Being Vocally Impaired May Be A Blessing?! Part Two

I am a firm believer that when it comes to nicknames you are not allowed to give yourself your own nickname.  It should come from family or friends, co-workers or team mates who care and see something fun and unique in you which deems you worthy of a nickname.  Can you name any assholes to whom you gave a nickname?  Unless, of course, the nickname you gave them was “asshole.”  Probably not.  If you and a friend saw Bill Smith walking down the street and he was an asshole you most likely would say to your friend, “Hey there’s Bill Smith.  He’s such an asshole”  and you wouldn’t want him to see you.  However, if you really liked Bill Smith then you would turn to your friend and say, “Hey there’s Bill Smith!”and then yell out “Hey Smitty!”.  Smitty didn’t give Smitty his nickname.  His two friends walking down the street did and such is the case with me.

Patrick Sullivan, yes and possibly obviously, is of Irish ancestry.  But, to be exact I am a John, “call me Patrick,” Sullivan. For some odd reason my parents chose to complicate my life by making my first name John, and then having everyone call me by my middle name, Patrick, which was a hassle and caused confusion for most of my school teachers up through at least 6th grade; where I inevitably became Sully.   It was my first season of RAMS football and my coach, Mr. O’Brian, another Irishman, only referred to me as Sully.  As the season went on and the teams’ relationships grew everyone began calling me by my nickname.  That was it.  From then on friends, co-workers, and old acquaintances who would introduce me to new ones all called me Sully.  If your last name is Sullivan and you are not an asshole, it is inevitable that you will become a Sully too.

This Sully, other than wearing the stereotypical beer drinking hat, followed the expected blueprint of success and happiness my parents laid out for me; play a lot of sports, football, soccer, baseball, tennis, work hard at school to get into a good college and, because I like to shoot the shit, get a good job in sales or become a lawyer.  On paper this appears to be a solid plan.  It is most people’s plan for their kids and for most it is a good one.  The only problem with my parent’s plan was that from the start I was a mediocre athlete.  I liked competition, but I didn’t have this visceral drive to win or to put the time in the dozens of hours a week to be good enough at sports so I could win.

As a student I had similar interest and motivation.  I did not mind learning new things, but taking tests, studying to memorize facts, and writing reports felt as good as playing RAMS football, which I quit after two seasons of getting mowed down on the offensive line.  So much for having the hefty kid protect the quarterback.

The only thing that ever got me truly excited was music.  All kinds of music.  If it had a beat I liked it.  If it didn’t have a beat I liked it.  Over the years I tried to unleash my musical talent on the violin, trumpet, guitar, drums and at one point  I even joined the school choir where I was told it would be better if I did not sing and just read from the cards which introduced the songs.  Apparently I was so loud and off key that it made it difficult for the rest of the choir to sing, but I did have a strong speaking voice.  I also made it difficult for a trumpet to sound like a trumpet and the only song I ever learned to pluck on guitar was “Love Me Tender” which soon began collecting dust along with my violin and drums.  Neither one of my parents sang or had any musical talent, yet inside me, even after having failed at every opportunity to play music, the passion and respect for it never went away.

I am adopted.  I have no knowledge of my birth mother other than her name is Sharon Mayes.   Did I get my love of music from her? Was she a musician or a singer or an artist?  Why does music speak to me more than any other thing on this planet?  Did it do the same for her?  The day I was born my birth certificate was filled out as “Baby Boy Mayes”.  I had no first name and a fleeting last name that would be changed in a couple of days.  The person who I was going to become became someone completely different with a new identity.  It was as if I was put into witness protection.  Baby Boy Mayes would disappear along with his birth mother as she left the hospital and he joined another family.

One of many things my parents instilled in me was a solid work ethic.  I like hard work.  Blue collar work.  Where you have that end of the day beer that is your reward for earning your money the hard way.  I have worked as a Waiter, Bus Boy, Construction Guy, Baker, Tennis Court Maintenance Man, Stock Boy, and the list goes on and on with every job teaching me something that school never could.  For example, how not to be an asshole.  How to get along with people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities.  Some call it Social Intelligence.  I call it common sense or street smarts.

I have always felt like I had a split personality.    Family/Friends/Work Side vs. Music Side.  So when I began writing lyrics for the indie rock band Satya Graha it fulfilled a huge hole in the music side of me, the side I called B.B. Mayes.  It took a long time to find and foster my craft to the point where I trusted what I was writing but eventually I got to the place where I found my voice.  B.B. Mayes was an homage to the woman who gave me life and deep down knowing that she, Sharon Mayes, was the reason why I loved music and why I began pursuing songwriting as a career.   She helped me rip up the blueprint, take off my white collar, and throw myself into something whole heartedly.

To be continued…