Monday, November 14, 2016

Right On Time

As an aging flower-child (I was never a true 'hippie', having worked pretty much every day of my life since pre-teen years), I used to use the jargon of those days of old. Sometimes I find I still do. In this case, not only do I think this post will be right on time but actually "right on". And I believe some other musicians will think so, too.

To this very day, people still ask me if I'm playing around town, writing, performing or jamming. When I respond that I'm winding down nowadays, and don't really play much, they are incredulous and almost demand an answer as to why. I think I've finally thought about this long enough to put it out there right now. (which, with the Universe as my witness, would necessarily be "right on time")

I recently had to start researching my next dental visit, due to a pressing issue, and see that the amount is going to be in the hundreds of dollars this time. That will be pretty tough to absorb, but I really don't have much choice. I started thinking of how many years dentists have to attend schools to get their licenses, and how much they need to pay for their overhead. At that point, the fees more or less made sense. Then it occurred to me that the general populace just puts up with the pricing and has never done anything, as a group, to make it more equitable for the people who live at the bottom of the financial spectrum.

Spinning off of that thought, as my mind usually does, I entertained how the same populace seems to have gotten together and agreed to do the opposite with performers and just refuse to pay anything but the same damned $100 (for an entire night's work) that has been the standard for decades. And that's if they happen to pay even that. Many times, I have worked for $15 dollars, even many years after having made that exact amount back in my high-school days.

If one listens to club owners, promoters or anyone who happens to be footing the bill, you'll get promises of "exposure" and a chance to do what you love. That's been the excuse I've heard and abided by, for most of my life. I've finally grown sick of it.

A fellow musician recently posted a humorous scenario, where he hands back people's mentality on the "doing what you love" ploy, and turns it around by putting the shoe on the other foot. Like folks saying, "Could you bring your guitar to the party? People love to hear you play, and you enjoy it so much that it shouldn't be a big deal for you." My friend told his roofing contractor friend, "When you come to my party, could you bring your tools? I have this huge leak in my roof. You are SO good at it, and seem to enjoy your work so much it shouldn't be a big deal." Some folks will now get my drift.

I don't have a big office or practice space to keep my equipment. My bedroom has to suffice, and always has. I have never been paid enough to afford the amenities that most other long-time professionals do. I drive a 15 year old car, not a Mercedes. I can't pay others to act as my 'assistants' or to answer my phone and handle scheduling and appointments. I have been working at my craft for over sixty years, but get paid the same as someone wet behind the ears and with barely a year's experience. Perhaps that part of this post got through to more folks than the previous one. I'm just putting it out there. Basically, I'm just not playing that game anymore.

One other thing that has stuck in my craw for low these sixty-plus years is the issue of disrespect. Most of us have issue with that, and I'm no different. I offer a little story to explain more fully:

The first time I ever got together with others for a "jam", I was a young teenager. I knew less than half a dozen chords at the time. Two other friends had electric guitars and amplifiers, and I had rented mine for the weekend (for $15 dollars, interestingly). We got together one evening in the basement of the tenement of one friend's father. It had a great natural echo to it, with it's cement walls and floor. With minimum experience, we were restricted to doing the simple guitar song "Honky Tonk" as our first foray into 'live' Rock and Roll. I was in Heaven.

Before the song was over, a man came down the stairs and stood at a distance from us just watching and listening. He conveyed no emotion that I can recall. When we either finished the song, or stopped out of respect for an adult standing there looking as if he needed to say something, he said the words that would be echoed for another sixty-some years of my life:  "You guys are really good, but could you turn the volume down?"

For years, I'd be playing at clubs known by reputation for having loud 'live' music, but still have people come up with some version of those words. I am one of those who so hates confrontation that I've spent my whole life just putting up with it, and either turning down or pretending to turn down. One time at a Summer Festival--in a huge tent--a guy actually stood in front of the stage, mockingly sticking his fingers in his ears for the whole audience to see. At the end of the song my keyboard playing brother, God bless his soul, got on the mike and said directly to this arsehole, "If you feel it's too loud for you, why are you standing directly in front of those huge PA speakers?" We then resumed playing, to an audience that didn't have a problem with us. I like remembering that one.

So there you have it; my answer to those "inquiring minds that want to know". I've grown weary of all that crap, and I've had enough. I'm now content to play in basements and studios owned by people who don't have problems entertaining Reality, or right in the very comfort of my own living room or bedroom.

I can hear a few last voices, in my day-dreaming head, saying "But you have such a gift! You won't be sharing it with anybody anymore." Yeah? Nice try. Take a hike.

I guess I'm not quite the 'flower child' I once was, am I?


  1. I love you and your decision. People believe "exposure" should be enough and assume that if all you need. I'll try the 'roofer' example when someone needs clarity. I like it.
    Play when you want and all will be fine. I appreciate your bravery in posting.

  2. Love you too, Kim. I genuinely appreciate your comments. It figures that a great player would "get it". And you are, and do.