Last Friday I played a gig with my friend Rollie Tussing, a wonderful guitar player (with or without slide), stomper, songwriter, and generally good guy. He also wears old hats well—not an easy feat in the 21st century.

Rollie said he’d bring a set list for me. Because we’d had only one rehearsal, I planned to make some notes on it. But when I saw the list, I changed my plan.

It could have been a set list from a Lead Belly jam session—carefully formed words in 19th-century style, with tall, perfectly pitched Ps and curlicue esses.

Photo by Peter Smith

Photo by Peter Smith

Rollie explained that he had always printed, and his handwriting was horrible. He wanted to do something about it so he could teach his kids good penmanship. Few schools teach cursive—let alone penmanship. So he got some fountain pens and some pens with nibs, found some 19th-century examples to follow, and spent about three years practicing. He tries to pen something every day.

My handwriting is horrible too, but I just use my old Cuisinart injury as an excuse.

That night, I rewrote the set list really big with a Sharpie. It wasn’t beautiful, but at least we could all read it without our old-people glasses. I gave Rollie’s original to our house-concert host, Johnny Williams, who said he’d frame it.

The other great thing about this happy discovery of Rollie’s hidden talent is that I’m currently working on furnishing an 1830s doctor’s office/apothecary in Honolulu. I think I found my label maker!

I’m looking forward to playing with Rollie again on May 5. Maybe this time I’ll get my own set list to frame (hint, hint!). I can hang it above my desk for inspiration.