Friday, September 12, 2014
I'm With The Band
I used to manage a Rock and Roll band. Are you surprised? I do seem like a rather dull person after all. But it is true.
They were a bar band that played mostly oldies. I met them not long after they were formed by the owner of a bar. He wanted a good band to bring in weekend customers. He also like to perform a little. His signature song was Annie Had A Baby originally sung by The Midnighters. It was sort of a sequel to Work With Me Annie also by The Midnighters. He did it very well.
The band consisted of a drummer. guitar player, bass guitar player, keyboardist, and saxophone player. As with all bands there were members who left and others took their places but the same instruments were a constant. All the members could sing, some better than others. Usually there were only two members who did the bulk of the singing.
The original five were chosen by the bar owner. There was a guitar player who was a friend of the owner and he sort of built the band around him. He sang a lot of Dion and the Belmonts songs and songs of that type. He was the first to jump ship.
All of the guys were good friends to me. I kept track of them for years even after the band was no more. Their favorite saying was "All bands break up". It did eventually but I was gone before it was completely dead.
The original bar was a rather grubby little place. It was a place frequented often by bikers of the lowest sort. It was not in a safe neighborhood. We negotiated and found a new home.
A friend of the saxophone player had a popular place and was interested in opening another. We were happy to move. Besides it was more money. It was a great gig.
We played there Wednesdays through Saturdays. Sundays and Tuesdays we played at the original bar of the new boss. Mondays we occasionally played at another place. We were in high demand because the guys were good.
I have to admit that one group of the fellas was my favorite. The saxophone player and keyboard player had been originals with the band. The guitar player almost became a family member after he introduced me to his brother. The bass player was such a talented singer. And the drummer was a real character. I will tell you about them and maybe a few of the others.
If you ever frequent a bar that has a band you will notice that even though they circulate to get to know the crowd they usually have a table of their own. I was in charge of the band's table. Actually I was often the most popular female in the place.
I was amused at the women who flirted and tried to get the guys to just notice them. One of the guys had the nerve to try to look innocent and surprised when I said that they all knew they could have their pick of any of the women in the place.
A lot of the women tried to become "besties" with me. Actually I did make several true friends who are still important to me.
I would sit and chuckle to myself when I saw a certain woman set her cap for a certain member of the band. The saxophone player was a favorite target. I think it might have been partly because he was very friendly but it was mostly because he was looking for a companion for the night himself.
I remember one night when there were three women at the band table waiting to see who he would choose that night. Each of them knew that the other two had the same thought. Juggling for position and attention while trying to be "cool" was a sight to see. He ended up with someone else that night.
The drummer was new. He was quite young... to the point that he did not even know some of the music the rest of us were familiar with. He had to learn a lot of the songs the band performed.
One night I was discussing the playlist with the soundboard operator. He also DJed during band breaks so the customers could keep dancing. Suddenly someone grabbed me around the waist from behind. Reflex made me elbow the ribs as hard as I could. It was the drummer.
As soon as he caught his breath he apologized. When he told the other band members what had happened they jumped all over him. We did become great friends once he realized I was not a groupie.
My favorite of the drummers was tall and skinny. I do not mean thin I mean skinny. I used to tell him that if he turned sideways he would disappear. He grew up poor in an ethnic neighborhood and was happy there. He told me that he knew he was a different color than the other kids but he was pretty sure his skin would change as he got older.
His mother told me she knew he would be a drummer because he would bang on anything that would make the noises. As he grew older he began to sing and oh could he sing. He was a sessions singer at Motown Records for years. With the band some of the songs he sang were Lionel Ritchie songs. The saxophone player once said that the drummer put Lionel Ritchie on the map.
The saxophone player and the drummer were old friends. They had worked together for several years with the Elvis Wade Review.
Bald men love my best friend. She does not understand it but they are drawn to her like moths to flames. The truth is that most men are drawn to her because she is really beautiful. We were laughing about it when we were first getting to know the band.
I was telling the guys about the bald men liking her while the saxophone player was trying to put the moves on her. While I was telling this hilarious tale I looked at the saxophone player with his always present hat. I said, "I'll bet even you are bald!" and grabbed his hat off his head. Except for the two lines of hair plugs in the front the top of his head had absolutely no hair. I am not sure which one of us felt worse.
Our bass player took a job with another oldies band in the area. They were very popular at the time. His replacement could sing almost anything. How many people do you know who can do a good job of covering the Animals version of House Of The Rising Sun?
I am not a big Willie Nelson fan. He writes some of the most wonderful music but his voice makes my backbone tighten and hurt. Our bass player sang Angel Flying To Close To The Ground. The amazing thing is that he sounded like Willie Nelson but without whatever irritating noise that is. It is a beautiful song.
His father used to come in to visit his son once in a while. He liked to dance but was not looking for a relationship. Well I like to dance and I did not want entanglements either. He was a good dancer with even a little ballroom dancing thrown in. We had a good time and went our separate ways when the bar closed.
I had never been able to master the polka. It sounds silly I am sure but I just could not seem to get it. The bassist's father actually taught me to do the polka. I still need someone to start the dance with me but I can do it.
Our guitar player also sang. He began to sing a song called On Broadway. I never did like that song. I think maybe it was a little too "funky-bluesy" for my taste. But he did it so well. I told him that I did not like the song but I liked the way he did it. He told me it was one of the best compliments he ever received.
Often I would suggest songs for the band to learn. Some of the songs just were not right for the band but sometimes I got lucky and they would learn it. Imagine my surprise when they performed a song I had suggested for my birthday one year. The bass player dedicated it to me and then began to clumsily say that it sounded funny to dedicate the song to me because it was not they way they felt. The song was I Hate Everything About You originally done by Ugly Kid Joe. I loved it.
The keyboard player could sing but did not normally. Once in a great while he would. He felt his voice was too thin. He just had to choose the right songs for his talent that's all.
I even got in on the act occasionally. I cannot sing. But with a good soundboard and a little echo most of us are okay. The band would invite anyone who wanted to participate to come up on the stage. We would crowd around the microphones. The song was Do Wah Diddy Diddy as sung by Manfred Mann.
I sang the lead beginning with There she was just a'walkin down the street and the rest of the people would follow with Singin do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do. It was great fun for all of us. Sometimes I was quite good and sometimes not but I had a good time and it was a good way to make the crowd feel like a part of it all. Once I was even excellent. The whole band just stared at me. I just told them that it comes and goes. My goodness I was cocky.
The many incarnations of the band and I went through so many things together. There were births, deaths, marriages, divorces, new homes, tragedies, betrayals, and love affairs. Through it all we were the best of friends most of the time. None of us is in the business of music any more but we all still love music. And we still love each other.