Oh that bleedin’ line to get in the bar.
It must mean the bar is popular, a good drinking hole to share a drink called loneliness. Easiest point of entry. You walk through a door or two and get hit in the face with all that sour tang of beer, sweetness of wine and medicinal aroma of whiskey. Or maybe it’s a dive and it’s just buckets of stale ale. Either way, it’s a place that you’re trying to get into if you can just get past the bantering line of people in front of you.
So what’s the hold up? And who the hell is that bumping against my leg?
I’m humbly sorry good maiden. That’s a microphone stand milady, nothing more, and I’d not meant it to bother up your fine personage out in the open. Still, I do need to get past your fair grace, for you see the band must get their equipment through the door and setup post-haste.
The place where live music once flourished and musicians wrestled to get through the line of people was the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Nashville, Tennessee. Those Saturdays there were most memorable, where you’d find a long line outside filled with first-time anxious drinkers, listless tourists and old regulars waiting to go inside as dusk set in. There past the double doors amidst the curiously placed foliage, artful chalkboards and cigarette machine was the door guy who waited patiently for you to fish out your ID and door money to get in.
This particular door guy was a crafty fellow. For at some visits you’d see him scanning your ID with a vigilant eye, the gatekeeper to this particular realm. Other times, he’d be helming the main bar with a friendly smirk and expectant eye. Sometimes you’d see him with a content face as he tirelessly worked the grounds. The best times I remember were when he’d sit in with the house band, ripping the guitar and singing to his heart’s content.
The first time I met Alan Hall, I had no clue he lived with another person’s heart beating inside of him. I only knew him as that door guy. He would walk up to you, an approachable man with a kind face, boyish almost, and speak in a pleasant, intelligent voice. Then as the conversation continued, he’d throw in a silly jape that would set you into startlingly fits of laughter. Most surprising about Alan was discovering his virtuosic music ability. Why so? Because if you were that good, why would you be hidden from the world? Such is the lament song of many struggling musicians, perhaps.
I should have known he was kindred, a gifted musician that listened to the house band more often than naught – not so much as to criticize, but to revel with like-minded souls. I had the routine down with Alan whenever I played the Saucer. I’d point at him during a music set as he strode by toting empty bottles and spent pilsner glasses. He’d nod, his Beatlesque hair waving to-and-fro, and jump up on stage to relieve me of my duties as I relieved him of his (unless his manager protested on those rare occasions). What followed were usually impromptu moments of Georgia Satellites, Rush and smokin’ SRV: all of it unrehearsed, raw and completely brilliant. Those moments were rarely recorded, but all too well remembered, even in the haze of alcohol-drenched recollection. Alan played like a pro should, took every song in full stride and pounded through on gear foreign to him with ease.
After it was over, he would exit the stage to applause, especially from his co-workers and beer goddesses, and he would part with a smile and a nod of thanks toward the band. We’ll do it again, that nod would say. That happened pretty much every gig Alan played with me at the Flying Saucer.
Life is fleeting.
Alan passed away on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, his love of life incapable of being bounded within his failing heart. I only knew him through those carved bits of time playing out at the Flying Saucer, and even in those small moments I understood Alan was a special spirit full of many hats from scholar to warrior, none of it truly defining him in one term. He wasn’t just the door guy. He was a good man. A good man of many talents. And he was a good friend.
The line is long for many, the wait even longer. Sometimes you can cut through, the door guy giving you a wink. Eventually, we’ll all get through sooner or later.
Rest in peace, Alan.
Donations and condolences can be made to Alan Stuart Hall’s family at: http://www.parkermemorialfuneralhomes.com