April 3, 2021
As the world I grew up in continues to disappear in the rearview, the Hayloft Bar looms larger than ever in my mind's eye. Here's another scene I found yesterday, inspired by my tenure as the house drummer at the venerable, long gone watering hole on Ruthrauff Road in Tucson.
Note the broken tom tom with duck tape holding it together (such a dead sound!) and check out the steel guitar player looking dumbfounded at how out-of- tune Jay Bob's guitar is (in my retelling of these experiences I created a fictional band name—Jay Bob & The Ramrods—to stand in for a variety of bands I played with). At one gig, actually at a Moose Lodge out on Wilmot Road, our steel guitar player was going absolutely ballistic about our lead singer's guitar being out of tune. In the middle of our third song ("Take the ribbons from my hair. . .") he started to unscrew one of the legs of his pedal steel and I leaned over my kit and asked him what was wrong (I knew he was upset and thought he might be breaking down his gear to leave). He said under his breath, "I'm going to beat that son of a bitch to death with this if he doesn't tune that guitar!"
Long story short, he didn't leave and the guitar never did get tuned to his satisfaction. This, along with severe monsoon weather, became a running joke in all my honkytonk cartoons.
This scenario of a wedding party, above, was inspired by an actual event at the Hayloft, which I sketched.
Hayloft Whip Out:
"Terry and Mark's Wedding Receptcion
Hayloft, April 19, 1978"
Like In A Silent Movie
The drummer is always in the back and on a tight stage that is not as cozy and wonderful as it might sound. I can't begin to tell you how many hours I spent looking at the backside of farting goobers and narcissist gitpickers.
Witness to The Pre-Horizontal Bop
In spite of my obstructed view, I witnessed on the dance floor numerous scenes of promiscuity in slo-mo, drunken rage, and, major marriage disolution, sometimes all of the above unfolding during a single song! It was very much like watching a silent movie. You couldn't hear because of our loud music, so these scenes unfolded like an old Buster Keaton-fractured flick. Two couples are in a booth and at first they dance with their partners but eventually they trade off and dance with their friend's spouse and then the shenanigans begin and one couple dances away, sashaying as far away from the booth as they can get but I, of course, am up high and I can see them clear as day. Major copping of feels is witnessed and even kissing ensues and then it's back to the booth. Repeat. Eventually there are words exchanged, some shoving and both couples leave. I could only imagine the conversation in those two separate cars on the way home. Or, maybe they do this every weekend?
Can She Make It Through The Night?
One of the most tragic silent movies I ever witnessed from the bandstand was a young guy in a white T-shirt having the time of his life, buying drinks for everyone and dancing with a couple three women seated along the wall away from the bar. It was clear to me he was flying high and footloose and fancy free. Or, one would think. Soon enough, a young woman in cutoffs and flip flops came through the front door, carrying a baby. It's storming outside and we can see lightning out in the parking lot which illuminates her and gives her a dramatic glow. She came right up to the Party Boy and they exchanged words. She was crying and he looked sheepish, and he looked down, but he stayed put. She gave him what for and left with the baby. A common tragedy in honkytonks everywhere to be sure. I have always assumed he eventually went home. He had to. All his stuff was there. Did she forgive him? Are they still married? Perhaps. I've seen stranger things. After all, I was a drummer in a honkytonk band and nothing suprises me when it comes to the lonely desperation of men and women out dancing and looking for a good time.
Tommorow we will get serious and talk about the knockdown, drag-out barroom brawl, honkytonk style.
"Take the ribbons from my hair, shake it loose and let it fall, layin' soft upon your skin, like the shadows on the wall."
—Kris Kristofferson, "Help Me Make It Through The Night"