From Where Do You Get the Nerve?

I’ve been a police officer for 22 years. So when I informed friends I was writing a book, it was widely assumed it would be law enforcement-oriented. So imagine their surprise when I told them the book was about music.

“What makes you think you can write about music?” my friends would ask. “You’ve been a cop for two decades! Where does that nerve come from?” I suppose, on the surface, this argument makes sense.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been a cop for 22 years. I’ve been a music fanatic for twice that long. To say nothing of my experience as a journalist both in school and in the military. I think I’m on safe ground here. Law enforcement is my career. Music is my passion. One of these days, I will write those cop books. But for now, the focus is on the passion.

Music is a constant in my world. Regardless of what I’m doing (with the possible exception of playing golf), there is music somewhere in the vicinity. I’m convinced that one of the reasons I’m a lousy test taker is because I’m not allowed to play my music while taking the exam. In high school, I learned a semester’s worth of geography by singing the names of countries within a continent. In fact, I specifically remember memorizing African countries to the tune of the Marine Corps Hymn. Go figure.

When I’m in my patrol car, there’s music playing. The rookie officers I train not only learn the ins and outs of patrol, but they become familiar with some rather obscure music at the same time. A couple of my “probies” have come back to me, asking me to make them a playlist from my iPod. That being said, when I’m at home playing jazz records, policing is the furthest thing from my mind.

My experience in both journalism and law enforcement reminded me I couldn’t just pontificate and present my opinions without evidence to back up what I was saying. So I conducted 20 interviews with musicians, record shop employees, guitar shop owners, web page designers, disc jockeys, and fellow music fans. Some conversations were longer than others, but all provided valuable information. Plus, it was nice to sit and talk (or Skype) with some very nice people.

I knew I couldn’t rely solely on my memory to review the records I discussed. So I played them again and again, making sure I had the nuances down before I started writing about them. That was how I discovered Vernon Reid put different guitar solos on certain songs on Living Colour’s Stain CD. One CD was mastered in New York, the other in Los Angeles. Each mastering house had a different guitar solo. As it turned out, I wound up experiencing both.

I read books and articles. I studied web sites. I listened to podcasts. I did NOT rely on Wikipedia. In more than once case, I let the interview subjects review the chapters they were in, and inform me of any necessary corrections. Without tooting my own horn too much, those incidents were few and far between.

When all that was done, I edited judiciously. A lot of material hit the cutting room floor. Then I asked my good friend (and former Air Force editor) Edward Wehrenberg to go over what I had done. Ed and I have known each other for 30 years. If anybody can call me on pretension or overreach, he can. And he did on more than one occasion.

And now I have a completed manuscript.

And that is how a cop can write a music book. I look forward to sharing it with you soon.

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