Memo to Carly Rae Jepsen, Frank Ocean, Hunter Hayes, Mumford & Sons, Miguel, the Alabama Shakes and all the other young singers and bands who are nominated for Sunday night's Grammy Awards:
Your real prize -- the most valuable and sustaining award of all -- may not become evident to you until 30 or so years have passed.
You will be much older.
But -- if you are lucky -- you will still get to be out on the road making music.
Many of Sunday's Grammy nominees are enjoying the first wave of big success. It is understandable if they take for granted the packed concert venues and eye-popping paychecks.
Those may go away -- the newness of fame, the sold-out houses, the big money.
But the joy of being allowed to do what they do will go on.
I've been doing some work while staying at a small hotel off a highway in southwestern Florida. One winter day I was reading out on the pool deck, and there were some other people sitting around talking.
They weren't young, by anyone's definition. They did not seem like conventional businessmen or businesswomen on the road, or like retirees. There was a sense of nascent energy and contented anticipation in their bearing, of something good waiting for them straight ahead. A look completely devoid of grimness or fretfulness, an afternoon look that said the best part of the day was still to come.
I would almost have bet what line of work they were in. I'd seen that look before, many times.
I could hear them talking.
The Tokens ("The Lion Sleeps Tonight," a No. 1 hit in 1961).
Little Peggy March ("I Will Follow Him," a No. 1 hit in 1963).
Little Anthony and the Imperials ("Tears on My Pillow," a top 10 hit in 1958).
Major singing stars from an earlier era of popular music, in town for a multi-act show that evening.
It is the one sales job worth yearning for -- carrying that battered sample case of memorable music around the country, to unpack in front of a different appreciative audience every night.
It's quite a world. I was fortunate enough to learn its ins and outs during the 15 deliriously unlikely years I spent touring the United States singing backup with Jan and Dean ("Surf City," a No. 1 hit in 1963) and all the other great performers with whom we shared stages and dressing rooms and backstage buffets:
Chuck Berry, Martha and the Vandellas, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers, James Brown, Lesley Gore, Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, the Kingsmen, the Drifters, Fabian, the Coasters, Little Eva, the Ventures, Sam the Sham. ...
Jukebox names whose fame was once as fresh and electric as that now being savored by Sunday's young Grammy nominees.