WANT TO GO?
WHERE: WVU Creative Arts Center, Morgantown
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
TICKETS: $40 to $55
INFO: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If there's one thing Don McLean has learned over the years, it's to be prepared. Over the course of his 40-plus year career, the songwriter best known for the American rock anthem "American Pie" said he's seen it all.
"I've had people throw things at me," he said. "I've had them come up on stage, fall out of balconies, get in fist fights. I came up the rough way."
Of course, most of that was when he was really starting out, long before he became anything like famous, playing small clubs and later when he was a little known opening act for bands like The James Gang and Steppenwolf.
McLean, who performs Saturday at the WVU Creative Arts Center in Morgantown, said he learned to deal with anything.
"You have to be really ready for everything," he said.
A few years ago, Charleston got a demonstration of that. On stage, performing his iconic hit at the Clay Center, McLean snapped an E-string on his guitar and without ever stopping the band or the song, he managed to install a new string and finish.
McLean didn't remember the show or the incident, though he wasn't particularly surprised. It's happened before, though not too often.
"It happened on 'Austin City Limits' once," he said.
Still, it's often enough that McLean carries spare strings in his back pocket and an extra guitar pin. He said he started doing that after learning that bluesman Josh White, one of his musical heroes, would sometimes break strings and fix it on stage.
"I figured if that ever happened to me, I'd have to figure out what to do."
McLean added that it took a lot of years of practice to be able to do something like change a guitar string while still performing and make it look seamless, but he said it was better than the alternative: stopping the show.
"A person who just walks in and starts singing one song after another is just like a deer in the headlights if they have to move off that script," McLean said. "When you're relying on this instrument in front of thousands of people and it fails you, you have to be able do something that's entertaining that can sort of save yourself."
McLean remembered back in his early, unknown days, watching a performer ahead of him lose an audience.