Oh Well! supporting myself no matter what


A few months back I was invited to join a cowboy band, not a band that sings country western but old-school cowboy music like Cool Water, Tumbling Tumble Weed, Ghost Riders in the Sky and many others songs that I’d never heard of before. In addition to cowboy music, the band also has an extensive repertoire of Hawaiian Music.

The band is made up of five of us—a lead singer (and organizer) who plays acoustic guitar, someone who plays electric bass guitar but doesn’t sing, someone who plays a steel guitar but does not sing, a fellow who sings baritone and then me, singing bass.

They are actually very good musicians and so I was surprised by the invitation. I guess Steve, the fellow who organized the band, had heard me sing in the church choir and decided I’d be a good addition to their intimate ensemble.  In truth, I like to sing and so why not.

Before I started rehearsing with the band, Steve took me out shopping and outfitted me in black wrangler jeans, a belt with a big western buckle, black and red western shirts, bandannas and a ten-gallon hat.  I tried to tell him that I’d be happy to reimburse him if he decided I wasn’t a good fit for the band but he ignored my comment and told me I’d be fine.

Well, I went to the first rehearsal and realized two things: First, I don’t know most of the music. Second, there are no written notes on the pages of music, just words with guitar chords written above the words.  I realized that I’d need to figure out how to make the sounds coming out of my mouth harmonize with the other vocalists.

We had our first performance a few weeks back, a 50-minute Hawaiian program on an outdoor stage with three or four hundred people either in the audience or listening as they milled about the venue.

I faced another challenge that day. The man who sings baritone was out of town. It was me and the lead. I was told it was easy. “Just sing one third step below the lead.”

Okay. Easy for you who have been doing this music for years now to say. But it was new to me. Figuring out the bass with someone else singing baritone was one thing. But figuring out a good “tight harmony” (as my fellow band members call it) to Steve’s melody when the words and tunes of these songs were pretty new to me felt like a stretch.

But what was I to do? I even thought back to my blog post from a few weeks earlier about skiing down the mountain. My friend told me it was okay to not look good. I get that. People like to see examples of others being less than perfect. True enough on the ski slopes, but this was a performance.

I remember listening to another band perform before we took the stage—they were wonderful. Joe, our bass guitar player, told me that the lead had been a professional singer his entire career. He and the woman who played and sang beside him had beautiful harmonies.

Oh boy. I got up and walked around and talked positively to myself—”I have a good voice. I’ve been rehearsing this music. I’m going to get up there and … what? … enjoy myself.”

It came our time and we moved up on stage. I sang to the best of my ability. There were times I knew the harmonies and moved close to the mic. There were times I was unsure and backed off a bit. But no matter what, I smiled. Some of the audience smiled and even chuckled right back at me.

Oh well.

I felt good because I stood straight and tall and gave it my best. I decided to support myself no matter what. I think I got a good dose of no matter what. (Some of you who go back years with me may be chuckling that I was finally getting my comeuppance.)

I remember packing up after the performance. I told Steve what I thought—I felt confident in some parts and was unsure in other parts. What’d he think? Now Steve is a very kind man. “Yeah, that about sums it up.” He had to leave immediately to go to a wedding so we didn’t talk more.

Well, I’m still in the band. Our next gig is on the largest stage in town in front of a thousand people attending the national convention of the Son’s of the Pioneers.

I tell Steve, during our rehearsals, that I want his feedback and instruction. And then we finish another song and he smiles and tells me it’s good enough. I kinda like good enough. And for sure, if its good enough for Steve, its good enough for me. Besides, I can always fall back on “Oh well!”

How about you? Do you have a good “Oh well!” story?


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

6 responses to “Oh Well! supporting myself no matter what”

  1. Russ Kyncl says:

    I call experiences like this “living without a net.” Diane and I had a similar experience last year. We frequently volunteer at the local inner city Jesuit high school, Arrupe Jesuit, in north Denver. In prior times, we supported the teachers. Last year, we failed to notice that we were actually teaching the class. We had five minutes to prepare, and we were on. Apparently, we did OK, is this year we taught three hours to three each of three days. This time with advanced preparation. I hope we get a chance to see you perform!

    • Roger Allen says:

      Hi Russ. I like that metaphor, living without a net. I’m glad you did ok. Maybe better than that, huh? I’m one who likes to prepare and sometimes we don’t have that option, which can also be good as we learn to trust our instincts, be authentic and go for it. I love that you can be teaching at a Jesuit high school.

  2. Chuck Welch says:

    Hi Roger, been quite a few years but never forgotten. Yes! Really love it.

    As a young adult, back in 1973 I think, I attended the Alameda County fair held in Pleasanton CA with a few friends. Myron Floren & some of the Lawrence Welk band, along with Bobbie Burgess & Sissy King dance team, were performing in the amphitheater. At a point in the show they invited a few guys & gals from audience to dance a polka with Bobbie or Sissy. After my friends elbowed & egged me on, and being fairly close to the stage, I reluctantly choked back my self talk, and fear of trying to dance with a pro, jumped up as 2nd in line to dance with Sissy King. The 1st guy was a little awkward and stumbled a bit. As Sissy let him go my nerves and subjective fear started to return. After taking a big breath & giving it the “Oh well here goes” I quickly took Sissy in position and we started around the stage in a lively polka. After flying across in front of the orchestra and heading back across front of stage Sissy twirled out of hold in front of the mic, not being led by me to do so, and I headed off stage thinking I was finished. My typical dress back then was cowboy boots, vest, & hat. She took the microphone, stopped the show, called “Hey cowboy, come back up here”, then stopped Bobby & said “Get a load of this.” She restarted the band. We flew another complete circuit around the stage and I twirled her out this time and ran on off stage to the roaring 1300-1500 size crowd. I laughed when Bobbie burgess added “Should I expect walking papers?”.

    Previous to this any play or show type dancing took some choreographing and rehearsing prior to performing in front of a crowd. This “Oh Well” “living without a net” example has and will always remain as one of my most powerful growth experiences.

    • Roger Allen says:

      Way to go for it Chuck. That had to be one thrilling day. Good for you for choking back your self-talk and being willing to go for it. Our best experiences require putting ourselves out there.

  3. Jan Mayer says:

    This made me giggle outloud! Your attitude is just right—aging requires lots of “oh, wells,” awkward moments, “who cares” and hopes that others didn’t notice that little faux pas. You ARE a great singer so I’m glad you didn’t get discouraged. The best thing about this time of life is learning and being open to new experiences. Yay you!

    • Roger Allen says:

      Thanks for the comment, Jan. Life is about learning and being open to new experiences. I always like to do my best and strive for excellence, but sometimes we still fall short and that is okay. I appreciate your perspective.

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