BUSKING: ON MY BUCKET LIST
I have always been fascinated by those individuals who had the moxy to stand on a street corner somewhere and play/ sing their music. For some of us singer songwriter musician types to do so is almost akin to begging for money like with a little tattered cardboard sign and that snotty-nosed kid by our side we see so much of!
Not too long ago I came out of my local Walmart. Didn’t get far before I heard this fellow bellowing out and banging his guitar. I’m serious, bellowing out and banging! I packed my purchases in the car, shut the door and walked back to get a closer look. I was curious, he was doing some kind of funky up-tempo blues just banging the same chord on his guitar. The lyrics weren’t any better, I think it was a four word phrase that he repeated over and over and over again. I stood there for awhile hoping he would work up something with more acumen. At one point I interrupted and asked if he knew any other songs. That was my mistake, he began to belt a two or three word phrase over and over and over again!
Being a member of the Fort Worth Songwriters Association and the prestigious NASI, I was immediately aware this guy banging there was stratospherically NOT a songwriter, not a very good singer, and totally an anomaly for a guitar player! Yet I stood in awe as folks came forward and tossed a few bucks into his tips container. If the word mediocre was fair of his performance, having a set of brass ones set him apart! I have often said to my wife, “I’m going to go play on a street corner somewhere!” Because frankly, it looked like a fun and profitable experience.
She’d always shut me down, “ Oh, you don’t need to make a fool of yourself on some public street,” or some such verbiage to chink my moxy and keep me from being a public laughing stock ( in her eyes). But nobody was laughing at that guy! They were tossing bucks his way! And he was the guy who’d get the hooked end of a cane at the local open mic!
I’ll be frank. It’s not that easy for singer/ songwriters to get a paying gig. Open mic opportunities just fill the gap at some establishments with no skin off their nose. They call the experience “exposure.” Plus, tips at such places are diverted to that frothy specialty coffee drink or bottled beer, not the tips jar! On the other hand, singer songwriters take the craft seriously. We study the makeup of the music that embraces the lyrics. Rhyming is essential, a well engaging “hook.” And it seems each genre has it’s own set of parameters that make the combined crafting something to be proud of. Did I say pride? That may be the key to this whole busking idea. Letting go of it.
I’m reminded of the gal I’ve seen over the last 20 years. She didn’t have a nice sounding guitar, kind of clunky and out of tune. Her voice could barely handle the notes of the songs she sang, but there she was. I’d see her at small gatherings, a side-ally act sitting off the back of her rusting pickup belting out Beatles tunes, etc. She was at the trade days weekends, the swap’n shop meets and the most obscure events. I have to figure if it was money, she had tapped into a steady stream of it cause busking for her just wasn’t a one night stand… she made a vocation out of it! In the process, with little talent, not much effort, but lots of moxy, she probably made more money with tips than I have ever have seen trying to sell my tapes and CDs! Yup, busking is on my bucket list!