More than a decade ago, and not for the first time, I was at a point in my life where a sense of direction had eluded me. After moving to London with a small band, in seek of fame and fortune, which had been promised to us but in actuality never materialised, not much time passed before the band in effect ‘disbanded’ leaving the core members in a state of flux. Moreover, my personal life had fallen into a state of turmoil as I broke up with the girl with whom I’d taken this leap of faith to the big city from my beloved Scotland. Caught in a perennial state of indecision, instead of returning home like my former bandmates, I decided to stay in London and form a new band, although in order to attain this I needed to support myself financially, which I did by taking a job in a specialist jazz and blue music shop in Central London.
It was not long before I realised that to financially exist in London was to prove beyond my means, despite my desire to succeed musically and the enjoyment of my new job in the record shop. Forced into a particularly impoverished corner, I decided I had no option but to return to the land of my birth, though what I would do when I arrived there I did not know. Still reeling from the fallout of my relationship breakdown, I had sought solace in the music of Townes van Zandt and John Lee Hooker, to help me cope in such trying times, the first time (though not the last) I had experienced such numbing pain. An obsession with the latter (JLH), had lead to me tracking down a couple of biographies, one of which I happened to be reading on a typically quiet morning on one of the last few days I worked in the record shop I had grown to love.
It was on this very morning, as I stood engrossed in my JLH book, whilst simultaneously listening to the great man’s subtle groove and well-worn baritone voice, that I looked up to be met with a smile from a slightly bedraggled individual, who commended me on my choice of reading. Despite his scruffy appearance, this person oozed charisma and exuded charm, and was instantly likeable – his long grey hair poured over his shoulders, the beret hat he was sporting gave him a distinctive and wisened look that urged me to listen to him. I thanked him for his compliment, and a conversation ensued in which we discussed the various genres, styles and heroes of the blues, including a shared love of not only the aforementioned John Lee Hooker, but also the great Freddie King & Muddy Waters.
The gentleman explained to me that he was a professional blues guitarist, based in Germany, but touring all over Europe, and was interested to see whether we stocked his output. After asking his name – Mick Pini – I conducted a quick search on the computer – we did in fact stock a couple of his releases, which I located on the shop floor, to his delight, as he was relieved that his distributors, had in fact, been doing their job. Folllowing this exchange, and I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps due to how open this person was, and how friendly, yet also how in tune with my own approach to life he seemed to be, despite our different ages, I told him of my own ongoing crisis, how not for the first time I was questioning my commitment to music, whether that was where my future lay, and if not what indeed I should do with my life, and how the upset from my relationship breakup had only heightened my worry and uncertainty.
The answer came back, and I can remember it as clearly as if it were an hour ago – ‘Forget about everything else – commit to the music. I can see it in your eyes, you believe in your music, so commit to it. It will never be easy, you’ll probably never make much money, but it will always be there for you. Don’t worry about the ex-girlfriend – you will recover from that, there will be other girls and other break-ups (how true!), but the music will always be there. Commit to the music.‘
We then discussed a little more about the blues and various guitar heroes before he repeated this mantra to me on his departure – ‘son – commit to the music‘.
After he left, I instantly put his CD on and was mesmerised by the driving guitar playing, the expressive licks, in turn driving and agressive then sensitive, the CD moving effortlessly from a Texan shuffle to a blues ballad, but with consistently engaging and interesting arrangements. That day, I bought the CD (taking advantage of the staff discount, of course) and took it home with me – Mick Pini, the day I spoke with a bona fide blues legend.