The Heroic Tales of a Pretty Decent Cover Band

Chapter 1: My Name is Bryan and I am a Guitar Guy

Bryan Hickman
Oct 10, 2019 · 7 min read
Photo: Licensed from Adobe Stock

I understand why some might be inspired by my story. It does have sort of a David-and-Goliath-meets-Rudy sort of feel to it.

But, let’s be clear: I’m no hero. I don’t pretend to be a role model.

I’m just an average 41-year-old man who dared to have a dream. More importantly, I also had the temerity to chase that dream down.

The question I’m most often asked is: How? How did I, a mostly rotund man with only middling musical talent, put together one of the premier, pretty decent cover bands in the DC area? How did I create this freight train of old school goodness that plays upwards of two shows a month, with each band member taking home DOZENS of dollars every single night?

I’ve asked myself these same questions about a million times. I don’t know the answer.

That’s why I’ve decided to tell our story.

Maybe if I walk through the events that got us to where we are, the answers will be revealed to me as well. Perhaps then I can finally start to pass on what I have learned.

Why would I do that? Why would I just blurt out the secrets of my success to my current and future competitors?

Simple. I’m a giver.

Plus, let’s be honest: If you saw us perform, you’d realize that it takes more than just a solid game plan to put together a lineup that can compete with a band that as passably entertaining as we are.

Photo: Licensed from Adobe Stock

Chapter 1: My Name is Bryan, and I Am a Guitar Guy

History will probably say that my band’s journey began on January 28, 2016, the day I posted the first Craigslist ad in search of band mates. But, in truth, it began decades earlier.

I started playing the guitar and singing standards during my senior year of high school. I was never all that good, mostly because I never really tried that hard.

When I got to college, I practiced constantly. But I was never all that concerned about actually learning to play the riffs and melodies of the songs. Mostly, I just wanted to strum some chords and sing enough popular tunes to get more attention from the womenfolk, who, at that age, were supposed to be easily impressed.

That’s right, I was a Guitar Guy.

The Guitar Guy Ritual

I was one of the douche bags who showed up at house parties with his guitar, even if no one asked me to bring it. Then, I would begin the first of the four canonized phases of the Guitar Guy Ritual.

Phase 1: Casual Aloofness

Everything would be set in motion when I’d show up — guitar in hand — at any random gathering. I’d walk in and sit down next to my closed guitar case and make a half-hearted attempt to interact, pretending my guitar wasn’t there.

In case anyone asked why I brought my guitar, my cover story was that I just didn’t want to leave it in the car. But, in reality, I showed up to this shindig hoping, praying someone — preferably someone of the human female persuasion — would come over and initiate the next phase of the ritual.

Phase 2: The First Inquiry

If I played it things cool enough, the following conversation — or some version of it — would hopefully take place.

Hopefully Female Partygoer (HFP): Is that your guitar?

Me: [Masking my excitement]This? Oh…yeah. It’s mine.

HFP: Do you play?

Me: Um, yeah. [Legs begin to shake uncontrollably]

HFP: Are you gonna play something?

There it was. A sentence I could reasonably construe as a request that I take out my guitar and regale the room with my semi-competent renditions of “3AM” by Matchbox 20 or “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was what I had been waiting for. It was the very reason I spent countless hours practicing in my apartment, pissing off roommates and neighbors in adjacent units. I would not have shown up at the party if I didn’t think this moment would come.

Phase 3: Decline

My answer to this hotly anticipated question was always: “Nah. Maybe later.”

This too was required by the ritual. While the mission of a Guitar Guy is always to play and sing in front of a group of people — ANY group of people — they aren’t allowed to initiate a performance after a single request.

The Guitar Guy is a strange species.

While he has the confidence to start strumming and singing loudly in front of an audience he knows probably doesn’t want to hear him, he is crippled by a fear of appearing too eager to do so.

Depending on the nature of the party and his familiarity with the other guests, each Guitar Guy goes into a social event with an informal estimate of how many requests he’ll have to turn down before agreeing, with feigned hesitation, to perform.

So, after the first request, I’d wait for a second, sometimes even a third or a fourth. If didn’t hit the mark — if my request estimate was just too high — I’d go home bitterly disappointed.

But, when I finally hit my specific — and completely arbitrary — magic number, it was on like Donkey Kong.

Phase 4: Performance of an Indeterminate Length

Photo: Licensed from Adobe Stock

Once I received the informal approval of a critical mass of party guests, I’d open with “When You Say Nothing At All,” a country ballad from the late 1990s recorded many different artists. After that, I’d just feel things out, maybe even take a request or two.

When I first started my Guitar Guy career, my closer was always “Posters” by Jack Johnson, not because it was the best or most popular song out there, but because it had a riff at the beginning that I’d spent hours trying to perfect. If any song was going to get me an awkward flirty conversation with a young lady — which is about all my game could muster back then, even on a good night — “Posters” was the one.

Sadly, I rarely made it all the way to “Posters.” Much of the time, if it hadn’t already waned sufficiently after the first chorus of my standard opener, the crowd’s enthusiasm would die out after one or two songs. After a while, I put “Posters” at the front of my Guitar Guy set, but, by then, it was too late.

The Truth About Being a Guitar Guy

Like I said, even at the height of my powers, I have never been more than an average guitar player or singer. BUT, combined — strumming and crooning at the same time — I have been, at various points, slightly ABOVE average. Still, I saw many, many Guitar Guys with much less talent playing their supposedly impromptu — but meticulously planned — house party shows in front of a sea of mesmerized females.

Sometimes they were even playing f***ing “Wonderwall,” if you can believe it. And it was usually working.

Occasionally, they’d take their Guitar Guy douchery to a whole new level by playing some lame-ass love ballad they’d written themselves, the entirety of which was played between the G, D, and Cadd9 chords.

Man, I hated Guitar Guys. Still do.

Eventually, I figured out why these morons were so much more successful. You see, THOSE Guitar Guys — the ones succeeding with mediocre talent, unimaginative song selection, and cringe-inducing originals — tended to be more on the handsome side. While I’d heard countless college-age girls tell me they were into guys who played the guitar, there was usually an unspoken modifying clause that, had it been verbalized, would have added something like, “…who aren’t pudgy and balding.”

It took me far too long to make the inference, but when I did, I abandoned music as a primary mating tactic. And, though it remained a favorite hobby of mine through grad school, law school, and my first few years of marriage, my guitar mostly just gathered dust once my first kid came along in 2011.

Then came the summer of 2015, when, at age 37, I dusted off my axe and my journey toward cover band immortality began in earnest.

In our next chapter: Our hero — let’s face it, that’s what I am — rediscovers his love for slightly above average guitar/vocal performances, leads him into some dicey open-mic-night territory.


Music Voices

Music Haven — Music counts, speaks and matters — Curving your soul’s arch

Bryan Hickman

Written by

Freelance Writer & Communicator. Pseudo-Lawyer. Former U.S. Senate staffer. Cinephile. Mormon. Autism Dad. Wannabe musician. Twitter: @MBryanHickman

Music Voices

Music Haven — Music counts, speaks and matters — Curving your soul’s arch

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