I was asked if I ever make mistakes when playing onstage. My answer to that was “absolutely yes.” MANY musicians make mistakes during shows and even artists themselves make mistakes. No one is perfect, even though there are some artists who will expect perfection. James Brown was one who was notorious for expecting perfection from his players. He would often flash hand signals to his players during a show implicating that they would be fined. If he flashed five fingers twice toward a musician, then that would often mean that he was going to get “docked” $10.00 for his mistake (five dollars for each flash). Harold Melvin was also one of those who would have no problem withholding money from his musicians. The main problem with this is that when you instill fear in your musicians it often takes the “fun” out of the show. No one should like to play “scared.” When you have a more relaxed unit, then the creativity is free to come out. I have personally worked for people who were “real precise” when it came to playing the music but at least I can say that none of them were the “professional ones.” Well, there may be one exception to that. We had to perform with Chubby Checker (the man who made “The Twist” famous). When we had rehearsal with him, he singled out each one of us and actually “told us verbatim how our parts should be played.” Now, keep in mind that I “already knew” that Chubby didn’t “write” the Twist, nor did he play “any of the instruments on the song” and he wasn’t even the original person to record the song (Hank Ballard was the very first one). So for Chubby to tell me (or anyone) how to play the parts raised an eyebrow or two for me (smile). I listened to him, shook my head yes and went out and played the song the way I knew it was “supposed to be played.” ALL of us did, and Chubby either didn’t say anything or he just didn’t notice the difference. When I played for the television special for Teddy Pendergrass I remember going through almost the entire show and then thinking “Wow! I made it through this entire show without making a mistake. We were playing “Get up, get down, get funky get loose” and just as soon as I made that thought I hit a “bad wrong note.” I was thinking too much and messed up (smile). For the record, yes, musicians do make mistakes, but the real question is whether or not the audience can pick up on it. Most times they can’t. If musicians are playing live, then there will always be chances that they will mess up. I will own up to all my mistakes, and you will probably be able to tell when I hit them, because I will probably be laughing at myself onstage. Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought today, and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.
Chubby Checker and Brett Jolly