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Song of the Month #20 - “Tricklin’ to the Top”

(Track #9 on the Caught in the Middle CD)


Lyrics:  If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read.  Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy Caught in the Middle Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "Tricklin’ to the Top."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

                                 *Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.




For the most part, music influences the lives of people in two basic ways.  There are those who dabble with it in their youth.  Some join the chorus, band, or orchestra when they are in school, while others form little pickup ensembles and play the local clubs throughout their late teens and early twenties.  Eventually, as their youth gives way to adulthood, other responsibilities take over, and the music is put aside.  Conversely, for those rare few, music never leaves their souls.  No matter what they do with their lives, they need to keep singing and playing in order to be completely fulfilled.  While I am neither proud nor embarrassed to admit it, I fall into the latter group.  It’s just the way it is.  I am addicted to music.


Being addicted to music is truly a curse because only those with such an obsession would put up with the many unsavory aspects of the business.  Devoted musicians fend off many ridiculous suggestions of how they should present their music, contend with many of the adverse settings in which they are asked to perform, and tolerate those people who always need to be part of the show.  They spend many hours looking for new venues, negotiating gigs, and accepting rejection.  They consume large amounts of time writing, arranging, recording, mixing, producing, and marketing songs, an extremely frustrating experience at times.  They do all this, and even more, merely for the love of the game.  They are purely in it for the “juice.”


Being in it for the “juice” means you pursue something for its intrinsic rather than extrinsic value.  Stephen King, in his book On Writing, tells his reader the writer must first write for the pure joy of writing.  If you are in the game for any other reason, you’d best get out of it.  I agree with King, and I have lived according to his code throughout the many years I have been in the music trade.  Although I have been quite successful, it’s never been about the money, and it never will be.  Here is why I do it.  One, it usually makes me feel incredibly good when I am either creating or playing a song.  Two, I love having the ability to be able to bring a little joy into the lives of others.  Three, I am totally thrilled when someone tells me they enjoyed or were inspired by one of my songs.  These things do not happen every day, but when they do, it makes it all worth it!


Over the years, I have read a lot of material about musicians who have reached national and international recognition.  Some of the dinosaurs, those who have been in the business for forty, fifty or sixty years, all adhere to King’s philosophy of pursuing writing for its pure intrinsic value.  My favorites, people like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Jimmy Buffett, all write and perform for the pure love of the game.  In his book, Tales from Margaritaville, a series of short stories and autobiographical sketches, Jimmy Buffett writes about one of his music mentors, Freddy Fishstick.  Jimmy, through a conversation with Freddy, conveys some of the rather unpleasant events Freddy has encountered in the music business.  However, despite all of Freddy’s traumatic experiences, he concludes he will not know what to do with himself if he does not play, and he speculates he “was just meant to bop until I drop.”  Well, this little phrase would not leave me alone, and I was off and running with the writing of “Tricklin’ to the Top.”


In this song, the chorus came to me first.  From Freddy’s phrase, “bop until I drop,” I found the end rhymes “top” and “stop,” and I wrote the first part of the chorus.  With just a little more reflection on Freddy’s tales, I quickly finished the second part of the chorus, and I was ready for the verses.


Like Freddy, I had also encountered some rather unpleasant experiences in the music industry, and I decided some of these events would be good topics for the verses.  In the first verse, I recount a little story about a bar owner who claimed he could take Siobhan and me right to the top if we just added a little drum machine and synthesized instrumentation to our show.  Well, we don’t have anything against artificial music; it’s just not us!  Naturally, we never returned to that venue again.


In the second verse, I describe our “gig from Hell.”  We showed up to do an outdoor community concert.  After we set up our sound in the little gazebo in the park, we discovered we had no power.  It was a Friday night, and the park director was gone for the weekend.  So, here we were playing for hundreds of people without any amplification.  When someone finally came along and turned on the power, a horrific thunder storm blew in and totally put an end to the show.  Unfortunately, the details of this event still remain vividly welded in my memory.


To conclude the song, I convey a little story about a guy who wanted to become part of the show.  Unfortunately, if he did have any talent, the alcohol in his system would not let it surface.  He sang way off key, and he eventually got around to injecting some rather inappropriate lyrics during his improvisational presentation.  Finally we had to shut down our show until we could get rid of him.  Since then, we are very careful about who we let get near our microphones.


The setting for “Tricklin’ to the Top” focuses on the music business, but the theme transcends the music business and reflects the ongoing problem that exists for people who pursue their passions.  They must accept the heartbreak and disappointment that comes along with doing something for the pure love of the game.  The song and its theme are pure Americana.  It is a country-folk song with a flare of bluegrass appearing in the mix.  With a guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, harmonica, bass, drums, and backup harmony, Joe Dady and Tim Chaapel help Siobhan and me in creating one of those songs that describes what music addicts contend with in the music industry.  Joe Dady does it all in this one!  After setting the tempo with his drums, he deftly enhances the tune by brilliantly weaving his harmonica, banjo, and fiddle throughout the song.  Tim’s mandolin playing mixes together perfectly with Joe’s instruments, and his harmony blends flawlessly with my voice.  Of course, Siobhan, as always, adds the perfect touch with her bass.  So, if you enjoy songs that add a little humor to the harshness of reality, this could be one for you!  I like it, and I hope you do too!


I dedicated this song to Jimmy Buffett because he inspired it.  Jimmy, an icon who still struggles with the ugly side of the music business, affirms you must be into music for the pure love of the game.  He has been in the music business for over forty years, and although he has reached a level of success where he can easily retire, he shows no signs of stopping.  While I admire Jimmy and many other internationally known dinosaurs, I have an even greater deference for those musicians who do the smaller circuits.  Many of these players are my friends, and I love to go out to listen to them.  Their hearts and souls come through the sounds of their instruments and voices, and I know they are in love with what they are doing.  When I am at their performances, they remind me I am doing what I am suppose to be doing, and I am grateful to them for that.  I only hope they all, like Siobhan and me, continue to “bop until they drop!”


We recorded this song in 1998 at The Garage, a little studio in Rochester, New York.  The Garage, as I have told you before, is owned and operated by John and Joe Dady, two quintessential musicians.  When you record with them, you can always count on great coffee, good stories, and an aching stomach from laughing.  I highly recommend John and Joe if you are interested in recording.  Also, The Dady Brothers, John and Joe’s group, have many recordings of their own, and they tour the United States and Ireland.  Check them out on the web at


Tim Chaapel owns Mobile Music, a great music store in Canandaigua, New York.  If you think you might be interested in playing an instrument, stop in.  Tim will get you off to a great start!  He has guitars that make you look really sexy!  Also, if your instrument has fallen on hard times, Tim will get it sounding like new in no time.  Check him out on the web at


Well, there you have it.  I’ll have another song of the month for you next month.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me.  This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.


(E-Mailed 11/18/08)






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