Kendall Buchanan joins BuzzUniverse on the Rocks Off Cruise, 8/20/09

Almost every musician has a “light bulb moment”… a moment that spells out their musical destiny, after which their life is never the same. I didn’t realize it right away, but mine came at sixteen when I was a senior in high school. Over sixteen years later, that moment came full circle, when I got to share a stage with the musician who flicked the switch.

I started playing bass for about the simplest reason. My friend Jon bought an electric guitar and wanted to start a band. He said to me, “You should play bass. It’s only got four strings so it’s easy!” So I convinced my dad to buy me a startup kit. In my parents’ basement we shredded out a few rock hits and fantasized about being stars.

But the simple fact was, I didn’t really “get” bass. Like most average people, I knew it was there but didn’t pay much attention. I was learning how to play eighth notes and find my way around the fretboard, but I hardly understood the point.

Then one day at school, we got called to the auditorium for an “assembly.” It turned out that local jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock was putting on a show for the students. Sharrock, who was known for experimental jazz, scrapped his usual style for something more accessible. He had a power-trio with bass and drums doing straight up blues and funk jams.

While Sharrock soloed, my attention immediately turned to the bass player. He was working the strings like it was the last show of his life. I observed how he held the music together while absolutely tearing the instrument apart. He played with many different styles and hand techniques, but never lost the groove. He supplied Sonny Sharrock with a perfect platform for his virtuoso chops.

I had never seen anyone rock a bass like this before or paid much attention to the wonders of the instrument. But my jaw dropped and I’ll never forget it. I ended up skipping my next class to sneak back into the auditorium and watch the second assembly.

After the set, I shyly approached this “bass god” and asked if he gave lessons. He said he never had, but that would be into getting together. We soon did, and at our first lesson, he asked what was my current teacher charging. I said, “$25 for a half-hour” and he replied, “Well how about $20 per hour?” Every time we ended up hanging for close to two hours. We played, we talked music, we talked life and had a great time.

Unfortunately this only went on for a few months, as I left for college in the Fall. I didn’t start playing bass seriously again until I was 25 years old, but life went on and I never forgot that experience.

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