WOSTER: People pleasing can lead to panic, crisis and a screwed up solo
One of the problems with being a people pleaser, which I have tried nearly all of my life to be, is you end up in situations that are way outside your comfort zone.
That's how I wound up taking a solo in one of the songs the CHS dance band performed for the junior-senior prom banquet one spring evening half a century ago. Several levels of people pleasing were involved in that moment, which included a humiliating moment in the public eye that I remember with perfect clarity to this day.
The first level came when I joined the dance band. I didn't want to be in any old dance band back then. I'd just gotten my first electric guitar (a Sears, Roebuck Silvertone in the style of the wildly popular Fender Telecaster). I wanted to be a rock 'n' roll superstar, like Elvis or Buddy Holly or Carl Perkins or Myron Lee. I didn't want to be sitting behind a music stand in a band full of saxophones and trombones and trumpets and clarinets. I didn't want to be trying to read sheets of music in all sorts of flats and sharps and augmented fifths and diminished sevenths. I didn't want to be playing songs like "Swinging Down the Lane'' or "Sentimental Journey'' or even "Tiger Rag,'' although I loved to listen to the Les Paul and Mary Ford version of that jumping tune.
I wanted to be a rock star, impressing the girls, playing hot licks, all that jazz.
However, five or six years before I joined the dance band, I took lessons on the string bass from Charles Roberts, the Chamberlain band teacher. "Lessons'' is misleading. I took one lesson. I was in sixth grade. He asked me to consider learning the string bass. I hated the very thought, but I didn't want to disappoint him, so I agreed. I left that first, only lesson so confused I worked up the courage to not go back for the second one. Mr. Roberts was disappointed, of course, probably more so than if I'd turned him down before the first lesson. He said people who quit stuff don't amount to much.
The years passed. I bought an electric guitar. I learned to play a few Johnny Cash tunes, a couple of Rick Nelson chart-toppers and some simple folk songs. Mary Kay Kelly and I did a duet on "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore'' for the grand opening of the local grocery store. (She was the big sister of my classmate Barb, and I didn't want to disappoint her when she asked. She asked because the word got around that "Terry has a guitar, and he knows a chord.'')
Word got around to Mr. Roberts, and he gave me a shot at redemption, at amounting to something. Well, how could I turn him down? He showed me a bunch of guitar charts for a bunch of swing songs. I recognized the songs. My folks sang them. I heard them on the radio. I didn't understand the charts, but in my best people-pleasing mode, I joined the band.
I came to enjoy playing rhythm guitar to the old songs, once I figured out a bunch of the chords. I learned a ton of chords and chord progressions. I was content in the back row of the band, chording along while the horns took turns on lead.
Mr. Roberts wanted more. He decided I needed to solo on a tune during the prom banquet performance. It was a bad idea, but I didn't want to disappoint the guy. "Oh, sure, love to, nothing finer.''
The time to solo arrived. I stood, missed the first note, and I never did catch up. I sweat a gallon or so in 20 or 24 bars of mistakes. I wanted to quit school, change my name, move to the desert in New Mexico.
I still try to please people too often. I don't solo much, though, so I learned something. I do regret not sticking with string bass. That could have been a fun instrument to play. Maybe if I'd gone back for lesson two?