In 1973, or late 72, I started playing a local bar in Utica, NY called: The Barbershop, around New Years. Called “The Barbershop” because it was the former location of, you guessed it, a barbershop. Unless you count my little kid performances with some famous folks you might know, shows I barely remember, at Hootenannies in the late 50s, my first full time gig was in 71-72 in my home town: Big Moose, at The Little Fox. The Barbershop was my second regular full time gig: every Saturday, a paid for with “free beer” gig… at first. The owner had taken a tremendous risk reopening a bar that had been closed due to fights and drug deals, then kicking the infamous patrons out when they tried to return. He couldn’t afford me, but I liked the place so, as I told him, “What the Hell.”
Within a few months he started paying me. Perhaps it was due to my intense talent, but more than likely it was because I drank too much damn beer. I was costing too much. And sometimes, well let’s just say the third set was very short.
I was still playing there when Billy Joel’s The Piano Man was released as a single and I started playing it at the bar. As one regular said, “Hey! The Piano Man Plays a Martin guitar.” I still have it: a 1972 D18, in case you’re curious.
I swear, when I selected the song I didn’t know there would be any irony. I opened up my very first set with The Piano Man at The Barber Shop. But since I mixed my own songs freely in with whatever was on the radio at the time, every time I played it I was asked, “Did you write that for us?” I had to admit: Billy Joel. But there was more “irony” to the song than just a guitar player playing it. For those who know the lyrics get this…
At the Barbershop the bartender’s name was John. He frequently helped me with “a light” for my “smoke.” He confided in me he hated his job and wanted an acting career. We had a “Davie” who was still in the Navy. And one of my regular patrons was Paul who was into real estate, but wanted to be a novelist.
It’s those kind of ironies in life that seem to make living a fascinating endeavor, I suppose. Ironies like the same movement I was a part of in the 60s, and abandoned, has more power now than they imagined they might ever have back then. Oh, Buckley and Goldwater might have had more than a few wet dreams: to have a Conservative president (2), a Conservative Congress: from mid-90s until 2006. But having the kind of bullhorn only media oracles like FOX can offer, and the rest of the media joining forces with the FOX and few willing to hunt, or confront, the vile creature for its devious ways, extreme Right talking point goosestepping?
I doubt either Goldwater or Buckley imagined that.