Gigs are far and few these days, but I particularly enjoyed my Dave’s Night Out with old Shimersville Sheik band mate Roy Smith. The Sheiks were a really fine string band back in the 70’s, along with Jerry Bastoni, Chris Simmons and various other ne’er-do-wells. We were pretty esoteric in our repertoire, covering bluegrass, old country, jug band, Australian tunes and British Music Hall songs. We were an “art” band and got to play some interesting gigs at festivals, bars, and even opening night at Godfrey’s.
Roy’s musical journey has been remarkable as he gradually lost his hearing in his 30’s. “A lifetime musician, Roy developed hereditary deafness, and now relies on MED-EL cochlear implants. He represented the United States at MED-EL’s International Music Festival for Deaf Musicians. Roy is not only an advocate for the transformative power of cochlear implants, but also a testament to their impact on musical expression.”
In this conversational format, Roy and I got to talk about his fear as his hearing subsided, what it’s like now to play music again, and other stops along the way. We played some old band tunes like Sheik of Araby, Gospel Ship, Ned Kelly as well as others from both of our current repertoires, including Simple Gifts, We Are Welcomed and others. We did a session earlier in the afternoon to help allay some of our questions about the material as well as catch up on how our lives have flowered over the last 45 years.
He had the support of his wife Jan, incredible leaps in technology and the formitable strains of living in his own head for years. He even shunned music as it was noise to him. Sadly, he was unable to share his music with his daughter growing up. I think that I would have gone nuts with out my ability to perform and play music. Deep respect for Roy.
Thanks to the cochlear implants (three generations now) the chips in his brain decode sounds for him, in both speaking mode and in music mode (more bass), but still he has to grapple with keys, intonation and more. Quite a struggle, but now he can communicate with the world. Wonderful!
The discussion was enlightening, and folks came away with a new appreciation for the power of music, modern technology and human spirit. It was a shame that we had such a small audience, though we recorded video from the set for future play.
A good night, all around.