The slash (/) seemingly serves as a prerequisite in the life of any aspiring musician.
You know, singer/waitress, drummer/clerk, trumpeter/accountant.
In the case of Brandon native Andrew Gohman, the resume read guitarist/mechanic.
We met years ago when he serviced my car at Jiffy Lube and discovered we share a love of old-school R&B. Quick with a smile, he lent CDs of his favorite blues artists and I lent an ear as he chatted about his dreams of someday devoting all his time to leading a guitar-playing band.
I always appreciated how he kindled his musical joy: practicing long hours, playing open mic nights, joining in with groups at honky-tonks from Fort Myers to Ocala and stretching to improve his singing voice.
We lost contact for a while as he moved up the Jiffy Lube career ladder: technician, assistant manager, store manager, regional manager.
Then one day I got an email that he had walked away from his burgeoning management career and finally completed the journey to full-time musician. Now he's the stand-up bass player for Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones, who play Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe in Tampa on Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m.
My admiration for those who pursue such dreams will never cease. It's like strapping on a hang glider and running over the side of a cliff. You hope to fly but realize the journey may end like one of Wile E. Coyote's ill-fated attempts to catch the Road Runner.
"It was scary because I didn't know if I could make it," said Andrew, 25. "But it ended up working out. I haven't had to pay a bill late, yet. I'm not getting rich, but I'm definitely happier."
Andrew's dad, John Gohman, deserves kudos for helping Andrew achieve his dream. He asked his father if he should walk away from the comfortable living with Jiffy Lube to play on the road with the Jewel Tones, and his dad said if he was going to look back 10 years from now and have regrets, he should do it.
"It was kind of surprising considering he's a pretty straight-laced dude," Andrew explained.
Deming also played a big role. He lived in Detroit but often played gigs in Florida. Andrew, who made it a point to know just about every bluesman within a 200-mile radius, met Deming and when he decided to move here and form a new band, he gave Andrew a shot.
One problem. The lifelong guitarist had to convert to playing the bass.
He had dreamed of starring as a guitarist ever since he listened to his older brother's rock CDs and his mom's Beatles records. The seeds grew when he received a Squier Stratocaster and a small amp for Christmas at the age of 15. Guitar World magazine fueled his admiration for Jimi Hendrix and that led to an appreciation for the blues.
"I used to go to Sound Exchange in Brandon and spend my monthly allowance buying blues records and falling in love with them," Andrew explained. "I remember buying a Howling Wolf CD. I plugged it in when I was driving away, and the first track was Moanin' at Midnight, and he made this guttural moaning sound and the humming was so loud it shook my speakers.
"I knew right then this is for me. Blues and only blues."
Deming took a chance that the eager protege could learn the bass on the fly. He asked Andrew if Jiffy Lube could give him two weeks off for a road gig. When the bosses said no, he flew off the cliff.
"I distinctly remember hopping into the van to go on the road and thinking, 'I can't believe I'm doing this,' " Andrew said. "The shock didn't wear off until three or four months later.
"I thank God Doug took a leap of faith on me."
Now he helps the band stir audiences with old-fashioned blues, jump blues and a stream of original tunes. The latest CD from Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones spent three months in the top 10 on the Living Blues Radio Chart last year.
Here's hoping every aspiring musician can find a way to erase the slash and fulfill their dreams. I think you're more apt to sing the blues if you don't take the chance and fly off that cliff.
That's all I'm saying.