get it, man, get it

He was holding court between sets at the Texas Bar
(Not his usual stomping grounds, necessarily,
But the owner was a decent guy whose checks were good,
And a Wednesday night gig pretty much found money)
Going slow and easy with a scotch and soda of uncertain labels,
Having come to rest at that station where, as he sighs it,
Wallet tells me I prefer well drinks to the top shelf.
He’d been, if not a name name, at least recognizable
(He has posters showing him sharing the bill with the heavies,
Redding and Bo Diddley and Jackie Wilson,
Smaller font for sure, but there nonetheless)
Getting a little air play, even outside of niche Detroit and Chicago stations,
And one song which peaked all the waaaaay up at seventy-eight on the chart.
Lotta uncertain buses and club owners who never quite caught me later,
He muses, a touch ruefully, but he finds some solace
(Indeed, he has become quite adept at finding comfort where he can)
But, if he has not exactly prospered, he has carried on carryin’ on,
Getting steady work here or Chicago or Gary,
The odd campus Motown nostalgia gig in Lansing or Ann Arbor,
Even six or eight weeks in Florida
(Nice to be the young guy in the room for once, he all but cackles)
Covering the tunes the headliners sang in his day,
And perhaps one could say he is a Fleance or Percival,
Plodding onward from the wreckage of great man all around him,
But such contemplation is a luxury,
The province of lake houses and brokerage accounts,
Though he is fond of holding his thumb and forefinger apart just so,
And telling the listener I was this close to hittin’ it big,
Invariably following that assertion with a chuckle,
‘Course, that might not be measured to scale.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: My thanks to the wise and wonderful Dana Rushin for clueing me in on the existence of the Texas Bar, as I am nowhere near badass enough to hang in neighborhood bars in Detroit.)

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10 thoughts on “get it, man, get it

  1. Yep, the reality-check of the small font. Delightful, especially the last image, I, myself, put my thumb and forefinger apart “just so” and picturing one of the Motown back-up singers spinnin’ a yarn, patent leather dress shoes still shiny.

  2. Your mention of Fleance and Percival, I thought, was a brilliant touch to lift this story of missing the hit into the realm of the literary epic.. a word for the side-kick who never made it big. And what would stories be without their measure?

    1. I mentioned to someone somewhere that this was better than it started to be (which, incidentally, don’t mean great) and I think the characterization is the probable why and wherefore tor that. Many thanks, ma’am.

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