I was a conspicuous sight: electric bass on my back, wheeling my upright bass with one arm and carrying my bass amp in the other into the bright sunlit glass lobby of New World Stages in midtown Manhattan. I was confused right away because there appeared to be nothing in the atrium but an information desk, so I huffed over to ask where the benefit I was to perform for was taking place. As the receptionist was pointing toward a dark hole with a long escalator I sensed some other people approaching the desk from behind me. I thanked the woman and as I turned to pick up my bass amp, a hand had reached down to pick it up for me.
I looked up to see Jackson Browne
Jackson was smiling at me and gesturing his head toward the escalator as if to say “I got this, let’s go.” I blushed hard and had a momentary panic that he’d strain his wrist on my stupid amp. “Oh thank you so much, I just can’t let you do that!” I said, and he just smiled and said “Okay then. Shall we?”
I was there to play with Willy Nelson, so I was already pretty nervous to meet one of my heroes. But my head was really spinning now. Together, Jackson, his handler and I cruised down into the darkness and followed the circuitous hallways to find the theater where our event was to take place that evening.
We went to find the dressing rooms
When we got there, an event organizer with a clipboard was explaining to Jackson that there were only two dressing rooms, one for Willy and one that Jackson would be sharing with Willy’s pickup band. Instead of being at all put out by this, Jackson seemed delighted. He happily joined us in our tight quarters and at first just listened to Larry Campbell and Mickey Raphael exchange stories, then joined into the conversation and before long the instruments were out and the three of them were trading old blues tunes and traditionals, with Shawn Pelton thwacking his drumsticks on a chair and me wishing there were room in there for my upright bass. Jackson seemed genuinely thrilled to have been put in the band room. After one particularly juicy jam, his eyes widened and he cocked his head at us. “Hey, how would you guys feel about playing a song with me on my set?” Larry cracked a rakish smile and said “The question is, how would you have KEPT us from playing with you?”
(Larry, Shawn and I were recently reunited with Jackson Browne at the 2018 Dirt Farmer Festival, check it out below!)