22 02 2015

I’ve never been much into hero worship or placing some famous person high on a pedestal. I would, however, hold certain Rock _npeople who made a positive mark on my life in a higher esteem, if you please, than others. These generally were common folk that most people never even heard of, but I suppose you could say became a hero to me based on my definition of the word. One of these was a musician named Mike (That was his stage name so we’ll go with that for the story.)

Up to that point Mike was the most talented musician, song writer and vocalist I had ever worked with. I was in a situation of what generally is referred to as “being in the right place at the right time,” and found myself recruited to play in a rock band with a group of performers older and more seasoned than I had ever worked with before; Mike was the leader, and lead vocalist. He possessed this uncanny ability to emulate the voice tone of many of the top singers you heard on the radio back in the 70s. Be it ballad, driving rock ‘n’ roll, blues or even soul music; the listener to Mike would be left with images of the original artist who performed the song we played. And as a showman there was no one better than Mike.  From the moment he took the stage he held the audience in the palm of his hand with his voice, stage appearance and interaction with them; they simply loved him.  Several of the songs we performed were written by Mike and became crowd favorites. There was this hope in the back of everyone in band that we would put together enough material to record an album; everyone that is except my man Mike.

Mike had already worked in the studios collaborating on one song that actually earned a gold record, and a short stint of fame and spotlight.  So it was naturally assumed that with him at the helm of our band we would soon grasp the same proverbial gold ring and someday be playing sold out shows all over the country; yep, we all had that star gaze in our eyes.

Unfortunately, that gaze quickly faded in obscurity one day; Mike quit the band and was gone without saying a word to any of us. I admit I was crushed and it didn’t make a lot of sense to me; there just had to be some reason that he would leave like that. As time went on I learned this wasn’t a sudden disappearing act Mike pulled, this was a norm for him. He had been with bands in several states and each time it appeared things were really great, he would up and leave with no rhyme or reason. Later on, after he abandoned us, I learned he had done the same with two other bands, one being country. Several of the guys I played with were angry because we never did recapture that incredible sound we had when Mike was with us. Eventually the band broke up and I went on to chase the music rainbow with other musicians. Still I never forgot the talent and personality of this musical mentor that always referred to me as John John. Where was he at, what was he doing now, and why did he leave like he did? That answer would come a few years later in a small college town in Northeast Ohio.

I was over in Bowling Green one afternoon visiting a friend who attended school there and we were taking a walk through town. A rather large man, riding a small motorcycle passed us by. He slowed and looked hard in the direction of my friend and me. We weren’t sure what to think of this menacing looking individual with the long black hair flowing out the back of his helmet and a cigarette clinched tightly between his lips, but now he was wheeling that bike around and heading right back toward us. My friend suggested, vigorously that we make a run and duck in a store. I was inclined to agree, until the rider pulled up next to us and yelled out, “Hey John John, what the heck you doing over here?!!” It was Mike. After I assured the person with me that Mike was okay, we exchanged pleasantries before I got around to asking the question that had haunted me over the years. “Mike what happened? We were just about to do something great with the band, and you left, why?” He pulled the cigarette from his lips that was almost burned out, replaced it with a fresh one, lit it with the old smoke, and then began. “John John, we already had something great. Didn’t we have a lot of fun, make some great music, play as much as we wanted and make a lot of people happy?” My answer was yes to all his questions. “All that other stuff, making records, touring and all that is okay, but it’s also a robber; you’re no longer playing because it’s fun and you enjoy it, you’re out there because it’s now a business with a lot of peoples hands out for their share of the pie. Ego becomes major and fun and friendship gets pushed to the side, just not worth it.” I was getting a picture of what happened in his first band and why he now avoided the big time at all cost. He lit one more smoke using the same method he did on the others and right before he sped off he said, “You’re a good musician, John John, and I hope you make it the music field, if that’s what you really want. But remember, it’s not about the fame, it’s about the love of the game.” He gave me a slap across the chest, then hammering down on the throttle of the bike, he was gone. I never saw Mike again, but at least I now understood, and I thank God that He sent Mike to teach me something I needed to learn.

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” John Wooden

I was focused on what I wanted to be in life, a famous musician, and I didn’t care what it took to get there. To me there wasn’t a cost too big to attain my dream. Here was another “Traveler of the Rock Road” teaching another important lesson to this man; this one was, “Don’t sell out your happiness for something that doesn’t last, it just may not be what you think it is.”

When I gave up chasing the gold ring, I trusted God and gave over to Him any talents I possessed, and everything else that made up who I am. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve learned His ways have brought me more joy than I ever could have hoped for.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Once again, no argument!

Haven’t seen Mike since that day, but if he’s still around he’d be about 70, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still belting out the tunes. So if you’re ever in a small club where there’s a singer performing that can do one of the best James Brown you ever heard, then easily transition into the mellow sound of Burton Cummings, go up and say, “Hey, John John says ‘hi,’ and don’t worry about him, he got it. He forgot the fame and learned to love the game, the music, but especially the Maker of the music!!
See Ya Soon.




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