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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2004/03/29
by Mike Gruenberg

I’m Doin’ What I Love and Lovin’ What I Do

I take no responsibility for what pops into my head at 7:30 AM while I sit half asleep on a commuter train bound for the city. I usually read the paper or plan my day or think of what happened the previous day. I try to avoid any earth shattering or serious solving of dilemmas at that hour of the morning. But for some reason, the phrase, I’m doin’ what I love and lovin’ what I do kept coming into my brain.
One of the fringe benefits of writing this column for Jambands is that I get to do something that I truly love. My editor is extremely patient when I miss a deadline. He doesn’t pressure me as to what I write about. He is very supportive of my work. However, in the four and a half years I have written this column for this publication, I have never seen him in person. Quite frankly, up until recently I had my doubts that he even existed. As Jambands grew in size and stature, I always wondered how one person could edit all the material that was being written and submitted by the many writers for Jambands and at the same time also write his own articles and go to all those concerts. I imagined that the approval process of the work submitted to be handled by a team of people pouring over the columns and articles. It seemed to me that this group had the unenviable task of giving their approval or disapproval to the work submitted. Rather than give their individual names when criticizing or turning down submissions they would simply defer to a fictitious person named Dean Budnick. Good or bad, Budnick was the man. Since I never had the occasion to meet him, my theory continued.
A number of weeks ago, on our only mode of communication, Budnick sent me an e-mail asking if I had any interest in attending the 4th Annual Jammy Awards being held at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Aha, I said to myself, if I go then I will not only hear some great live music, but also get to see the now legendary Dean Budnick. I replied that I would love to go and decided to ask for an extra ticket for my wife to see if he would allow the two of us to attend. Up until I went to the ‘Will Call’ window at the Garden, I had my doubts. Those doubts immediately dissipated when two tickets were waiting for me courtesy of Dean Budnick.
We took our seats and when the show began, the first person introduced was Dean Budnick. What struck me about him was his energy and incredible joy at being at this ceremony. It must have been quite gratifying for him to have witnessed and actively participated in the growth of this labor of love called Jambands. It was quite obvious that he’s doin’ what he loves.

Being one of the older members of the audience, I was struck by the crowd. Most people were younger than me, but all the people were having a great time. It reminded of the many concerts I attended during my college and post college time. The venues of choice in those days were the Fillmore East, Central Park and the Dome at C.W. Post College. Although the memories of those concerts are somewhat hazy these many years later, the goodtime atmosphere from those concerts was similar to what I felt attending the Jammy’s. The audience was enjoying the music and doin’ what they love.
On March 12 – 13, 1971 a group from Georgia appeared at the Fillmore East in New York City and created rock ‘n’ roll history with one of the most extraordinary performances ever captured on a live recording. The Allman Brothers changed the face of rock music with this incredible two-disc set, simply titled ‘The Allman Brothers at the Fillmore East.’ The lead guitarist was a young man named Dicky Betts. Now I can’t say that I was the Fillmore in March of 1971, but I can say that I have seen the Allman Brothers Band a number of times since and have always enjoyed their performances. However, I had never seen Dickey Betts perform without the rest of the band. ‘Ramblin Man’ written by Dickey Betts is a true rock classic. We had the pleasure to see him perform that tune at the Jammys. I tried to think of how many times he had played that song considering all the years the band has played and toured. To this day, the Allman Brothers Band tours at a frenetic pace. Yet, to see him and hear him play was a true joy. For Dickey, to hear the audience sing along with him and know every word to the song must have been and continues to be an enormous delight. He plays that tune like it was the first time with joy and verve. It’s obvious, Dickey Betts is doin’ what he loves.
In 1965, I made my first trip to England ostensibly to find the Beatles or at least see the latest bands performing in London. When I arrived, the # 1 record in England was by the Spencer Davis Group. It was called ‘Keep On Running.’ The lead singer of the band was a seventeen year old from Birmingham, England named Stevie Winwood. He went on to more hits with Spencer Davis followed by enormous success with Blind Faith, Traffic and a solo career. His Arc of the Diver album released in 1981 went platinum. On the album, he plays all the instruments. He has continued to be a major force in the music industry, His albums with Blind Faith and Traffic still sound fresh vibrant after all these many years. Being presented with a Lifetime Achievement award at the Jammys must have been incredible for this guy who started playing in his brother’s jazz band when he was fifteen. No question, Steve Winwood is still doin’ what he loves.
Now I don’t claim to be a songwriter, nor do I claim to be a great musician, but I do claim to know how to enjoy all kinds of music. Sitting on that train the morning after the Jammys, I simply smiled because the event reaffirmed my faith in people who enjoy what they do. I have always lived my life that way and will continue to do so After seeing Dean, Dicky, Steve and the assembled group, it confirmed to me that there are still people who are doin’ what they love and lovin’ what they do.

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