Actually it was more like a bumpy take-off, but to me it was a roaring launch – my first paid gig. An old hand on the German music scene had taken me under his wings, and I performed with his band at the ‘Deutscher Keller’ in Johannesburg. It was a sleazy watering hole for a rough and noisy crowd of mainly German origin, and a pick-up place for ladies of questionable profession. It was a good thing that my guitar wasn’t even plugged into the system, because the other guys in the band were professionals, and I would have ruined their music. But I could sing, and it thrilled me to see people dance to our songs and bang their beer mugs on the heavy wooden tables. That night I went home with a song in my heart and cash in my pocket that felt like a million dollars.
Before long I bought my first PA system and started playing either solo or with a band in the ‘Deutscher Keller’, and as my skills and confidence grew, I picked up gigs at other venues, too. The money started rolling in, and I laughed at my friends who were broke because they had chosen to study. Me? Study? Broke? No way! I got myself a daytime job as a draftsman, and in the evenings I sang my lungs out, drank free beer and met plenty of girls. For the next 20 odd years this was my self-made heaven, and I loved it, at least for a while.