In York I was a big fish in a little pond.
In Pittsburgh (which isn’t exactly a music meca) I was a little fish in a big pond.
At this point I was into hard rock, the predecessor to what is now called heavy metal. My music philosophy was the more technical and complicated the better it must be.
Upon arriving in Pittsburgh I met Barney Lee.
Besides my wife and parents Barney would become one of the most influential persons in my life.
Something instantly told me to pay attention to what he was saying.
The band was called Good Stuff and was a top forties band when I joined but it quickly morphed into a rock and roll/blues band, especially when Barney’s good friend Justin Brown joined the band.
Bruce was in the band and he and I rented an old house in Pittsburgh.
With Good Stuff and Barney I was introduced to a whole new way of looking at my craft.
They talked about the groove, holes and spaces and the music and band breathing. This has taken me years to really understand at a gut level and every day as I listen to more and more music the understanding of the concept continues to go deeper.
This began my philosophy of “Simple Stupid”, not only in music but in life.
Pittsburgh and this band was a very humbling experience but I came out of it more confident in my abilities.
While I was in Pittsburgh for the first time I met another influential person in my life, my wife.
We had actually grown up about 5 miles apart in York County and went to the same schools. She was one grade behind me. All those years we knew of each other but never knew each other. She had come to Pittsburgh to study art. I guess we thought of each other as a piece of home.
After one year Goodstuff broke up.
Justin Brown left for the steady money he could make playing the piano bars at the high class hotels in Pittsburgh. Justin was the only member of the band who was married and had two kids.
Bruce had parted company with the band and myself prior to Justin leaving and not on the most amicable terms.
Bruce was still looking for that rock star status.
It was still in the back of my mind but now I wanted to be the successful musician more that the rock star. The end product, that one sound coming from a group of musicians which is greater than the sum of its parts, that’s what became really important.
It was the start of really trying to learn that it wasn’t how much I played, how technically right or impressive it was, but what was it musically correct. Did it fit in its space and leave the holes. Does it sound right? Does it feel right?
So after the band broke up I moved back to York with every intention of returning to Pittsburgh and again working with Barney Lee.
© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.