Reportedly, my first gig (unpaid) was when I was young enough to be set on a picnic table. According to witnesses, I sang “Finkle, finkle witul star” to the delight of those gathered. I have no memory of the performance and, although I suspect the story has been embellished over time, I do like a stage, no matter how small.
When I was in elementary school, mother was justifiably concerned about my brain’s wiring as I was baffled about the difference between left and right, and literacy in general. She got an up-right piano and a teacher for me. I remember practicing, but there were two problems; I was baffled by written notation and learned songs better when the teacher played them for me, and I was terrified to be in the basement. I sang with great vigor to avoid hearing from the evil beings who kept me company down there.
I played trumpet in 5th grade until I had a disagreement with the band teacher. I thought that my new instrument was faulty. He thought that I did not practice enough. I was personally affronted and soon retired from band entirely.
From an early age, I sang the songs in church. I looked at the words and found the melody without reading the notes; I thought I was clever. One Sunday, a woman turned around and told me that I had a good singing voice. Some compliments make a lasting impression; her words may have given me the courage to sing Christmas carols with the cool neighborhood girls who also said I had a good voice. I probably developed a scheme in my feverish, pre-pubescent brain for getting compliments from cool girls.
I bought a ukelele when I was twelve. Getting an actual guitar seemed like a stretch. My goal was to learn how to play Fleetwood Mac’s “Sunnyside of Heaven” on the instrument. I was not successful and blamed the poor little uke.
When I was freshman, I purchased a guitar, a twenty-five dollar Martin copy, and took lessons for several months. I bought a music book; Big ’76; a collection of songs from the early 1970’s and I learned the Neil Young, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne songs as well as “Mr. Bojangles.” My parents complimented my singing so I sang loudly in my bedroom and the living room. I played in the basement while my parents were trying to sleep; as I was not thinking so much about how sound travels through air vents.
At a friend’s house parties,I played songs and sang loud. I got two Hohner harmonicas and a harmonica rack and learned most of Harvest, John Prine’s Prime Prine and James Taylor’s Greatest Hits. I bought and borrowed a hoard of song books. At parties, a bunch of us would eventually find a bedroom or basement where we sang. Music was one of the highlights of my young life. I went off to college, rehearsed in the music building’s practice rooms and preformed in a coffee shop. When I was twenty, I found a job playing in a bar, five nights a week, thirty dollars a night. After treatment, I changed colleges, I played in coffee shops and bars. I got complimented and a girlfriend. Next, I was married, had kids and found a real day job
Over the next several years, I played at churches, fundraisers and elementary schools until I outed myself at the high school where I was teaching. As part of a talent show, I performed a song for the staff and students. I received some compliments and started gigging around again. Eventually I began to write songs more frequently and performing them besides.
As my son was finishing up his recording engineer internship in Glenn Brown’s recording studio in East Lansing, I booked some studio time to help my boy finish the required hours. Initially, I was recording folksy arrangements of my songs with an solo accompanist at manic tempos, but then we added drums, background singers, bass, and stellar work from some of the best local talent. Something surprising and exciting happened; music. I am very grateful to Ryan for his production efforts, to those who contributed in the layout on the songs and those who were powerfully supportive throughout the recording and publication process. I was delighted to find out how unbelievably awesome co-operative, creative process can be when talented people participate in sincere, sometimes spontaneous and delightfully heart felt musical collaborations. Thanks.
 not very short.
 not necessarily accurate.
 Mrs. Neidlinger, the organist at church.
 It was haunted by invisible forces of evil who didn’t like sniveling boys.
 brand new
 with tears on my shirt
 Might have been the nicest thing I ever heard in church.
 Might have been the nicest thing a girl had ever said to me
 from Mrs. Neidlinger’s son, Claude
 I think my brother and his friends performed a hippie exorcism in the basement. The evil forces got hip and left.
 Jeff Dahlgren
 More than I returned
 I got compliments and a girlfriend.
 not well
 until I asked for a raise (to make what the previous, veteran musician made) and got fired.
 with John Dreyfus
 and retired from performing
 Tupelo Honey
 but no girlfriends.
 Which I hope to continue.
 Ryan Bliton
 or at least that is what I told myself
 Nate Bliton
 Ryan Bliton
 Nate, Linda Abar, Melissa Sigh, Corinna Van Hamlin, Rick Seign, Jon Ritz, Patti Spinner, Pat Hudson and Glenn Brown
 Pat Hudson and Ryan
 Eli Bender, Mark Kleim, Roxanne Kleim, Ray Kamalay, Josh Davis, Drew Howard, Pat Hudson, Nate Bliton, Jim Green
 Especially Ryan, Nate, Jim Green and Jeff Dahlgren
 Ryan Bliton, Katheryn and Jerry Bliton, Christyne Bliton, Glenn Brown, Matt Souden, Brenda Perry, Vee Nash, Randy Laney, Deborah Goro, Brenda Francis, Elderly Instruments, Fellowship for Today, Unity of Lansing, Bill and Bob, David Ross, Spiritual Renaissance Unity of Lansing, Peninsula Writers, Steve Springer, Craig Huhn, Gary Novak, Corrina Van Hamlin and Jackson Bliton
 Lengthy and nerve-wracking
 and we hope you enjoy Solid Ground, Endless Sky.
 A lot.