Its About the Music 

      By the age of fifteen, that would be the year 1974, I  had been playing guitar for a couple of years or so. Campfires, a friend’s wedding (I still have the charm necklace that was a gift from the newlyweds, and just this winter, a friend replaced the setting that was lost who knows how long ago), the stairwell outside the Library at Beavercreek High School during lunch with friends who played everything from the flute to the Kalimba and would always sing along. But, to this day, I can’t  recall how I found my self at a microphone, in front of a crowd  which seemed hundreds deep, at Riverfest in Dayton, Ohio.
     Perhaps my parents and or friends encouraged me to go sing at the festival - that would have been just like them to do that. Maybe, I just happened to be at the festival and happened upon an open mic taking place and happened to be able to borrow and guitar and took the leap. But, I can tell you for certain that, once I stepped to the mic, I was terrified. I had never sung into a microphone, nor to a crowd the size of what was in front of me, all watching me...and waiting... for me...to start singing. And, I can tell you that I will never forget the friendly faced, rosy cheeked, soft spoken man who came forward and said, “My name is Mick Montgomery, and I’m going to stand right in front of you just an arm’s length away. You close your eyes, and sing the song you know the very best. Don’t open your eyes until you’re ready, and when you do, I will be right there,” he pointed over his shoulder, “in front of you.” 
    I did, and when I opened my eyes, Mick was exactly where he said he would be, and he smiled at me and, he asked me to sing a couple more songs. While I was doing that, I remember seeing him move over and talk with my parents. Over the years, they developed a warm friendship and stayed in touch. 
    It wasn’t much later that Mick had me singing at pig roasts and other events he booked music for that I was legally able to sing for. Later, after coming of age, he booked me at Sam’s On Fifth multiple times. In my Kate Wolf songbook, there is a great black and white photo of Kate with Nina Gerber in front of Sam’s, and I was always inspired to realize I had been on the same stage as those two very powerful woman in music. Sam’s architecture is from the era of shotgun homes and businesses, so it’s long and narrow, and fairly dark inside with the old bar, wood floors, tin plate ceilings, and a stage that was shoulder height to me. The stage curtains were heavy red velvet draperies, the stage lights were bright and hot, hot. One sweated as they played without fail, even in winter.  
    I recall the first time playing Sam’s, I covered Janis Ian’s “Watercolors” and on the final chord a woman rose from her seat and started a standing ovation. I was stunned, sweaty to the core and amazed. Debby Smith was her name, all perfectly curly chestnut hair, red flannel shirt and overalls. We became friends and shared gigs the rest of the time I was in Ohio. If any of you know Debby Smith from Dayton, tell her I lost the words to her song, “High Fly Ball,” and would love to get them from her so I can sing it again. 
    In 1979, I believe it was, Mick bought a place in the Historic District and turned it into a beer, lunch and darts place by day, and concert hall by night. I was honored to be among the other local musicians, including Debby,  who played opening night at Canal Street Tavern. Years later, 1986, I went to work for Mick in the bar and as greeter and liaison to the many great touring acts who played there, Leon Redbone, Doc Watson, Pierre Bensusan, Garnet Rogers, The Original Osborne Brothers (Rocky Top), The Chieftains, Shawn Phillips, Tom Paxton, Rory Block, The Desert Rose Band, Pake McIntyre and more. Mick hosted music most every night of the week with local bands taking the stage and genre focused events. 
    Before every show, Mick got on the house mic and thanked everyone for coming, gave a great intro for the act, and afterwards, without fail, he thanked the audience again for coming. And he encouraged them to continue to come out and support live music and independent music. “Whether you attend concerts once a week, once a month or once a year, make the decision to, on a regular basis, to go support someone you have never heard or heard of. More likely than not, you will be pleasantly pleased and surprised. Buy a ticket, buy their album, register for their newsletter and ask where they are playing next. By simply showing up, you  will have encouraged a solo artist or band to continue in their art, and you will have made a new friend in music. Most of the time all an aspiring artist needs is an audience that has come to listen, to hear, to interact with the music, story and songs. It’s a simple thing to do, to show up.” 
    So, I am asking you now, to choose to go listen to live music. Choose the artists you know and love, but once in a while, choose a new artist you have never heard or heard of. Even if you don’t buy the album, or sign up for the newsletter, the singer-songwriter or band is inspired because you came and you listened. You showed up. 
    Mick is gone almost ten years, and the music of Canal Street Tavern followed him just not long ago. But, I have always remembered what Mick did for music and aspiring artists, and for me, and I have tried over the years to help others along as he did.

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