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.