Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean on Thursday night used a new tool to strike a chord with voters — a guitar. Dean had to borrow a guitar for his gig as a headliner at a Des Moines blues bar. “Bill Clinton has a saxophone, you understand what I’m saying,” said musician Michael “Hawkeye” Herman, the blues man who played and sang alongside Dean. “I ain’t going to say any more than that.” Dean, a former Vermont Governor and doctor, played an amplified acoustic guitar and harmonica during a three-song set in the tiny, dark, smoky bar. “I just want you to know that if I make a fool of myself, the campaign staffer who suggested this gets fired,” Dean joked before he had played a note. The crowd was a strange mix of men in business suits, college students in grunge wear and middle class office workers who stopped off on the way home from work. “I thought he was charismatic and the type of candidate that we need to re-energize the Democratic party,” said Carol Rieger of Minneapolis who flew to Des Moines for the event. Some in the crowd had to see Dean play to believe he could. “I’m amazed he can play all those instruments on top of all his other accomplishments,” said George Appleby, a Des Moines lawyer who is backing Dean’s candidacy. “He puts the rest of us to shame.” Others in the crowd shared Appleby’s sentiments. “I was behind him before, but it’s nice to see somebody human just gettin’ down with the blues,” said Eric Lee, a 26-year-old from Des Moines. In an interview last week, Dean said he taught himself how to play the guitar when he was 15, and waa going to perform on “sheer nerve” since he doesn’t consider himself an accomplished musician. Dean said public performances, for him, are rare. “I’ve only played once in my life, when I was sober,” Dean said last week. When walking out of the bar, surrounded by television cameras, microphones and campaign aides, Dean was asked if he was sober for Wednesday night’s performance. “I haven’t had a drink for 22 years,” Dean said.
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