This is a story of playing "the wrong kind of blues". I was the guitarist in a 3-piece blues band about 15 years ago and we made the rounds of the clubs up and down I95 between Richmond and DC. We had just lost our drummer who was also a great singer. It was tough to find a replacement, but we eventually did and slowly started to get back into playing with the new band member. We had to rework a lot of songs - and had to drop a lot because none of us had the vocal quality compared to the drummer we lost. We found an opportunity to play a small bar in Richmond right in the downtown club area. Since it was Thanksgiving weekend, a lot of college kids were in town visiting home. The club owner said we could play for the door at $5 a head. We thought this would be a great opportunity, but we didn't have 4 full sets of material. To make up for it, we got a great keyboardist and sax to sit in so we could extend our songs with solos a little and make it thru 4 hours.
We play a lot of blues, but throw in a few R&B tunes just to mix it up.
We get through the first set pretty well. I had just seen the club owner coming out of the door of what looked like a vacant office about two doors down from where we are playing. The club owner comes up to me at the end of the set, was a little agitated, and said "You sound pretty good, but we're a blues bar, so don't play anything but blues." I said OK and blew it off.
We start the second set. I notice the club owner goes back to the vacant office down the street, and comes out a little more agitated and staggering. This set was cooking. We're getting a good crowd in there. The person at the door has a nice fist full of $5 bills. At the end of the set, the club owner comes back to me and said "you didn't hear me, I said I want you to play the blues and none of that other sh**t! We're a blues bar, understand?" I said yes, we'll do better.
We start the 3rd set and the house just started rocking. After a few songs, we played this upbeat version of James Brown's "Sex Machine" and the room just exploded. People we're being turned away at the door because it was so packed. Everyone was dancing. It was a sea of people just bouncing up and down in time to the music. It was one of those magical moments as a musician where EVERYONE was digging it. There was condensation dripping off the ceiling from the bodies and dancing.
The club owner now staggers back from the vacant office even more agitated for the 3rd time and yelled at me while we were playing. I couldn't understand what she said, but I didn't care because the room was so packed, that she had to be happy, right? Selling lots of drinks, right? Wrong.
All of a sudden, the power goes off on the stage. She had installed a circuit breaker behind the bar for when the band is not cooperating. She came up to me and said "I told you we are a Blues Bar and we only want Blues music, now pack your sh**t up and get the f*** out. And take your money!
So, we're packing up. What was playing on the bar music system while we were packing up? Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
...and we made nearly $2,000 that night!
I Played drums in a band at 17 years old, we were a great metal band and played tons of shows around Michigan. Our lead guitarist hooked up with a "bookie" who was going to help us get gigs. The first was this bar in St. Ignas just north of the Mackinaw Bridge. He informed our LG who told us, "its a small bar". He says just bring a small drum kit, practice amps only and your guitars. We packed up and hit the road... To our surprise, we roll up in a 77' flat black dodge van and the bar owner meets us in the parking lot and proceeds to throw an absolute public fit about the condition of our van. "Wheres the light show I was promised! Where are your rigs and busses?" We where like... "oh great..." We felt about a foot tall. This guy really let us have it for not being a huge pro band like he was promised. Shoot, we didn't even have the big guitar amps!!! We were told it was a small gig, and mind you this was 4.5 hours from where we lived. My Dad stepped up in this guys face (he was our manager at the time) and told him "Look, these guys can please your crowd and you'll make plenty enough tonight to cover it, LET THEM PLAY". Finally we got in to play, but that was only the beginning...
The bar owner was a complete jerk all night, even to the point that his wife was ripping on him for it. There was one point the bar maid told us "people buy shots for the band sometimes, with you guys being under age we'll give you shots of water and just go along with it". Well, they did that and it turned out to be shots of pepperment vodka. AHHH! Our singer was all freaked out and couldn't remember some of the chords (played rythm to) the gig seemed to last forever.
In the end, the owners wife paid us half of what was originaly negotiated and she snuck a case of beer out to our van for us to drink back at the motel.
What a trip that was...
We are a 7 piece variety/show band and we were booked into a bar the size of a hallway. The place was packed and we had played 4 songs when the owner came up and yelled at me that half the bar had emptied because of the volume.
I looked out at the packed house that had grown even more crowded while we played, and at that moment they were in the midst of a standing ovation. I was in shock. I left the band to perform a few songs alone and followed the owner outside. I told him what he said was simply not true. From my vantage point I could see EVERYONE who came and went.
His drunk wife intervened and and said: Turn the f...ing s... down! I looked at her in amazement, went in and brought the volume down 50%. The wife walked in, and stood at the front of the stage screaming at my guitar player! The audience realized what was happening, and started booing her and chanting "Bitch Leave" over and over! Four people came up and escorted her out of her own bar!
Back in the early eighties I was playing in a metal cover band. We booked a gig in a club with 2 rooms, one small one on the main floor and a large room upstairs with a large stage. We were told we would be upstairs playing with another band opening. We arrived with the full gear, Marshall Stacks, SVT, 11 pc kit with a gong and tympani, and were led to the tiny downstairs stage.
The club was collecting $2 at the door which was to be split between the bands. The place was wall to wall people. Being we thought we were going to play the big stage we brought a light guy who brought flash pots which we had never used before. Now we know what these things do however both myself and the other guitar player forgot about them and were both standing a foot behind each one when they went off.
It must have looked great from the audience but we both couldn't see for a while but made it through the song. The kicker was at the end of the night the bar owner brought our singer to his office to settle the money, put a gun on the desk and handed him $15 and said that's all we took in. Needless to say we never went back and he closed up soon after.
I had a band in Eugene, Oregon back in 1970 or so. We lived together in a big quonset hut on the wrong side of the tracks. It rained 60 inches that year between November and February. There were not enough places to play and we were nuts with cabin fever.
We decided to head down to LA. We stopped off in Mill Valley, California at a friend's unused apartment. There were six of us, 4 band, 2 girlfriends and all our gear and other stuff in a ford Econoline. We went to see San Francisco and the guitar player said "You wanna see the steepest hill in the city?"
As we got to the top we heard a bang but we went back to the house and all was fine.
The next day we got as far as Isla Vista, a college town outside of Santa Barbara when the universal joint went gone.
We had three days crashing around (hippie days) and booked a gig in a bar for the following Saturday.
Went to LA, found an apartment, drove to Santa Barbara for the show. Working for the door at a really popular bar. NOT!
No one showed! The bar had gone out of business and they couldn't pay us anything but said we could take as much food as we could carry: hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage. We were all vegetarians.
We went home with a 25 pound burlap bag filled with peanuts. See? It really does happen!
We were a 50's and 60's cover band playing in a tiny bar in Jersey. At the time I was traveling with Farfisa organ and a Leslie 760 cabinet (the big box with Tolex). The band was set up so close to the bar that I was standing directly behind the bar (playing keys) when the bartender came up to me with an empty beer bottle. He threw the beer bottle at me and I ducked.
The bottle landed with a crash in the large plastic garbage can I had failed to see when I set up! It was like a scene out of the Blues Brothers Country Bunker! The bar was such a tiny place that I had set up in the way of the garbage pail!
We played there MANY times and eventually I got used to having beer bottles tossed at me in between renditions of "96 tears."
Back in the early to 1960’s, in certain combat zone bars, I was periodically asked to fill in for absent or undependable guitar players in the local country bands. Being still in high school at the time, I was essentially a ‘bar room know-nothing’. Part of the gin-mill introductory education I was given was the directive to stop playing what ever song we were in and start playing the Gillette (“Look sharp…”) theme whenever we spotted any altercation that broke out in the bar or on the dance floor. That “Look Sharp…” tune was unmistakable and it gave the big guys, playing cards in the back room, time to come out and take care of business and clean up the mess before the Boston police could make it to the bar. It really worked.
Our wonderful drummer, who was driving with a suspended license, was pulled over by the CHP and had his truck impounded on the way to the gig. Along with his truck, The CHP impounded his entire drum-kit and the P.A. main speakers used at our gigs.
The drummer managed to get to the gig, but did not have his equipment. The owner had a packed house that night and was visibly upset that there were no drums on his stage. He let me know, "If there is no show, you got to go." This was the first night of 4 nights at his club.
I made a quick decision and turned the floor monitors towards the waiting audience (we had the p.a. board and power amps), anf I went into the kitchen of the club and found 4 empty five gallon buckets. I set the buckets up simulating a drum kit, duct taped a tambourine on one of the buckets simulating a hi-hat, I place a small 2x4 chunk of wood under another bucket to give it boom to simulate the bass drum, then i mic'd the complete kit with 4 microphones. I found an old broom and cut the handle into 2 manageable drumsticks. The band went on an hour late.
The crowd was so blown away that we were playing dance material with this set up that they started dancing the night away. Not only was the owner impressed, he booked our band every month at his club with one stipulation.. During the last set of the last night of the gig (4-nighter), we had to set up "The Buckets" and the owner advertised the set as "The Bucket Set". The night was a success and the band continued playing the club until the club owner finally sent all his profits up his nose and went out of business.
I played a gig in the early 80's at a club in Traverse City, Michigan. This was at the end of the Disco era, but this club was still decked out as a Disco. We came in, played the week and tore the place up. We were playing AC/DC, Aerosmith and current rock covers of the time.
At the end of the week I bellied up to the bar to get paid, and both owners came over. One owner (Hippie guy) said it was the best week they had ever had and couldn't wait to have us back. The other owner (Joe Disco) was upset that the agency misrepresented the band since we didn't play any Disco tunes.
The next thing I know these Two guys are in a fist fight behind the bar...I looked down, saw our money laying there on the bar, grabbed it and walked out the door. I never found out who won the fight, and never played there again.
I think that was the night Disco died.