Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Toaster Toss (or late night olympics)

Another good Ken story. After a stint at a hotel (usually lasting a month or longer) we would have to pack up our gear and drive to the next gig. It was always funny that Ken (our "lead singer") would somehow manage to disappear for these gear loading parties. Ken, of course owned the band truck and his girlfriend would drive said truck while Ken slept on the way to the next gig.

Now it was bad enough that Ken would not help load the gear into his van, but we ALSO had to move Ken's personal belongings out of the way so we could get the gear into his Van. One night someone had the bright idea to see how far we could throw Ken's iron and toaster oven, much like a discus thrower at a track meet. We even marked the best throw with chalk, with the winner getting $20 for their olympian efforts. I will say that I won the iron toss by throwing it onto the roof of the Marriott Inn, a rather long toss I might add.  I can't remember who won the toaster oven toss. But I seem to remember that it somehow wound up on the side of I95.

But the best part of all this was when we arrived at the next gig. Ken was asking if anyone had seen his iron or toaster oven. Of course, no one had any idea what could have happened to them!

Man I miss Ken!!!!!

Stay Cool


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wet Tee Shirt Contests (or OMG not again)!

During my last year of being a full time musician, I played in a house band six nights a week at a very popular club in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. It was a great gig and we backed up a lot of headline bands that were once popular like Three Dog Night, The Supremes, Frankie Valley etc. The music was interesting and it was fun getting your picture taken with former famous musicians (can't say I know where all those pictures went though).

In the eighties, Ft. Lauderdale was THE place for college spring break, and hey, I was just out of college myself, so I truly enjoyed being at the center of the college spring break party scene. When we were not backing up former superstar musicians, it was our job to get the college crowd partying and dancing (not that it was hard to do with the amount of alcohol flowing in this club) remember the drinking age was eighteen back in those days!

Once the spring break season started we found out from the club owner that every Thursday night the band had the laborious task of judging the Wet Tee Shirt contest. This is where college girls from all across our great nation came to the club wearing a tee shirt with no bra, got hosed down with water, and then proceeded to take just about EVERYTHING off so that they could win the $100 grand prize. Word soon spread about this wonderful event and Thursday night was a happening at this club.

I remember thinking how God had truly smiled on me, giving this WONDERFUL job of watching co-eds from every college campus across these great United States jump up on stage right in front of me, take off every stitch of clothing while doing the most erotic dances I have ever witnessed! I HAD TRULY DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN! AND I WAS GETTING PAID TO DO THIS!!!!!!!

Now understand, I went to college for five years (more on that later) and I remember saying to myself "Where were these girls when I was in college?" But I surmised, I went to Eastman School of Music, spent six to seven hours a day in a practice room and maybe, just maybe, I did not get out enough to see that said girls actually did exist on college campuses.

Now after several weeks of doing this tough job I started to notice something. These drop dead co-eds with the PERFECT bodies never seemed to go back to college. I also remember thinking..."wow my spring break was only one week long, I went to the wrong school." After three months of judging the SAME girls doing the SAME gross things (yes, by this time it had gone from erotic to "oh god please don't do that again in front of me."

I was young, naive,  and a little slow on the uptake when it FINALLY hit me that these were not college girls at all, but local strippers! Needless to say it got VERY boring after three months and I was GLAD to see the spring break season end. But, hey! The REAL college crowd never caught on to this marketing ploy. I mean, they were only there for a week and then they headed back north, east, and west to continue their college careers while trying to locate these Drop Dead  Gorgeous girls on their own campus!!

Stay cool!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Food Fights!

One of the more boring aspects of being on the road was driving from gig to gig. While we usually stayed at a gig for 2-6 weeks, we still had some long hauls, especially when driving from NY to Miami, which we did at least twice a year. Typically leaving NY on a Saturday night after a gig and having to open in Miami on a Monday. We did ANYTHING to stay awake!!!!

We usually traveled in pairs with one person driving and the other person trying to stay awake. A game that we invented to keep EVERYONE awake was the food fight while going 65 down the interstate (at that time the speed limit was 55).

Here's how it worked. The driver of said vehicle would pull along side another vehicle in our caravan, and the passenger would throw as much food etc. at the other vehicle, while the passenger in the other vehicle was doing the same. It made for some VERY funny moments. And while I can't say that it was the safest driving habit, we did have a TOTAL blast seeing what food items would be coming out from your road foe. Jello and pudding cups was a favorite from my van!

I can only imagine what other cars must have thought about this event. It would have been a "hoot" to watch this!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Moons Over Miami

There will be a lot of stories about this band, again I won't mention any names. Let's just say that the leader, and lead singer, of this particular road band was the biggest "Tool" that I have EVER met, and that is saying something! For the sake of the blog I am going to call him Ken! Mostly because he had about as much personality as a Ken from the Barbie and Ken doll collection!

The band was centered around this singer (although calling him a singer is far-fetched) and we got to do several songs without Ken while he rested his "golden" pipes. One of the songs we did was titled "Shake Your Ass Off". It was a funk tune where the horn players (sax and trumpet) would be called down to the dance floor so do a solo while the band chanted "Riky shake your ass off" etc. We would then launch into a 16 bar solo (all that you were allowed because it may make people leave the dance floor). Although, for this song I never remember too many people actually being on the dance floor, because we were on it!

We were at this very posh show club in Miami Florida and we (me and the trumpet player, who was my musical brother and fellow Eastman grad) got the idea to moon the very upscale Miami audience while the band chanted the "shake your ass off" mantra.

Now this sounded like a grand plan while it was being hatched at a Denny's at 3:00AM over pancakes and bacon, but would we do it? You bet your ass we would do it! Mostly for the shock factor and mostly because we loathed Ken so much. After all it was HIS name on the marquee outside EVERY club we played. We were just the backup band. Ken WAS the STAR!!

So yes, we did it! And I must say that the audience kinda dug the whole thing. By today's standards this was pretty tame. In fact, I think we may have actually met more girls (not the type you want to take home to mom) by doing our "Moon Over Miami" routine for this song.

Did Ken like it?? That would be a big NO! Even though he was never there to see it. We only did this particular tune so that Ken could go back to his dressing room and change into another outfit for his next big "vocal" feature.

But I have to say that I "loved" the expression on Ken's face when I informed him as he was leaving the stage to change outfits, that "The moons were coming out tonight." The look of Sheer terror on his face was worth every dollar that we were later fined for this particular show stopper.

And you may also ask why Ken never fired us? Well, let's just say that we wrote all the arrangements for Ken, rehearsed the band, and made Ken look like he actually knew what he was doing. And on top of all that, we WERE a kick-ass horn section. So I guess he could forgive us once or twice in a blue moon...

As for the fines...this was the first of many that Ken would put in place because of the horn section!



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Do Drums Float?

Many years ago, in a land far, far away. I had a gig on a certain tourist ship that cruised a fairly large lake in New England. Now, let me say that this was one of the WORST bands and WORST gigs that I have EVER done, and I have done my fair share of "bad" gigs in my life. What is really sad is that I stuck this gig out for four long years before I "jumped ship"! And believe me there were many nights that I almost did jump ship!

The drummer on this gig was a stitch, an old timer, and really a good "hang" but his time keeping left a little to be desired. I was part of a trio-drums, organ/keyboard bass, and yours truly! The organist also had a drum sequencer that she liked to use along with the drummer. I had the lovely task of setting up between the two while trying to decide which time keeper to go with-the "real" drummer or the drum sequencer. I lost that battle every time.

Now, I always try to find a positive in any gig. This was a tough one. We wore sequined green mirror glass vests with green top hats while playing on the upper deck of this ship (which was not one of the most stable rides I have ever been on). What I did GET from this gig was the ability to transpose on sight in any key. I would open up the book to a song in Eb and in 4/4. The leader would then say "oh we do this in F# and in 3/4. She would then count off the tune and we were off and running. Understand that the first two or three weeks on this gig for me were not pretty! But after about a month of this torture, I could have done any tune backwards and upside down while still dressed in my sporty green vest and hat!

Now for the truly funny part. The load in for this gig was pure hell to say the least. You had to do it while the ship was docked and before they started to board folks for the next dinner cruise. You had to back your car down a very narrow driveway with the lake on one side and a solid brick wall on the other. Once you backed in, you were stuck there because there were two other bands playing on the ship as well. It was gridlock at its finest!

You then carried your gear up to the dock and then up a VERY steep gangplank onto the ship. Not too bad for the sax player but an accident waiting to happen for my favorite drummer. Also understand that the dock was a good twenty feet up from the lake! So here he goes, all the drums loaded onto one of those hotel baggage carts, and might I also add, WITHOUT drum cases! Yep, Over they go! Twenty feet down and into the lake!

Fishing them out was a true hoot with all crew members involved. And.. I found out that the bass drum does indeed sink! You should have seen them trying to get that off the bottom of the lake. The best part of all was that I thought his drums actually sounded BETTER! And all this as we opened our gig like we did every night with "The Love Boat" theme song. Gotta love that!!

Happy Gigging!


Bring On The Funny Stories!!

Recently, after something VERY funny happened during a VERY Serious gig, I mean I was laughing my ass off during this very serious gig (and I was not alone) , I started talking with my bandmates about memorable gigs and what made them memorable. After about an hour of trading stories, we decided that playing great, having a great musical experience, burning up a solo, etc. etc. really meant NOTHING! What made a gig truly memorable was the funny crap that happened before, during, and after a gig! THAT was the stuff that memorable music was made of!

As I was telling several of my favorite gig/road stories during our next break, someone said "You really should write this stuff down." I really did not give it much thought until the next day when I was out on my daily run in the woods with my black lab Miles. Now understand, Miles does not do a lot of talking on these runs, so my brain has to do something to pass the time. While running I started thinking about all the funny crap that has happened to me over the past thirty plus years of playing, teaching, and composing (yes even composing) and I started smiling on my run (which never happens) as I started to remember more and more road/gig stories.

If nothing else, I want folks to realize that a musical life really is PFUNNY! The stories range from PG to XX and everything else in between. I won't include dates, band names, musician names, or anything that may point a finger to a "real" person because I still perform and record with some of these cats. They are in random order, and not really ranked in order of funniness (is that even a word).

Hopefully this will make you laugh and give my students a glimpse into what it REALLY is like to make a living as a musician!