“I’m Your Guitarist” (Robert Sorrenti)

by | Sep 29, 2023

Guitarist Michael Hedges with long hair, playing in a restaurant

– Submitted by Robert Sorrenti on 9/27/23

I met Michael in December 1984.  He had been scheduled to play at my small restaurant in Tallahassee Florida about a year earlier with Scott Cossu but had missed the plane.  The concert with Scott had gone well. While we were cleaning up Scott handed me a cassette tape and said “Here’s what you missed”.  It was a copy of the soon to be released “Aerial Boundaries”.  I put the tape in the tape player and kept working.  I sat down on the floor with my back against the wall to take a break. Right about then “Ragamuffin” came on. In a memory etched in my mind to this day, I heard “Ragamuffin ” for the first time.  I was blown away.  It felt like he was articulating the soundtrack of my soul.  I couldn’t wait to get this Hedges guy booked!

The day finally came. I was anxiously awaiting the call to go to the airport and pick up Michael when a cab pulled up and someone said “I think your musician is here”.  I walked outside to greet him as he was pulling his guitar out of the trunk of the cab. He secured the guitar in his left hand and offered me his right in a handshake and said “I’m your guitarist”.  His smile was infectious.  His humility was apparent.

The show was incredible.  Michael playing to a room of 80 people packed into about a 1200 square foot room was mesmerizing. The show required us, among other things, to station people to unplug the noisy old refrigerators during the sets and plug them back in during the breaks.  The raw energy of that show was a once in a lifetime treasure. The buzz from that show put us on the map.

Michael and I became fast friends.  We agreed to get together again soon.  A day or two after he left, I found an address book on the corner of my desk.  I looked through it trying to be sure that it was his, and saw Neil Young’s name and number.  Neil Young.  I was a 26 year old star struck fool.  I didn’t call Neil, I called Jeff Laramie and he had me mail the address book to him. Certified mail please!

Michael played at the restaurant about a year later to another packed house. A couple of years later we booked him into a club that I was partners in and despite our usually wonderful sound guy not getting a buzzing tone out of the sound system, the show went off well.

The next time I saw Michael was a pure surprise.  I was in a funk after a recent breakup when the phone rang.  “I’m playing in Gainesville tonight with Liz Story and Mike Manring.  I can have four passes for you if you can make it.  I rounded up three friends (one of whom I’m friends with to this day) and headed out on the two plus hour drive. Our phone conversation had ended with Michael saying “After the show, come to the stage and grab one of my guitars and follow me. You can be my roadie ”  I was beyond excited, my funk left behind in the rear view mirror.

After the show, I grabbed Michael’s guitar and after saying hello to Mike Manring, he took me backstage through a bunch of rooms until we were in a room with Liz sitting at a piano. Liz and I were talking about booking her into the restaurant when a tech guy came in and invited Michael to the NPR sound truck to listen to some of the recording.  Michael motioned for me to go with him. When we got to the sound truck, I couldn’t believe that I was listening to “Rickover’s Dream” with Michael Hedges!

We stayed in touch over the years through Scott and Liz and Jeff Laramie.

I booked Michael into a friend’s club in early November 1997.  Michael had a shaved head and a big ball on stage and his show was more physically theatric. His big heart and graceful energy still showed through it all. The next day we had lunch together with some friends and we talked about taking him to the recently completed rails to trails bike path on his next trip to Tallahassee. A few weeks later a fax came through from Jeff Laramie with the news of Michael’s passing. I couldn’t believe it.  I was really grateful to have seen him so recently before he was gone, but the shock lasted a long time.

In August of 1998, less than a year after I’d seen him last, I did a bicycle tour from Portland to San Francisco that passed through Mendocino. That trip was in the works when I saw Michael for the last time. He said that he wanted to show me his studio and a couple of his favorite places. When we rolled into Mendocino, we got a cup of coffee and a scone and continued south. As I began peddling out of town with all kinds of what ifs in my mind, I realized all I could do was wave skyward and say thank you.

– Submitted by Robert Sorrenti on 9/27/23


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