by Steve Eulberg
Lucky Joe’s Sidewalk Saloon, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is one of the places I began honing my craft of performing in live venues at the end of the last century.
As soon as church was over in the morning, I would phone in to get my name put on the Open Mic list for what I hoped would be the prime time after the weekly Acoustic Open Mic began at 9 pm every Sunday Night.
Sometimes I was “lucky” and my name was earlier on the list, so I could listen to a few of the other players, play my set and get home to take my shower (this was before the local Clean Air Act banned smoking in bars in 2003). If I didn’t take that shower, my sensible wife would not let my smoky-smelling self sleep in the same bed! (I guess, twice lucky–the couch was none-too-comfortable for a night’s sleep.)
Other nights, the list was nearly full when I called in and I got to play much closer to closing time….which made the required shower much e-e-e-arlier in the morning.
Many of the performers were guitarists and singer-songwriters, although I do recall a stride pianist coming in and playing some mean Jelly Roll Morton, too. Sometimes I would bring my guitar and try out some new songs, to test them in front of a rather discerning audience.
Many other times, I brought my mountain or hammered dulcimer up on that little stage (which provided the host and sound guy the opportunity to learn how to amplify these feedback boxes on the fly!) to introduce their delicate and lively sounds to the beer-sipping audience. (To their intrigue and delight.)
I don’t know how the other performers used the time they were not performing, but this was a laboratory for me.
I studied them, their material, how they presented it, how the audience did (or didn’t) respond. I prepared my nervous heart to calm itself as my time slot neared and I tried to make my set up time be efficient. I listened to (and made internal comments on) everyone’s stage patter, and tried to edit my own in light of my quick reflections on theirs.
And I was lucky.
Joe (half of Lucky Joe’s) booked me to play for a couple of St. Patrick’s Day gigs and one year I rode on the saloon’s float in the pre St. Patrick’s Day Saturday morning parade in March (this is Colorado, remember, and March is one of the big snow-dump months every year!), playing my hammered dulcimer, wearing finger-less gloves as the float bounced down College Avenue.
But mostly I was lucky because I learned that all this preparation is what made me lucky.
(with thanks to Twyla Tharp for sharing E. B. White’s quote:
“Habitually creative people are prepared to be lucky.”
—The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.)