This morning, I got an email from Kristy, an old friend whom I worked with in high school. The email said she tagged me in a photo.
I furrowed my brow and thought, “If this is one of those cheesy pictures in which she tagged a thousand other people in plus me, I’ll be … REALLY angry.”
I surfed over to Facebook to find the above shot of me playing the bass guitar.
Look at those brown, chicken legs!
Back in high school, my brother Jon had a band. Jon was (and still is) a singer/songwriter.
Jon’s main influences came from bands like U2, which often integrated Christian lyrics, but they were primarily secular with a secular audience.
After Jon graduated from high school, his goal was to have a successful band. Jon and his band went through a couple bass players. And they finally thought, let’s teach Jer how to play. In my sophomore year of high school, I became the bass player for a band called “Creamy Velour.”
Creamy Velour was the name of a character in a poem Jon wrote about a guy who went to heaven. Even if that’s not where the name came from, that’s what my mind is telling me.
The moment the band asked me to play, I went into perfectionist mode. I scraped up some money. I bought a bass guitar and a bass amp. I practiced all the time. I grew out my hair trying to look the part. The shot above is pre-long hair.
We didn’t have any gigs lined up except for playing for friends at first.
One day at a party, I met a guy who was starting a small club. I told him I was in a band, and we ended up getting booked for our first gig. We moved up to better venues throughout my career with Creamy Velour. Once we played at a biker bar using equipment that cost more than my parents paid for our home. Another time we drove five hours to Myrtle Beach, flyered around the main boardwalk, played a gig, watched the headliner and drove back the same night. It was brutal, and possibly one of the funnest nights of my life.
Playing bass in Creamy Velour was my glory days. I loved it. My modus operandi while playing was “This could be my last time ever to perform on stage, so give it all you got.”
I loved being on stage, and before I knew it, all the shyness that I had growing up floated out the window and I became a stage junkie. I tried to be as entertaining as anyone I’ve ever seen on stage.
The demise of my music career came when I met my first girlfriend one night at a Creamy show. A Creamy groupie brought a friend named Wendy one night, and after the groupie accused me of liking Wendy, we started seeing each other.
After high school, Wendy was going to go to college, and she influenced me to go off to college too. Otherwise, I would have stayed home and gone to a community college, stayed in the band, and probably never moved away from home. When I told the band about my plans, they fired me. I have a fiery temper, and back then, it was even fiery-er.
There are some very embarrassing moments I’m not proud of. One time, my brother promised me that I could play one song with the band on stage at a show before going off to college. I arrived at the venue with my best friend and Wendy ready to play my supposed last hurrah. I went in Jon told me the band changed their mind and I wouldn’t be able to play.
I ended up getting on stage while they were playing and yelling profanities and hate to the entire band, all through tears and snot flowing from my eyes and nose. Expressed anger is embarrassing.
Creamy Velour went on to become pretty popular in a local-scene kind of way. They recorded at CD that is still up at iTunes (listen here). Jon was somewhat of a celebrity, and still is. He plays for his church. And lots of people schedule their church visits around when Jon sings or not.
Playing in Creamy Velour painted my view of creativity and professionalism. We put a lot of effort into making it, and being a part of quality work makes being a part of other collaborations an issue. When I work in groups, I expect everyone to bring as much professionalism and perfection as Creamy Velour. More often than not, it renders my experiences empty and unsatisfying.
It also painted my view of secularism. Secularism was demonized in high school, and yet I discovered that the way to artistic professionalism was to avoid divisive things like religion and aim at universal truths like love, pain, and simply entertainment for the sake of entertainment. Nobody wanted the guilt involved with church while out on a Friday night. They wanted to listen to fun music, with fun bands.
What it takes to make it is often taking what works and assimilating your personality into it. This mentality goes against what I was taught, which was, “Do God’s work no matter the cost to your personal gain. Failure on earth might mean success in heaven.”
If that is your view of the world, let me be the one who tells you, “Success in heaven and failure on earth is what it is … it’s a failure. A failure is failure no matter how you paint it. No matter how you spin it.”
I recommend aiming for success now.