Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I can't hear you.....what?

Oh the joys of living life with an alcoholic, stubborn mind :)

Although I am certain most human beings can relate, it still makes me laugh at myself.
When I was young and began drinking, I drank way too much way too fast and would
consistently be told by folks around me that "maybe I had a problem, or needed to slow it down",
but of course I did not listen. They were dumb and didn't know what they were talking about.
So, I pressed on and took the hard way.  Why not? I was from the "Show-Me" state and I don't
generally believe things until I see with my own two eyes.
I could go on and on about the dementia of the alcoholic mind and the absurdity of this way of
thinking, but whats the point? I continue to deal with the same insanity today and haven't had
a drop of of the drink in over 14 years.

I am kind of being funny about all of this, because when it's this sad, you just have to laugh.
So, I play music for a living. (In case you didn't know)
I have been playing music and guitar since I was 10 years old. For hours everyday I have had
my head stuck in front of a loud ass amplifier, just noodling away at no avail.
By the time I was 16, I was playing in bands with loud drums and cymbals, loud guitars and bass
and of course singing through a guitar amplifier. (Cause thats all we had.)
I have been told since the 1980's that I would damage my ears if I did not protect them.
I knew guys that I played with in High School that would wear foam ear plugs to make sure they
didn't hurt themselves and I remember thinking they were absolute DORKS.
Wearing ear plugs seemed so NOT ROCK N ROLL!
Jimi Hendrix choked on his own vomit, THAT was Rock n Roll.
So, I NEVER wore earplugs, ever.

I have never worn protective earplugs or anything in my entire life when playing music,
going to a concert, playing loud guitar....nothing, nada, never.
I made fun of people who did!

Then in the 1990's comes along "In-Ear Monitors"
These are very highly tuned ear pieces that eliminate the need for loud monitor speakers on the stage
and allow the user to hear much better and at lower volumes so it is much safer for your hearing
and also blocks out all of the noise and high end destructive frequencies onstage.
In my mind, this was as "Dorky" as it could get.
UGH....SO not Rock n Roll.
You can't "Feel" the music, feel the rumble, the loud ass cymbals and guitars cranking out all of that
love and just seemed weak.

So I went on for another 25 years or so, just cranking away at the volume and disregarding
anyones concern for my personal safety. They were all dumb and I knew better.

Long story I am with 14 years of sobriety. I have learned to make good choices
in my life, to take care of myself. I try to eat healthy, I try to exercise, get good sleep.
I wear my seatbelt, have insurance, pay my bills, take care of my all the shit you're supposed to do to be a good upstanding, decent member of society.
But I continue to be around High Volume all of the time with no protection.

Mario Dawson is a great drummer and musician. He is drumming for our 2018 Blues Caravan.
He plays regularly with Bernard Allison. We hit it off on our tour last month and had a wonderful time playing music together. He uses "In-Ear Monitors". He loves them. He showed his to me
and told me how they sounded better than anything I could imagine. He said I really should consider checking them out. So, I decided I would look into this possibility for the first time in my life.
I would consider trying these out. After all, I would like the consistency and maybe, just maybe
I would consider taking care of my ears.
So I set up an appointment to have ear molds made at a local Audiologist and have a hearing test.
I have never had a hearing test in my life. I walked into the office full of confidence and swagger.
I figured maybe I had a little loss on the high end, but overall I was probably fine.
(Because I'm Mike Zito, and I am fairly super human)
I took the test, and in my head "Aced It". I heard everything and this woman was going to tell me
that she was so surprised with my super human hearing..........nope.

She said, and I quote "You have significant hearing loss Mr. Zito".
"you have the hearing loss of an elderly man. If you continue on for another year with this type
of exposure, a hearing aid will not help you at all."

I was baffled. She went on "If you lose just another 10% of your high end hearing, the hairs in your
inner ears will die and things will sound muffled forever. You won't be able to tell if things are necessarily in tune and a hearing aid will not help you to hear clearly. It will be gone forever.
You MUST begin to use these In-Ear monitors immediately to help save what hearing you have left.
If you use these ear monitors from now on, you will hear onstage much better and at a lower volume and they will eliminate the noise thats destroying your ears. This is a choice you have to make,
do you want to hear your children in 10 years?"

Well, there you go. Ok, so what you're saying is I can still hear pretty good?
But I should try to protect myself.
This is what it takes for my alcoholic mind to accept change, it has to be life or death.
Not just the bottom, but the bottom of the bottom.
So, after all these years of making fun or people who were smarter than me, I have to eat crow
and wear these ear pieces onstage that will probably make everything sound better and therefore
I will probably perform better......fine.
Another day in the life of a fool.   I sent my ear molds off to have my first set of in-ear monitors
made for me and I will begin using them in a few weeks.
Feel free to make fun of me and call me a dork, I deserve it 100%.

I am once again lucky in life to have one last chance to save things.
She told me if I began using these at every show, I could go on for the rest of my life playing music
and enjoying what I do and wouldn't suffer much more significant hearing loss.
When faced with the only choice I have, live or die, I decide to choose live.
It's not the end of the world, it's the beginning of a new one.

I share all of this in fodder and in fun, because I love to laugh at myself.
I am an alcoholic, for always and forever.
I live in my own mind and it is a trip.

Maybe younger musicians along the way will see this old man wearing these things onstage
and think "hmm, maybe I should take care of my ears too"
or maybe they'll say "that is SO NOT ROCK N ROLL!"

Peace, Love, Zito

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dreams in action

Here we are, already into 2018 and hurdling ahead like no tomorrow.
This year has taken off with a blast, and despite the News outlets determination to bring about
the end of the world, things seems to be going along just as they always do....

I am alive and well and on the road in Germany with Ruf Records "Blues Caravan Tour".
Ruf Records has been doing this tour for years and it features 3 artists and a rhythm section
on tour, playing each others music and spreading the gospel of the Blues town by town.
I have always wanted to run away with the Caravan, but the time was never quite as right
as it was this year. When Thomas Ruf asked me and my manager to be involved in this years Caravan, we both agreed it was time. But little did we know how special this event would actually be.

2018 is the 20th anniversary of the passing of the great Luther Allison.
Luther Allison is my absolute hero in the Blues. His music changed my life and his energy
and love for his fans has inspired me to take up his torch and give 110% all of the time, no matter what.  His famous motto "Leave your ego, Play the music, Love the people" is tattooed on my right forearm.  Words to live by indeed.

Bernard Allison is the real deal, and has been for decades. I opened for Bernard in Omaha, Ne. in 2006 and we hit it off instantly. I have loved Bernard's work as well, his "Higher Power" album is an absolute must for Blues Rockers.  When I was told that Bernard would be coming back to Ruf Records and joining me on the Blues Caravan, I was ecstatic. When Thomas Ruf told us he was releasing a new Luther Allison Box Set commemorating the 20th Anniversary of his passing and that the 2018 Blues Caravan would be centered around performing and celebrating Luther's music.....
I was over the moon!

What a dream come true for a guy like me. Who would've thought all those years ago living in South St. Louis, listening to Ruf Records of Luther Allison would I be on tour with the mans son, performing his music every night all over the world......WOW is all I have to say.
I have been nothing but humbled by this opportunity in my life.

Bernard and I share a common bond, we both LOVE his Daddy's music and what he was about.
We have known each other for years, but really never had much of a chance to play together until now. We knew it would be good, but maybe not this good. We have a chemistry that doesn't happen everyday. We don't talk about it, we don't discuss it, it just happens and we laugh while we are playing. We have so much fun, it looks like we are little kids.  He will tell me sometimes after the show that it almost sounded like James Solberg and his Father, quite a compliment.
We truly enjoy playing together, for me it is probably the best I have ever played with another guitarist. We just fit and compliment each other.

The Caravan is not complete without a new artist, eager to step out on the scene.
Vanja Sky is a 22 year young lady from Zagreb, Croatia. She learned to play the Blues and Guitar from an old man in a wheel chair in Zagreb who sat outside and played all day.
She has a very good voice and is a strong singer. I had the honor of producing her debut album on Ruf and I was most impressed with her songwriting. She has some of the standard fair we all bring to the Blues table, some good rocking Blues ala SRV and a great cover of Rory Gallagher's Bad Penny,
but for me her slower ballads are deeper than usual. She has a sadness in some of the songs that is very real and haunting. She is a great newcomer for the tour and brings a freshness to the show.

The rhythm section this year is intense and honestly so good. Roger Inniss from the UK is on the Bass guitar and he is something else. Roger has done many Caravan tours before, so he knows how to handle to load of dealing with three artists, and he does so with ease and class. He is a groove-meister with a lot of soul. Mario Dawson hales from Bernard's band on the drums. He jumped in with both feet and seriously lays the groove down. He is strong and rocking and has killer chops for days, but he can swing with the best of them. He also smiles all night long, which is a great quality in a drummer. Roger and Mario are super fun and have this great positive energy they bring to the stage every single night.

There are no egos in this group. No one is a primadonna, everyone works hard to lift each other up
and bring out the best in the group.  I think it is because it is based around Luther Allison and his music. It's not really about us, we do our thing, but the greatness comes when we play the Masters music and share our love for him. The audiences here in Germany have eaten it up.
Luther is a legend in Europe and the love is still so strong today.

I cannot thank my friend Thomas Ruf enough. He started this record label 30 years ago more or less
with Luther Allison. He has kept the fire burning and shares stories with me of he and Luther's travels and touring together. He tells me "I learned everything I know from the Chicago man."
His love and devotion to Luther Allison's Legacy is awe inspiring.
He loves him and misses his friend.

I just wanted to share with you where I am at and what I am doing, as I always do.
I am one of the fortunate few, I am living my dream in action.
The good Lord has blessed me beyond necessity and I am eternally grateful. I play this music
with all my heart, every night and we bring the joy to the people, just as Luther would want.

I haven't had this much fun playing music before, and I think Bernard would say the same,
other than playing with his Daddy.

Peace, Love, Zito