Standing in the Shadows

An old blues man contemplates his life, loss, loves, and hopes.

I’ve always liked to watch the young ladies dance. They still make this old man smile. It’s not foolish and hot, like the old days, it’s different, nicer.  It’s admiration for the work of the Great Sculptor. It’s the same feeling I get on a beautiful spring morning with Carolina blue skies and the sun warming the ground where she rests.

            She liked the warm side of the bed, always made me move over.

            The Great Sculptor gave me the inspiration to write the songs. Your Gentle Smile and A Few Roses.

            A tribute to the only woman I loved.

            Sinatra called Gentle Smile the best love song ever written.

            Those popular songs should have made me a fortune, but in those days, it was the recording company that got the money.

            I got a fake gold record, two of them.

            Sinatra nodded to me once. James Jamison and I played a bass duet together and Paul McCartney shook my hand and gave me a hug.

            Those cats were really good.

            That was a long time ago.

            Bass players perform in the shadows. I usually go unnoticed until I stop playing and the bottom falls out of the song leaving it dull and lifeless. People look around because they know something bad has happened, but they can’t put their finger on it. I start playing again and things go on as they should.

            Once again all is right with the world.

            I am the foundation without the lights.

            I’m in the dark, nobody can see me. My bass keeps the rhythm. No fancy riffs, the management doesn’t like it when I mix major and minor pentatonic scales.  No downbeats only upbeats.

            They warn me to stop showing off.

            I bring texture to the DJ playing the modern, grumbling, growling dance music. I’m told not to distract from it.

            Today’s lyrics upset me.

            My wife used to accompany me on the drums, but she died and now they have a machine that plays for her.

            She sits at the side of the Great Sculptor.

            I am lucky to have this gig. It gives me enough money for food, rent and heat. I can’t cover my medications but at my age, why throw good money after bad?

            When the club closes, I have to gather up my bass and amp.

            I can’t bring my tube amp any more it’s too heavy, so I use this little solid -state job, it’s not too bad, tubes are better, warmer, but for this stuff it’s okay. I don’t let my Fender Jazz Bass out of my sight. It’s fifty years old and worth a fortune.

            My life would be a lot better if I sold it, but I can’t.

            I still keep a .38 in my pocket. Never had to use it. But I must keep the Fender Bass safe. I’m not worried about me.

            The bus picks me up in front of the club and drops me off at my apartment.

            After a show I’m very hungry. I have a hot plate and make tomato soup and crumble crackers in it. I take two fingers of bourbon and calm down.

            I fire up a KOOL and play my vinyl records.

            You’d think with all the modern stuff they have now the music would be better but it’s not, just cleaner. Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Muddy, BB sound terrible on it.

            They squeezed the soul out.

            I listen to warm vinyl music and play my bass softly on the tube amp.

            Who would think that tubes and vinyl would make such a difference?

            It does.

            I go to sleep and think about the old days and look forward to tomorrow night when I can go back to the shadows and watch the young ladies dance.

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