Welcome back to the blog everyone. What became a weekly rambling earlier this year was put on the back burner with the challenge of a forty day solo tour and moving to Los Angeles. And like healthy eating, working out, and other good habits, it's funny how quickly something can disappear from your routine all together. Sitting down to coalesce my thoughts has proven to be an exercise I just couldn't muster recently.
After a playing a couple weeks of shows in the Northeast this past June, I’m jolting around the Midwest this month. A few of nights ago we stopped at a venue called Nathan P. Murphy's in Springfield, Missouri. This was my second time at the club, and I always leave the place contemplating the path I'm on as a performer. So I felt compelled to get back into this blog by sharing the story of the venue and my experiences there.
The history of Nathan P. Murphy's goes as follows: It's owned by a charismatic gentleman who purposefully goes by the name, "Dr. Bob." As a young man he was shipped off to fight in Vietnam and came home from the war at a time when being a veteran wasn’t very popular. Often disregarded emotionally and frustrated by the lack of opportunity in the depressed part of Michigan where he was born, he picked up and moved to Missouri for new pastures. He eventually opened Nathan P. Murphy's, Springfield's first jazz & blues club, much to the chagrin and bemusement of the locals. Despite the lack of community support, Dr. Bob defied the odds and roadblocks placed in front of him by city bureaucracy. The club hosted acts like Buddy Rich, the Count Basie Orchestra, Maynard Ferguson, and became famous as a place for up and comers like Joe Bonamassa to cut their teeth on the club circuit. The walls are adorned with pictures and signed relics that are a visual testament to the amount of talent this venue has seen.
I played Nathan P. Murphy's for the first time last April. It was an early weekday show, and not much of a crowd showed up (ie: no one). Despite the poor turnout, I was made a home cooked dinner by Dr. Bob and his partner, Wanda, and we sat around talking for hours about his life, the club, and the history of his stage. I go to so many venues where I get on stage and it listens to me. Sometimes, it's really nice to go to a room where I can listen to it instead. In this case the venue is encompassed by Dr. Bob's soul. The wisdom and encouragement gained by just shutting up and hearing someone speak for an hour or two is sometimes insurmountable. That’s not to say he didn’t listen to me. At that first show, I played for him alone. As I watched him from stage, I could see his gears turning as he sat there trying to figure out how I could find a crowd in Springfield.
After taking time to focus on his health the past few years, the club is going through a reinvigoration of sorts. While it remains a blues joint at heart, Dr. Bob opens it up to all kinds of music and sounds as he’s trying to encourage a new generation of artists and music fans to come together. I made it a point to come back to Nathan P. Murphy’s on this tour because it’s a place I want to be a part of. This past week there were three more people in the audience on our early Monday show. While it doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s indicative of touring without major backing. Slow but exponential growth. Those people will help spread the word about Digisaurus in Springfield and there’ll be more people there next time. I know that will happen because I’m seeing it happen in other cities we’re hitting for our third or fourth time. But it’s guys like Dr. Bob and places like Nathan P Murphy’s that are so important to independent artists to get that first footing in a city. It’s the hardest connection to make, and I’m very grateful to Dr. Bob and so many other people across the country who’ve taken that chance on Digisaurus.
If you've got a place like Nathan P. Murphy's in your town, support it. They're becoming a rare breed in the digital age. But for artists like me, they're invaluable to making what we do work.