In a way, Chris the troubadour is still trying to fulfill his father’s dream. Chris was playing his guitar at the Old Salty Dog last night and, outside the noise and hubbub of the bar, talked about his family. There were a fair amount of people in the place-nothing extraordinary, but the crowd seemed into it. He played old Neil Young songs, making me recall Young’s originality and freshness. He also played tunes by such performers as Simon and Garfunkle and other “classic” musicians of the pop genre.
As a testament to the vagaries of his career, he had a box in front of him that said “Chris’s Tips.” It was empty.
Chris came to Florida this winter from his home in Warrensville, Ohio, and said he was glad he did. “We live in the snow belt,” he said, in between sets. “We got 90 inches this winter – a new record.”
The snow mass was enough to cause him financial damage, as part of the roof on a greenhouse he owns collapsed and was awaiting him back in Warrensville. He was anticipating the neighbors’ complaints about the mess.
Chris’s father owned the greenhouse and he was trying to make a go of it, but “it’s tough to make a buck in the nursery business,” he said, so he’s not about to give up his singing/playing career. Besides, he seemed to enjoy it too much and was looking forward to next year, when he already had several gigs lined up.
Back in Warrensville he also has a girlfriend waiting for him: his wife divorced him years ago and he doesn’t get enough time to visit with his son. “I lost my son,” he said, then quickly rephrases it. “I mean, I gave up living with him when the divorce came through.”
Chris has a friendly face and is eager to talk to customers. He asks everyone for requests. Barbara requested “Hotel California.”
“Wow, that one stretches my vocal cords,” he says. “I can’t figure out what key they’re playing in, or how they have their strings tuned.” After a moment he says, “I’ll play it anyway, sometime in the first 10 minutes of the second set.”
Instead, though, he starts the set with it. His voice strains to hit the higher notes. As I listen I’m reminded how the words are something of a metaphor for the troubadour life he has set for himself:
“You can check out any time you want,”
“But you can never leave…”