Over a decade ago, I emailed a guitar player who performed with KISS during their non-makeup era. Bruce Kulick was a true pro’s pro. Technically skilled enough to execute some of the flashy maneuvers of eighties guitar hero-dom but personally solid, stable, and dependable enough to always serve the band’s best interests. I emailed him in the middle of the night and he responded pretty quickly.
That correspondence sent me down a journey that led to the publication of my book Power Chord: One Man’s Ear-Splitting Quest to Find His Guitar Heroes. Years ago, I spent a weekend in Evansville, IN with Kulick, playing video games in a Best Buy and testing out merchandise in local guitar stores. Subsequently, I met and interacted with a number of my childhood heroes. Contrary to the cliche, I believe that yes, you should meet your heroes. I’ve never been let down, never disappointed.
Today, Kulick performs with the legendary Grand Funk Railroad. Yes, they’re an American band. And yes, they will come to your town and help you party down. But what is truly remarkable is the level-headedness, professionalism of these guys. I saw Kulick and GFR this weekend and realized that, as writers, we may not have an impressive wall of Marshall amplifiers at our back, but still, we can emulate the rock gods in some ways.
Backstage before this weekend’s show, the group was focused and huddled up before walking on stage. They were prepared and cognizant of making the evening enjoyable for their fans. They’ve been playing these tunes for 48 years and still approached songs like “Some Kind of Wonderful” with energy and enthusiasm. How many of us can say we do the same with our jobs?
As I drove home from the show, I thought about Kulick and the other musicians I have met in my career. I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad interaction. Maybe it would be different if I dealt with young pop stars, kids who are instantly spoiled by the machine. But I tend to encounter rockers who are more salt of the earth, more seasoned, and more mature. Sure, bands like GFR aren’t packing major arenas anymore. No one is naive to the size of the crowd compared with what Justin Beiber sees when he looks out from the stage. But the mature musicians get it. And they put forth great effort every night.
I thought of the writers I’ve interacted with during my time in a bookstore, on this blog, and in real life. Maybe one or two bad seeds here and there, but for the most part, everyone has been great.
And while my ears were still ringing from the show, I thought, “Wow. I need to get to work.” Being lucky enough to meet my heroes has been inspirational and educational. These few moments backstage with a guy who hung on my childhood bedroom walls before a Grand Funk Railroad performance made me realize how much work I need to do, and how diligently I need to do it.
Don’t believe the cliche. Meet your heroes if you can.