It seems that too often, the fans, skeptics and dreamers that make up society believe in the fantastic and unbelievable stories of excess that have come to be associated with the touring musician.
Somewhere between the ‘70s and ‘80s a notion was born: the idea that the life of the touring musician consists of countless parties and binges that include alcohol, women and drugs in the most outlandish forms.
Chuck Ragan’s new book, The Road Most Travelled, paints a very different picture for readers.
Ragan began his life on the road at a young age. In the early ‘90s his path on “the road” continued with his long-running punk rock band, Hot Water Music, later as a folk artist and eventually with his multi-artist touring ensemble, The Revival Tour.
The Road Most Travelled talks about the struggles, sacrifices and pitfalls that touring musicians face.
Each chapter, with a unique voice and a different person’s story, only reinforces the dedication needed to live a healthy and happy life while on the road.
The book in its own way can be thought of as the touring man’s bible.
Although the forward of the book is the only portion that Ragan wrote, each short chapter that follows comes from someone else who has lived or continues to live his or her life on the road.
“Travelers who thrive on a path of sensory overload will find an abundant supply of knowledge and wisdom from marvels found and faults defined—as long as they keep their eyes and ears open. Every one of these lives has a story, and every one of those stories has an origin and a reason. And every now and again, someone may be willing to share their story of the joy and tragedy of the road most traveled,” wrote Ragan.
The various tales of disaster, stories of experience and the tips for safe journeys that follow Ragan’s forward range from thoughtful and touching to humorous and slightly disgusting.
The reader can laugh along with one story while being shocked by the near death experiences of another.
Be it another musician, tour manager or bus driver, each story gives insight into the life that exists behind the curtain.
The life that moves like a caravan, from one venue to the next, be it by plane, train or bus.
These men and women who live this life do so at a pace that would wear most people out.
These stories are about the reality of a traveller’s life.
These insights can be seen not only as words of wisdom for those travelling “the road,” but for life.
The constant themes of friendship, courtesy and respect that resonate throughout are a complete contradiction to the “girls, girls, girls” lifestyle that many still associate with musicians and entertainers.
The various contributors to the book include Frank Turner, Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem), Al Barr (Dropkick Murphys) and Brent Harding (Social Distortion) among many others.
Another co-author is Goldy, drummer for the band Yellow Red Sparks.
With 16 years of experience on the road, he is a veteran of the trade who shares some knowledge about what it takes to survive not only on the road, but also as someone dedicated to his or her craft.
“Usually the people that last in this crazy world are the ones who have a good head on their shoulders and stay motivated and passionate about what they’re doing,” wrote Goldy.
But musicians like Goldy were not the only contributors. Sylvia Hahn is a booking agent in Berlin, and has 13 years of experience with musicians on the road.
Although she works on the other side of the wall, so to speak, she knows what it takes to successfully balance the needs and wants between promoters and entertainers.
“Some of the most important things, though, are just simple rules most people stick to in everyday life, anyway: Be honest, reasonable, respectful and friendly,” wrote Hahn.
But don’t take this book, the stories in it, and the words of wisdom and travel advice from these road warriors to mean that they know it all.
The book is also full of the knowledge that they are lucky and grateful to be doing something they love so much for a living.
Whether readers think the book is a survival guide depends on the person’s outlook.
It can easily serve as a reminder that all dreams, however large, can only be achieved through hard work, sacrifice and constant effort.
Ragan, along with many others, continues down the hard and windy road.
His grandfather asked him when he was a young boy if he loved playing the guitar, he replied that he did.
The advice that followed is still something that he carries with him today.
“Well, you’re a damn fool if you ever put it down, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.”