roll. And then I moved to Memphis, TN and then I got into playing blues and with STAX recording artists, like Sam and Dave and Aretha. And then after a year my mom got sick so I had to move back to Wisconsin again.

She even tried her hand at a few different music styles before settling in with the blues. "I went through a country music phase because I wanted to learn to play all kinds of music. So I joined a country band. Then I wanted to learn how to read so I worked on that. Then I joined a big band and later I had a Dixieland band that I sort of took over. After that, I had a bebop and an avant-garde band and then I moved to New York. Moved to New York and got lucky"

As the leader of the Debby Hastings band,
she has enjoyed working with some of the best and nicest musicians in the business. According to Hastings, "These guys are all really nice – sweet people and it makes for a nice hang especially when you’re on the road 55 to 60 days a year. You’re just exhausted most of the time so it is nice to be with people that you actually enjoy being with." The band is Margo Lewis on keyboards, Frank Daley on guitar and Sandy Gennaro on drums. Considering how long Hastings has been with Diddley, this group is fairly new. "Frank has been with us for about 4 years, Sandy for only one year – Margo for 5 years, I think."

Talking about life on the road,
Hastings enjoys traveling. "Sometimes we’ll be off for a month, then we’ll go to Europe for two weeks or Japan or wherever. We just got back from Australia and Europe. We were gone for about a month doing that. I’ve always liked to travel. But anymore it’s just a drag because of the airline security and it’s just not as easy as it was. Of course, you can’t trust that the airplane is going to make it on time. They’re always delayed so we always have to take the first flights in the morning. People say, ‘Oh, you musicians – you have it so easy. You stay up all night and you get to sleep all day.’ Uh, like – no – we actually get up really early in the morning and we fly and then we sound check and then we eat and then we play the show and then we get to get up really early again in the morning."

And then there’s the eating.
Some people think the band has all kinds of great food catered in or they eat in expensive restaurants. "Right. I noticed how really badly we ate this last time we were in California. I ate at Jack-in-the-Box – I think – like four times. I thought, oh my god, this is a hamburger hell. You’ve only got ‘X’ amount of time to eat because – what’s important? Would I rather sleep or would I rather eat? And you always have to sound check – which is – oh," she moaned, "- I had to go through sound check hell while I was there. Other than that, I love the traveling but sometimes it can be really difficult and you do get comfortably exhausted."

The fun things have outweighed the difficult parts of touring and performing. Part of the fun things are recording and getting to meet other great musicians. "I did the album that was nominated for a Grammy called ‘Man amongst men’ with Bo. Since then we recorded a live album but it hasn’t been released, yet. Then Bo and I did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Show together recently and that was really fun because Eric Clapton and Robby Robertson played with us"

"We played, just Bo and I.
When Bo does a TV show most likely I’ll be there as well as the musical director. So for this, we played with Paul Shaffer’s band and Eric Clapton and Robby Robertson also. Eric Clapton is such a lovely, sweet gentleman. After the show, he came over to me and asked me, ‘So, how did I do?’ I told him, ‘Don’t quit your day job.’ But, he was very sweet and he really did ask me that. He could have floored me. My mouth dropped open and I thought ..Awesome.."

As a monster bassist
Hastings guitar of preference is a 1971 Fender P-bass – the only one in existence with a Carol Kaye signature on it. "She is the most recorded bass player in the history of music, says Hastings, a big fan. "She is the best teacher on planet earth. I have been studying her for probably 30 years. She is the bass player of all time. She is my main influence. She is just amazing." Hastings has gone to Kaye for inspiration and instruction as well as advice regarding her equipment. "I use Thomastik strings. They are flat-wounds. I hadn’t used flat-wounds for a really long time until I was talking to Carol and she said why don’t you try the Thomastiks and I did and they are really really nice. They are bright enough and nice solid, good sounding strings. Sometimes the round-wounds are too boingy. I buy them in a set and I buy them from Carol. She sells them on her web site."

She has surprising preferences in her music of choice,
for a rock and roll/blues musician. "I love Texas Swing – just love it. I love big band swing, too. I love old R&B and I love Aretha Franklin. Then there’s Lydia Pense of Cold Blood, and I actually like bluegrass music. And of course, I love the blues. Oh, and I love the Red Hot Chile Peppers, and I loved Nirvana when they were around. And I love Elton John, too. Kind of a wide Eclectic taste, huh? I even love classical music."

But just loving and playing music hasn’t always been enough
to make her place in this business. "Generally, I have found that I personally haven’t really had any obstacles except that I think that women have to actually be way on top of their game. They have to be better than the guys, because in many areas it’s still a man’s world. So, if you can be better than a man – in their eyes you are on the same plane as a man – even though you are better. And I have had some problems with some of the male musicians that I’ve hired in the Debby Hastings Band. Not many, but a couple didn’t want to take direction from me, and that is just crazy. I mean, because – excuse me – I’m the musical director – and if I don’t want you to sing that long of a note, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t sing that long of a note – problems like that. But other than that – career-wise I really haven’t had much issue with being a female at all."

If she has felt discriminated against in the business
it was from another perspective. "I found this out one time when I went to an audition and actually won the audition. Initially, this band hired me. They were saying, ‘Oh, we think you are fabulous and wonderful and yada-yada.’ And I said, ‘Ok, but I have to tell you something. I’m not really 23 – I’m really 35.’ And they said, ‘No way!’ So I took my glasses off and said, ‘Yeah – see, I’ve got crows feet and everything.’ And the guys said, ‘Oh, unbelievable!’ And guess what – I never heard from them again. So, age is a much bigger problem than gender."

Too bad, because Debby isn’t just a great musician,
she is a pretty smart lady all around. "About 10 years ago I decided I wanted to make a lot more money, so I started a business – a teleprompting business called A-Prompt Computer Teleprompting Services, Inc. I have people that work for me. Wherever I am in the country I can run the business because I have a pager, three cell phones and a blackberry. And so I just basically take care of the bookings and then I have the people that work for me go out and do the prompting. Then I can call in my payroll from out on the road. If I am out of the country I have a friend that I can hand over the reins to. It’s great cause I don’t’ have to work it all the time – all I have to do is book it. And I have a right hand man and he’s my main operator. He’s been working for me for about 4 or 5 years. He’s very solid to me. And I would be really lost without him.

Well .. people have often considered Bo Diddley not only talented but smart. And I think he would agree that one of the smartest decision he has made was asking Debby Hastings to join his band.

** End of a very good story **

Read all our Articles