Listen to the full interview.
Marco Werman: Here's our final story on The World today. It's about opportunity, or rather, the lack of opportunity and how one man dealt with it.
As in, when the rest of the world is playing a 6 or 12 string guitar, don't think you've failed if what you end up mastering is a one string guitar. This is about a Jamaican musician who goes by the name "Brushy One-String."
Brushy One-String: My given name is Andrew Anthony Chin. I'm a black Chinaman. But my real dad is Freddie McKay, but because he went away when I was a babe, my mom had this Chinaman that she was with, and he just owned as his own, so I get his name, also. [Laughs]
Werman: Father was legendary rocksteady musician, Freddie McKay. His mother was a backup singer for Tina Turner. Seems the perfect background for a kid who wanted to make music, but his parents weren't around hardly ever.
So that was frustrating, but he persevered with his one-string guitar, picking tunes off the radio to play.
One-String: A country song, it goes like this.
One-String: And that was the first song I learned to play, and I run away to the next-door city, which is in Linstead. Where "I carry mi ackee, go a Linstead Market. Not a quattie worth sell."
Werman: Famous song.
One-String: Yeah. So I went to Linstead Market and I start to sing, "Comin' from the country," and the place was like full frenzy. And people was like, "Hey, there's a new madman in town, and he plays a one string guitar."
And I was like, "Yeah." And from that, the rest is history, man.
Werman: What's really interesting is that the first thing I hear is your voice. You've got a fantastic voice, and yet you said your mother used to sing backup for Tina Turner. Your dad, Freddie McKay.
So you know, when you hear about kids whose parents are musicians, they usually have a lot of confidence. Why didn't you seem to have that? I mean, people--it sounded like people made fun of you.
One-String: Yeah. My dad wasn't there, and my mom, she wasn't there. My mom was, like, in England, Europe, with Tina Turner. I know my mom when I was 31 years old.
Werman: For the first time?
One-String: For the first time. And I see my dad about two to three times in my whole entire life before he died. So I was always like a loner, always by myself.
Werman: One of his sole possessions, as a kid, was a guitar under his bed with just one string. And this is also where the Brushy One-String story starts to get spackled with his own folklore. It started one night with a dream.
One-String: About 3 o'clock, I get a vision with a one-string guitar. This is a shot. Man came to me and said I could take this guitar. I said to him, "Oh, I don't play old man guitar." He said, "You can play this one."
I take the guitar, began to strum it, and start to play. Then the man turned three stars and vanished away, and the advice from the stars say, "Take care of the guitar and the guitar will take care of you."
I wake in the morning and I say to my uncle, and he was like, "That's only one string. You have a nightmare, nothing like that."
And I was like, "Oh. I was doing it, though." And his girlfriend said, "Oh, go and get your guitar, man, and wipe it off and play one string. Dream do come true."
Werman: Well, 5 million plus hits on YouTube probably did not figure into those dreams, but it was one of the benefits, after Brushy posted a video of himself a year ago playing a funky number called, "Chicken in the Corn."
Just because the only guitar he had as a kid was the one under his bed with one string. You make do with what you got.
Werman: Brushy One-String. You've got to see this guy play, or rather, jam like a madman on his one-string guitar. Check out the video I shot backstage when Brushy was in New York, including this song right here. That's at PRI.org.
From the Nan and Bill Harris Studios at WGBH in Boston, I'm Marco Werman. Back with you tomorrow.