Getting on bass with John Inghram
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- John Inghram will probably remember his big music debut longer than most musicians -- or rather, the bassist will remember what was supposed to be his big debut.
In 2005, the then 21-year-old was set to take the stage with the Bob Thompson Unit for Thompson's annual Joy to the World concert. Backstage on the night before the show, he was injured in a fall.
"I came through the back," he said. "I was running a few minutes late, so I was hustling."
Backstage at the Culture Center, there was a lot of chaos. The holiday special was being recorded for television. Inghram said there was a lot of equipment to dodge and it was kind of dark, so he followed the sound of the music.
"I took a wrong turn and ended up in front of what looked like a seemingly normal steel door."
He could hear the band warming up on the other side. He opened the door, reached out to move the curtain in front of him and stepped forward.
However, what he mistook for a black velvet curtain was just darkness, and there was no floor. Inghram fell about 10 feet down an open elevator shaft and snapped his femur in half.
"I could see the bottom of my right foot," he said. "I looked like a pretzel."
Inghram went to the hospital, and another bassist was brought in to play the show. Inghram spent months recovering.
"I spent a lot of time sitting around watching 'Kids in the Hall' and playing bass," he said.
But he recovered and has scarcely slowed down since, though his leg still bothers him from time to time.
"Arthritis," he said.
Inghram got into music as a teenager. He started with an acoustic guitar and switched to bass by the time he was in high school. He was serious about the music; the problem was that he wasn't serious about high school.
"I dropped out when I was 17," he said. "I was your generally reckless, lost kid."
Ighram said he stayed in trouble, liked to party too much and dabbled in drugs.
"I did a lot of things that embarrassed my parents."
While he can't say he got a lot from his high school education, it was during those years when he first started playing music with Thompson. (He now performs regularly with the pianist as part of the Bob Thompson Unit's standing Tuesday gig at The Boulevard Tavern.)
"I'd go over to his house," Inghram said.
He wasn't alone. A lot of young musicians would hang out at Thompson's house, including drummer Tim Courts and guitarist Ryan Kennedy, both of whom later became members of Thompson's band.
Inghram said, "We'd go over and get schooled by Bob. We'd go over basic stuff. He'd teach, and we'd hang out."
The bassist remembered one time he offered to pay Thompson. The piano player told him not to worry about it.
Inghram said Thompson told him, "Man, if you want to play and hang out, just come up."
After high school and encouraged by Thompson, Inghram and his friend, drummer Sam Wiseman, went to Marshall and studied music.
"We were like their first two jazz studies majors," he said.
It lasted less than a year.
"We were like, 'This sucks,'" he said. "There just wasn't anything going on at the time."
Wiseman went to Berklee Music College in Boston. Inghram went to The Collective in New York, where he spent a year studying with jazz players like Matt Garrison and Lincoln Goines.
"That was super cool, but then I came back to Charleston."
He played around locally and worked at Gorby's Music. When Thompson began looking for a new bassist for his band, he remembered Inghram.
"It was like everything came full circle for me," he said. "I joined the band, and that's when the real education started."
While some of his musician friends have left the area, Inghram said he's never regretted staying. He said he plays with top-shelf musicians -- probably better musicians than he'd have access to in other places.
He also has his family.
"I have an amazing family, a beautiful finance and an eight-month-old son," he said.
And there are plenty of opportunities for him to play. Aside from his various shows with Thompson, Inghram hosts an open mic/jam session one Sunday a month at the Empty Glass. He also has his own band called the Get Down Crew and recently joined 600LBS OF SIN.
"That happened last week," he said. "We played once in Charleston and then once at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown, and we've got a show Friday at the Empty Glass."
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.
WANT TO GO?
600LBS OF SIN
WHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday
INFO: 304-345-3914 or www.emptyglass.com