I met John once back in 2003 and thought this would be the place to share that story. For several years, I've been the drummer with Howard & The White Boys, a Chicago blues band (Howard's black, the other three of us are white... seemed like a good name when we got the band together back in college). We had / have several CDs out on various labels and were taken under the wing of Buddy Guy (who should need no introduction, but just in case... he's perhaps *the* biggest blues legend alive today, second only to B B King). Buddy appeared on our third CD "The Big $core" and took us on tour with him several times throughout the 90s. Whenever his club Legends hosted a birthday bash for him, more often than not Buddy asked us to be his band for the night. It was a similiar situation in 2003 when Buddy was to be presented with an award at the Art Institute of Chicago (at least, I *think* it was there), for the "Hero Awards" ceremony. We got the call to be his band for the evening.
In the afternoon, many hours before the gig, we arrived at the Art Institute for a soundcheck / rehearsal. Buddy wasn't there but that was to be expected. But there was this guy a few years younger than us named John Mayer. Honestly, I hadn't heard of him at that time, but this was ten years ago and I think he was just starting to make a name for himself. The other guys in our band knew who he was and I remember meeting him and walking through the hall toward the stage. Pretty much just the five of us (the band and John). No handlers for John or anything like that. I do remember that he asked me if he knew me and thought that we had jammed together before, but it wasn't the case. But I do remember liking him and thinking he was pretty laid back and easy to be around. We started talking about what we should do and John took a back seat. "Whatever you guys want, I'm just along for the ride." So we decided on a shuffle, a slow blues... the normal stuff, and the kind of stuff we'd played with Buddy a million times before. We hung out a bit and it's funny to think of him as the big star he became because, in that half hour or so, he really was (and probably still is) just a nice kid, "one of the guys" with no attitude, etc. We went our separate ways, and all returned to the hall for the gig later that night.
At the award ceremony, several Chicago luminaries were honored throughout the evening, and the best was saved for last (in my eyes, anyway). There was an intro for Buddy, Buddy came out and gave a speech, then said something along the lines of "But I'm not too good at talking, I'd like to listen to some music!" Then the emcee for the night came back, gave us an intro, and off we went. John joined us on stage and I was really knocked out by his playing. He'd obviously taken a cue from the masters, but also infused his own style into things to come up with some really great stuff. We were very impressed. Then Buddy came out and it was great. There's only the one song on this video, but there was a slow blues after this that was pretty nice. After the whole thing, we were at the side of the stage with Buddy and John as people were filing out to go home out front. We took a few photos with John, said our goodbyes, and that was it.
From a distance I've followed JM's career a bit and am happy for his success. He seemed like one of the good guys, and it's not surprising to me that he made it as far as he has. I was sorry to hear about his troubles a few years back (the RS [or was it Playboy] interview, blah, blah, blah) but in the scheme of things, that's just stuff you live and learn from; a blip in the road.
So anyway, here's the video. It was a fun night, hope some of you like it.
Howard & The White Boys