Steve Forbert

Among the Ramones’ blitzkrieg boppin’, the Talking Heads’ art-school New Wave and Blondie’s thrift-store garage pop at the now-legendary CBGB’s in the late ’70s, Steve Forbert stood tall as the lone troubadour. But it didn’t matter to him. “I never thought about it being strange to play there,” he recently confided from Nashville, his current home base. “I just figured they had live entertainment. I had done other auditions I didn’t get hired for, so what I did have to lose?”

Forbert left Meridian, Mississippi — down state from Elvis Presley’s Tupelo homeland — for New York City in June of 1976 to play music. “A lot was happening in New York at the time,” he recalls. “Even in Mississippi, we were able to acquire Patti Smith’s Horses and the Ramones were out — that was all very exciting.” He busked in the subway and Grand Central Station. “I was going anywhere there was a rumor of an open mic,” with Folk City’s hoot nights being the open mic crown jewel. “It was like being a kid in a candy store,” he remembers. “I made a lot of friends. I could learn a lot from people who were good, andI could learn a lot from people who were bad.”

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