FIRST PERSON | KIM NALLEY
Being a musician is kind of like being a foodie. If you grew up poor, you’re really excited just to have food. Then, after you get accustomed to having food and are exposed to good food, you want something better. You eat at great restaurants and become able to distinguish the different components and learn which wines are best paired with each. Your palate is ruined for fast food. You seek better food experiences and make better food at home. But every once in a while you get misty-eyed for mom’s mac and cheese, made with government cheese, because it tastes like home.
In the beginning, I really just wanted a gig singing. I was cleaning houses at the time. I gave the owner of Harry’s Bar on Fillmore, Keith Provo, a demo cassette tape I had made by exchanging house cleaning for studio time. There were only three songs on that demo: an R&B song, an uptempo jazz scat and a ballad, “Moonlight in Vermont.”
Mr. Provo loved the ballad. His son Chris called on a Thursday morning and offered me a weekly gig — if I could put together a band and play that night. I had to stiff the owner of the house I was supposed to clean, but I did get that every-Thursday gig. They paid me $400 a night, and my rent was only $250 a month. I could hire A-list musicians who were much older than me to be my accompanists. I thought Harry’s Bar was the center of the universe and I felt really important at age 18 having a regular gig on Fillmore.
But soon I wanted more. I wanted to play the Fillmore Jazz Festival.