During my street playing days I would don a black suit, black hat and hit the street as Rev James Bavery – what a hoot! I loved the old Gospel style guitar of Gary Davis and wrote quite a few songs in the same vein. This one is about a man searching for the lord and gathering people along the way until it grew into a veritable multitude of people looking for the Truth.
In this video I’m playing it bare fingers, but on the street I’d use a big plastic thumb pick and one steel pick on my forefinger – made a great racket, even without an amplifier! However, most cities are noisy nowadays and so I’d use a battery amp which was 20 watt, so beefy enough to cut through the traffic. It’s a great life, apart from sometimes not earning any money and getting moved on by the police, but it wasn’t always like that.
First time I did it, I was walking through Toulouse in France and I was hungry, and broke, by the way. I sat in a corner and sang for about 30 minutes, making enough money to by a meal. Sitting in a restaurant looking out of the window, I realized it was a perfect life – work when you want, or when you’re hungry, what a pleasure. No clock, no walls, just you and your guitar.
A little while after that I bought the suit, amplifier and trolley to pull everything along, and that was my profession for a few years. People often think you play for pennies, but mostly it’s not like that, it depends how you approach it. Play well in a professional way, and you make money, that’s all. Strangely enough, I got several very well paid gigs from playing on the streets. People would pay me to play at their weddings and private functions for a few hundred euros a gig, so pretty good for those days.