Well, about this time last year, the Bilge Pumps welcomed aboard our newest member and guitar player, Jack the Rum Runner (a.k.a. Captain Fred Sparrow, a.k.a. Carlos Santana, a.k.a. Fred Flores). The Fezziwig Friday Night opening of Dickens on the Strand in 2014 was his first official gig with us, but we were pounding him relentlessly with our library of songs long before then and we've been pounding him relentlessly (with songs) ever since.
We first approached Fred with the concept of joining the band as a guitar player last summer because he'd dared mention the fact that he used to play guitar. Our beloved Sharkbait Simon had been coming to fewer gigs because his personal and professional life kept intruding, so we were a bit desperate for a guitar player. That was especially true after witnessing my lame attempt at playing emergency guitar last summer at a couple of shows. Fred mulled the offer over for a while and secretly pulled his guitar back out of retirement and started rebuilding his skills and left finger calluses to determine privately if he would be able to do himself justice on the songs. After a couple of months of psyching himself up into believing he could do it, he agreed to start joining us in rehearsals to see how things would go.
First thing we did was figure out what gig he wanted to start on and then we'd begin tailoring the songs in rehearsals to that. Problem was, Dickens was the first gig and that meant not only would he get the blast of 60+ guitar songs (at the time), but hit with our bevy of pirate Christmas carols as well. He managed to weather the deluge of information and keys by devoting hours upon hours of his spare time each week practicing with the sheets and our recordings so that we would be ahead of the game when he got to rehearsal with us.
He made a successful debut that Friday night at Dickens (in fact, he did better than I did since I damn near completely screwed up singing "The Night Pat Murphy Died ", covering for Sharkbait). So, how best to reward him for a job well done? Hit him with a pack of completely different songs for Pirates on the Prairie and Mardi Gras Galveston! He had to cover the 2-hour Mardi Gras set without Sharkbait's help as well. Who says pirates can't swim? We threw this guy in the deep end and tossed a piano on top of him and he still managed to show up on the foredeck, smiling, with a mermaid on each hip.
His dedication to taking on our catalog of 120+ songs on his own has been awesome. He's even taken it upon himself to learn bass on some of the songs we do that I can't play bass on myself due to me playing other instruments. That means he has to learn two instruments and sometimes vocals for a song. He's worked hard on pounding our old stuff on his own to allow us to focus on our new songs during rehearsal. He's also been a quality guy both in and out of shows, always willing to help out where he can and simply show support where he can't. In other words, why is this guy in our band again? Doesn't sound like he fits at all!
My hat is off to Jack as he has managed a minor miracle in getting caught up and comfortable with not only our music, but with our crazy-ass personalities as well. Now if only we can get him to sing and play guitar at the same time... No rest for the wicked.
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