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Guitar Players: Why Being LIKED Beats Being Talented

by vaughn skow July 29, 2013 2 min read

When I was about 14 years old my band was playing a gig at a little Bar-n-Grill in Superior, Iowa; a scruffy fellow walks up at break & invites us to his place to see how a REAL guitar player plays.  We were all little teenies and, lured by the promise of seeing a “real” Les Paul, off we went.  We arrived at this … well … it wasn’t quite a shack, and it wasn’t quite a trailer; truth is, it didn’t really look like a place any human would inhabit.  As we were all getting used to the stench and filth, out from under the bed comes an honest-to-goodness gold-top Les Paul.  Dude starts playing, and, yeah, he really WAS a spectacularly talented player.  We all wanted to get scruff-man in the band, but he couldn’t stop cussing & swearing at us long enough for us to even ASKhim.  Do you all see the point to this story?

There wasn’t anything special in the water of Superior, Iowa.  Truth is, there are very gifted musicians under most every rock in most every town.  Many, like scruff-man, will rarely if ever know the sheer joy, and utterly thrilling fulfillment of playing in a great band with other talented musicians.  Why?  Because they are, for lack of a better word, jerks.  Jerks don’t usually have many friends, and they sure don’t get many gigs.

As a guitar player, I’m what they refer to in the south as “fair to middling”.  I’m okay, but I’m in no danger of ever reaching “guitar God” status.  I live in the Nashville area, home to the best musicians in the world.  Within 20 miles of my house there are probably thousands of guitarists who are better than I am, but I play out more than all but a handful of them.  You see, it took some time(!), but I have figured out how to be the kind of guy that people want to hang with.  That trumps sheer talent on about 99 out of every 100 gigs.  Look at it this way:  If your spouse and/or significant other were absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, but made you feel like crap every day of your life, would you stick with them?

And so it is that I am routinely approached at a show by some new version of scruff-man.  Dude tells me how much I suck and how much better he is than I am.  I smile, look him right in the eye and say “that’s awesome dude, I bet you are”.  Then I get back to playing guitar.

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