What involves a dentist’s office, a guitar named Blueridge Betty, a little place called Shandies, and a Mrs. Claus costume?
Another Thursday in the life of a lady named Tracy Badger.
Tracy, Michigan native by birth, proud Paducahn by choice, has been playing guitar and singing her big heart out since she was 11. Her classically-trained guitar-picking fingers have accompanied her from the midwest to the west coast and many places in between, but she and her fingers are far from finished. After years of day jobs and night gigs, her days are finally hers. She lends her nights and musical talents to Shandies on a regular basis, and this particular Thursday was one such occasion.
This Thursday started much like any other for Tracy: COFFEE, followed by the feeding and loving-on of three very lucky dogs, a bit of the Today Show with husband Kirk. After a healthy workout at the gym, she donned a red velvet dress with white fur trim and matching hat—the festive Mrs. Claus look—and her red cowboy boots. Then things got interesting.
The phone rang, and a Claus-clad Tracy answered. On the other end of the line was a friend in need, and Tracy was dressed and ready to help. Trusty Blueridge Betty in tow, Tracy and Kirk hopped in their car and left headed off to a local dentist’s office.
Tracy had spoken with her friend Dusty a few days prior about a painful toothache he was having. “How are you? What’s wrong?” she’d asked him. He looked miserable.
“Have an abscessed tooth,” he said, “gotta have it out.” Dreading any dentist visit herself, Tracy’s heart went out to him. Without hesitation, she asked if there was anything she could do. He replied, half-jokingly, “It’d be really nice if you could sing to me.”
“You know, Dusty? That’s a really good idea! Make sure it’s OK with your doctor, but I’m happy to do it!” she replied. “If we do do this, what song do you want to hear?” she asked him.
“Killing Me Softly.”
Not only did Dusty’s oral surgeon, Dr. Heine, approve of Tracy’s chairside performance of Killing Me Softly, he was enthralled by it, as was the entire office.
Tracy struck up the tune on Blueridge Betty, singing the requested tune with extra emphasis on the word “pain,” to everyone’s amusement. “Perfect song, right?” Dusty said as they put him under. As the end of the song drew near and it looked as if Tracy’s main audience was asleep at last, he started humming along from beneath his gas mask. He soon fell asleep in the chair, a smile on his face. Mission accomplished.
By the time Tracy opened her Shandies set with Van Morrison’s Moondance that night, she’d studied and tweaked and practiced it and the songs that followed so many times that the songs had become hers. She treated the dinner crowd to her takes on a mix of upbeat pop and jazz tunes with a few ballads (Tracy’s favorites) thrown in here and there, as well as some Christmas classics with new, more “entertaining” lyrics that aren’t quite fit for print.
Though her performance seemed almost effortless, done with such energy and ease, it was anything but. That Thursday inbetween the dentist’s office performance and her evening gig, she practiced, as she does most days. Now that her days are her own, she often spends them in her music space upstairs at home, surrounded by the funky furniture and artwork she inherited from her father, and her music.
She’ll find a song she likes, such as Bob Dylan’s Million Miles performed by Bonnie Raitt, and listen to it until she picks up the key and the chord progressions. Many of the songs she falls for feature a full ensemble of musicians—vocalist, lead guitarist, bass player, drums, etc.—and she takes it upon herself to create the same feeling with only herself and her guitar. Some songs come more easily than others. Then there are the tough ones, the ones for which she has colorful names and the ones that keep her cracking away at their complexities for months on end (she’s talking to you,Take Five!).
That Thursday night, she’d hoped to play I’ve Got the World on a String, but she wasn’t ready. She didn’t “own it” yet. She’d been working on it for what seemed like forever, and it had even led her to the purchase of the guitar of her dreams, a smooth, jazzy Loar she named Lovely. She was so inspired by Anita O’Day and Herb Ellis’s rendition of the song that she just couldn’t let it go, despite all of its diminished and augmented chords.
That Thursday night, she wasn’t quite ready, but on a recent Friday night . . . she was.
“I’m still not owning it, but I was so tickled I was finally able to do it semi-decently! Though I’m nowhere near Herb Ellis of course,” she said from her practice space, Lovely the Loar in hand. Kirk overheard her disparaging remark and yelled from downstairs, “It sure sounded like you owned it when you played it. You did a great job!”
“Thanks, honey!” she yelled back, followed by a quiet, “I paid him to say that” and loud laughter all around. “I’ve got the world on a string, sittin’ on a rainbow. Got the string around my finger. What a world, what a life, I’m in love...” as her velvety voice filled the house, and her fingers continued to strum.
It’s just another day . . . in the life of Tracey Badger.