The Dirt Is Red!

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Making Music With My Hero


That’s me and number 1 on my list, John “JoJo” Hermann. To say it was big for me is an understatement. Here’s how it happened…

If you know me, you already know that a couple of weeks ago I got an opportunity to share a stage, and keyboard, and mic with my musical hero. I’ve gone on about it continually since it happened and I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing me ramble on about it.

I’ve given myself a couple of weeks to gather my thoughts, but still feel like I should post something here so I can commemorate the experience, at least for myself.

Musically speaking, I have the following heroes in my top 10:

  1. John “JoJo” Hermann
  2. Chuck Leavell
  3. Page McConnell
  4. Gregg Allman
  5. Herbie Hancock
  6. Steve Winwood
  7. Ben Folds
  8. Jaque Loussier
  9. Keith Emerson
  10. Butch Taylor

Note that this isn’t a list of who I think the most talented keyboardists are, nor does the rank reflect my feeling on each player’s talent. It is simply how much each of these guys has influenced me over the years. Over time, any of these ranks may swap depending on my mood or what I’m working on learning or writing. One, however, has remained the same and that’s John “JoJo” Hermann. And that’s what makes this story so special for me:

I was standing on the streets of downtown Huntsville, Alabama trying to give directions to my guitar player. We had a gig at Humphrey’s Bar & Grill that night and because he had to work that day he was running a bit late and was having a hard time finding the location. As I tried to figure out where on Clinton he was a couple of guys walked in front of me. One looked insanely familiar, so I told my guitar player “Dude, I think JoJo Hermann just walked in front of me!” Of course, the sane reply came, “No way dude, what would he be doing wondering the streets of downtown Huntsville?” I watched as what I figured was JoJo’s doppleganger wandered down an alley and to the stage where we were setting up. A few seconds later he came back out from the alley and headed into the building next door.

Then, I noticed a poster on the pole behind me advertising that John “JoJo” Hermann was playing with his side project, The Lost Cats, at The Crossroads. I checked the door on the next door, yep… The Crossroads.

So I figured that was my brush with my hero. Until…

We cover a couple of Widepsread Panic songs. The only ones we cover were written by and are sung by JoJo. For whatever reason, we had decided to put “Blackout Blues” in the first set, as the third song. That’s something we almost never do.

In the middle of the song I look up, across the courtyard and crowd, and notice JoJo standing at the bar, holding up a wine glass with a huge smile on his face. When our eyes met he gave me a huge thumbs up. My response? To point at my keys and give him the “You wanna play” gesture. His response? A dead sprint to the stage. I helped him on stage and then this happened:

That’s when I was all “kid in a candy store” and beside myself. Surreal is the easiest way to describe it, because at that moment I was making music with my number one influence. Life is funny sometimes, and sometimes it’s just awesome.

JoJo got my name after we played and gave our information to the guys at the door at his show so we could come and go during set breaks to watch him do stuff like this:

So many people I know have met their heroes only to be disappointed. Not me, luckily I chose a really, really cool dude as my primary musical influence. Thanks JoJo!



May 6, 2012

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