It was 1981 and a friend of mine was having her 21st birthday. I was at the party and met the older sister of an old friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a few years. She had too much to drink and I helped her get home in the Mission District. It was late so I crashed there that night. It turns out that this was going to be one of those nights I’d remember for the rest of my life or at least the next day would be the most memorable.
We woke up somewhere around 10 am that Sunday morning and there I was in the Mission. My Mother always told me to be careful and stay away from the Mission because if you looked at someone the wrong way they’d stab you. My Mom was big into playing into stereotypes. My friend wanted to get something to eat so we walked outside and started walking down the street and I see this guy sitting out on the front steps of his house noodling around on a Les Paul guitar. We stopped for a few seconds to listen and then he stopped and looked up at us. It was Carlos Santana.
Things suddenly became very real for me. I usually had only seen him at a free concert in the park, but here I’m standing right in front of him sitting outside his house on a sunny day in the Mission just playing his guitar for no one but himself.
What chu looking at? He said with a smile.
All I could say was that he was one of the people that made me want to learn how to play guitar.
Yeah? Then show me what you can do. As he handed his guitar to me.
Oh crap. I’ve just been asked to play guitar for Carlos Santana, I’m 19 years old and I’ve only been playing guitar for about four years. I took the guitar and pic from his hands and realized that this was the first time I had held a Les Paul in my hands and didn’t realize how heavy they were. Maybe it was nerves, but the guitar felt like it was made out of lead. I sat down and took a deep breath and play the first thing that came into my head. The opening guitar solo of Black Magic Woman. I didn’t really have a style of guitar playing at 19 I was usually just trying to learn other people’s songs. I handed the guitar back to Carlos after I finished and he smiled at me.
OK, you can play the song, but can you write the song?
Not yet, but I’m working on it.
Get back to me when you’re a song writer.
Those few words stuck with me. It got me into expressing myself through music and actually writing my own music. I think I’ve done pretty good at it. I never could get back to Carlos and he doesn’t live in the Mission anymore, but here’s hoping that this will get to him and he’ll hear a bit of his influence in my playing while still having my own sound. This is off my new album Exile In The Sunset and is the eighth track All Alone [album available in iTunes and the CD is available at saundhaus.com.]