He was getting older, and with that came all the obvious signs of aging and the not so obvious signs that he should retire. Back in his day, they called him Lizard the Lounge Singer, but I know him as Larry and he’s a great story teller and a man with the soul of an angel. The year was starting to wane and Larry knew that he’d better get ‘his act together’ and work out an arrangement of songs for the holidays. The problem? Larry’s arthritis. The ease in which he could strum that old Dobro, wasn’t there anymore. He was finding that over the last few months, when he couldn’t hit a chord and the strings just twanged, he’d just sing over it in hopes that no one would notice. But we all did and there wasn’t anything we could do to help him.
One day, three weeks ago, I asked Larry where the name ‘Lizard’ came from, but in his aging head, he couldn’t remember exactly… he couldn’t even make something up to make it a good story. But I had an idea! I told him that lizards sure could scat about a room, but the Lizard right here in this room could scat with the best of them just like Gillespie, even Scatman Crothers! His eyes got wider and his smile went from Louisville all the way to The Big Easy! “So you want me to just sing?”, Larry wondered aloud. I could see what he was getting at, because he saw himself more as a guitarist than a singer.
After a few minutes of thinking it out, I held Larry right in front of me, my hands grasping his shoulders and said, “Let’s hang-up those strings and get you a more suitable model – A Pedal Steel Slide Guitar!” I went on, “You’d be able to sit and get rid of that crutch you drag, as well as hold your fingers on those strings to wail out the blues, instead of ripping out a wild riff, that usually makes you cry them in pain.”
He liked that idea and his smile grew to include Memphis, Nashville and the en-tire Grand Ole Opry! “Then it’s done”, I lent my hand to shake his and he complied and said in a stronger voice than Ella’s, “I’m gonna start the gig with ‘Joy To The World’ and yer gonna play the washboard!”
-dld December 22nd, 2010
T10 Words, Inc., Wednesday: string, slide