NM Supreme Court Chief Justice CHARLES DANIELS, Brooks & Dunn, LG&$ (courtesy family photo)

ON STAGE, PUBLIC SCRUTINY

I have always encouraged everyone to pursue their art. But as soon as you put it on a stage, it will be judged, and you have to be okay with that.

I put my young musician butt on a public chopping block at 13, big arena, 4000+ eyes examining me, 4000+ ears judging, and when I made a flub I vowed to spend the rest of my music days in the audience, never on the stage. (I know now that good musicians play right through those flubs because 98 percent of the audience won’t even catch it.)

Be that as it may, it seems that as a music journalist I still run into that sensitivity about even the slightest discouraging words.

I wrote two weeks ago about a string of music-related remembrances, from childhood through 1980, and one of them involved a famous classical player who came straight from the concert hall, with his instrument, accompanying a mutual friend to my going away party — which, because of generous friends, was pretty dang sensational.

There was a well-loved and very good local country band made up of three lawyers, one architect and one architect’s husband, calling themselves Lawyers, Guns & Money (per the Warren Zevon song: it’s all you need when you get into deep trouble), a talented young friend played classical and jazz on a grand piano as people entered on the top floor of my good friend Rhonda’s massive house on the hill (my subterranean apartment would only hold about 20 people, packed), good buddy still Tony Comito, then Michael Anthony. performed close-up magic, a psychic circulated, grabbing palms, dear friend Jill Silverthorne did her crowd-wowing fire eating act, and m’man Tom Salazar hired an entire circus, with jugglers, acrobats, clowns, face painters and assorted strange surprises. My kind of party.

NO JAM

But our classical guest declined several invitations to sit in and jam with L, Guns & $, and I was disappointed. It would have been exactly the kind of rare and memorable music moment I live for. I figured Tree thought country music was beneath him, but there could have been other reasons. I chided him in that column — “too blue-nosed to fiddle with the cool country band I had there.”

Well, we do have the Internet now, and google-search-for-your-father’s-name, and I heard from his daughter. “My dad was Michael Tree. He died a few years ago and I miss him every day. It hurt, reading your piece. He was a really big-hearted guy. Maybe you caught him on an off day. Go easy. Words cut. All best, Anna”

Yikes. Who knew I could get in trouble for something that happened 40 years ago? Of course I wasn’t trying to be hurtful. And I am sorry it was hard for Anna to read those words, mild though they were. And perhaps inaccurate.

BUT IT ILLUSTRATES A POINT

When you step on a stage, you agree to be judged. You can deal with that judgment however you choose. It is the artists’ dilemma. Sometimes you get discouraging words. But often, especially when you are as good as Michael Tree of the Guarneri Quartet, you get a lifetime of applause, special treatment, adulation, gobs of money, world travel, really nice hotel (or castle) rooms, and other perks. Your family benefits too.

It’s not like I said Tree played miserably earlier that night (sadly, I had to miss their concert because of my party), or that I saw him refusing autographs to children and kicking a dog. It would not have meant much to me to have him sit in (to be honest, not half the room would have jumped at the mention of “Guarneri Quartet”) if I wasn’t aware of his talent and stature. I don’t doubt that he was a really big-hearted guy, and that maybe I caught him on an off day. There could have been any number of reasons why he declined, and my first instinct that it was because country music was beneath his refined radar, was just that.

If that’s the worst thing ever written about Michael Tree in his stellar career, he was a fortunate performing artist.

A DIFFERENT DAUGHTER

Loved what I wrote about her deceased mother. When the iconic Jamaican singer Millie Small (“My Boy Lollipop”) passed away a year ago, I did some research on her life, became even more of a fan, and wrote about it. A week later, I got a short but cherished email: “Hello Mr Music. I enjoyed your article very much. Jaelee”

That would be Jaelee Small, her daughter. We exchanged a few more notes and I wrote another column about that and some new things I learned, through Jaelee, and more research.

A MORE DANGEROUS STAGE

I forgot to write in that music remembrances column about this incident. No wonder.

Pre-cell phones, someone got the word to me not to go back to the university newspaper office, where I was the arts & media editor, after having run a review of a play that came out of the newly-formed Black Student Union. That play was great on my political meter but an embarrassment as art. They had requested a review. A group of them, a few of them football players, were waiting to discuss it with me. I went straight home instead.

My successor Scott Beaven, soon-to-be winner of the Canadian equivalent of the Pulitzer, for his theatre criticism, had a similar situation the following year, and received a pretty bad beating. Who knew wannabe playwrights and actors were so big, and angry?

On the other hand, I had a friend who would not, despite the pleadings of all his friends, stop writing plays, that were just… so bad. Every once in a while I would succumb to his pleadings to review one, I would slam it, he was crestfallen but knew I was right, and we remained friends.

And, that’s show biz, isn’t it?

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com.