BOILER ROOM TEMPLE

On January 12, 2012, I wrote the first installment of what became the book, "Gypsy Dreamers in the Alley". If one has already read this passage, they will see that I was overcome with joy to have landed in a spot that afforded me the feeling of having complete artistic freedom as a young twenty year old man. For some it is a desert, or a mountain top, maybe an ocean front shack or a flat on the lower east side of New York, but for me it was a noisy boiler room in the basement of a house on Belmont Boulevard in Nashville, TN. In the book I describe my exuberance being free and unrestrained, being able to play my guitar for and pen what would be my first songs written in Nashville. I lived with two other young men who were also aspiring musicians; John Sherman and Fred Quan. Fred was a banjo player who had reached that point in his playing where his study of Earl Scruggs finger picking style was starting to become clear to him. He had already mastered some of Earls classic pieces. Learning to play the banjo is not the easiest instrument to learn, but Fred attacked his practicing with a ferocity I have never seen in any individual trying to learn how to do anything. My own discipline had been willy nilly up to that point, my attention span was about 2 on a 1-10 scale, but being around Fred Quan gave me a whole new incite into the meaning of the word "MASTERY". I had never sat with my guitar much more then an hour at a time, but it was the expression on Fred's face that was imbued with a sense of mystery and wonder that changed my attitude. I used to watch him practice in the corner of the boiler room sitting under the huge water pipes running through the room sitting in a chair with his banjo in his lap. He had a muting device he attached to the instrument so you could hardly hear his playing. Hour after hour he'd sit there in kind of a paranormal intensity working on the fingering of a banjo lick he was determined to master.  His face to me became the road map of the destination I was trying to reach but had neither the discipline or the attention span to accomplish it up to that point. Fred's face took on the shape of stone, etched in a contortion of primal lines that looked like a sculpture that had formed naturally over millions of years in the dank alluvial mud of time. It was pointed like a dagger straight at the stubborn instrument that refused to accommodate Fred with the secret of the lick he was trying to learn. Sweat would eek out of the corners of his eyes that squinted and almost disappeared into his face that didn't even resemble a human face after a few hours. His expression wasn't that of stark determination as much as it was the look of some primitive reptile that was in battle with some megalithic creature in a fight for his life which Fred would eventually always win. Fred was in mortal combat with a musical instrument down there in the boiler room, the temple where he had come to in his life to learn the secrets of the universe in the form of Blue Grass Banjo picking, and I was a witness to it, an undisciplined reckless kid from New York with no idea how to attack the dream that battered around on the inside of my soul. I followed Fred's lead and assumed the same rigorous practice routines by osmosis. At first I hated it because it was so confining, but after time I began to look forward to turning off the world and escaping into the neck of my guitar for endless hours late into the nights of my youth; hundreds and hundreds of hours locked into sculpting and uniting my fingers with the ample flood of music that hammered in my heart and mind. Fred had been placed in my life in the Boiler Room Temple to lead me into the realm of discipline, a reality I had stupidly rebelled against my entire life. I realized through Fred that mastery does not come easy, that it is only acquired through bone breaking work. Had I not have been privileged to be around someone like Fred Quan, I never would have achieved the beautiful places my guitar eventually took me too. I realized back there in the Boiler Room Temple, that nothing supernal is ever achieved without sweat. Today, decades later, I have Fred Quan to thank for instilling in me that it is only an iron will that in the end wins the prize.