"Five minutes, sir," someone said, while knocking on the door post. The man in the dressing room looked up from his unplugged Telecaster and took a sip from his glass of whiskey. "Yeah, coming," he replied. The man in the doorway nodded and left.
Tweaking one of the machine heads, images appeared of the first times he played the Tele, and how he was mocked by the blues purists in the crowd they used to hang out with. "A country guitar?!"
Little did they know, his first ambition in life was to become Roy Rogers. Would Mick still remember that? They must have been around ten years old.
As the years went by, and their hair grew longer, Rock 'n Roll and the Blues took over that first fascination. Touring in America, however, he met a man who knew Country the way he knew the Blues. Many a night they'd spend together, with Gram playing him his Hank Williams and Louvin Brothers records. After Brian's death, they began spending even more time. He could still remember the two of them laughing, drinking and jamming in that sweaty basement in France, where it was so hot their guitars could often stay in tune for only as much as half a song...
He emptied his glass, put the strap across his shoulder and walked out of the room, right to the dark stage. As he hammered out the opening riff, a single spot shone its yellow beam over him, and the crowd began to cheer. The band kicked in, and Mick entered the stage: "I was born in a crossfire hurricane"
God, he loved this. Being on the stage, playing for these people; it was the best feeling in the world.
After a few uptempo songs, Mick said:"Now let's break it down a little bit, before we break down ourselves..."
The people who recognised the harmonica intro, made noise. Keith grinned. It's been over thirty years, and he still didn't have the slightest idea what the song was about. He sang along with the chorus, trying to hide the waves behind his eyeballs, blinking an eye to Bobbie as he began his sax solo. "Come on, come on down, sweet Virginia..."
As the song finished, Mick began introducing the people onstage. Blondie, Bernard, Lisa, Chuck on piano, the horn section (Bobbie got a huge cheer), Darryl and Ronnie. He tricked Charlie into coming from behind his drum set, but got no words out of him, only a big smile. "And on guitar, mister Keith ... Richards!"
A gigantic scream broke loose. A single spot was on Keith, who stepped up to the microphone.
"It's good to be here," he smiled, "Hell, it's good to be anywhere, you know..."
"Happy!", a man yelled. Keith shook his head: "Eh... something different tonight." He took a black ES335 with gold hardware, as he started to sing: "It's not the pale moon that excites me, that thrills and delights me - Oh no, it's just the nearness of you"
An arena full of middle-aged men, fake blonde women in their fifties along with their hipster sons and daughters were silenced, surprised and oddly touched by the guitarist's song choice, a nineteen thirties jazz standard. Several grown men cried as the crowd applauded. A roadie took Keith's Gibson and handed him a beaten-down looking acoustic.
"Booze and pills and powders...", he muttered in the microphone, "This is for a friend of mine, who chose his medicine - Hickory wind":
In South Carolina, there're many tall pines I remember the oak tree, that we used to climb but now when I'm lonesome, I always pretend that I'm getting the feel of hickory wind.
I started out younger, had most everything all the riches and pleasures, what else could life bring but it makes me feel better, each time it begins calling me home, hickory wind
It's hard to find out that trouble is real in a faraway city, with a faraway feel but it makes me feel better, each time it begins calling me home, hickory wind keeps calling me home, hickory wind
Mick looked Keith in the eyes frome the side of the stage, and remembered meeting a boy who wanted to become Roy Rogers, and found a playmate years later, touring along with the Byrds. He nodded to Keith as he finished the song.
"Gold rings on you all," Keith wished the audience, "Gold rings on you all".
For an impression of Keith's solo set, look here.