Sunday, January 15, 2006

January 15, 2006
I worked today on a project that's been on my mind for some time.

Confessions of a Honkytonk Drummer

It’s been almost 25 years since I played drums in a series of Country bands in the Old Pueblo. It was a decadent time in a decadent town and I hesitate to admit I was more than up to the challenge.

Most of the bars and honkytonks I played in are long gone, but their names can still raise a smile on an oldtimer’s face: Grant Road Tavern, The Dunes, The Doll House, The Cedars, The Hi Ho Club, The Maverick, Nashville West, Choo Choos, The Oxbow, The Stumble Inn, the Body Shop, The Crossroads, El Torero, the Hayloft, the Longhorn, The Big T, The Embers, The Cedars, The Red Rooster and the Buckaroo, to name just a few of the places I played and commited adultery in.

One of the constants in each of the bands I played it was this: Each of us thought we were the only reason the band sounded half-way decent. We had shitty gigs. We all hated each other. We all wanted to quit. We were family.

I usually sat up high on my drum riser, looking down and passing judgement on the unwashed and the unaware. From my little paradiddle roost, I’ve seen fist fights, standup noodlin’, dancin’ handjobs, limbo lechin’, hair pullin’ shoot outs and ball peen hammer wielding exes. Some of it was pretty. As in pretty ridiculous, but I learned a bunch playing drums in a honkytonk. Among the lessons:

• When you’re in a band, some people think you’re a god. Others think you’re scum. And the main difference between the two is the latter ain’t too silent about it.

• People who hang in honkytonks usually have pretty good advice. Like this bit of wisdom I got one night at the Red Rooster on South Nogales Highway from a truck driver who assured me he had a Phd: “Let me tell you something about ‘Thorny Relationships.’ You just need to take off the ‘T’ Hoss. Take off the ‘T.’”

• Honkytonk Band Law #76: The gigs that pay the most are the suckiest gigs.

• Guys who build bars always scrimp on the bandstand. Usually, it’s an afterthought, tiny and unrealistic for a four piece country band.

• Jam sessions: Sad Sunday affairs, where lackluster performers plinked and plucked, crooned and croaked, their tiny talents on pathetic display.

• If you’ve never smelled the inside of a bar on Sunday morning, you’ve never lived. There’s this pungent, gagging mix of stale beer and booze, mixed with cigarette smoke and lysol, all ground into a pulp and covered with a glossy sheen. Like lime dumped on a ditch full of dead bodies.

• Band Fights always start between the two strongest players in the band. The maddest one usually starts bad-mouthing the other to all the other members until everyone is infected and upset.

• No matter how big or small the band is, there’s always one guy falling in love and another guy falling out of love.

• The more important the gig, the more things goes wrong.

• In-house P.A.s are the worst. The doorman is the soundman.

• The higher the ponytail, the lower the I.Q.

• Bass players work all the time. Nobody wants to play bass. It’s boring.

• drummers don’t want to stay in back. They want to sing lead (Guilty as charged, your honor).

• We played a wedding reception at a dog track on south 4th Ave. It was cheesy. We set up in the tri-fecta area and played looking out on the darkened track. There was a palpable tension between the guests at the party. Finally the groom jammed cake in the bride’s nose and she choked and tried to slap him. He laughed and grabbed her hands and did it again. As we broke down, I had to step over the groom and his father-in-law rolling between the tables, cursing and punching each other in the face. Sometimes I think about that bride and groom and wonder if they’re still married.

• “We’re so excited to be here...Testing 1-2-3-4...”

Bad Band Etiquette
• The double-edged sword. When you work all the time-you don’t want to even see each other, so you never practice, you never grow. If one guy bails on practice, they all do, happy that the first guy takes the fall and gets the blame.

Really Hurtful Joke #67
Q: How can you tell if the stage is level?
A: Drool comes out both sides of the drummer’s mouth.

"She appeared out of a smoky haze. Spaghetti straps anchoring her floating, rocket ship bosoms, set off by a cascading mane of bleach-blond-hair, piled sky high. She was a headturning, knocked-out Country goddess and she knew it. As she picked her way to an empty table near the dancefloor, every guy in the place craned his neck to get a glimpse. They all wanted her, but she kept looking straight ahead at the bandstand. She smiled and blew me a kiss during 'Wipeout.' Instinctively, I knew if there was some way to blow it, I would find a way. But on this particular hot and muggy monsoon night I discovered the wanton ways of what we came to call—The Nympho Rodeo."

“Those of you who know me will easily recognize the painful truths in this story. To those of you who don’t know me, I completely understand. I wouldn’t believe it either.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post your comments