Not my first. My first was in High School. I was the lead singer, and I was awful. Wait; that wasn't my first, either. My first was when I was about 12, and in some youth choir. But the first that really mattered was at the Country House Talent Show, in Plymouth, Minnesota.
I had taken time off performing, because I had been humiliated, and I was too sensitive to handle it. I had slowly weaned myself back, and I had started playing acoustic guitar, and singing at the Country House Talent Show. They had it every Sunday night, and they had a backing band, but I never used the backing band.
My first few times up there, I went as a trio with my friends Mike and Doug, or with just Mike. I might have done a solo gig on an original or two; I don't remember. I played "Skating Away (on the Thin Ice of the New Day,)" by Jethro Tull, and my knee shook so violently I almost fell over. I was conquering my stage fright; my fears, one song at a time, for a bunch of people who tended to get very drunk, in a bar I had been drinking in for a long time.
I invited a whole bunch of pretty girls from my work, and they weren't there yet. I stalked up to Billy, who ran the show, and announced that I was going to win First Prize tonight. Billy was taken aback. I rarely got much applause at all, and certainly had never seemed to be a contender, but I had an Ace up my sleeve.
My song was "American Pie," which I happen to know people of a certain generation really like, and I sang it and played it very well. There are songs you are just meant to sing, and I can get a very pretty, haunting sound on some medium high notes, and that whole "I met a girl who sang the blues" part always comes out real nice, because I'm emotional, and I almost cry when I sing it.
So my friend Mike, and his brother, Tim, and Tim's obnoxious, intellectual friend Rob are at my table. I told them they better make sure and get another table, because when my girls get here, I'm going to kick them out. These chairs are RESERVED.
Rob made fun of me for about an hour. "When are your girlfriends going to get here?" "Where are your GIRLFRIENDS??" on and on, which wouldn't have been very nice, if I were actually pathetic, and they really weren't coming, and about ten different women who were very fond of me had actually stood me up.
At one point, he was talking crap to me, and asking about my GIRLFRIENDS, and I said, "well there's two of them," and sure enough, they were walking towards the table, and I told Tim, and Rob, and Mike to BEAT IT. Well, they all showed up. I'm guessing ten. I don't know. You'd think I'd remember a thing like this. I was very, very single, and had been forever, and ten or so very attractive women had showed up FOR ME, and you'd think I'd remember each and every name, and each and every face, and what color their hair was, and all that stuff, but I can't think of any of those details now. This wasn't about love. This was about my sad, bruised EGO. And these women, for grace of just liking me, had given themselves to that cause, selflessly helping me to get over a crucial hump in my life; one of the most important nights of my entire existence. The night I stopped being that lonely, kind of sad guy, and realized there was a lot more to life than I might have realized.
They were very friendly, and we talked and chatted excitedly, as the music got louder and louder. One poor buzzard got up there and sang "Turn the Page," by Bob Seger, but the band played it like it was a Pink Floyd concert, with huge drums, and distorted guitars, and all but drowned him out. The scared girl that always came by herself and sang "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" stood up there and shook, and barely got the song out, as she did most times, but this time, I went over and shared some of my good feelings with her, and told her she did a good job, which was a lie. No one had ever talked to her before, I guess, because as soon as I walked away from her table, she lit out of there like the place was on fire, and didn't even drink her beer.
Then a pretty, blind girl came up, and played harp while the band jammed some blues. She wasn't just good. She was fantastic, and I knew my odds of winning the show had just plummeted. The crowd loved her, and so did I. She was just excellent. Someone else played something else, and someone else played something else, and then they called me to the stage.
"I'm going to need your help on this one," I gamely stated into the mic, neither scared, nor exceptionally confident. I pulled it off, but just barely. "You all know this one, so let's all SING ALONG on the verses," I said, a little too loudly, and then BAM! I was off.
I sang the song very well. I would give myself an eight out of ten. I had played and sang it better, but I didn't muff anything, and I'd heard it performed far worse. They DID sing along on the verses, and they seemed incredibly enthusiastic. When I got back to my table of women, they were all touching me, and putting hands on me, and congratulating me, and telling me I won for sure.
I didn't think so. I did do well, and the song was a winner, but that blind girl! Man! Why did she have to pick that particular night? Of all the beer joints, in all the towns, of all the world, she had to walk into mine. No, it wasn't a gin joint, although I suppose they did have some, back behind the bar.
So they start announcing the performers, and do that fake applause meter thing, where a guy holds out his arm. Have you seen that? He pretends his arm is the needle on a VU Meter, and raises it up based on how much applause there is.
Well, they announced the blind girl, and the applause was thunderous. I had lost for sure! Even I was clapping really loud, and one of the girls said into my ear that I was helping my competition.
And then they announced me.
And the most curious thing happened. One moment of my life was frozen in time, and my reaction to it was amazing.
In slow motion, with surround sound, the entire bar erupted in chaos. Oh they clapped, all right. Maybe louder than they did for the blind girl; maybe not. Maybe the same. But they did something else. They all banged their bottles and glasses on their tables, and on the bar, and they hooted and whistled, and the only thing I could think of was running out the door just as fast as I could, and when I realized I'd never make it, because I'd have to get through the crowd, I only wanted to crawl under a table, and die.
I still wasn't comfortable with people looking at me, and calling attention to me; in short, I had not completely broken my stage fright; I hadn't gotten over my lead singer fear, from back at that party in 1981, when my entire school told me I was a lousy singer, and humiliated me.
My friends; my GIRLfriends; these lovely women who were my real and dear platonic friends at the time, and all acting like they were my actual girlfriends, were cheering loudest of all, and egging me on, and telling me to get up there and get my prize, and I walked up there, and Billy said, "I guess you WERE gonna win this," and handed me my fifty bucks.
So it wasn't my first public performance at all. It was YEARS after my first public performance, but it was my first public performance as ME. Before that, I don't really know who I was, but Richard Davidson, the performer, simply hadn't been born yet. I never looked back, either. Every single time I walked out on a stage, after that, it was with confidence, and a sense of real love. How lucky we are that we get to put ourselves out there, and let strangers decide if we have talent or not. We know we had better back it up, with some rehearsal time, and some effort, and respect those strangers.
A room full of drunk people had inadvertently validated my entire reason for being. I was a singer, and a guitar player, and a performer, and for one Sunday evening, in the dead of winter, near the Peninsula of Medicine Lake, where I had grown up, I was a STAR, baby!
__________________ Fender Jazz Bass Club #762 Black N Maple Club #438 I am an Ass Club #1
Originally Posted by obimark
Lesson learned, a lot of people are self-centered and stupid.
What song is it you wanna hear?
Last edited by mellowinman : 10-08-2013 at 06:46 PM.