around four Am

Four AM is the best time to catch me playing guitar these days. And I just remembered that it was around four AM that my “day” used to end when I was performing as a folksinger.

So, since August, I’ll have these waking periods while it’s still dark. Then, unable to get back to sleep, I’ll slip into my office, pick up my old guitar and start practicing.

I used to distinguish between practice, which I did daily for two or so hours, and rehearsal, which I did to prepare for a gig. When I lived in Boston, I liked to practice in the kitchen but rehearse on the apartment building’s roof. The two things are similar but different. Practice was playing the guitar. Rehearsal was that, but it was also planning how each set of a gig should be structured because warming up was a lot different than a more mellow set when many in the audience had heard the first set and were interested in what you had. The final set was for winding down, relaxing, and sending home. There were variables you planned for if the house you were playing had a lot of inter-set churn, was rowdy or drunk.

Then there was the patter, the amusing, sometimes dubious stories and anecdotes you told while tuning or just for fun between songs. One of the old goofy ones was the ancient ( among folksingers, anyway) monolog about there being three ways to remove peanut butter from the roof of your mouth. This one was golden if the house was in a goofy mood that evening. Don’t try it in a bar room.

When I traveled, practice and rehearsal happened wherever I was staying. I often stayed with married friends, so “Uncle Wes” was a source of merriment. Dave Van Ronks’ children’s song “Oh Mister Noah” was a hit with many, but I rarely performed it in a set unless there happened to be kids in the audience. Kids in the audience made my life hard because I had a lot of “adult” material in my repertoire.

So here I am, coming on like some Folkie guru of folk music. But that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ with it.

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