On a recent swing through California, I had lunch with comedian Jimmy Pardo. If you don’t know of him, Jimmy Pardo is one of Americas best comics and he works with The Conan O’Brien show. All right. Full disclosure. He was really there to have lunch with Ellis Paul http://www.ellispual.com, but Rad (piano master Radaslav Lorkovic http://www.radoslavlorkovic.com) and I tagged along because what the hell else were we going to do.
We met him in some upscale diner in West LA not unlike the “be cool, hunny bunny” diner in Pulp Fiction. You know, the one where Samuel L. Jackson has his “moment of clarity”. Maybe this place was a little nicer. I did have a Reuben and not a grilled cheese after all. But, it reminded me of the movies, none-the-less, and because I was about to hang out with one of America’s top comics, I was kind of excited.
We had just come from McCabe’s, the famous guitar store, and we were all buzzing from walking through the historic place. Ellis told me about the shows he had played there, the guitar that got away, and other stories. If you are ever near LA and you play guitar, you should stop there. The staff has this, “I know I work in the coolest shop ever” vibe about them, but it works because it’s the coolest shop ever. They have this glass case with all their top instruments in it. An incredible old Martin. A perfect vintage Gibson. A hand crafted beauty that looked too pristine for me to play. But man, a beauty. The room smelled like an old guitar. Musky. Sweaty. A faint hint of wood smoke. Absolute bliss for a guitar player.
So as we walked up to the Diner, three musicians freshly high on looking at instruments too nice for us to own, there was Jimmy sitting outside waiting for us. This was a good day so far, and we hadn’t even played yet. Two nights prior we played in San Francisco to what seemed to be nothing less then a party taken directly out of a Stanley Kubrick film: strange drinks, crazy artwork, half naked women, half naked men, three bear skin rugs, and strange conversations about French movies that I have never heard of. And the night before, we had played in San Diego to an amazing crowd, then went out for Thai Food and for some very strange reason the Thai women who owned the place had a large picture of Ellis on her wall. Here it is:
This job takes you to strange wonderful places. But what it teaches you is that it’s the people you meet that make those places interesting. And here I was, about to sit down to lunch with Jimmy Pardo, Ellis, and Rad. How in the hell was I here? This time last year I was playing for $50 bucks and a plate of food in a wine bar every Wednesday night.
A very nice man who spoke broken but decent English led us our booth. Ellis sat next to Jimmy and Rad across from Ellis. Then they talked. Like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long while. Ellis shared stories of what the music business is like, and Jimmy shared the LA entertainment side with us. For some reason I expected a stand up routine, but what Jimmy shared with us was so much more in depth about life on the road, about what it’s like to play to good crowds, bad crowds. How to run a blog, a pod cast. He has over two decades in his craft, and he’s mastered it. I didn’t think of that before our lunch. And he wasn’t preachy about any of it. None of them were. It was just a group of guys sharing stories from the road and having a good time doing it. He and Ellis are naturally funny so there was plenty of humor. But it was so much bigger than a bunch of jokes. I tried my best to keep up with them, but with years of experience under their belt and wisdom from having lived the tidal wave ride of a profession in entertainment…no way. I’m the new guy. Shut up and listen, Peyton. There is gold to be mined here.
We finished our lunch and I slipped Jimmy my new CD and tried to be as casual as I could be. I did grow up in the country in Virginia after all and this was my first time in LA. Not a bad first hour. Jimmy took the CD and said he was looking forward to giving it a listen and then off we all went. Us to our gig. Jimmy to, well, probably the Conan O’Brien Show, or wherever the hell Jimmy goes. And, I had heard that sort of thing a million times. Sure he was going to ‘listen to my CD’. But I had given it to him. So be it….
The next day, as our friend Deb was driving us up the coast (she was going 114 mph in a Prius and I have never been so excited to get out of a vehicle as when we arrived at the San Jose airport) Paul got a text from Jimmy. “Tell the kid that the first five songs are killer, and ‘Smile’ is a douzie.” He had listened to it. He had actually listened to it. He said he would, and he did. And now I’m the kid. That’s a good place to be with these guys. THE KID. That’s the start of it. THE KID.
And maybe two and half decades from now, I’ll be driving through LA with a young songwriter showing him the ropes. Some green little wise ass I found in the corner of a bar banging out songs on a guitar older than him. We’ll play some crazy gig in San Fran. Fly down to San Diego for a concert series gig. I’ll take him to McCabe’s and tell him a few stories about what this whole songwriting thing means to me. The sacrifices he’ll have to make. How hard he will have to work. And he just might hear me. And he might feel like the whole world was his for a brief second. And maybe he’ll think that if he never played one more gig, at least he got this far. And then we will sit down to lunch with a friend of mine. And if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll shut the hell up and take it in and realize how much farther there is to go.
Pardo the interruption. Go right ahead sir…. speak.
Jimmy Pardo’s top 9 CD releases of 2011
1. Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong
2. Lindsey Buckingham – Seeds We Sow
3. Daryl Hall – Laughing Down Crying
4. Peyton Tochterman – A New World
5. Trombone Shorty – For True
6. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
7. Sixx A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt
8. The Head and the Heart – S/T
9. Chickenfoot – III