Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Upon separation from the Navy I eventually returned home. I was “troubled”. Having always been hypersensitive, if you will, I had accumulated some baggage and was angry about it. I spent the core of my existence trying to escape from my own skin. In the process I ignored my family … especially my little brother.
My stepfather called me one day to tell me that Stevie would be playing the banjo on stage in my mother’s hometown down south. The venue was an old marquee movie theatre from straight out of the fifties.
With shoulder length hair I imagined myself a tortured poet along the lines of Jim Morrison. I had the act “down pat”, you might say. In spite of my selfish battle with existence I could not rid myself of the need to assuage some guilt by showing up at the blue grass shindig where Stevie would be playing.
Somehow that night I stumbled into the darkened movie theatre in a bit of a blur. Slumping down in the musty seat I brooded stormily waiting for a glimpse of my “kid brother.’
It wasn’t long until the spotlight moved and bathed a small straight backed youth with a spangled red vest playing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” with a speed and dexterity that belied his tender age and raised goose bumps on every square inch of my body. Seconds passed and we were all on our feet howling and clapping as he grinned devilishly at the havoc he was wringing from the hearts of these simple country folks … and me.
Tears streaming down my face I departed hastily when he was finished playing. I don’t remember much after that but I will always remember him standing there on that stage; fingers rolling as that primal sound spread outward like summer rain onto those who would be his fellows.
He stayed with it all these years. He has branched out but remained true to the roots from which he came. Not long past he left the phone company and began to teach and devote his life to his music. He has suffered trying to live in the material world but when he picks up a guitar or banjo or harmonica he suffers no more.
He wrote a song once called “God Speaks”. I made the mistake of listening to it for the first time in a room full of people. “God Speaks”… yes he does … through the voice and experiences of a little red headed kid trying to find his way.