Dear Jodie: On July 2nd, the band I am bassist in, called STUCK – because we are stuck in prison – performs live and amplified for the other inmates. We’re going to play Sunshine of Your Love (Cream), Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry), Red House (Hendrix), Little Wing (Hendrix), Tightrope (S.R. Vaughan), Voodoo Child (Hendrix), Star Spangled Banner (Hendrix, a solo song by lead guitarist Terry), and All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix).
Each day I practice four to five hours on acoustic bass, and practice in the sound studio here amplified on electric bass Monday & Thursday nights from 6 to 8 pm. I study 1-2 hours of music theory each day. Candidly, I have no talent or gift musically, I’ve always known that, but by intense concentration and work ethic, I hope to become a competent bassist. The other musicians in the band – Terry, the lead guitarist; Grizz, the vocalist and rhythm guitarist; and SAP, the drummer – are outstanding musicians. Grizz instructs me in the bass each day. No one else is available to play the bass and I’m the only person here who has shown any dedication to it, so I was drafted into the band, even though, as I say, I’m very rough and unskilled by any measure. My only ability is I can pick up the notes required to play quick enough, but I have no style, gift, talent or smoothness – yet. In six months I hope to be a competent bassist. The advantage I have is great instructors, commitment and time to jam/practice and even perform with these incredible musicians.
I can’t believe I’m in a band, as my ability does not justify it, but I am excited nonetheless. I have been welcomed into the circle of ten really excellent musicians that make up the two bands (Stuck, and Out Of Bounds). They are all always practicing or studying or writing songs or developing new licks, songs, riffs, etc. I am the only one who is a novice, but they are all very helpful and always ask for my opinion on their new songs and they’ll perform them for me to comment. I really enjoy their company and that they welcome me into their exclusive little clique.
In fact, that is my life here: I read music or musical biographies, and study music and practice the bass all day when I am not doing assigned tasks or eating, sleeping, etc. Songs we are going to do for the Labor Day set include ZZ Top’s My Head’s In Mississippi (one of my favorite ZZ Top songs, I can’t believe I’m in a band that will be playing this song!!!!), Dire Strait’s Sultans of Swing (love this song too), Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train, Badge by Cream, Manic Depression by Hendrix, and Purple Haze by Hendrix. I’m hoping we can do a Nirvana song in the set, like Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, or Heart Shaped Box.
So far, while incarcerated, I’ve read biographies of Hank Williams, Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Donovan, and am currently reading “Fire & Rain 1970” about that year’s music/career by Simon & Garfunkel, Beatles, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, and then I’m reading Off The Rails, the biography of Randy Rhodes with Ozzy Osbourne. I’m studying music theory, including reading music, understanding the guitar, harmony, chords, and all the details about music theory that boggle my mind for the most part. Like I say, I have little talent in this area but a lot of commitment I could never have had (Rockin’ in the) outside (free world). So I am making good use of my time, I think, and enjoying this process of becoming a competent bassist, and grateful to have such outstanding musicians to work with and teach me.
I’d like to thank Jodie, Dana Larsen and Rebecca Maverick for sending me loads of great guitar song books, Ree Lynch (sent me Neil Young), Tyler Markwart (sent me the complete Bob Dylan song book for guitar), Catherine Leach (sent me Eagles, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and others), and those who sent me Gordon Lightfoot, Guitar For Dummies, and others to round out my music book/song book library.
The other good band here, Out of Bounds, has written a great song called Prince of Pot”. Spike, the writer/singer, wrote such a wonderful song about me. It was inspired by the CNN show with Tommy Chong (who is in one line of the song) wearing the FREE MARC shirt, which all the inmates here saw on TV. He says I have had a profound influence on him here (he’s been here about 40 days, I’ve been on the bass about 40 days), which I’ll explain in detail when you visit because it really is a touching story. Just the usual me, but it sometimes has this great effect on people. Spike says he’s not angry anymore, he wants to stop being a jerk to his wife and he wants to be a good man now to her and his young daughter. He said his wife loves me for that. His songs are really wonderful and he could be big one day. All his songs are about his Dad (died), his daughter, and his wife, beautiful sensitive songs, and learning from his past stupidity and bad behaviour. Really prolific outstanding song writer. He said I’ve been great to everyone in the music clique, especially him. Terry says the same thing, all the musicians in our clique are improving dramatically, even Terry, who is already brilliant beyond compare, because I inspire them with my kindness and musical depth (history wise), and because I work so hard at the bass, so all the others are really putting forth a great effort to improve their art. And they are. These guys are all terrific musicians, but they have all really gotten so prolific and brilliant in the 45 days I have hung out with them.
I am going to be the guest bassist on the “Prince of Pot” song when they perform it on the Labor Day weekend. I can guest bass for one song in the other band, especially the one they wrote about me! They think that will be cool. So I’ll have to learn the bass of that song too. I told them we’ll get your BCMP jam night leader Adam Bowen to organize a band to record the song when I forward you the lyrics and music score, and then the band members in here can get a relative to play the YouTube recorded version over the phone to them so they can hear how Adam’s band performs it. Isn’t that neat?
As of Thursday, June 30, I’m not nervous but very, very excited, and maybe by showtime Saturday, July 2, I’ll be nervous (a little), but after 45 days straight of four to five hours practicing, I feel confident. The rest of the band and the other musicians think I’m doing remarkably well! Yay for me! Tonight I had a great rehearsal, 150 minutes in the studio, we went over all our songs, whew! I’m pretty sure I have them all okay. We doubled the bass tempo of Johnny B. Goode, and boy did I sweat by the end of that one. It will be our finale song, and it will be 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36 Celsius) when we perform, so I’ll be really sweating after that show!
I love you, and appreciate everyone’s kindness and support. Can’t wait to see you on July 3rd and 4th!
Your musical man,
Write to Marc!
MARC EMERY #40252-086
FCI YAZOO CITY – MEDIUM E-1
P.O. BOX 5888
YAZOO CITY, MS