age seventeen I was a decent young guitarist whose heroes
Clapton and Johnny
Winter, but seeing the Grateful
Dead two nights in a row the first weekend of college
was what really sealed my fate, musically and academically.
The Dead introduced me to the possibilities of country and
jazz in a rock 'n' roll context, and both they and their sidekicks
Riders of the Purple Sage used pedal steel guitar, which
immediately captivated me. A few years later I made my first
foray into the instrument, acquiring an MSA 5x4 single neck
and laboring mightily to plumb its mysteries. But instructional
resources were few, and out of frustration I ended up swapping
the steel for a better guitar amp.
I began my musical career playing
guitar for a Providence, R.I., country outfit called Dee's
Travelers, which paid $60 for weekend gigs at Mishele's Lounge,
a lurid cinder-block tavern in a scary part of town. I sang
"Daydream," "Big River" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry,"
and did my best to support Dee, a vocalist for whom pitch
was a highly relative concept.