Blues Traveling

inUncategorizedon March 8, 2013

Traveling with artists to shows is an essential, especially when your goal is to bring Roots music to audiences around the country and the world. Along the way I have often faced challenges similar to those most travelers deal with, except I’m traveling with elderly musicians who sometimes have never left their home state. While traveling with B.B. King when he was recording his “Duets Wild” album, he gave me this advice: “Always leave very early, give yourself time, there is no need to add stress to yourself, if something goes wrong you have time to work this out.”

This advice has proved very valuable many times. Once while John Dee Holeman and I were off to Switzerland, he discovered at the security check that he had packed an expired passport. Luckily we had time to drive back to his home, get his current passport, and still make our flight.

Guitar Gabriel and I travelled so much in the early 1990s that we knew all the skycaps by name. One day we arrived at the airport en route to Belgium. The skycap cheerfully greeted Gabe, got him a wheelchair and whisked him away, yelling back at me to meet them at the gate. I checked our bags, got our tickets and headed to our gate, but Gabe was nowhere in sight. I looked at all the gates near ours, to no avail. I went to the security desk to have him paged, but still no Gabe. Sitting looking out at the runway, I noticed a plane, in line to take off, turn around and come back to the gate. In a few minutes, a very aggravated stewardess wheeled Gabe out from the jetway and hastily returned back to the plane.

Gabe told me the skycap put him on the plane to Nashville, TN, since he was a musician. He said, “I was on the plane waiting for you and you did not come. When I realized I was on the wrong plane, they told me I would have to go to Nashville and then come back. I sprung from my seat and started beating my cane on the baggage compartments trying to get to that pilot and give him a piece of my mind, when they decided to bring me back.” Luckily we still made our flight.

On a layover in the Detroit airport returning from Australia with Macavine Hayes, he disappeared. I looked everywhere for him, then I heard my name called out on the PA. I learned that Macavine had stepped outside to smoke, but, not being able to read so well, he went through a door to the tarmac where the planes were being fueled. Homeland Security found him sitting on a baggage carrier smoking a cigarette. Their protocol demanded that they check him out thoroughly. In the meantime, they insisted I go aboard my plane assuring me that Macavine would be there to board in plenty of time for take off. I waited anxiously, but they suddenly closed the plane door, with no Macavine. I asked about my friend, and they said he would not make the flight after all, but told me not to worry because they would put him up at an airport hotel and send him to Raleigh the next morning. I just did not have the nerve to act as my old partner Gabe (and I had no cane to bang on the baggage compartments) so I flew on without Macavine. He did make his flight the next day, and made it home just fine.

I could go on and on about flight stories, they are always eventful and took new twists and turns, often unexpected, most always frustrating and unnerving. Over the years I have learned to relax and do my best knowing it is a rare and beautiful thing when all goes well.

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