The Fur Peace Ranch
By Sunday morning it all felt routine. Up at six (well, six-thirty. I overslept) and into the showers. Dressed and relax on the porch with some coffee and conversation. Breakfast, and into the class for warming up. The day before I had asked Jorma if, somewhere along the line, he could show me the basics to Good Shepherd. For some reason that song had been sticking in my mind. When he played it last year at the J&R show with Barry Mitterhoff and Cindy Cashdollar, Cindy really nailed her part and after that I just couldn't get it out of my head. I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to play it! Jorma said sure, no problem.
When he came into class that morning, we did the usual run through of both songs that we'd learned. He then said that he was planning on another for our third song, but since some people had been asking about it, he decided to do Good Shepherd as the last song. Ok, I thought, this just can't get any better! He said it was more of a folk song than a fingerstyle song but it did use several fingerstyle techniques the way he plays it.
At one point, before we had learned the entire song, we had gone through the verses and were just playing basic guitar part. It sounded so good I don't think any of us wanted to stop. Then, Jorma took off into a solo! I turned to John, sitting next to me and it he looked as stunned as I felt. Here we were, backing Jorma! After we finished I felt completely exhilarated. Ellie asked if we could do this one for the performance rather than West Coast Blues, but Jorma was adamant. Besides, there was more to learn.
After lunch we had some free time to practice for the performance. At this point I decided that I'd try the Water Song. I had last played it about three weeks ago and remembered that it sounded good. I was afraid to practice it for fear that if I made a mistake I'd chicken out of the whole thing. So, I just kept on picking at the songs from class. At three we all gathered in the concert hall for the group pictures. They used to be taken out doors but the last class was rained upon and they went instead to the FPR Station. It worked out so well that they decided to hold all the picture sessions there. We all lined up on stage with our cameras on the seats and Vanessa, John, and Aaron took turns taking our pictures. By now they're probably qualified to work at any photography magazine.
After the pictures, time for the student performances! I had brought along my Zoom MRS1266 multi-track recorder and a pair of SM57 microphones on which I was going to attempt to capture it all. I set this up in the back of the 'old' concert hall (now the electric folks workshop), turned it on and took a seat. There were about 10 minutes of preliminaries, including Vanessa's breathy Marilyn Monroe-like singing of 'Happy Birthday' to Mark, our chef. It was also Mike Falzarano's birthday, so he got everyone's best wishes. Earlier (or maybe Saturday) we all got together and whistled 'Happy Birthday' to Ginger, as it was also her birthday.
Ours was the first group to go on, and we did well. We were followed by Mike's blues group doing 'Bright Lights, Big City' which they delivered with style. G.E.'s group would go on at the end, as Jorma remarked "Once you go electric there's no turning back". I was hoping to go on early, before any of the real good people played, but Ralph K. (in Mike's group) went on first and asked if Jorma would do a number with him. They settled on 99 Year Blues, with Ralph on bass and Jorma on guitar. What a show! Ralph has been here so often that kept up with Jorma perfectly. Then, Ellie from our group went up. Ellie knows a lot of folk songs and kept us amused around the campfire with Tom Leher songs. Now I'm going to have to find some of his CDs. I never did find out what song she did in the performance but she performed great! So much for my getting in before the good players!
After Ellie Jorma called for the next player. As no one was jumping up, I found my arm raising and my mouth offering to 'lower the bar a bit'. As I came up on stage Jorma asked if I was going to sing. I said no, I wouldn't inflict that on anyone here. He chuckled, said "don't be shy" and proceeded to adjust the microphone in front of the guitar. I thought "I'm going to be spoiled now, a real roady and it's Jorma, to boot". As a disclaimer I mentioned that this number was not the result of anything that Jorma had been teaching, that this would be entirely my fault! As I was fine tuning the strings (it's in open G tuning, so you have to tune down 3 strings) I began to realize that everyone was waiting for me to start. There was no group up there with me. Yikes! Before I froze completely or broke down into serious babbling I began to pluck the strings. Amazing! It sounded just like at home. Not that it was perfect, as it never was. I muffed a few notes in the first 'verse' but kept on going. The second was a little better, but I again totally blew a part where you have to reposition both hands at once after strumming the harmonic on the 12th fret and start picking. I also noticed my one leg was shaking, but I did my best to ignore it. I persevered and by the time I was into the third and last verse I was enjoying myself. As I went through the final run I began to regret that it was almost over. I blew the same part for the last time (damn!, I wish I could have hit it at least once) and ended with the three chords on the three harmonics. A voice cried out "yeah!" and I got a solid chunk of applause. I wish I had a picture of what I looked like when I finished, because I felt utterly stunned. Somehow I got my legs under me, stood up, and departed the stage in a daze.
When I got back to my seat, one of the students in my class leaned over and told me that Jeremy, another student, had been up all night learning that song to do in the performance. Simultaneously, people began calling for Jeremy to come up. He begged off, saying that he'd give the audience a break before subjecting them to it again. I felt a little beat, but I don't know what I would have done if I knew someone else was going to perform it.
One by one, people got up to perform, although not as many as I would have expected from such a group. All were quite good. One of the highlights was ranch manager John Hurlbut, Ralph K. and G.E. Smith performing All Along The Watchtower. John was great, on acoustic guitar and vocals, Ralph played a solid bass, and G.E., well, now I've got to go and find some of his albums. Makes me wonder if we actually play the same instrument.
Eventually all who wished, played, and the "electric orchestra" got up and played. Utterly amazing. Everyone enjoyed themselves. I know I wished it went on longer. But then, dinner time was approaching. I shut down and packed up my recorder (that was to be a mistake) and went off to get ready for dinner. Jeremy compared notes with me on the Water Song and pointed out that I had gotten one of the chords backwards! Mike Falzarano was consulted and he confirmed it. Somewhere, in the six months or so that I had been playing it, I switched two fingers and never noticed. That's some indication of my abilities vs. others, as Jeremy was able to pick that out of my performance, yet I had been playing it wrong for God knows how long without a clue! Sorry, Jorma.
After dinner Jorma had an appointment he had to keep, so there was no evening class. Instead, Mike and G.E. instigated an open jam session. Here I was sorry I had packed up my recorder. I tried with my Nomad but I wasn't sure how to reduce the sensitivity of the microphone and the sheer volume overwhelmed it. Again, I felt waaaayyy too inadequate to participate, at least with my acoustic guitar. I couldn't tear myself away to go and get my electric from my cabin, and amp still in my car because I didn't want to miss anything.
After the jam we wandered off to different things. I went to the library to continue practicing. I made my big contribution in that I knew the lyrics to Good Shepherd and was able to write them out for those that wanted them. After playing a while I got up with every intention of going to bed early, but I heard the strains of Jefferson Airplane coming from the upper part of the library. I found a couple of people watching a videotape of the Airplane's 1989 reunion concert in Radio City. Right after I got up there, they started into Good Shepherd. I never did get to see the end of the tape, as it was getting on midnight and I knew I'd have a long drive ahead of me the next day.