I was in a society band in the mid-1980s. The singer was just horrible but the musicians were as good as any I've played with. I was playing bass then and we had a keyboard (Fender Rhodes), guitar and drummer. We used to embellish songs and the singer had not a clue. When I say "embellish" I mean like playing the German National Anthem behind "Hit Me With Your Best Shot". Because the singer was able to get good paying jobs, I guess that's why we stuck together.
We were playing a Marine Formal Affair at a local base. The Marines were there, along with their wives/girlfriends and parents. One young Marine wanted to sing New York, New York and dedicate it to his mother.
So we start the song: ba da, da-de-da, ba da, da-de-da, ba da, da-de-da boom...2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 "Start Spreading the news" 2, 3, 4, 5, 5-1/2 I'm leavin' today" 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3 "I want to be a part of it, New York New York", 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, "These vagabond......etc.
Anyway, the singer had the worst timing I've ever heard. When he decided to stab at the song in his unknowingly techno-poly-rhythm style, this band was RIGHT THERE. A lesser band would have been laughing on the floor or totally would have been frustrated. This band played behind him like they were the Wrecking Crew.
I really miss that band.
A couple years ago I answered this ad on CL, an ad asking for musicians who can sing and play one of several instruments. The ad promised only high-paying high-class gigs, with none of the “usual” bar band drama issues and ego trips. No late nights, no heavy gear to haul. No drugs and/or alcohol. Work with a “seasoned veteran of the music business”. There would be writing and recording opportunities. I sent my contact info, along with a short bio as a keyboardist. I got called WITHIN AN HOUR. That was strange. It would get stranger.
The guy (Mr. “Biz”) said he'd played all over the country, was a published song writer, and was related to a major recording artist. He's played multiple instruments for decades. I'm thinking this guy kinda sounds like a few other wannabe/posers I've dealt with before, but maybe I might make some money with him. I agree to meet him and a few other players later that week.
We met at one of the other players' practice area. Mr. Biz had been emailing all of us with songs he claimed were “top 40 hits” from the '50s on up to the present. Some of them were top 40. Most of them I had to look up. Mr. Biz said he had pulled these songs from a couple local radio stations. These songs were in the DJ's top rotations, he said. Ha! Even the local college station wasn't playing them! The other guys in the band also expressed some concern with the songs, but Mr. Biz brushed the concerns aside with “I've done this successfully in a couple other states and I know this songlist works.”
He has a little tiny PA system (part of the “no heavy gear” bit) and a single panel of pole-mounted lights. He has mic stands for everybody, and insists we use them. There is also a device that generates 3 part harmonies with just one vocalist. That was kinda cool. It would give you a 1-3-5 or 1-4-6 harmony with the push of a button. It got the notes it needed from a guitar plugged thru it, kind of like a big effects board. But the guitar had to be in tune, and the operator had to know what the harmony notes were supposed to be, i.e. 1-3-5 or 1-4-6...
We start off by playing a Eagles song. Mr. Biz hits his vocal toy. And of course it's set wrong. Sounds like hell. He turns to me and the guitarist, saying “you guys aren't singing the right parts.” Me and the guitarist looked at each other with amazement. Is this guy serious...? Plus he hasn't shut off his toy, and his speaking voice is being harmonized. Creepy. We stumble thru a couple more songs, some better than others, and call it a night thinking this may work out. Yeah, right...
A couple more rehearsals go by, and we're seeing a pattern of leads and signature hooks within certain songs being omitted. We point this out to Mr. Biz, and he says “oh, we'll work that stuff out later”. He's also constantly emailing us about how we're putting together the “only truly professional” band in town. We're talking 10-15 emails daily. He's also buying a lot of cheesy “promotional” items.
We had an audition for some wedding, and played a couple tunes in between Mr. Biz's attempts at humor. We thought we had the gig until we learned Mr. Biz turned it down because they wouldn't pay him up front...(?) That, I think, was the final straw. We had been talking within the band, and decided our chances and fortunes would be MUCH better off without Mr. Biz. He seemed indifferent when we told him. “You guys have obviously failed to recognize that a chance to play with a professional like me is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you just threw it away...” No egos, eh...? Whatever. We're still together (well, most of us) and gigging around. Mr. Biz is still posting ads looking for “serious and reliable” musicians. He is, and probably will remain, oblivious to the fact that HE'S the reason he can't find anybody to play with.
An Audition is Like a Blind Date
OK, this isn't exactly a "gigging" experience PER SE, however it does pertain to gigging and I think there will definitely be folks out there that can relate.
When I came home from the service I started going to the local community college, and wanted to put together a cover band to make some money. I of course looked up all the musos I jammed with growing up, but they had all either moved or were in bands, so I had no choice but to revert to posting and answering ads in CL, music stores, the back of the Advocate (a local rag that had classifieds in the back for musos) etc. etc. After having gotten nowhere, I finally answered an ad for a singer that was looking to put together a gigging cover band with the express intent of making money, which is exactly what I was looking for, so I gave him a ring. He seemed really cool and laid back and normal on the phone...he said that he had been in a pretty successful cover band a while back (I had never heard of them, but then again I hadn't been in the scene at all) and had a killer PA and light set up but that he left it because they had stopped wanting to gig as much as he did, but that he had great "connections" with all the local venues and all that. He also said that he had a bassist and drummer that he had talked to that seemed to fit the bill and wanted us all to meet at his house. It was only a few towns over from where I was, so I was good to go. I got there first, and even though he was a singer he had an acoustic, so while we were waiting for the other guys, I started strumming some standards and he sang them, and he was really good!!! I was pumped!!!! Then the drummer and bassist arrived...he continued to be the same cool laid back guy I had talked to, and offered us all a drink, and suggested we all sit down at the table. It's then that I witnessed one of the most extreme Jeckyll and Hyde moments I've ever seen...
He sat down, and his demeanor changed immediately, as if he was suddenly a CEO running a board meeting. He proceded to pull out a bunch of handwritten papers that had all the "rules" we would be following, saying, "OK, here's the deal" and proceeded to read every rule in it's entirety...each one started with "Every member shall...." and there were things on there from "arrive 15 minutes early to every rehearsal and gig" to "know the setlist by heart" to "wear the agreed upon clothing" to "contribute to band funding needs as they arise" to "constantly maintaining professionalism and excellence in all we do" and things like that. The rest of us started to look at each other like "Is this guy serious?"
As if that by itself wasn't bad enough, once he was done reading "the rules", he said "OK, item two: setlist. These are the songs we will be playing" and proceeded to pass out handwritten setlists to all of us and read it aloud. It was all over the place, and was one of the most inappropriate set lists for a gigging cover band that I'd ever come across...it had songs from just about every different genre, and most of them were totally obscure songs by little known artists....
At this point we all just kind of looked at each other again, realizing what was happening, and were all getting ready to bounce...it was really frustrating, because in the ad and on the phone he had been completely different, saying that getting paid to play was the main goal and that he wanted to do all the mainstream stuff that is the only stuff that is gonna get a cover band paid...If had told us that it was gonna be his band and we were all just gonna be hired guns for his band that was gonna be playing totally obsucre music that no venue would ever want to have as a cover band, that would've been one thing, it would've saved us all a lot of time. Also, I was all for being in a band with a strong leader and agreed upon rules, but this was just over the top, especially given his reiiculous set list. Finally I spoke up and said "Look man, this isn't at all what we discussed on the phone, this is not something I'm interested in getting involved with at all. The rules are one thing, but there's no way we're ever gonna make any money with this setlist. Seriously man you were like a totally different person when we talked on the phone, where is all this coming from?" The bassist and drummer then chimed in echoing my sentiments. (I would have tried to convince him about doing a different set list but I could tell it would be a lost cause). He just stared blankly at us for a few seconds, then started acting like a little kid, sarcastically saying "well, fine, if you guys don't realize what it takes to be successful then I don't want to work with you anyways".
We all then just started saying "Uh ok, well, uh, umm,..." and got up and left. We started talking amongst ourselves on the way out to the parking lot, basically kinda like "did that just happen?" One of the guys was really pissed cuz he had driven over an hour to get there. It's funny though, cuz it actually worked out, we ended up exchanging contact info and ended up putting together a cover band making some decent money that lasted for a decent while.
I sometimes wonder where that guy is today and how many experiences he's had like that since then, since I'm sure he'd continued to do it to this day!
This is but one of at least a hundred "gig" anecdotes, from the guy stuck in the cramped corner of a dark stage, that's right, the Drummer!
This particular venue was a bowling alley,night club, restuarant, very lo-key, in fact I only put the band together that day on the phone! While we were setting up,and discussing the set lists, it dawned on me that I had invited good players, with no vocals! Too late now, time to go, bar's packed!
Luckily, I'd been doing this a while and actually knew a lot of songs! Unfortunately, I only knew the words to a couple. So at first, I made up words, or worse, just babbled. Later in the evening, after a little "lubrication" I got brave and started spewing fairly suggestive lyrics that brought the band to near convulsive laughter.
Somehow, we got through it, had the best time, lots of solos, and most surprisingly, no one, not even the help noticed that we had rewritten ALL the music! I was expecting some serious grief from the owner, instead he wanted us to be the house band. Are you kidding me?
I was playing lead guitar for a local Country band and at the end of the night we played a song called "Momma don't allow no playing round here." The premis was to do a verse and let each player solo. It was our way of recognizing each member of the band. This was extremely up tempo and in the key of E. Our rhythm player always counted down and started the song. The count started and for whatever reason on this night, our rhythm player started in the key of C We knew right away we were in trouble as the rest of us started in E A ghastly collection of noise began to fill the air. Being on the other side of the stage I could not see his fingers so I yelled to the bass player "what key is he in? He responded I think he's in "G" To which I thought he said Key of "D" I turned to the keyboard player and said he's in "D" To recap Rhythm player in "C" bass in "G" lead and keyboard in "D" and drummer in "what in the world is going on??"
As the drone of noise continued and as our lead singer who never let us know who would be the first to solo; proclaimed " and here's Frank on keyboards!! We all dropped out, to nothing but silence and the sound of Frank, completly lost (as was I) tinkering on the keys trying to salvage a lead and laughing hystericaly.
By the middle of the song we finally got on the same page and finished what, to this day was the worst rendition of a song I have ever been part of.
But what makes the story classic is that as we finished this last song, the crowd who obviously had been at the bar all night long began this fist-pumping- hootin'n holloring- standing ovation- calling for an encore chant. We looked at each other cracking up laughing and 35 years later we still laugh about that night.
We are an Irish punk/rock band with a limited number of local venues to play in and when a new Irish pub and restaurant opened in a suburb of our city we felt lucky to be booked for the grand opening of the place. The day of the gig, I came down with a raging ear infection that left me completely deaf in my good ear and I am already 1/2 deaf in my bad ear. To combat the pain, I took with me a heavy pain reliever (which unbeknown to me had a codeine base), that I intended to take just before the gig. I arrived at the pub and we had to walk our equipment through the rows of tables and chairs to the stage while dodging patrons and waiters all the time. We had been told to arrive early while meals were still being served but they decided to have us wait until the eating patrons left before starting our set. Since we had a lot of time to kill, our lead guitarist and female singer decided to imbibe even more heavily than they had been, and they got completely snockered. Eventually, the restaurant crowd left and the place switched over to a pub type of atmosphere and crowd. I took my pain pill because I was miserable, and immediately realized because of my intolerance of codeine that I had made a huge mistake. I had to run out the door of the pub and hurl on the sidewalk to the disgust of several entering patrons. Sheepishly, I walked back in and geared up my electric mandolin only to discover on my opening act solo, I have become almost stone deaf and can't hear a thing. I am assured by my band mates that I have the right sound level coming out of my amp, so we proceed to continue on with our set with me having to feel the beat of the song based on vibrations from the bass and drums.
1st set is complete and not a complete disaster. So far so good, but then Murphy and his law came to visit. We started our second set with a song we had only rehearsed a couple of times where I switched to playing bass. Our bass player likes to play cro-magnon style with the bass around his knees, and when I put it on I could not reach the lower strings. I am left trying to balance a heavy bass on my knees to play, the guitarist forgets the key and starts in a way no one recognizes, and the lead singer loses her balance and trips on a mic stand sending it sprawling. The song comes to a dead stop with everyone looking at each other like WTF? By this time the codeine had really kicked in and I was so woozy that I could barely function because the room was swaying like the deck of a ship at sea.
Cue the pub owner who decided it was time to try out his new light system. He doused all the house and stage lights and fired up a bright (did I say really,really bright?, nuclear powered strobe light that came on without warning right in our faces during a particularly difficult song. Between not being able to even see the frets of my mandolin, and deaf to whether I was in the right place or not, coupled with the surreal sensation of chemical drunkenness and intermittent visions of my totally wasted band mates trying to cope with the situation as well, it is no wonder we were not invited back to that venue. I was told we sounded like a band that was trying to play 3 different songs at the same time. We laughed about it later, but to this day I hope no one who knows me was at that pub.
A local contractor put together a band to back up a famous comedian. For him, we only had to rehearse the theme from his TV show. The opening act was to be a singer, who had 5 tunes to rehearse. Rehearsal was scheduled to be from 3 to 5, but that seemed like a bit much. We only had 6 tunes! We should be able to knock that out in half an hour, right?
We arrived to find that the stage was not ready, even though they’d had all day.. We took our places while the crew strung cables and lights and bumped into everyone. At 3:30, things were finally ready. The comedian’s assistant noted that there were two entrances to the stage, one on the left and one on the right. The ‘green room’ was to our left, while the soundboard was set up on stage right, blocking the right-hand entrance. The Assistant declared that The Comedian can only enter the stage from the right, and so the soundboard will have to be moved, along with every single microphone cable, along with the drum riser and drums. We pointed out that the green room was where he’d be coming out of, right? And so he should be OK entering from the left. Nope, said The Assistant. He can only enter from the right, and the entire stage would have to be re-set. The crew told him that it would take an hour, which would chew up most of the rehearsal. The Assistant was not pleased, because The Comedian (as has been mentioned) can only enter from the right. Discussions and arguments ensued. Meanwhile, the band just sat there, straight through our scheduled break. Finally, it was reluctantly decided that The Comedian would have to enter from the left whether he liked it or not.
At this point, at was after 4 pm, and we still hadn’t played a note. The Assistant asked us to play the theme song, which we did. “Hmmm,” he said. “Can you play that sharper?”
The bandleader asked, “Do you mean higher in pitch?”
“Uh, no, I mean . . . um . . .
“Do you mean more energetic?”
“Yeah! That’s what I mean! More energetic! Play it more energetic!”
So we played it again, exactly the same as the first time. “That’s what I wanted!”, said The Assistant, proud to have asserted his authority.
Then the opening act singer came out to rehearse her tunes. One of them had a count-off that started like this: “One, two, one-two-three” and then the band started playing pick-up notes after beat 3. Everything was fine at rehearsal.
Then The Comedian showed up at 4:30. The Assistant explained the tragic situation about the stage-right entrance being blocked by the soundboard, and could he possibly make an exception to his policy and enter from stage left just this once?
“Of course. What’s the big deal?”, said The Comedian. “I can enter from either side.”
“Oh,” said The Assistant.
“Let’s run my theme and get the timing for when I leave after my last joke, and then come back for my encore. Here’s what my last joke will be, and then I’ll say ‘Good night’ and walk off, and I want you to start playing the theme. Then I’ll come back and I want you to stop playing when I grab the mic. OK?”
So we ran the theme while he practiced walking off and walking back. After a couple of run-throughs, everything was fine. The piano player was to count off the theme song at the end of the show.
On the actual gig, for the singer’s tune with the pickup notes, the drummer forgot the pickup notes and counted it off thusly: “One two three four!” One bandmember started playing after beat 3, while everyone else just sat there, waited another bar and then came in one bar after the first guy . Nothing like a train wreck before the main act has even taken the stage.
Then The Comedian came on and did his show. When The Comedian’s final joke happened, he said “Good night” and the audience started clapping. He turned and looked at the band, wondering why we weren’t playing. The band was all looking at the piano player, wondering why he hadn’t counted off the theme music. Turns out he couldn’t remember the tempo, so he grabbed his metronome and was trying to find the tempo so he could count it off. Meanwhile, The Comedian is glaring at us all. The applause is starting to die down. It’s excruciating. The piano player is frantically turning knobs on his metronome. The Comedian walked off without music. Finally, the piano player counted off the tune. But he only spoke loud enough for the drummer to hear, so the drummer starts playing ‘spang spang-a-lang’ without the band playing. Gradually, the band stumbled into it as best we could and somehow croaked out the theme song with half the band out of sync with each other. As the applause was almost over, The Comedian walked back out and grabbed his mic. Half the band kept playing, causing him to turn around and glare at us again. The band train-wrecked to a halt. After his encore joke, we were supposed to play the theme music again. Once more, the piano player whispered the count-off to the drummer, who started playing ‘spang spang-a-lang’ unaccompanied, and we all stumbled into the music one by one and butchered his world-famous theme song for the last time.
Just like Vegas, baby!
Two years ago, I was the guitar player in a band along with a drummer, sax player, bass player, and a female vocalist who also insisted on playing keyboards and harmonica, despite all admonitions that she did not have the chops. Because she was the so-called leader and ‘manager’ of the band, she was going to play them regardless of what anyone else thought.
We had already played a few gigs together. They were, shall we say, rough but I felt the band was improving to the point where I thought we could do a live performance at a community cable TV station that had a regularly scheduled live show featuring local bands. There was also the added bonus of obtaining a broadcast quality video that we could use for promo purposes. It would also give this woman an opportunity to really showcase her ‘talent’. Therefore, I contacted the studio and they booked us for a two hour time slot.
When she arrived along with the sax player (who was boinking her at the time), it was obvious that she was half drunk. They emerged from their vehicle with drinks in hand, boozing it up while driving to the gig. Swell. We unloaded and set up our gear just in time for the start of the show. Things went south immediately. She missed her cue to come in on her lead vocals during the first song and gave me the stink-eye as if I was the one to blame. She was singing flat on every song she was the lead vocalist on. Even worse, her boyfriend sax player, whose instrument was out of tune, was stepping on everyone’s vocals, my guitar solos and even her pathetic attempts at playing keyboard which generally consisted of just hammering the same chord couplet over and over again.
In between sets, the ‘host’ of the program was interviewing her. She had a look on her face that was a cross between a ‘deer in the headlights’ look and a scowl. Her answers were terse and dismissive and showed contempt for the small studio audience as well as her fellow band members.
During the second set, we were playing a blues song in G, while she was pathetically playing a harmonica in a completely different key, with obviously embarrassing results along with the out of tune sax honking away. Mercifully, the show was over after a few more songs.
Later that evening out of my presence, she was ranting and raving to her boyfriend and the drummer about how I blew the first song and a litany of other complaints and that she was bragging about ‘firing’ me from the band after we were done with playing two upcoming booked gigs. The drummer tipped me off as to her intentions. I decided to take that pleasure away from her. After considering how embarrassing this gig was and her behavior in general, the next day I sent e-mail to everyone telling them I was quitting the band. So did the drummer.
I had been practicing with a metal band for months. We had a very short set list and had played the songs literally THOUSANDS of times. Thinking that we were ready to hit the stage, we booked some shows.
The time for the first show comes and we're excited to finally play out. The vocalist's mother had even flown in from outside the country to see her child. A slight hold up occurs as the drummer's ride appears at the last second and we have to load a giant drum kit into this little jeep thing. Meanwhile, another friend with a pickup truck is there and takes (get this) the drum throne!
Everyone finally gets to the venue and I've got the shakes because of drinking so much cheap beer the previous night to calm my nerves. I had known that we were to wear makeup, but what I had not counted on was applying it for EVERYONE.
Sloppy makeup on, we go up for a sound check and the keyboard gives the sound guy a problem. We wait while he figures out that it's because he's stupid and makes everything work.
We try to play the songs, but I'm the only one who remembers them and my hands won't work because of excitement and alcohol withdrawal. We botch and butcher EVERY SONG!
Theatrics on stage had been mentioned, but not planned. During one song, there was supposed to be a vampire bite scene and the band was supposed to bite blood capsules. We get to that song and here comes our friend in a cape and even worse makeup than the band. A girl barely 5 feet tall comes up from the other side of the stage. They do the bite thing, but not knowing what to do next, they stay on stage. Suddenly, the girl has the bright idea to pretend to bite the string section. The bassist is bitten without my knowledge and suddenly, I'm forced into a limbo position as the short girl pretends to bite me.
During all of this, the blood capsule is dissolving in my mouth. By the time we get to the right section, it's gotten stuck and unstuck in a few places and I bite some horrid tasting mush. I spit it the best I can and just keep having to spit to not swallow any. The vocalist stops playing keyboard and singing because she's being a baby about the blood capsule. Another song down the pipes.
The end of the song comes and I go to spit to my right, not knowing that the short girl is right there. The fake blood spit hits the floor only inches from her.
Overall, it was a disaster, but a fun disaster. We continued to butcher our over-practiced songs at the next few shows, before playing one good one.
For five years, I played in the horn section for a famous soul singer. We’d play a gig or two, and then weeks or months would go by and we’d have another gig or two. He was and still is a great singer and a nice man, but his wife/manager (The Wife) seemed to want to make sure that every time we’d go out, there would be some kind of catastrophe. Usually she succeeded. These are my stories.
I got a call from The Wife asking if I was available for a gig in a neighboring state. I said, “Yes, what are the details?” She gave me the dates and the venue. I asked, “How much does it pay?” She said, “Hold on, I’ve got another call coming in. I’ve gotta go.” Next time she called to clarify some gig details, I asked, “How much does it pay?” She said, “I can’t hear you, I’ve got a bad signal, I’ve gotta go!” Then my plane ticket arrived in the mail, which sort of locked me into the gig. But I still didn’t’ know how much I was making. Neither did the other horn players who I’d recommended for the section. Next time she called, I asked how much it paid. “We’ll figure it out on the road! Gotta go!” Click. On the road, the whole horn section surrounded her and asked how much we were getting paid. She shouted, “I THOUGHT WE ALREADY FIGURED THAT OUT!!! WHY DO WE HAVE TO KEEP GOING OVER THIS?!?”
We arrived in Vegas for a gig, and The Wife informed us that there was not one gig, but two. No extra pay, of course. “We’ll be doing a two-song medley for this one event at [Famous Casino], and then a limo will pick you up and take you to the hotel where you’ll have a few hours off, and then we’ll play a full-length show at [Famous Blues Venue].” We rehearsed at the Casino, played the two tunes, and she told us to wait at the main entrance for the limo. We waited, and after a half hour, no limo. We called The Wife. “You’re at the wrong entrance! Go wait at the side entrance!” So we carried our stuff to the side entrance. After an hour, no limo. We called The Wife, who didn’t answer her cell. We waited. After a half hour, she called back. “YOU SHOULD BE WAITING AT THE OTHER SIDE ENTRANCE!!!” So we carried our stuff to the other side. After an hour (all of this outside in the Vegas sun), no limo. We called The Wife. She shouted, “GO BACK TO THE FUCKING MAIN ENTRANCE!!!!” Back to the main entrance. Finally The Wife walks out and screams, “THE LIMO COULDN’T FIND YOU GUYS BECAUSE YOU WERE WAITING IN THE WRONG SPOT! NOW WE GOTTA SKIP THE HOTEL AND GO STRAIGHT TO THE OTHER GIG!!!”
We soundchecked at the Famous Blues Venue, and the sound was horrific. Monitor mixes were a disaster, side fills were at full volume, feedback, the stage volume was deafening, etc. We’re trying to sort things out with the soundman, and The Wife walked up and screamed “IT SOUNDS LIKE SHIT!! YOU GUYS NEED TO PLAY WITH SOME FUCKING DYNAMICS!!! QUIT PLAYING SO FUCKING LOUD!!!! And then she decided that she was going to help sing background vocals, and so they set up a mic for her. Except on the gig, she kept singing wrong notes, and she’d flinch and back away from the mic. Then she’d go yell at the soundman because she couldn’t hear herself. After the gig, a limo picked us up (yay!) and drove us to the hotel. The limo driver told us she’d meet us the next morning and drive us to the airport. Just to be sure, I made note of the limo company’s name. The next morning, we waited and waited in front of the hotel, and the limo never showed up. I dialed information and asked for the limo company’s number. “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t have a listing for that company.” “But I just rode in their car last night!!” “I’m sorry sir, no listing.” So we had to pay for a cab at the last minute and never got reimbursed. Oh well, at least we stuck the bari sax player with the cab bill.
Next gig was to fly to LA and play on a national TV show. We got on the plane, and then the pilot told us that President Clinton was flying into LAX (where we were headed), and they were shutting down the airport while Air Force One landed, and so it would be about a 45 minute delay. So we sat there lined up at the runway. After about 45 minutes, one of the musicians stood up and announced that he was going to the restroom. The stewardess told him to sit down because we might take off soon. “You’ve been telling me that for hours now!! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO, JUST PISS IN MY PANTS?!?” The last part was loud enough for the whole plane to hear. He was at the back of the plane at this point, a dozen rows from his seat. Just then, the pilot hit the gas and we started to take off, with the musician standing in the aisle. The stewardess started shouting over the intercom, “SIT DOWN, SIR!! SIT DOWN RIGHT NOW!!” The plane lifted off and was climbing at a very steep angle, and the musician was trying to claw his way up the aisle, like climbing up a playground slide the wrong way. He was sliding downhill and the stewardess was shouting at him, and people were reaching out to push him up the aisle, and finally he made it. The stewardess threatened to have him arrested at the airport when we arrived. When we arrived, he found out his instrument had been damaged. So he threw another fit.
At the taping, they asked us if we could play one of the tunes (a big hit that we’d all played a million times) from memory, instead of with music stands. Everyone was fine, except for Mr Happy. He threw another fit, claiming that he couldn’t possibly memorize the tune. Somehow, we made it through the taping. Afterward, we took a walk from the hotel a few blocks down a hill into Hollywood. On the way back, it started to rain. We hailed a cab to get out of the rain for the last half mile or so. All except the miserable guy, who wouldn’t chip in. The cab ended up costing each of us a dollar to avoid walking up hill in the rain. But miserable guy stomped the whole way back in the rain in order to save that dollar.
A few weeks after that, I got my check from the TV studio. A little while later, I got a bill for union dues from the LA musicians’ union. It had been chewed up in the mail, and arrived a few days after the due date. I called their office and asked them if I still owed the work dues if I wasn’t a member of the LA union. The lady at the other end shouted, “Everyone owes those dues, do you hear me?!? EVERYONE!!!” OK, OK, I agreed to pay it. Then I mentioned that I was being charged a 50 cent late fee because it had arrived late in the mail, and could they waive that fee? She put me into someone’s voicemail, where I explained the situation and told them I’d mail the dues, but not the late fee. Never heard back. They sent me a quarterly bill for 50 cents for the next two years, until I finally mailed them two quarters.
Next gig would involve teaming up with a World Famous Piano Player. We did a rehearsal in someone’s basement where we met him and said hello. At one point, there was a question about what chord he was playing. So we asked him,“What chord are you playing?” Famous Piano Player said, “I don’t know,” like he was doing us a favor just to talk to us. “Is it major or dominant?”, we asked. “I don’t know.” Can you tell us the notes in the chord? Finally, he banged them out on the keyboard one at a time so we could figure it out. Thanks for being so helpful, famous person! At the soundcheck for the gig a few days later, the band was standing out in the broiling sun while Famous Piano Player sat eating a hamburger under an umbrella. The Wife asked him if he’d like to rehearse his tunes with the band. “Nope. Burp.” Thanks again for your help, famous person!
Next gig involved splitting a concert with a major symphony orchestra. After the gig, I watched the orchestra manager hand The Wife her check. She walked over to us and said, “I thought they were going to pay cash, so I’ll have to mail you guys a check. It’ll go out tomorrow.” OK. After about 20 tomorrows came and went, I called her about the check. “Our grand-daughter drove the car through the garage door, and it cost us seven thousand dollars to fix it! That’s why I haven’t been able to pay you.” Uh, so you spent the band’s payroll on house repairs?” “FINE!! MEET ME IN 30 MINUTES AND I’LL HAVE YOUR CHECK!!”, and she hung up on me. So I drove 20 miles and met her, where she gave me a single check for the entire horn section. It was drawn on a Nashville bank, 2000 miles away. Just to be sure, before I paid the other guys (which was not my job, but at this point somebody’s got to handle it), I called the bank and asked if sufficient funds were available to cover the check. There were not. So I called The Wife and asked he when the check would be good. “I JUST MADE THE TRANSFER NOW, AND THE CHECK IS GOOD, GODDAMMIT!!” So the next day, I called the Nashville bank. Still, there were no funds available. So I called The Wife. “THE FUCKING MONEY IS IN THE ACCOUNT!!” So I waited another day, and called the Nashville bank. This time, there were funds. So I deposited the check, wrote and mailed checks to the other guys, and never heard from her again. Whenever I read an interview with her, she’s always talking about unfair treatment of musicians.