View from the Stage: Made Her Cry

Gary Wesselhoff

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Made Her Cry

I played at a Katrina Benefit this weekend. It was a huge weekend. More stuff happened in two days that normally happens in a month. I had a special guest on stage with me, Frank Oxley, renown New Orleans Jazz drummer who is temporarily moored to a shelter bunk in Elgin until he is given the OK to return back home. I had been communicating all week with Frank-wonderful man; outstanding drummer, classy, humble. (Frank doesn’t beat on the skins like the kids do nowadays, but plays with the compassion of a tail-gunner. )

We ended out our set with “Shiver Me Timbers" by Tom Waits. I asked him to do a breaking wave kind of thing with the mallets on the cymbals. The effect was beautifully powerful. I swear that I never heard anything like that in my life.

A few minutes later I was in the crowd. I spoke to a woman ("Gramma") who like Frank was up in Elgin until they gave her the all clear to return to New Orleans. You made her cry—she told me, speaking about another woman she was with. “What was that last song?" the other woman asked. “It made me cry". This song connected the dots on all the emotions that she was feeling, leaving her home and family. Franks symphonic waves were a stirring reminder of the water that had claimed her home. The emotions all came together at that moment in a heartfelt response to the music. I thank God for the opportunity and ability to make that moment happen.

I don't take this lightly, in fact it is the most powerfully humbling thing that I've experienced performing so far. It tells me that I truly am on a path of heart.

Well, you know me, I’ve got to end this road report on a cheerful note, so I’ve got to tell you about another New Orleans Drummer that joined me on the big stage that day. Nine year old Joshua Tailor. Frank met Joshua in Elgin and asked if he could do a song with me. I asked Joshua how long he had been playing. “Since I was two!" he beamed at me. And you could tell that he had been playing drums since before he could ride a bike—he was really good. I brought Rosie up to play harp, and Andrew on tambourine; I almost felt weird being so old up there. The child’uns were rocking the house uh-huh. Some down home baby! I looked out and everyone was beaming.

That’s why we play. To stir up feelings in our listeners, whether it’s to get up and move their feet, scream and shout, or feel something deep down in their very being. That’s what it’s all about.

Gary “g-man" Wesselhoff is an acoustic blues writer/performer woking the Chicago Metro area. You can contact him at:


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