Several years ago when I began planning my No 2 Unalike shows, I realized that there were a few songs that I needed some help with i.e. my rudimentary guitar skills just weren't up to the task of figuring out credible arrangements for these tunes. I was delighted to learn that the legendary guitarist Richard Drueding not only lived in my neighborhood but that he was offering guitar lessons.
I contacted him and, to my further delight, he was willing to tab out the songs in question and teach 'em to me. I walked over to his house a few nights later and went down into his basement studio where he gave lessons. Actually, the word "studio" is inapposite; Richard worked out of a lair!
In any case, we hit it off. This was unlikely as Richard was extremely soft-spoken and I am almost completely deaf. I suppose we communicated through our music.
Richard was the best kind of teacher there is: competent but kind. He didn't show off or cop an attitude. He had nothing to prove. A kind and humble demeanor does not always coincide with immense talent. In Richard's case, it did.
I was stunned and honored when Richard took an interest in my own music and eventually we began sharing gigs. He sat in with my band John Train at Ferg's (our home club) on several occasions and we sat in with him at his home club, the Mermaid Inn.
I was also lucky enough to be in the audience when Mike "Slo-Mo" Brenner and his crew (including Hoagy Wing, Alfred James, and others) hooked up with Richard and percussionist extraordinaire and Richard's dear friend Jim Hamilton for collaborative shows at the Mermaid. You had to be there. (Folks: go out and see live music while you can!)
Richard also hooked me up with his son Emmett with whom my band the Donuts gigged. I recall seeing Richard in the audience at a Fire gig watching Emmett. He was really proud which made sense. Emmett, like his dad, is the real deal. Check him out when you can!
When I finally got around to putting on those No 2 Unalike shows last November, it meant so much to have Richard -- my teacher and friend -- to actually sit in on the final night. The last song I played with him (and our pal Mitch Tabas on fiddle) was Townes Van Zandt's "To Live is to Fly."
"Days up and down they come // like rain on a conga drum // forget most, remember some // but don't give none away." We'll miss you, Richard.
- Jon Houlon
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!