What Not to Say to a Music Hero

The last time David and I talked to Andy Gullahorn, David said something really, really clever.  I will share it with you another time.  But I honestly walked away from the conversation thinking, “Wow!  The man I married is very smart, clever, and quick on his feet.  Or maybe he just got lucky.”

Because you know you do it.  You want to appear deep, pithy, clever, self-effacing, and witty with people you look up to.  That particular night last December, David hit one out of the park.

Last summer we went to see Ellis Paul at The Evening Muse, a charming little listening room here in Charlotte.  Ellis’ CDs have been musical companions of mine since high school.  He was introduced to me by my friend Tara, who had heard him locally at the Old Vienna Coffeehouse in Westborough, Massachusetts.

A little background on Ellis Paul:  he is from northern Maine — that part of Maine that is so far north that some people speak French.  He went to Boston College on a track scholarship but was permanently sidelined by a knee injury.  It was during his recovery that he picked up his guitar, much to the happiness of folk music listeners in New England — and eventually, all over America.  I consider the height of my folk music fandom to be the night I saw Ellis perform at Club Passim — the same club where Dylan and Joan Baez played once.

He is now so well-respected in the folk community that he was approached by Woody Guthrie’s daughter to set one of her father’s unfinished songs to music.  That song, entitled “God’s Promise,” is below.

Obviously I have some attachment here.  So it was a bit thrilling to approach Ellis after the show last summer and have him autograph the CDs we bought.

So I’m standing there, waiting my turn…waiting, waiting…thinking of all the songs he wrote that saw me through late adolescence, heartache, love, growing up…thinking of our mutual appreciation for the rocky New England shoreline…our love for Boston, Club Passim, and the Red Sox (he once sang the National Anthem at Fenway)…what to say?  What to say?

I was so overwhelmed by the whole thing that by the time I got to the front of the line all I could say was:

“I’ve been listening to you for half my life!”

I meant it as a compliment.  I was thinking of all the different times of life his music had been with me through.  The moves cross-country.  The shared joy in his music with my husband.  And everything I already gushed about above.

But to Ellis it sounded like “YOU’RE REALLY OLD!”

Literally, the man crumpled before me.  He hunched over with a wounded expression — with a sparkle in his eye, as he can take a joke.  I tried to talk my way out of it and we were able to recover a normal conversation, which ended with some talk about how the back cover of his newest album, The Day After Everything Changed, is NOT photoshopped (see here for proof).

So…obviously some of that talking-to-a-music-hero coolness did NOT rub off on me from David.  Next time I’ll just let him talk.

2 thoughts on “What Not to Say to a Music Hero

  1. You have introduced me recently to musicians……thank you!My sons do that too!Great story.My sons went to McCartney and texted me " Blackbird singing in the dead of night" while we were at the beach!


  2. Well you might not be your best always when standing before your music heros………however the quiet wisdom you give the ladies you mentor and the friends who respect you abounds with witt, self-effacement, pithiness. It leaves me standing there thinking, "Wow, this friend of mine is so very smart, clever, quick, and Godly!"BTW- WOW another fabulous musician just introduced me too.


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