Bobby Jones’s sweat-covered shirt stuck to his body like glue. His long, mostly gray hair dangled well past his shoulders. A bright spotlight highlighted his tall, lean body as he stood center-stage. His well-worn guitar was slung over his shoulder. The band, barely visible in the dim blue stage lights, played behind him.
Bobby leaned into the microphone and sang the last lines of his Country ballad. “You shattered my heart… like a rock… through a windowpane.”
He backed away from the microphone and strummed the last chords of the song, accompanied with a cry from the steel guitar. Bobby, in his early fifties, looked much older than his years. It was easy to see that years of being on the road had taken its toll. However, he still looked like a million dollars, dressed in jeans that were heavily starched with an ironed crease down the front. Silver-tipped black Western boots matched his black long-sleeve shirt. He slowly bowed to the audience.
Bobby leaned back into the microphone and shouted to the crowd as he held his guitar high over his head. “Thank you and good night!”
The spot-light dimmed as Bobby and the band quickly made their exit. The arena lights came up on thousands of cheering fans. The audience, a mix of young and old, all wanted more, even though the band had already completed three encores. Many in attendance copied Bobby’s look of silver-tipped Western boots, jeans, and a fancy black Western shirt.
As Bobby stepped off the stage, a roadie quickly took his guitar and handed him a towel. Another handed a full Jack Daniel’s bottle. Bobby’s road manager, Steve Hicks, grabbed his arm as the two continued to walk backstage.
“Great show! You were fantastic tonight,” Steve said. Steve was of average height, thin, well-dressed, and known in the industry for running a tight ship.
Backstage chaos ensued, with a mixture of musicians, roadies, and special guests all trying to get a glimpse of the star. Bobby and Steve made their way to a dressing room door labeled “BOBBY JONES.”
On each side of the dressing room door stood bodyguards. As Steve and Bobby entered, Steve instructed the men, “No one, and I mean no one, gets in here tonight except me and Mark Gooden from ROLLING STONE!” Steve eyeballed both men. “Are we clear on that?”
The two men nodded to confirm.
Steve continued, “Did I tell you that you’re both doing a great job?” Upon receiving the compliment, both men stood a little straighter and taller.
In the center of the dressing room was a large, worn, Oriental rug, with three comfortable leather chairs positioned in a semicircle. To the far side of the room was a white-linen-covered table with a buffet of food and drinks. Bobby collapsed into one of the chairs. He took long swigs directly from the Jack Daniel’s bottle.
Steve closed the door and turned to Bobby. “Man, they are eating up the new you!”
Bobby nodded. “Thanks.”
“I need to take care of some things,” Steve said. “You relax, and Mark Gooden will be here in ten. Are you ready for this? I just found out that Rolling Stone is giving you the cover!” Steve’s whole body flinched with excitement. “Mark called me just before the show started and asked for a little bit of your time. Man, you are back on top of the world.”
Bobby replied, “Yeah, I’ll give him all the time he wants.”
Steve gave a little fist bump of approval “Great! Ok, you need anything, just ask one of the guys outside.” Steve turned and quickly left the room.
Bobby eased back in the chair, the towel draped over his head, looking like a prize fighter after a twelve-round match. Exhausted, his head dropped, his eyes closed. As he started to relax his mind began to drift.
He had been deep into the bottle, with little or no sleep. He’d spent money he did not have and recently finalized a divorce from his fourth wife. He had lost the ability to write one hit song after another. His fan base had drifted. He hadn’t had a new song or album in more years than he could count
Bobby’s career started when he was fifteen. He quit school to play guitar in a traveling country band. Soon he was the front-man, gaining attention from the press, as his fan base rapidly grew. Life on the road was one long party. He’d picked up the habit of smoking and learned to enjoy the taste of Jack Daniel’s. His love of excess drinking gained Bobby numerous invitations to spend a night in local jail cells. Many photos floated around over the years with Bobby collapsed off-stage with his old friend Jack, or being carted off by the local authorities.
Bobby’s first love was his guitar and music. He also had a soft spot for the pretty girls, married women, included that came to his shows. Keeping angry husbands distracted was a full-time job for security staff, as well as keeping them out of his hotel room and off the tour bus.
Despite his wild life-style and habits, he was born with a gift to write songs. During many long bus rides, band members would challenge him by pulling little scraps of paper out of a big jar. Each piece of paper had a word written on it. From that one word, a new song was written. Many times, Bobby and the boys would be playing a new song that an hour earlier was nothing more than a word scribbled on a scrap of paper.
However, the years of over-indulging were taking their toll on Bobby. He would end shows early because he just lacked the stamina to play three hour shows. His ability to write his own material had slipped to the point that most of his new material was now penned by others. Ticket sales to his shows steadily dropped off. Over the past few months, he could see more and more empty sets at the end of each show when the stadium lights were brought up.
An old musician friend had been aware that Bobby was in a downward spiral in every aspect of his life. If Bobby didn’t do something soon, his career as an entertainer would tragically end. This friend offered Bobby the use of his cabin in the woods of Tennessee.
Bobby’s mind drifted deeper. He remembered the day he first entered the cabin. The old rustic furniture seemed to welcome him. It spoke – “Come, relax, enjoy.” The back porch had two Adirondack chairs that overlooked a large lake. It was beautiful and peaceful. Not a soul to be seen for miles.
He remembered the first time he entered the master bedroom. As he pulled the curtains back to take a look at the view, he experienced a jolt that resonated deep within his body. One of the glass windowpanes was shattered. At that moment, looking at the shattered glass, a whisper of a melody started to dance in the back of his head. The melody was not clear, more like a dull hum from behind a stage curtain that could not push its way through all of the other clutter.
He sat at a table with his Jack and a folder of new songs that had been written for him by new up-and-coming entertainers. Not happy with any of them, he slammed the folder shut, picked up his guitar, and tried to write a new song. Gone were the days when he could rattle out a hit song with ease. His hands were shaking, and when he tried to sing, the notes came out flat and off key.
That night, Bobby decided to make some real changes in his life.
He poured his booze down the kitchen sink. He then slept for a few hours, his first uninterrupted sleep in many nights. As he slept the faint melody tickled his dreams.
The next morning, after a cup of strong coffee, Bobby took a long walk through the woods. When he got back to the cabin, Bobby called Calvin, the owner of the General Store at the bottom of the road. He ordered food and supplies for a long stay. Most importantly, Bobby asked Calvin to bring him a dozen notebooks and two dozen pencils.
Each morning, Bobby started with a walk. Each day, his walks got longer. Bobby was a good cook, and he prepared all of his own meals. For the first time in many months he enjoyed the taste of real food rather than the fast food he had been surviving on. His nights were filled with writing by the light of a fire and an old kerosene lamp. When he was tired he went to bed, and fell into a long restful sleep with the bedroom window wide open.
After a couple weeks, Bobby felt stronger and more clearheaded. By the end of the first
month, he added push-ups to his walking routine and started to jump rope. Through
it all, the vision of the broken windowpane haunted him. In his mind, he held an image of all the details of the shattered glass. How the fractures radiated to the edges of the wooden window frame; how in between each of the primary fractures there were smaller fractures and how little shards of glass dusted the windowsill. Through the hum in his mind, Bobby knew that, deep inside, there was a song, a good song, and he was going to keep digging until he had it.
From the age of seventeen, Bobby had enjoyed the taste of Jack Daniels. From then on, he’d always had a bottle of Jack in his hand. It had become his trademark, of sorts. He hung on to it, like a baby with a security blanket. It was one habit Bobby could just not break, but he knew that he could not go through life holding on to an empty whiskey bottle.
One morning, he developed a solution that would let him hold on to his beloved bottle,
without the temptation of whiskey. He boiled a pot of water and steeped ten or so tea bags, then filled the Jack Daniels bottle with tea.
That afternoon as he sat on the back porch, deep in thought, Bobby reached for the bottle at his side. He cracked a slight smile and took a long drink. Bobby had a new little secret. A secret that would allow him to drink from his bottle as much as he wanted, without the least little buzz. Sitting quietly, Bobby slid back into his thoughts.
Three months passed, when Bobby received a note from his manager, suggesting that it was time to get back to work. He was rested, strong, and sober. His notebooks were filled with a collection of new songs, songs he wanted to share with his band, his fans and the world .However, he still had one more song to write. The vision of the shattered windowpane was still an itch deep in his brain. An itch he needed to scratch.
The morning air was cool as Bobby sat on the back porch with a cup of fresh coffee and a plate of old-fashioned donuts. Calvin’s wife sent the homemade donuts along with his weekly supplies. They reminded Bobby of the ones his mother made. A heavy cake donut, fried crisp, then given a heavy sprinkle of powdered sugar. A fresh donut and a cup of strong coffee were all any man could want in life.
Just as Bobby finished his coffee, music and words started to flow clearly through his head. He stumbled across the porch into the house, grabbed his guitar, his writing pad.
Within an hour, he had the song that had haunted him from the first day. A few hours later, all of the lines, chords, and solos were in place. Bobby dropped his stub of a pencil onto the table, took a long look at the tattered notebook and knew, deep in his soul that he had written the best song of his career. Now it was time to go home.
Two months later, Bobby and his band were in the studio. They launched a new album that hit gold within a couple of weeks and platinum shortly after.
Everyone associated with Bobby’s music was in the middle of putting together a new US and World Tour.
A light knock on the dressing room door brought Bobby out of his deep thoughts, and Mark Gooden entered the room. Mark held his arms out to give a big hug. “Bobby! Fantastic show! What a fantastic show!” Mark looked like a bit of a nerd, with slightly unkempt hair, big dark-framed glasses and clothes that were out of fashion.
Bobby tried to get up, but did not have the strength. He pointed to one of the leather chairs and said, “Come on in. Have a seat,” and then pointed to the table, “Please, help yourself.”
Mark settled into one of the leather chairs, took a look over at the table. “No thank you, maybe later.”
Mark pulled out a pen and small notepad from his bag. “Thanks for taking time to sit with me,” he said. “Man, you look and sound better than you ever have.”
“Thanks,” Bobby replied with a big smile.
Mark took a deep breath, paused for a second, and then dove right into his interview. “Bobby, you have a new album and a hit single from the album’s title. Tell me about “Shattered Windowpane.” It’s your best song to date. What inspired you?”
Bobby leaned forward, looked Mark directly into his eyes. “I stopped drinking.” Bobby then took a long swig from his Jack Daniels bottle. He pulled the bottle away and wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt. He then broke into a loud laugh as he carefully placed the bottle down by his chair and said. “Well… it all started when…”
As Mark listened, he feverishly took notes. He had no need to ask questions. Everything Bobby said was pure gold. “You just can’t make this stuff up,” Mark thought to himself.
Two months after the interviewed with ROLLING STONE, Bobby was in New Orleans for a concert. He eased out of on the hotel’s side doors for an early morning walk. He was rounding the corner on his way back to the hotel when he spotted a coffee shop with a little news stand just outside of the shop. At the news stand, Bobby found the newest edition of ROLLING STONE with him on the cover. Bobby purchased a copy, along with a newspaper, and headed into the coffee shop.
He took a booth towards the back of the shop, ordered a large cup of black coffee and a sugar-covered donut. The headline to his photo read, “Bobby Jones tells how he pulled his career out of the ashes!” Bobby flipped through the magazine until he reached the article. The four-page article was accompanied with many photos of him relaxing, working in the studio, on stage, and on the tour bus. None of the photos included his old friend Jack.
The article opened, “Bobby Jones sits exhausted after his opening show in Dallas and opens up about how he destroyed his life, his music, and relationships.” The article continued on how getting away from life in a cabin in the woods and how a shattered windowpane ignited the spark that allowed him to find his way back to music and provided the inspiration for his latest song, “Shattered Windowpane.”
After completing the article, Bobby placed a twenty-dollar bill on top of the check for $4.50, as well as an autographed copy of the magazine.
# # #
Rosario (Russell) Licciardello recently retired from a career in the Commercial Construction Management field. He wanted to try his hand at creative writing, so he joined a writers group at his local library and has developed a few short stories.
Photo: Maxim Fiyavchuk