One afternoon in the summer of 1989, I was sitting in my living room playing my 12-string Yamaha guitar. I was learning a few songs from the latest James Taylor album. About that time, my roommate Harry Wilson came walking in the apartment with his tennis doubles partner Shannon Ruscoe. I had no idea that the course of my life would completely change that afternoon.
I had never seen Shannon before that moment when, suddenly, he started to belt out the lyrics to one of the Taylor songs I was playing on my 12-string. I tossed him the lyrics to some other songs and he pulled up a chair and sang several more with me that afternoon.
Later in the week, I called Shannon and soon we started to get together in the evenings to learn a few more songs. We thought it might be a good thing to try our best Simon and Garfunkel impression at a party sometime. At the time, we were always thinking of unique ways to meet women - preferably blond sorority girls with bad taste in men (in other words, an interest in guys like us).
A few months after I started rehearsing with Shannon, my grandmother Virginia unexpectedly sent me a check for $1000. It was a portion of a small insurance policy my grandfather had taken out a few years before he died in December of 1988. That $1000 was to become the basis of my first real-life experiment with capitalism.
After I deposited the $1000 in the bank, I called Shannon with a plan of action. I told him there was an Alvarez Yairi guitar on sale for $650 at Backstage Music (www.backstagemusic.com), which is near Mississippi State University where we both went to graduate school. I told Shannon I could buy it and still have enough money to rent microphones, speakers, and amplifiers from Backstage owner Jim Beaty for at least our first half-dozen gigs. ?Gig? is a hip musical term for ?job.? I was a long-haired Democrat in those days.
Our next move was to convince some foolish businessman to let us set up our rented equipment in his bar for at least one night. I was already risking everything I owned on this venture. Nonetheless, I took another risk in the form of an offer to the manager of a small Mexican restaurant called J.C. Garcia?s on Highway 12.
When we met with one of the managers, I asked him to pick the slowest night of the week. He said that was Tuesday. We offered to play two one-hour sets between 9 and 11 p.m. for the low price of $0.00. The catch was that if he sold $2000 worth of drinks that night - which he already said was his slowest - he had to hire us to come back and play the next week for $200 cash and free beer.
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