Frankly, many of our audiences lived vicariously through our exploits. You see it much more vividly these days; the luxurious anime-style hair, the loudly whispered rumors of drugs, sex, and unadvisably stupid behavior. They have publicists for it.
We only had our guitars and a line of BS.
We’d sit on a stool under a single spotlight in the smoke-filled coffeehouse, singing soulfully about our most recent sea voyage or road trip. The concept of “Yonder,” of having “seen the elephant,” was central to our gig.
What made us believable? It’s straightforward. People tend to travel to places, not through them. So if you were singing about your experiences on the road and the people you met, you were exposing them to an unfamiliar landscape. They jetted to Chicago. Or they took a sleeper on the New York Central.
We rode the road on our thumbs, eating in all the diners along the way. We had uproarious nights at clubs and campfires as we went. We had overnight love affairs with people who longed for the road but would never leave the environs of their Main Street.
And that was the reason they listened to us. So you shouldn’t be perplexed by it. It was just as alien a landscape to them as the parlor car or first-class passage on an ocean liner was to us.
You’d think things would change. But most travel through entire regions and never leave the Interstate. They call the countryside they miss “fly over” and have no idea what is there.
I am reminded of what Steinbeck said in Travels with Charlie: “When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing.”
Lots of things never seem to change.