Singing with Ken Stringfellow in St. Louis

October 8, 2017

Ken Stringfellow and Toby Weiss, October 6, 2017 in St. Louis MO

I’ve been in awe of Ken Stringfellow since hearing my first Posies album in 1989. I’ve traveled to see them be a part of a resurrected Big Star in the early 90s, and stood in sticky-floored clubs or among used vinyl (Euclid Records in 2016). And always, always singing along with those exquisite songs and harmonies on their chain of records, with not a bum one in the bunch.

When Ken brought Tears of Silver to St. Louis, this happened to me:

While it FELT like magic mushrooms conjured this fever dream, it really happened and only because Rick Wood asked if I wanted to be the gal singer Ken requested for the night. So freaked out by the concept, I was about to say no until given a good talkin’ to.

Ken sent me files and lyrics so I could learn 4 songs. The guy writes sophisticated material, and when I heard some of the songs, it felt like I got in over my head. Maybe I should back out, ‘cos who wants to fail in front of Ken fuckin’ Stringfellow?

But I did massive homework to learn Doesn’t It Remind You of Something, Superwise, History Buffs, and Whatever Hell (shown above).

“On carpet” with Ken Stringfellow and Tears of Silver.

Ken provided precise and insightful pointers during soundcheck, and wisely advised to stop thinking so hard and just follow musical instincts. He’s right, obviously, but it didn’t curb supreme nervousness.

With an audience of roughly 60 in-house, I sang those 4 songs shaking like a chihuahua. It was an out-of-body experience. When I did become present, the adrenaline was so strong I had to detach to auto-pilot, or else. Afterward, I was exhausted, and relieved it was over and I’d survived.

It was way more fun than this description. In retrospect.

This wasn’t my first rodeo; I’ve sung with 4 healthy handfuls of amazing musicians in front of larger audiences for 15 years or so. Being nervous before performing is a given (or as Tony Bennett once said: If you aren’t nervous before going onstage, you have no business performing), but this was a whole new level of nervous, bordering on fear.

Simply because it’s Ken Stringfellow. He’s Master Class! It was a To Sir With Love situation of wanting to please him while not embarrassing myself. I was completely aware that I was part of just 4 songs in a long night of great music and performances from all the Tears of Silver fellows. Once I emerged unscathed from that guest moment, I loved their set even more, because I had survived.

Ken Stringfellow with Toby Weiss, St. Louis, MO 10.06.17

My deepest thanks to Rick Wood for the chance to do this, to Tears of Silver for being so damn good, and Ken Stringfellow for creating a treasured musical memory and teaching an old dog a few new tricks.


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