Wooten attributes his early success in music to his parents, Dorothy and Elijah Wooten, who grew up in eastern North Carolina during the years of segregation. He says they learned to persevere against the adversit?y of ?racism and poverty. His father fought in the Korean ?W?ar and his family followed the path of many military families? of? moving around a lot. He said his parents were concerned that he and his brothers were not just good musicians but good people. Wooten defines a good person as “doing your best not only for yourself but for others.” His mother told him, “we need more people to lead the way up.” Wooten incorporates that as part of his philosophy as a performer, teacher and father of four.
The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search Through Music, Wooten’s novel, is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The book which follows how an unconventional music teacher works with a reluctant student, reflects Wooten’s own journey. ?Wooten learned music in the same way he acquired language. In his family both were “spoken” and both were learned in the child’s experimental way. He says, “babies are not corrected when they try to speak.” And adds, “we jam with babies all the time.” Music for Wooten is a language learned by experimentation. “Don’t try hard. Try easy,” he explains. “The goal is not to play the instrument, the goal is to play music.”
Taking a course in nature with naturalist Tom Brown, Jr. was a turning point for Wooten. As a student of Brown’s he learned to make fire and realized, “this man is teaching music through experience rather than rules.” Tom Brown taught Wooten to listen with more than his ears, with his eyes closed, tuning into vibrations. He could, through vibrations, feel the natural world around him and “hear” the weather patterns. Wooten was so impressed with this work that he combines it with learning music at his annual Bass/Nature camps conducted on his farm Wooten Woods outside of Nashville. This is the eighteenth year for the camps that teach music, nature and songwriting to older teens and adults. For more information: www.vixcamps.com
Wooten says that music is much more than technical wizardry. He cites B.B King as a musician whose stories told in music were so universal that his he is beloved by many all over the world. “A baby is born with feelings and an elder dies with feelings,” Wooten says. “You’ve lived a life of good and bad experiences. Music is a way of telling your story, saying what you have to say.” Wooten not only teaches that in his camps. It is the key to his creativity.
?”Songs come to me. Sometimes they come complete, sometimes as a whisper.” Wooten records these tidbits of inspiration on his cellphone to jog his memory. When he takes time to work on a new record he has these “notes” to begin with. Sometimes he composes lyrics to go with the music but often his songs are musical stories of feelings. He believes, “music does the same thing as language. People don’t have to understand it to get it.” In other words we don’t have to understand the rules and theories of music to be profoundly impacted by it. Music speaks to the whole body, not just the brain.
Wooten will perform at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points on May 17 with what he calls his “dream band.” Legendary drummer Dennis Chambers and esteemed saxophonist Bob Fransceschini will join him in an evening that combines both musical wizardry and storytelling. He says that those who come out will have a lot of fun regardless of whether they are coming for the mastery of the musicians or a show of musical stories that will effect them on many different levels. ?For tickets and information, visit this link.
?Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist and writer. His new double cd of music and poetry is Don’t Go Back To Sleep.?