Getting better with age on stage

Terry Mulhauser on guitar, and Jerry Neely on keyboard, play earlier this year with the Carolyn Kelly Blues Band.

Terry Mulhauser on guitar, and Jerry Neely on keyboard, play earlier this year with the Carolyn Kelly Blues Band.

I was on the phone last night interviewing two guys in the Syracuse music scene I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen play many times.

Guitarist Terry Mulhauser and harp-blower and singer Pete McMahon are veterans who’ve played with different bands and a wide array of other musicians. But the cream always rises to the top, you know? Anyway, Friday night a band that sizzled with them in the 1980s, the Kingsnakes, is getting back for a reunion set at the New York State Blues Festival in Syracuse’s downtown Clinton Square.

The Kingsnakes were a big deal back then, putting out records and playing hot live shows and even touring the nation backing up blues legend John Lee Hooker.

I wanted to write about them for my weekly Mark It Up community column for Syracuse Public Media site You can read my story by clicking the link below.

But of course, during our two separate phone interviews, they each said something that got my mind racing in a direction that didn’t exactly fit that story, but I think is worth thinking about here.

I asked about how they, guys of my vintage, think they are playing the blues these days, busy in Syracuse bands always.

“Miss (singer Carolyn) Kelly said, I want you to feel satisfied (about playing),” Mulhauser said. “I don’t think I’m Wes Montgomery out there. But I don’t want to be. I’m in good repair. And Petey sounds good. And we all act better and get our rest now.”

He chuckled thinking about the contrast of them on the road in the 1980s and early 1990s and now. “We’re not getting up there,” he said of their place in life now. “We’re there.”

McMahon talked about how much he appreciates playing with Mark Doyle and the Maniacs, in part because of veteran Doyle’s superb way with music and in part because of his wise manner of not over-stuffing the live gig itinerary.

“I’ve been playing in this great band and still been able to concentrate on my teaching gig, too,” McMahon says. “He knows.”

Both men say they’ll be charged up when they take the stage with old mates Friday night. They haven’t all played together since a previous reunion set at the same festival, in 2004.

“Sometimes in the smaller clubs, you have to muster your energy to get going,” McMahon says. “Here it’ll be the opposite. I’ll have to channel my energy. I’ll be off the wall. I’ll really be excited.”

Do you believe that age and wisdom can make a musician better, and if so, please discuss. Do you think there other professions where age and wisdom always benefit, and if so, please discuss. What’s your favorite blues song, and why?

20 thoughts on “Getting better with age on stage

  1. I like the way you respect in your writing,the history and ambitions and talents, of great iconic musicians from days gone by. Too often great entertainers fade with time, you preserve their life and style.


  2. I think new young talent is astounding, and then I like to watch and see how they grow. Anything is better with practice, so undoubtedly older is wiser, more well-rounded…and musicians seem to avoid growing closed-minded, at least about their craft.


  3. Given that I’m 57, my opinion is that everything benefits from my age – ha! That could be subjective. Just sayin’. I like our politicians to be at least 40, although I do welcome smart thinking younger politicos to give the other side – I still think that cooler heads should prevail.

    I find that musicians actually seem to change their style as they age. You know one of the best examples of that is Stevie Nicks song “Rhiannon”. Her 1976 rendition was so energetic at the end that it spawned the rumor that she was herself a witch (as well as singing about one) – which, of course, she did not work hard to dispel. She starts up at 4:30 and continues to increase in octaves to the end at 6:00. Here’s the same song in 2011: It is much more mellow and deeper – almost a different song with the same words. It’s pretty amazing the difference the maturity of the singer makes. Not really better or worse – just different.

    Thjat’s m,y story and I’m sticking to it. ๐Ÿ˜€


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