Breaking into the tight community that Tyler is was not something that anybody could manage Efficiently… much less an 8th grader. The money center for the Oil-rich area of East Texas, the bankers and lawyers they needed were now surrounded by doctors and dentists, and a community that was thriving. Their kids had been together through most of their youth, and it appeared at least, they had impenetrable linkages. I had loved art most of my life, and signed up for that as an “elective”… and that was one of the best decisions in my whole life…
…the class was a survey class that toured through all parts of Art… appreciation of painting, sure. But we actually had to DO art…not just talk about it. We managed to try everything: Lost Wax casting, Batik, made animated movies, and built our own cameras. A pin-hole works fine as a lens – so long as your subject is far enough away 😉 In that unit, I had to compose pictures to demonstrate my understanding of the critical elements of art – Line, Shape, Form, Texture, and Pattern. It turns out the newspaper needed a Photographer, and since my Dad had a darkroom and a camera, and an A in that unit, I volunteered…
If you were going to be Efficient in starting one of the longest-lasting, genre-defining, Texas swing bands, you wouldn’t start it as a 6’ 6” Jew from Philadelphia. Ray grew up as an entertainer as early as 10 when he performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He could have easily gone to New York City along with other young musicians, but observing the cities were “burning”, he and 2 friends headed out for the other great place to start a band – West Virginia. In a 180-year-old cabin, he started listening to… wait for it… the radio, which of course was primarily Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and of course the King, Bob Wills.
Even that might have been a passing fad, but they managed to be quickly swept into performing as a backup band for Hot Tuna, a great folk-blues group out of San Francisco, who invited them to California. They fell in with the 70’s group Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen that were then backing up Van Morrison…who took a liking to the authentic energy that Ray and his group had. Mentioning that in a review, Willie Nelson, also newly finding roots music back in Austin, invited them to come there… and actually helped them get their first record made back in Nashville.
One of the greatest gifts my Art teacher gave me was to give up on Efficiency. Try anything – it might work, and if not, you will learn something. My father reinforced that – take the picture – use the film… don’t overthink it, Shoot. When you get into the darkroom, you can fix just about anything – where to focus, how to burn in an image, and heck, if that doesn’t work – print another one. So I started shooting football games, and then eventually basketball games, and I quickly learned being little makes it easier to hide and not be seen, and capture “candid” pictures more Efficiently.
We like to think as leaders and managers, that we need to bring predictability, order, and Efficiency to all we touch. Reducing cost, increasing outputs are the watchword of many leadership books. And I am not arguing for sloppiness… but, what art showed me was that you have to try to learn, and in trying, mistakes are an important part of the process. I still have much of the “art” I produced in those years now over 50 years back. None managed awards, but all remind me that Efficiency is not something that anyone gets through the early years with.
Much of the Asleep at The Wheel catalog are remakes of the Bob Wills hits from the ‘40s. One of their gifts is keeping that music alive for many generations to enjoy the bouncing, swinging, upbeat music of those years, that feels like we need it again. Jazz, blues, country, and the first real use of “twin fiddles’ that would pave the way for the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd with their guitars tracking those tracks.
Today’s is one from their very first album in 1974 titled appropriately, Coming Right at Ya! As our short week gets started, how can you make room to explore things, try them out, make a few mistakes… that can manage to teach you something new and surprising. Do you have your own or your kid’s art projects somewhere you can dust out and put where you see them each day – to remind you to play a little? And something that sticks with our journey metaphor, I have been to Tulsa, a little off the beaten path, but had some fun there – and if you want to go, I would be happy to escort you… Take me Back to Tulsa!