Those of you who know me well know that, when I’m not playing music, I’m either writing music, listening to music, or reading about music.

In his autobiography A Cellarful of Noise, the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein recounted a rare visit to a Fab Four recording session. Epstein had the effrontery to remark from the control booth that something didn’t sound right. John Lennon, in his now-famous reply, responded, “You stick to your percentages, Brian. We’ll look after the music.”

I mention this because pretty much the same thing is happening here in northwest Pennsylvania. One bar in the area asked to see my setlist before they would book me. Another local watering hole informed me that they don’t allow any original compositions!

When I inquired why, I was told, "Our goal is to keep people here." This drives me crazy for two reasons. It assumes that (1) meticulously crafted original songs won't keep people in a venue, and (2) boring covers of "Wagon Wheel" will.

Since when did venues get into the business of dictating the musicians’ repertoire? This makes about as much sense as me instructing them how much sauce to put on the hot wings, or telling them when the fries are done.

On the plus side, however, it does explain why so many musicians in the area play the same dozen songs (“Sweet Caroline”, “Last Dance with Mary Jane”, etc.)

So... bars in the tri-state area continue to be unwilling to book me. To be honest, I find myself missing it less and less. Bar crowds aren’t what they used to be.

Among other things, I’ve found that they speak in a kind of code, which I’ve managed to translate for your edification. Here are some examples:

“Turn it up!”

Translation: “I am a total rube. I don’t get out much. I wish to control the volume onstage just like I do on my home stereo. Please pour a beer over my head.”


Translation: “I am a total rube. I don’t get out much. I wish to control the song selection just like I do on my home stereo. Please pour a beer over my head.”

And so on.

So… I haven’t been playing in bars. Where have I been playing?

I play at senior homes throughout Crawford County 2 – 3 times a month. I also play at the Venango General Store on a semiregular basis. Then there’s the Little Church on the Hill.

On the third Saturday of each month, the Elk Creek Historical Society organizes “Coffee House on the Hill” – an event featuring potluck and local musicians at the historic (1855) “Little Church” in Wellsburg, PA (just north of Albion).

I myself used to play here when I was taking my first baby steps as a live musician, playing lead guitar for Dave Devine back in 1999. I used to joke that the average age of the crowd was somewhere between 70 and “dead three days ago”. Not that big of a deal (except that, if there was a fire, I’d pretty much be looking at certain death).

These days the Elk Creek Historical Society is in the hands of new people who are trying to cater to a younger crowd. When I reached out to them to play at the Coffee House, they were receptive to the idea - although, at the time of this writing, we haven’t booked a date yet. Once we set something up, I’ll post it on the website.

In the meantime, check out the excellent work the Elk Creek Historical Society does on their Facebook page:

Finally, I hope all of you reading this have a joyous holiday season. And, if your holiday list contains that hard-to-shop-for person, the perfect stocking stuffers are right here: 

Rock long and prosper,


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