Things I Learned from R. B. (June 7th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4426)

Episode 18

They called the place “The Hunchley.”

R. B. heard about it listening to one of the local Christian radio stations.

It was a gathering of about a dozen songwriters who were looking for their big break and got together to play their songs for one another, both to gain encouragement and suggestions on how to make the compositions more tuneful.

In my earlier years I had attended several of these.

I will be candid and say that I found them boring—because as a poet of sorts, I was completely uninterested in any material that was not my own. I tried to fake it, as did those around me, but the only time any of us were happy was when intoning our own personal songs.

So when R. B. brought it up, said he wanted to go, was scared to go by himself and asked me to join him, I turned him down.

The first thing that bothered me about it was that R. B. had been unemployed for two years. He was losing the will to seek the livelihood to give him solvency.

His stock in trade was repairing computers. When these magical machines had first appeared, repairing them was a very good job to have. They were expensive, and most people paid the money to have them fixed instead of replacing them. But as often happens, time marches on, taking prisoners, and soon computers were cheap enough that it was just more efficient to buy a new one than to take it to a shop and have an R. B. do surgery.

His job just didn’t exist anymore, and he was unwilling to pursue any other field. Each time a possibility was offered in his direction, it just didn’t sound as uptown as saying, “I rebuild computers.”

I didn’t want to do anything that might divert his attention from work. And secondly, he wasn’t that pleasant to be around when he was mingling his songwriting with his anger.

So I did not agree to go with R. B. to The Hunchley on the first, second or even the fifth time he asked me.

But one Monday night he arrived at my door, all dressed up, and begged me to come along to The Hunchley.

He didn’t want to go by himself. He was timid. Actually, he was a confusing mixture of timid and overbearing—a turnoff on two fronts.

Yet I had no reason to say no. Of course, there was the excuse of sanity, but after the fourth well-executed “beg,” I agreed.

On the way to The Hunchley, I decided three things:

1) I was not going to talk much

2) I was not going to eat much (something I committed to at other places than The Hunchley)

3) And under no circumstances would I play one of my songs.

My career had already taken me into the publishing world, the musical caravan, television and all sorts of concerts. I was done with that and I was not interested in seeing if I could start it again.

We tried to arrive late, but since it was young songwriters, we were still too early. This allowed much too much time for the six or seven sitting around waiting to get to know R. B.

To describe R. B.’s personality, you would have to consider a broken water pipe. When a water pipe sits there, you never even notice that it’s a water pipe and has water running through it. But if it breaks open, it sprays in every direction.

That was R. B.

Once he realized there was time on everyone’s hands, and most of the people were nervous, he decided to fill all the space with stories about his childhood, his songs and his dreams for his career.

People were polite at first. Then they looked over at me, wondering if I had the special key to turn him off.

At length, they turned their bodies away from him, hoping to discourage the verbal deluge. Fortunately, everyone finally showed up and the evening commenced.

It would have been fine if R. B. had sat there as a gentleman, listening to other people’s efforts, and then gone up to sing his song and listen to their comments.

He was incapable of such a maneuver.

The room was not large, and when other people were singing, R. B. was whispering—very loudly in my direction—all the various ideas he had about improving their work.

When he shared some of his thoughts aloud, the faithful dozen tried to be patient, partially out of their Southern-hospitality training, but also because they weren’t certain if R. B. might actually be somebody—or, oh, my God—a song publisher.

Then it was R. B.’s turn to share a song. It quickly became obvious to the gathered that R. B. was not someone or a publisher.

This seemed to grind some gears in the machinery of The Hunchley.

So after he got done, many critics rose to point out the flaws they heard in his music. They weren’t mean—but they sure weren’t uplifting.

R. B. got more and more infuriated.

After the grilling was done, he came back to his seat and looked at me with fire in his eyes and whispered, “Let’s leave. Now.”

It actually was not a very good time to depart. The musicians had gathered into some sort of mutual devotion and were attempting to gain a spirit of unity.

R. B. didn’t care. He stood to his feet and stomped toward the door.

I thought about remaining, to see if he would return, but I was a bit unnerved about him being outside the building, knowing that he was fully capable, while smoking a cigarette, to suddenly unleash his burst of curse.

I stepped outside and motioned to him. We went to the car and got inside. I was about to start the vehicle when he grabbed my hand and said, “Can you believe those asses?”

I was hoping it was a rhetorical question, but I was wrong.

R. B. wanted me on his side, and he wanted me on his side right then and there.

He began to explain what he wanted me to feel.

He called them hypocrites. No talents. Vindictive. And unbelievers.

I realized it was up to me to pick one of these insults, make it my own and join him in the demolition of The Hunchley.

I paused and thought for a moment.

I wished I were not there.

I wished I’d had better sense than to come.

I wished I didn’t have to wish anything.

I spoke in my quietest voice. “You know, R. B., there are hundreds of these songwriting meetings all over Nashville every week. Is it possible you just found a bad one?”

My, God, Jehovah—he liked that thought.

He asked me where these other groups were and how he could find out about them. I said I wasn’t sure, but he could investigate.

R. B. enthusiastically nodded his head, changed the subject and started talking about how good he thought his performance was.

I felt confident that I would never have to go to another “Hunchley” event with R. B.

Why?

Because R. B. never investigated anything.

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