It was 1983. I was listening to KZAP from a distance that made reception pretty sketchy. From the station's origin in Sacramento all the way to a furniture warehouse in San Leandro was quite a stretch. Music choices available on the airwaves in the Bay Area at the time were Corporate Pop, New Wave and Classical, so a faded - undulating tide of Classic Rock from a real AOR (album oriented rock) station was my only option.
I was a newlywed at the time, wringing out a thin living in the furniture biz, driving a rusted-out 62 Ford pickup and living almost entirely on peanut butter sandwiches, Top Ramen and hot dogs. My wife would send me off to work with a thermos filled with what we jokingly referred to as "Fat Juice" (a slurry of orange juice, bananas, protein powder and raw eggs). Fat Juice served two primary functions in those early years: first, as a peanut butter sandwich lubricant and second, to keep my jeans from falling off my skinny frame. The salad days were yet be.
With all the poverty and privation, music was my one indulgence. As I had periodic control of the warehouse radio, I chose to restrict my exposure from Olivia Newton-John, Lionel Richie and Boy George in favor of Hendrix, Clapton and Floyd. Still, my first love, blues, were nowhere to be found on any radio station, that is, not until Love Struck Baby was released!
I'd never heard of SRV prior to that song. And that song... what? A hard driving, heavily amplified, guitar of the gods blues song! Unbelievable! Blues, as a musical form was all but dead. Ok...it would twitch and convulse once in a while when George Thorogood channeled John Lee Hooker, but other than that blues music was past tense. And this wasn't just blues, this was Texas Blues! The Fat Juice of my heart!
One could ask, as I'm sure the execs at Epic did, " how do we market this stuff? The early eighties were a synthesizer driven pop ballad wasteland, so why would any radio station spin music from a Texas blues artist? The answer? Great music is great music. In it's time, out of it's time...none of it matters. Great is great. When Stevie Ray dug deep and wrung out every drop of emotion from every note with honesty and authenticity, his emotions became your emotions...and mine. This phenomenon of a blues guitar player breaking through against every musical trend at the time was a real life lesson for me. Great is great, real is real and trends are ultimately there for the pleasure of breaking through.
So...coffee? There's a connection here? Indirectly, yes there is. Stevie Ray Vaughan could have done just fine playing most styles of music in his time. In fact, I suppose his success (whatever that means) might well have come sooner if he had followed the trends. His heart however, wouldn't have been in it. Putting your heart into whatever you do...that's the connection. That's when Great becomes great.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, the current trends in my art, coffee roasting, do not move me. If they did then I'd be playing in the same sand box with the rest of the kids. But they don't. I know what I like. I know what I don't. No right or wrong here. Nothing world shattering or revolutionary. I'm just a roaster who prefers a sweet, chocolaty coffee. When I roast, I know what I'm going for...and I put my heart into it. Every time. I believe that sort of thing translates into something special, whatever that something happens to be. In my time, it's coffee. A simple thing that I do...with all my heart.
For my next commentary, I'll share with you my favorite method for brewing coffee at home. It's embarrassingly unsophisticated I can assure you.