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On Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 2:45pm, my wife of 34 years, Rebecca, died in my arms in an emergency room.

The last words we spoke were in perfect synchronization: "I love you with all my heart."

 

 

Playing In Bars

 

Occasionally, a musician finds himself in strange situations. 

Somebody calls, needs a keyboard player tonight, and you agree. 

Then you load up about 1,000 pounds of musical equipment in your $3,500.00 trailer, hooked to your $28,000.00 van. 

Of course, you bring your custom made mic stand and $1,500.00 worth of mics for the Leslie. 

The Hammond and Leslies are worth - to some musicians - well over $30,000.00. 

 

After about two hours of driving, you arrive at the place. 

As usual, you're two hours early, so you have plenty of time to set up, check your equipment, and make any little adjustments. 

This is a work habit for me - it's better to be early and have time to deal with problems than to frantically deal with "last second" issues. 

 

You have to try and find a place to park so the equipment doesn't have to be rolled 12 blocks to get it to the stage. 

I'm real glad because I didn't bring one of my really good Hammonds.  When I'm crazy enough to play in a bar, I usually bring one of my A100s.

Very rarely will I bring one of my B3s to a bar. 

 

I don't like rolling my Hammonds down sidewalks.  I don't like rolling my Leslies down sidewalks, either.  Actually, I don't like rolling ANYTHING down sidewalks.

I HATE THOSE CURBS. 

And I'm spoiled - I'm used to pulling the trailer right up to where it's needed.

You're in luck this time.  The stage is only about one quarter mile away from the trailer, and it's not pouring rain.  Then you walk inside.

Whoops - nobody warned you about this!  The stage is about 8 inches high, and about the size of a very large desk. 

Immediately, you realize there's no room for a Hammond organ and 3 Leslies on that stage. 

So you say, "Who gives a damn?  Not me!  I'll just set up on the dance floor.  If people want to dance, let 'em dance on the tables!" 

 

About an hour later, the Hammond and ONE Leslie are moved inside, unstrapped, covers off, everything is hooked up, plugged in, and checked. 

The Leslie goes on the stage.  I go on the dance floor with the Hammond.  (Anybody offer to help?  Of course not.  Are you crazy?) 

 

Then the "bandleader" arrives, hears you play and gets all excited.  He loves your playing.  The other players show up - they love your playing.

WAIT!  One of the guitar players is wearing chrome cowboy boots!  I almost lost it when I saw THAT

(I couldn't figure out a way to plug his boots into a 220v outlet.  THAT would have made plenty of progress towards "better playing" - see the pics, below)

 

They want you to join the band!  And .... did you sit down and take your blood pressure medicine?  Well, you better! 

He makes you an offer anybody can refuse - he offers to pay you SEVENTY FIVE DOLLARS A NIGHTImagine that! 

With that kind of mega-money, you could almost fill the gas tank and have enough cash left over for a hamburger - if Burger King still has a 99 cent special. 

 

Consider it.  About 10 or more hours including loading the trailer, travel, unpacking, moving, setup, playing, takedown, repacking, and travel home. 

Before you pay taxes, you're worth almost $7.50 per hour. 

After you figure in all the costs, wear and tear, physical labor, upkeep on the musical equipment, and expenses, you're really worth about $0.11 per hour.  Slavery was abolished in 1865.

 

No point in bitching.  Let's just laugh at the pictures. 

We'll laugh because I hadn't cut my hair for over a year!  Who gives a damn?  Not me! 

Let's laugh because I brought some really nice stage clothes, and didn't even bother wearing them. 

Do you think I was going to walk a half mile to the van and back to go get my clothes?  Who gives a damn?  Not me! 

Let's really laugh because I spent the whole night laughing at the band.  Who gives a damn?  Not me! 

They all played like 12 year olds, and the drummer couldn't keep time to save his own life. 

Do you have any idea how hard it is to count to 4?  That drummer knows! 

Everybody in the band was impressed - they loved my playing.  Who gives a damn?  Not me!  I didn't like their playing. 

Meanwhile, I just kept laughing, and they couldn't even figure out why I was laughing. 

At the end of the night, the guy in the red clown jacket paid me $75.00.  I laughed at him, and gave it to a waitress as a tip.

When it was time for me to load the trailer, I pulled INTO the driveway.  My van and trailer blocked EVERYBODY from going out the driveway. 

I had a trailer to load - and I wasn't going to do the "1/4 mile", "jump the curbs" games anymore.

Who gives a damn?  Not me!  Let 'em wait - they'll live through it.  And if not - let 'em call 911.    

I just can't wait to play in that dump with that "blues" band again.  Who gives a damn?  Not me!

 

Not long afterwards, I was on the front page of the St. Pete Times Entertainment section.  Imagine that! 

I played a blues festival with 3 different bands in two days, and went home with about $1,200.00. 

Not only that - the Hammond and Leslies were supplied at the show!  I didn't have to move anything! 

 

THAT beats $75.00 anyway you look at it.

Getting Through "Jam Week" In One Piece

 

Years ago, I was invited to play a "Jam Week", and I said, "Sure!" 

I don't recall if it was four nights or five, so moving a lot of my equipment was nearly within reason. 

The money was almost reasonable, too.

 

What really made me nervous was leaving my equipment in the place. 

I've always felt better if I have complete control over my equipment - too many "accidents" can happen.

 

This "jam" consisted of four basic players: bass, drums, guitar, and keyboards. 

I knew the bass player, having played some other shows with him, met the guitar player once, when he sat in at a different show, and never met or saw the drummer before.  Actually, there were two different drummers, on different nights, and I never did know either of their names. 

 

Some details are in order.  Please take a minute to read ....

 

A "jam" kind of starts out with the basic group of four.  But then, anyone who can carry in an instrument can get up and play. 

That means there could be 10 (or more) people on the stage at any given time. 

Many of the "jam guests" could play and/or sing pretty damn well, others were obviously a little less capable. 

Some of them really should have stayed home. 

But that's expected.  In any case, everybody was welcome. 

Sometimes getting them off the stage was a real challenge, but I didn't have to handle it.  That was the guitar player's responsibility.

 

A real concern for a B3 player, is that somebody will accidentally back up or walk into the Hammond. 

This can literally break off the keyboard cover. 

Scratches from guitar or bass players happen, too. 

On a "tight" stage, it's real hard not to stay on edge, hoping the other players will have enough respect to keep from touching the Hammond. 

God help any of them if they tried putting a drink on my Hammond. 

For this reason, I very rarely brought a B3 to a job in a bar.  Instead, I'd most often bring an A100 - they're a lot less prone to damage. 

An A100 is exactly the same as a B3, but in a different style cabinet.  Everything is functionally the same, it's just in a different wooden box. 

All my A100s were completely rebuilt, and I didn't worry about a few nicks and scratches.  (An A100 is in all the pictures above.)

With my B3s, I was absolutely paranoid.   

 

Occasionally, I didn't like what was happening on the stage.  For example, 3 out-of-tune guitar players, all playing solos at once. 

When my head started pounding, I walked off the stage, sat at a table, and drank a beer.

 

The musicians that read this can easily understand how strange and unusual this type of job can be. 

You just never know what's coming next.

 

For unknown reasons, I decided to bring THE WORKS to this job. 

I didn't bring everything - my Hohner Clavinet, Wurlitzer 200, Roland XP10, and plenty of other instruments stayed home. 

But I think I had enough to almost open up my own music store. 

Here's a list of the equipment I did bring:

ProKeys Hammond B3 and two ProKeys Leslies (the stage was too small for three Leslies)

Kurzweil pc88mx

Vintage (1976!) ARP ProSoloist (this model can only play one note at a time - to me, it's the best synth ever made!)

Vintage (1974!) Cry Baby wah wah pedal for the Kurzweil

Keyboard PA for Kurzweil, ARP, and Leslie mics 

JBL 4725s, biamped (500 watts each bottom, 200 watts each top)

Mixer Rack

Mackie 16x4 mixer, White 4001 31 band equalizers, SpectraSonics power amps (1,400 watts) with active crossovers, and numerous (but unused) effects, Sennheiser 421s (Leslie top mics), ElectroVoice RE20 (Leslie bottom mic).

Some funny things happened during this job.  Probably the funniest was this ....

The club was also a very good steak restaurant.

Each night - after the 1st set - the group took a break for about 25 minutes, so we could eat our complimentary steaks. 

I turned the Hammond organ OFF. 

As soon as we sat down to eat, a guy came over and asked me if he could play the Hammond when the group started playing again. 

"Of course!", I said. 

After finishing our steaks, we walked back to the stage, and discovered this guy crawling around, on the floor, under the Hammond. 

I asked him what he was doing. 

He told me, "I'm looking for the switch to turn it on." 

No, this is not a joke.  It really happened.  My wife and I were hysterical.

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