For Bobby Keys, this weekend’s performance at Mount Airy’s Budbreak Festival isn’t that different from a stadium performance with his more well-known band The Rolling Stones.
Keys, the Stones’ saxophone player, said he’s looking forward to performing on the local stage in the same way he used to look at a performance in a world-famous stadium.
He will take the stage Saturday as the Festival’s headliner, performing with local band the Mediocre Bad Guys. On Friday night, Keys will attend a VIP party at Old North State Winery before taking the stage Saturday.
Keys said he intends to perform as if he were playing a world-class stadium.
“There is no difference in my mind between playing for 10 people and playing for 50,000,” he said Tuesday morning.” I perform the same way because music’s all about everyone having fun and when I’m on stage with my horn I’m having fun.”
Playing with new people helps keep him young and on the top of his game, Keys said, noting that just because one band is famous doesn’t mean another band doesn’t have world-class talent.
“I like the enthusiasm of a band who may have not gotten the following of a band like the Rolling Stones,” he said. “They might not have the big audiences, but their talent level can be just as high. It just depends on who gets the breaks and who doesn’t.”
And you never can tell how one moment in time can make all the difference.
A chance accident on a ball field changed his life, and introduced him to the instrument that would become his meal ticket.
Keys said that when in school he had an accident on the baseball field that resulted in an injury that precluded him from further athletics.
“I had gotten hurt playing baseball in school while sliding into home plate,” he said. “After that I couldn’t play football or baseball and the only way I could get into the football games was by joining the high school band, and the only instrument left was a baritone saxophone.”
That accident has resulted in his traveling the world with the Rolling Stones, playing cities like Moscow, London, Paris and New York, and even resulted in a moment of infamy that is hard to live down, Keys said.
While staying in a hotel in Denver, Colorado, a television set was hurled out a window and crashed onto the pavement below.
“I was one of the guys who threw the TV out the window,” Keys said. “I was really young and it was the beginning of our career and we were getting a little wild. While I don’t regret destroying a home appliance, I do regret getting asked the question after 40 years.
“After all the bands I’ve played with and the other things I’ve done in my career, it seems sad that that’s what continues to stand out in people’s minds.”
But don’t expect any rock-and-roll wildlife while Keys performs this weekend.
“I’ve been doing this for over four decades, and am 67 years old now,” he said with a laugh. “Everyone is starting to settle down these days.”
These days, Keys is simply looking for a good performance and a good time on stage, he said.
A friend who lives in Mount Airy, Skip Eckenrod, introduced Keys to the city several years ago, and the rest is history.
This weekend’s performance will be his third on a Mount Airy stage.
“It’s through Skip that I was introduced to the Budbreak event and the band that I’m going to be playing with,” he said. “I came down there to visit for a few days and while I was there this band was rehearsing in an old building. I took my horn and sat in and enjoyed playing with them.
“It was fun and I take fun where I can find it these days.”
During Friday night’s VIP event, Keys will be on hand with his new book and will be autographing copies during the evening, he said.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.