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  • Writer's pictureBruce Bouton

Playing it Back, Playing it Forward

When I drove from Vienna, VA to Nashville in 1978, I had a steel guitar and amp, one acoustic, a suitcase full of clothes and 150 dollars in my pocket. The only thing I had waiting for me was a room in a house on 18th Avenue and a new friendship with an English Tele player named Ray Flacke. Neither of us had playing jobs but we both had the drive to succeed. Unfortunately it was late November and no one was putting any tours together. We would go down to lower Broadway and try to sit in at one of the few clubs but there was no money. I failed miserably at trying to wait tables at one of the only good restaurants in town. I still had to eat and pay rent so I pawned my Guild flat top guitar. The next week I walked into the ShoBud Music Store with an old lap steel I needed to sell. I’ll never forget Shot Jackson when he said “that’s a real piece of junk but you look hungry so I’ll give you a hundred bucks and hang your guitar on the wall. You can pay me back when you get on your feet.” I was completely blown away. I didn’t know this person from Adam and he was trying to help me. On top of that he offered me a job in the ShoBud guitar factory while I got settled in to Nashville. It saved me from going under. I worked there from November through April of the following year when I was able to quit and join a touring band. Not sure where I’d have ended up if Shot Jackson hadn’t been kind to a complete stranger.This became the story of my life in Nashville. Musicians were open and supportive. Every steel player in town would willingly share tips about tuning, technique gear etc. For instance I remember Jeff and Fran Newman had a steel guitar school in Hermitage Tn. Every Thursday night they’d have a concert with Buddy Emmons, Lloyd Green or Hal Rugg, all legends in their own right. They always welcomed me to come hang out. Fran’s cookies and coffee and the great music were comforting to a struggling musician. These are just a few examples of random acts of kindness that got me through my first year in Nashville. As I look back on my career of forty years as a musician, I realize that it’s been an amazing ride. I hope to share this in my blog. Perhaps I can be some help to a new kid in town. It’ll also keep me busy on the road learning how to write again! I once asked the great session musician Lloyd Green what the secret was to being a good studio musician. His response: “Listen to the words! ”


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