We went the first time at the referral of my former Army supervisor, the same one who encouraged me to audition for the Army Soldier Show. It turned out that he and the owner of the vineyard were old friends. I was happy to see that upon our first visit to jazz night, my former supervisor was there as well, and I secretly hoped that he would talk the owner into letting me play a few songs at some point during the night.
My wish came true when the owner and lead singer had a short, private conversation, then approached me and asked if I’d like to play during their 10-minute break between sets. I happily agreed, as I usually jump at any chance to play anywhere. Though I was unprepared, I knew just what I would play and I sat at our table, anxiously waiting for the current set to end.
Finally, when the band announced they would be back in a few minutes, I made my way up the plywood steps to the piano. I suppose I must look and dress about as conservatively as possible because as I walked by one of the band members I heard him tease, “You gonna play us some Beethoven, honey?” Rather than confronting or acknowledging him in anyway, I went on as if I hadn’t even heard him.
Still battling stage fright, I never looked out at the audience, but I felt the energy rise as I began to play the St Louis Blues boogie-woogie with my left hand. Soon people rose from their seats, pulling their partners to the dance floor. Some even approached the stage to watch my hands as I played. My spirits soared as I finished and received generous applause. I went on to play for the rest of the break and left the stage exhilarated as the regular band took their place.
After that night, I went back several times and the band recognized me and asked if I would play during their breaks again. I did, and often the drummer and bass both stayed to play with me. I also got several independent gigs from the exposure. At that time, Eddie and I were contemplating our move to NY, and that first Friday night at Cypress Bend is when I really believed that I needed to just go for it. I’m glad I did.