That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

Gas Pumps Give me Gas

In the interest of making sure that my stuff gets read — the long posts seem to get overlooked lately — I’ll keep this one short…

87       93         89

89       93         87

89       87         93

Does anyone notice how, when pumping gas, the stations list the octane levels in NON-sequential order?

Maybe I’m cynical, but I don’t think so. They do it so that unsuspecting drivers mistakenly get the 89 or 93 octane fuel by mistake. I’m sure of it.

It’s not enough that the lowest octane costs more than a movie ticket! They have to gouge out enough for the popcorn, too! “Gitcho hand out my POCKET!”

More “crooked preacher” stuff to come.

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August 26, 2008 Posted by | Cars, Driving, Fuel, Gas Prices, Life, Oil, Oil Companies, Pet Peeves, Rant | | 5 Comments

Heart of Stone

While I’m on the subject of music, I thought I’d fill you in on that story I said I’d tell you a while back.

It is a sordid tale of trust, loyalty, disloyalty, apathy and disillusionment.

Shortly after 9/11, when the nation was in turmoil, I got a house-gig working with what would become the best band I’ve ever played in. I got the job like this: My bandleader at the time went on an extended crack binge, and seeing the “smoke signals,” I hurriedly got some business cards and went downtown to make my availability known! A week or so later, the Lord blessed me with a job at BB Kings club downtown. We would be the backing band for the headliners, Larry Springfield (of “Star Search” fame), Ruby Wilson (OMG! Wait’ll I get the chitlins to tell you about HER!), and the late, great, Little Jimmy King (gone too soon at 33!).

While I looked at it as just another gig, it turns out that there were guys in this group who had world class abilities. We consisted of the standard rhythm section plus trumpet and me on tenor sax.

The guitar player, Steve, had played with Howard Hewitt, Glenn Jones, Jeffery Osborn, Jill Scott, and saxophonist, Mike Phillips. The bass player, Anthony, was about 19 and had the chops of a guitar player. The drummer, Marles, was a beast. With much drama in his life! The trumpet player we ended up gettng, Marc, is the best trumpet player I have worked with, by far. And the bandleader, Jonathan, was in demand as a producer and has a voice that channels Donny Hathaway!

It is Jonathan, and headliner, Larry, through whom most of our opportunities for real industry work came. The management group for singer, Brian McKnight, on the advice of Larry, came to check us out in ’02 to see if we would be the group to hire to back their client, model and singer (in that order), Cherokee. We got the job. I started to think that I was really on my way after that!

We did one gig, in D.C., before her deal fell through. She was one of pretty much a horde of cute little pop singers with average — at best — voices. It was a crap shoot with loaded dice.

Jonathan was in negotiations to do a production deal with a well-known singer whom I hesitate to name not out of fear, but because I don’t want to cause Jonathan any problems since he — amazingly — still works with her at times. Besides, Kathy thought it wise that I not, as badly as I want to do it. Trust me, though, she is someone you have heard if you listen to any r&b music nowadays. It is she about whom I write. I’ll call her Patty.

Jonathan ended up signing with her. Our deal with the club was that we could do outside work of any kind as long as we either told the club in advance, or hired a substitute to play our position. That turned out to be not so true. BB’s is in Memphis, and Memphis is in the South. This factored in to a lot of the problems we had there.

So, JoNa, as we called him, would sub out quite a lot because in addition to being Patty’s producing partner (she was working on her second record), he was also hired to head up her live band, which was peopled with young guys who JoNa said were unpolished and unhip. He had been trying to get Patty to hire the band he worked with in Memphis, and she was apparently, reluctantly, warming to the idea seeing how bad JoNa was.

In the summer of ’03, I got a call from Jonathan: ” You ready?” he asked.

“Ready for what?”

“Patty got booked to do this cruise, and she just fired her band! We in!”

My heart was beating like those cops on Rodney King! This was IT! “Yeah, I’m ready!” all teeth.

So we did the cruise with one rehearsal with Patty, (still another story) and did so well that Patty assured us (I got it on tape) that she would do right by us. Meaning that since we did the two shows for about $500 — a pittance on that level — she would do better in the future and that we would be her band. Here it was! I was in the industry! Just like I pictured it! Skyscrapers, everythang!* Now, I would get my chance to network with people who would hear me and hire me for bigger and better stuff. I would be able to make real money and not have to remain at the club where I had to argue just to get a bill** a night while they cleared 80 grand a week! Be aware that when you go to these tourist spots that the bands — which drive the industry — get chicken change. BB’s would be Apple-B’s without live entertainment. Someone needs to show that to management!

In July of ’03, we got word that we were going to Detroit to headline a show at Ford Field, where the Lions play. Big show! We started rehearsing in Memphis five or six days a week. It was grueling and none of us liked it. We were being pushed hard. On top of that, Marc and I had to create horn parts for all of Patty’s music, which had none. We did this before, too, and since she had just released a new album (you can still say “album.” That is the forum, like a photo album. The CD is just the format. I’ve wanted to say that for a long time!), so we had to do it again for a whole record. Patty reserved the right to cut whatever we did, and this was a source of stress for Marc and me for obvious reasons. She never showed up for any of the whole month of rehearsals!

JoNa informed management that we would be gone Thursday, the 28th, and Friday, the 29th, and that we would be back to play on Saturday. We were cleared. 

I need to say this right here… Before we got the BB’s gig, the band that had the job — along with their frontman, blues singer, Preston Shannon — left for a higher paying job at the now defunct, Isaac Hayes’ Club one street over. They were rivals. Another good story there. They had by now been let go and were sniffing around back at our club for their job back. We had established a rocky relationship because we basically would not go for the “okey-doke.” Jonathan, a militant with a gift (and a love) for arguing, would let nothing get by. They HATED him! But we were so good! 

We had been fired and re-hired by now, and the new management (hint, hint) had cooled to us significantly. We had been working Monday through Saturday, but Preston got them to give him Monday nights. We were not happy about it, but we were all good friends. We were upset at the bosses, not the labor. So now down to five nights a week, we were all wondering when the next shoe would fall. There were new rumors every hour. They still operate that way to this day!

So, “Yeah,” JB, the club G.M., said, “We’ll get Preston to sub for you guys. No problem.” I heard him myself. 

Here it is.

We depart for Detroit and this gig, which by the way, pays about four hundred dollars less than it should. Patty has not done one rehearsal with us.

When we did the cruise, she barely spoke to any of us, as charming and Southern as we all were. We thought presumptuously that we would have her eating out of our collective hand. NOT! It was on that cruise that we learned pretty much all we needed to know about Patty.

The morning after the show, at about 8 AM, I got a call from Patty’s manager saying that they were waiting on us down on the lower deck to sign autographs. We had been up all night celebrating a great show, and I was in no mood to be getting up after only three or four hours of sleep. I got up.

When we all got downstairs, Patty’s manager gathered us all together and said frantically, “Thank y’all for coming down! Patty is having respiratory problems and she asked me to have you all sign autographs for her. There is a room full of people waiting for y’all!”

Now, right here, something started ringing in the back of my head.

When the manager, “Pinky,” walked hurriedly into the room, we all hung back and I said, “Man, wassup it that? Don’t nobody want our autographs! They came to see Patty! We ain’t got no T-shirts wit our faces on ’em! They don’t know us from a can of paint!” I really didn’t want to go in that room and look like a fool.

“I do hope Patty is gonna be all right, though,” I naively said.

Her background singer, Stephanie, gave me the Sister Mouth and shot, “Boy!! Ain’t nothin’ wrong wit that heffa!She just mad at TMC!”

Oh.

“TMC” (not his real name) was her boyfriend at the time. He went everywhere she did, and lived his living by meeting certain of her needs. He was an ex-con who was a “rapper,” and they were supposed to be in lovvvve. Gonna get married. They fought like two cats though. A cougar and a tomcat. She has operated by the same formula for years. Still does.

So, they got into it about one trivial thing or another, and it meant that the band had to get up before the dolphins and endure the angrily muttered discontent of Patty’s fans.

This was a precursor. I hope you’re still with me. It gets better. Or worse, depending…

In Detroit, we went from the airport directly to the venue for a short sound check. Rather than just check everything out and go check in to the hotel, we launched into a full fledged rehearsal! No one was happy! What she should have done for a month in Memphis, which was her agreement, she tried to do for three hours in the stadium. The sound guys were livid. Curt and short. No one blamed them.

One thing: When Patty’s people bought the tickets for the band, they took it upon themselves — knowing full well that we had a regular gig to get back to — to book our return tickets for Sunday! Meaning that we could get fired from BB’s for not showing up for work Saturday night, on thin ice as we were. When JoNa found this out, he called Patty’s management, and through a lot of back-and-forth, it wound up that the only solution was that each returning band member would have to pay $100 of his own cash to have the tickets changed. Apparently the only returning flights for such short notice were a lot higher, and an hour NORTH of Detroit in Flint!

So, this big star with all this money and clout, who promised to “do right by us,” couldn’t foot the bill for a huge mistake made by her own people? She would pass it down to guys who had to scrap a living $100 at a time.

After our sound check/rehearsal, we checked in to the hotel (where all the people coming to the gig were staying. Remember that!), and went to dinner at a fancy restaurant where I met mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

We needed a place to rehearse the next day, and they ended up finding a place way ‘cross town in the hood. We had to take about three cabs to get there. We spent our own money, which was to be reimbursed. “Was this how it was?” I asked myself. “On this level?” Shoot! I did a chitlin-circuit blues festival back in ’96 in Alaska with Little Jimmy King that paid twice as much ( I had to strong-arm him for my cash! He tried to pull a fast one on me. I got fired when I got back home…), and we were chauffeured everywhere! We didn’t have to hail no doggone cabs!

Patty wasn’t with us, though. She took her three background singers shopping with her while the band kicked off the rehearsal! We couldn’t believe it! The singerswere the ones who needed the dadgum practice! Besides, Marc and I needed to know what she thought of the lines we had written, and we needed the time to make the changes and commit them to memory. But she was busy shopping!

They rolled up, with TMC, about four hours later — now, this is the day of the gig — falling out of the car with bags of clothes crackling like Christmas morning.

The backing singers line up on the stage with their music stands to hold the lyrics (!) and we get going. Patty is looking mean and surly sitting up against a wall in the front of the room. She proceeds to change everything — the horn lines (she cut most of them), the vocal arrangements, the feel — everything.

The tension was thick like rush hour in Beijing. Everyone was on edge and snapping at each other. This was definitely not the way I envisioned the “Music Business.” No fun anywhere to be found.

After a couple of hours, we took a break. Marc, formerly of Preston’s band, either called or got a call from Tom, Preston’s sax player. They were engaged in casual conversation until it turned to the subject of BB’s.

It went something like this: “So, how’s it going at the club?” Marc asked.

“It’s cool, you know. Same ol’ stuff. You know how they are. I’m getting ready to head down there now. After tonight, one more night of it, then you guys can have it back!” Tom complained.

“Wait! Whaddaya mean, ‘one more night’?” Marc asked.

“Yeah. You know… Thursday, Friday, Saturday.”

“Naaaw. You guys aren’t doin’ tomorrow! WE are!” Marc exclaimed.

“All I’m sayin’ is what JB told us. You guys are out the rest of the week.” Calm as a fish pond.

“I’ll call ya back!” Marc hung up.

When he told us what had just happened, a sense of dread came over all the guys in the band.

Jonathan got on the phone immediately with JB. All of us were there, Patty too, sitting over there in the corner looking totally disinterested.

“JB! I specifically told you we would be out Thursday, and Friday, and that we would be BACK to play SATURDAY!!!”  “What?!?” ” No, I specifically TOLD YOU SATURDAY!” “WHAT?!?” “NAW! I don’t care!”  “WELL YOU GOT TA TELL PRESTON HIS BAND AIN’T WORKIN’!”  “WHAT KINDA BIZNESS Y’ALL RUNNIN’ DOWN THERE? IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING! WE WORK EXTRA, AND THE MONEY AIN’T ON THE CHECKS, WE COME DOWN THERE, AND Y’ALL TELL US WE OFF… Y’ALL TREAT US LIKE SOME SLAVES!!”  “WE CHANGED OUR FLIGHT PLANS SPECIFICALLY SO WE COULD GET BACK TO PLAY SATURDAY!”  “WHAT?!?”  “I DON’T CARE!” “YOU DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO, AND I’LL DO WHAT I GOTTA DO” ” WHAT?”  “I’LL CALL TOMMY (the club owner)  MY SELF!”

By now, I got heart meat all in the back of my mouth hearing this…

“Hello? Tommy? This is Jonathan.  I just got off the phone with JB. Yeah. He double-booked the club Saturday.”  “Well, yeah, we’re in Detroit now, but I specifically told him we would be there tomorrow! He fired us.”

(WHAT?!?!?!)

“Okay. If that’s the way you want it. We’ll never work there again!”

(WHAT?!? “WE?!?”)

He hung up. The room was like a wake. All we needed was the body.

“JB fired us. (US?!?) Tommy said JB was in charge. It was his call.” Jonathan revealed.

There it was. With Patty and everybody listening, this gig had gotten us fired. The club had us (or Jonathan, so they thought) where they wanted us. We wondered what role the other band had had in all of this. Jonathan — who was going to sub out at BB’s Saturday, by the way — had gone to bat for us in a big way, and we all were canned.

Immediately I went into rationalization mode: We were in the industry now. Who needs BB’s? Pee on ’em. (I was mad, forgive me.) We were the famous Miss Patty’s band now! BB’s was peanuts! They’d be watching us on tee vee!

With great effort, we resumed rehearsal under this pall. We returned to the hotel with only a couple of hours till showtime.

While we were getting dressed, my roommate, Steve (Nope. She wouldn’t even spring for individual rooms! I bet David Sanborn never had to share a room with Steve Gadd!) got a call. After he hung up the phone…

“We ain’t playin’, mane.” He said with a chuckle and a tone of “I told you.”

“What!”

“The gig is off, dude. We ain’t playin.” He was laughing now. First fired, now this. “Patty called the show off. We done.”

Okay, give me a little leeway here. One of the three background singers, Michelle, is amply endowed in the posterior region. She is huge in the backside. She is enormous in the trunkular area. Biggest tailfeather I’ve ever seen shake! And the funny thing is, it is exactly properly proportioned! I mean, if you boiled her down evenly, by the time she got down to a size two or four, she would be Halle Berry, or some perfectly-shaped starlet. But there would be a LOT of grease on the floor!

But she is about a 70” in the hips. No lie. The thing is… a lot of Brothers like that kind of thing. You would be surprised. Most Black guys are “butt men.” But Michelle got stuck in the Butt Line in front of Angelina Jolie and Miss Jane Hathaway and the last fifty years of Miss Americas.

Here’s what happened: In what appears to have been an attempt to start some trouble, one of the other singers told Patty, “TMC shole is lookin’ at Michelle booty!” You couldn’t NOT see it! You could see it from the front if you were facing the other way with your eyes closed!

(Don’t worry. Kathy knows all of this, and is not upset.)

That was all that was needed.

An argument apparently ensued between Patty and TMC (he was innocent it turns out.), and Patty’s famous “respiratory problems” showed up.

“Naw,” I told myself. “This woman ain’t gonna cancel a show ’cause she got into it with her boyfriend! She ain’t gonna just sit in her room while all these thousands of people who came from all over the country on planes and buses go to the stadium and wait on her to show up! She ain’t that selfish.”

So we got dressed and went down to the lobby to wait to be driven to the venue. As we were waiting with our instruments, people began streaming out of the hotel on their way to the place. “I know y’all gonna kill it!” they all said as they passed and saw our faces. And recognized us for later.

And we sat. And sat. And Patty never showed.

About thirty minutes after we were supposed to be playing, and earning the money for our month of hard work, and justifying getting fired, Pinky came down, looking all troubled, “Patty is having trouble breathing. She won’t be able to perform.” Just like that.

We ambled back to our rooms and pondered our fates. I had just gotten married, and now I was out of one job, and unsure about another. And how were we going to make it out of this hotel with everyone seeing our faces and knowing we stood them up?!? I could only pray that God would sustain me like He had done for the fifteen years before I had even met “Patty”.

Guess what? About an hour later, some of us were at the front desk in our civvies trying to decide where to eat when Pinky popped up, “Good! Here you are! Go get dressed! They want you to perform anyway! Hurry up! Stephanie is gonna do Patty’s set!”

So, with much fear and reluctance, we went to the stadium without Patty, who sulked in her room and let us take this beating for her, and proceeded to lay he biggest, stinkinest egg ever laid in the history of Show Bidness.

Those people, out of at least HUNDREDS, if not thousands of dollars, formally dressed, saw us up there sans Patty and hit the exits like it was the second quarter at a Lions’ game! Within twenty minutes we were playing for the wait staff as they cleared the tables of dishes that had not been used! If they had dropped US on Hiroshima, we probably would have blown up all of Asia!

The next day, on the way back home to nothing, Patty, with the Stones of a safe cracker, peeked onto the bus and said, “Sorry. These things happen.” And left.

“These things happen?” I said. “Yeah. They happen when you MAKE ’em happen!”

Patty sat there and watched us lose our jobs at home, and AFTER that, cancelled a show she could have done, and let us take the heat for it. Because she was mad at her boyfriend.You can understand why I want to say her name. I have seen her make a spectacle of herself on tee vee and recognized her abhorrent behavior.

That was the Injury. The Insult is that we didn’t get paid!!! Some guys eventually got half. Jonathan wound up — I know — giving me mine out of his pocket.

That was the last time Marc and I “played” with Patty.

That is another story.

 

 

 

 

 

* “Living for the City” Stevie Wonder

** $100

August 24, 2008 Posted by | Celebrities, Divas, Embarrassing Situations, Entertainment, Humor, Music, Music Business, Show Business, Singers, Stories, Work | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This’ll Be Funny in a Few Years

I’ve been quite busy since Diana got here. (When she starts doing stuff, I’ll be writing about it. She’s just lying there being cute right now.) I haven’t had the freedom to write a frequently as before.

I want to tell you about what has been going on musically lately. Aside from the fact that I have NO movement on my record and starting my band.

I’ve been playing in a band called KW’EST, headed by bassist, Charles Johnson, which plays jazz (fusion) with a Christian focus. This is a different group than the one I gripe about.

We played a gig this past Sunday night that we do at the same place on the third Sunday of every month. The last date was interesting because of everything that went on surrounding it.

When Diana was born, I pretty much did all the nighttime stuff (and much of the daytime stuff, too) because Kathy was recovering from a c-section. Being a night owl made it a little bit easier until the weekends came and I had to work. Most of my work starts on Fridays, but occasionally there is work during the week, too. Plus, there are always some rehearsals and sessions that come up… Sunday mornings were especially rough because I play in the band there, and we have to be there at 8 AM and play both services. We are usually through at about 12:30. I got NO sleep on Saturday nights (not one minute!) because Diana required a lot through the night. She was not happy with being out of the womb! And the foreclosure crisis and astronomical gas prices had her so upset that she could not sleep.

I dealt with this arrangement knowing it would be only a few months before she began to sleep through the night. So on Sundays, I would usually get three or four hours when we all went to my parents’ house for dinner.

When Kathy was set to return to work, however, her shift was changed (this is one of the many dastardly aspects to her job!) yet again. Now, she has to get up at 4:45 AM(!), and so she has to go to bed soon after we really get rolling with family stuff at the house. Our agreement with taking care of Max was that she would do the nighttime stuff, and I would do all the daytime stuff.

Being a person who has always — since childhood — stayed up past two or three in the morning, I had to try to adjust. I have failed. I routinely stay up till past 4 AM against my own will. Obviously, though, my work schedule makes it logical that I watch Max during the day.

“What does this all have to do with music?” you ask. Bear with me.

I quietly made the decision that I would put Max to bed when the time came (he sleeps later than the norm so that I can.), and that I would care for Diana too so that Kathy could get some sleep. She routinely gets about four or five hours.

So, that being the case, I get two or three hours a night on average.

About four months ago, Kw’est booked a recurring gig, and I received three or four cd’s full of music, 95% of which I had to lead. Max won’t let me practice. He tries to climb into my lap every time I pull my horn out, and he pushes and pulls on the keys (and scrunches me in the scrotum, dads) to the point that I can’t get anything done. So when can I learn this catalog of tunes that I have never heard before?

So, to the present. Last weekend ( August 15-16) my family had a reunion in Nashville three hours away.

When my folks — and wife — asked me about going, I said that I would go if I didn’t have a gig. I don’t miss work. I got that from my parents. The band, A-440, in which I regularly (seldomly, lately) play usually has a lot of weddings and private functions this time of the year, and I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t miss one.

As time passed, though, I thought about all the family functions I had missed over the years, and how many of my beloved relatives I had not seen in so many years, and I decided that we would go. I wanted them all to meet my kids, too. I would just have to miss whatever gig came up. So I thought…

Actually, what happened was that three weeks ago someone called me about doing a job, and I said, “I don’t know. I heard we are workin’ that night. Let me call you back in an hour to see if we are.”

I found out that I couldn’t reach the boss because he was on vacation with his family.

When Kathy heard THAT, she flew off the tracks while she was chopping onions; “Awww, so HE gits to go on a vacation with HIS family while his band is sittin’ at the house, huh?!? Y’all ain’t hardly worked all summer, and he’s been constantly workin’ wit everybody! (that was true) You sittin’ around here talkin’ about you not gonna go see your family that you ain’t seen in years, and you gittin’ ready to turn down some work bein’ laid in yo’ lap cause you got integrity! ‘Cause you tryin’ to keep yo’ word!”

“Well, I jus…”

“You betta call him back and tell him you’ll do that gig!!” And that was that on that!

My bandleader is what we black folk call, “triflin’ ” when it comes to handling the business. A-440, I mean. We would routinely not find out about a gig until the day before. And that was if WE called to inquire! Not to mention allll the other stuff that frustrates the “goodness” out of me.

So I decided then to go to Nashville on Friday and return Sunday, the 17th, to make church. I knew I would be tired, but by now, I was used to it. I could get a couple of hours Sunday afternoon before my Sunday night gig with Kw’est. Or so I thought…

Thursday, Kathy and I realized that due to some “financial mishaps” we were waaay short on some bills that were due to be removed from our account on Friday, the 15th.

“I can’t go to the reunion, ” I told Kathy. She refused to go without me. Okay, so now, we aren’t going. I would not get to see cousins I played with as a child. I would not get to see the uncles and aunts who love me so much and whom I love so much in return. This was my knee jerk reaction. After a couple of minutes of thinking, I called the bandleader. Now, by this time I had already told him that I would not be able to do the Saturday night date.

“Hey, John, this is Derrick. You find anybody to sub for me Saturday yet?” I asked.

“Naw. I got some possibilities, but they ain’t called me back yet.”

“Well, call ’em back. I can’t afford to miss Saturday, so I ain’t goin’ to the reunion.” Now, here, I expected a sympathetic reaction something like, “You ain’t goin?!? Aw, man, I hate to hear that. Thass my bad! I know we ain’t been workin’ that much, but I’m gonna do better…”

What I got was: “Aw. Thass cool! I had called Alan, but he didn’t answer the phone. I’ll call him back and tell him ‘thass okay’.” No regret at all in his voice.

“What time does it start,” I asked.

“8:30 at the Germantown Country Club.”

“Cool. I’ll see you then.” I hung up.

When I told Kathy how the conversation went, she made the “Sister Mouth” and said, “Um” skeptically in the back of her throat and left it at that. (Ask your black friend.)

Upon further thought, and council with the Holy Spirit, I decided we would go to the reunion and just leave at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Which was right when everything was getting going good, it turns out.

I made arrangements to get some money till the weekend was over.

So, I was up all night Thursday night to make sure Diana got fed at about four, which I do every night, and Kathy went to work Friday morning. I got about two or three hours of sleep before Max woke up, and when Kathy got home, we packed and left.

I drove through the rain (I got sleepy about thirty minutes in), and we arrived at about ten. We fellowshipped with family, checked into the hotel, and I got to sleep sometime after 1 AM. I thought I would finally get eight hours of sleep. I thought…

Diana, used to that 4 or so AM feeding woke up angrily at five griping about all the negative campaign ads airing on TV. She, being so dependent on outside help, is a Democrat right now.

So after getting four hours of sleep, I wasn’t able to fall back.

I felt like I was going to have a breakdown. We went to the picnic, and as I said, right when everyone was getting settled in for a day (and night) of fun, I packed up my dejected wife and crying son and drove the three hours back to Memphis to do a gig at a place I hate with a band I don’t enjoy for some money which I shouldn’t need but do.

The gig was over at 12:30 Sunday morning, and I had to go buy diapers afterward because both kids were out of them. I got home at about 1:30, and had to at least listen to the material for church Sunday morning and the gig Sunday night, practically every song of which I had to lead. When did I have time to learn these songs? When did I get to sleep? Well, at least I would get a couple of hours after church, right?

On the way home, I got a text message from Charles, the Kw’est bandleader, stating that since the band wasn’t able to rehearse Saturday (I was excused from that one), we would have to rehearse at 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon! No excuses.

Okay. At least I would be able to come back home and get something to eat and maybe lie down for an hour. So I thought.

The saxophone is the quietest instrument in the band, relying on the vibration of a three inch reed to produce the sound. Everything else is amplified electrically except the drums, which are loud enough by themselves. So, in order to be heard in a group setting, I need a microphone!

When we got to the rehearsal, which was at the venue at which we were playing, there was no sound man, so while everyone else had their own amps, I had to resort to simply blowing harder in order to be heard. The drummer asked me to turn and face him because he still couldn’t hear me.

One keyboard player — we have two in the band — neglected to show up till over two hours later. (When I called him at 3:40 to see whee he was, he was at home asleep!) Two problems; HE was the one who needed the most work, AND the rehearsal was supposed to only last for two freekin’ hours!!! Rehearsing during soundcheck is a professional no-no.

We ended up having to run over everything we had already done when he got there, and it ended up being a four hour rehearsal for a three hour gig!

And I didn’t get to go back home. No food. No sleep. And I haven’t slept for almost five months. And I have already played two church services, and a four hour rehearsal with no microphone. My mouth is SHOT! (imagine squatting for four straight ours…) And I have to be up front entertaining people, playing unfamiliar material confidently and alertly. But “The show must go on.” No excuses.

Oh, yeah, and the person after whom I have patterned my entire professional life is going to be there. And my tank is empty. Here is my chance to have Kirk see me in the environment I claim to be born for, and I have been sapped of all my mental and physical strength. And HE is the one I remember saying that to get that big shot is to be prepared at all times. I wasn’t hoping that he would sign me or anything like that. I just wanted him to know that I was ready. And I wasn’t. And no excuse was sufficient. People spent their money on a product, and they don’t want to hear, “Oh, the food isn’t as good because the cook is sick.”

I couldn’t even remember the horn line to, “What You Won’t Do For Love,” which I’ve been playing for fifteen years! My brain was fried. I felt that I had let myself and the band and the audience down. And the sound man was taping the show! I kept thinking that I surely didn’t want to hear that monstrosity.

Kirk (Whalum) sat in with us and played the paint off the walls! He was great. My parents, sisters, and church members were there in force, and they loved everything. I remember praying to God during one song that He get me through this night because I couldn’t hold myself up. I think He carried me.

The one thing about playing music is that when the audience is caught up in the moment, they can sometimes see the colors but can miss the lines that separate them. Ask Simon Cowell. Listening to a recording can often tell a different story.

The sound man forgot to tape the show! Look at God!

There is no overarching moral here. I just wanted to write about my weekend. But I DO know that God lets adversity occur in order to tone up the muscles. And I don’t mind that. I’m getting pretty strong in my soul bone lately!

August 21, 2008 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Christianity, God, Humor, Life, Music, Parenthood, Playing Music, Work, Writing | 6 Comments

Why Ya Think They Call ‘Em “Happy Meals?”

Max bows his head sorrowfully, as if about to pray, “Daddy?” soft as a whisper.
“What?!” I answer, sharply.
“Paw Paw… Richie-Ryan… Chic-kan nug-gets,” referring to my father and two young nephews and a food he likes.
I cover my face so he can’t see me smile.
 
Okay, imagine John Edwards saying to his wife: “Hey, Honey, did you lose weight or do something to your hair? You look GREAT!!”


Or Senator Craig saying to the arresting officer: “Wow, they sure keep these airport bathrooms spotless!”

 

Max, two years old now, has just gotten caught doing one of his list of a thousand daily things he knows not to do, and is trying to soften up the wrath.
“Paw Paw… Richie-Ryan… Chic-kan nug-gets.” I hear it twenty times a day.
But what can ya do?
 

August 14, 2008 Posted by | Boys, Children, Christian Life, Discipline, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Home Life, Humor, John Edwards, Kids, Larry Craig, Life, Max, Parenthood, Parenting | 6 Comments

Another Malaprop

Kathy, on this post-partum diet, said to me yesterday, “I’m thinkin’ about becomin’ a veterinarian.”

“Fine, ” I shot back, “You can doctor on aaall the animals you want to, as long as you still cook ’em up for me!”

August 13, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Diet, Dieting, Food, Food for Thought, Home Life, Humor, Malaprops, Vegetarians | 2 Comments

Death Wears Three Shoes. Two Have Fallen…

“Hey, Derrick, we got a possible session comin’ up, and it’s BIG. I don’t wanna say anything yet, ’cause I might jinx it,” my trumpet player friend, Marc Franklin, told me a couple of months ago.

I didn’t press the issue because I’ve had a number of false alarms in the past.

It turns out that it IS happening. Tomorrow, August 11, we are (were) scheduled to play behind Anthony Hamilton and other notables on the soundtrack of the upcoming movie, “Soul Men” directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Spike’s cousin,  starring Samuel L. Jackson, the late Bernie Mac, and the — Lord, help us — late Isaac Hayes! I didn’t even have a chance to be happy about the whole thing because Marc had played everything so close to his vest that I didn’t even know that I was to be part of the music to the movie. I was fired up about the chance to shoot my shot with r&b artist Hamilton.

It hurt to hear about Bernie Mac simply because he was so genuine and funny. I always loved that dude. I didn’t even know I was working on his LAST FILM!

And then today, as I was at my folks’ house trying to get my usual Sunday afternoon nap (since I don’t ever go to sleep on Saturday nights anymore), I heard Kathy screaming from the distance and getting ever closer to where I was. “Isaac Hayes just died!” I sat up.

“WHAT?!?”

“They killin’ all the black people!!” she lamented. “First Bernie, now this! I can’t take it! Who next?!?” She was pretty upset.

You know they always say these things come in threes.

So, needless to say, tomorrow’s session is cancelled. See, Isaac is in the movie, too (unbeknownst to me), and the guys who played on the “Shaft” score with him, Skip Pitts (wa wa guitar) and Willie Hall (all those drums), are in the group that I often play with, and they are doing this project. They were at the studio when they got the news, and it was, I’m told, not pretty.

Isaac is the icon of Memphis music. He was one of the pioneers who got out and did it BIG. I can say with honor that I have played with him a few times and have spoken with him. Cool dude! Truck Turner in the flesh!  And, as I found out, he was a real musician who knew the music.

I was playing in the horn section at a NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) event a couple of years ago (nearly eerily where I met Morgan Freeman). We were honoring hometown Stax Records and Memphis musicians, among them William Bell, Justin Timberlake (when he was still with Cameron Diaz), and Isaac Hayes.

At a rehearsal, he came in to check out the band. We were working on a song of his, and one of the charts had some funny voicings for the horns. Isaac came over with a smile and asked us to play what was on the paper. I was like, “Man! Isaac Hayes is right in front of me listening to me play! Don’t mess up!”

We got into it, and I thought I was killin’ it when he stopped us…

“Play that again. Just the horns,” he baritoned. (“Wow! Sounds jus’ like hisself! I kin dig it!”)

We played the section again, and he looked at me and stopped us again. “Gimme your chart.” Cool as butter.

“See this ‘B’ right here? Play a ‘B’ flat. ” He basically re-voiced the whole chord. But I thought, “Naw. That ain’t right. He must have mis-read it. This is like major, and that note ain’t even in the key. It’s gonna clash, and everbody is gonna think it was me. He IS kinda old. I’m ‘on play a ‘B’ natural.”

So we played it again. See, I’m trying to impress Isaac Hayes with my abilities.

“Stop. Did you play that ‘B’ flat like I told you?”

My black face turned red. On the inside. “Aw. My bad. I musta missed it.”

He was still smiling at me.

So we hit it again, and I played the ‘B’ flat. Man, that chord rang out as pretty and altered as some Miles or some Monk or something!!

I looked up at Isaac and he had a grin on his face wider than an Atlanta expressway! I couldn’t do anything but laugh! We spoke no words, but here is what we said:

“Isaac! Maaaannn, you know yo’ stuff!”

“Yeahhh, young buck, they ain’t just invent music five years ago. I’m thru wit’ stuff you ain’t even heard of yet!”

“I’m impressed! My daddy got your records, but that whuppin’ you just gave me raises you waaay up in my book! I ain’ gone never forget this lesson! (I break verbs an assault adjectives and murder modifiers in my thoughts.)”

“You keep on playin’. You gone be all right. Just listen to the old heads.”

All that with a glance and two smiles. Isaac Hayes is — was — thorough! And now, he’s in the hands of the Lord.

Death hurts. The living as well as the departed, maybe the living hurt more. It is cool to have a few memories, but the pain of all this is a memory, too, and they kind of all go together. Otherwise, it would be like watching the first thirty minutes of a movie and leaving before the end.

I never got the chance to even wonder what it would be like to talk to Bernie Mac at the premiere. And the fact that I have interacted with Hayes makes his passing even more poignant.

It’s just not right to be speaking of these men in the past tense.

August 11, 2008 Posted by | Bernie Mac, Celebrity, Current Events, Death, Hollywood, Isaac Hayes, Life, Movies, Music, News, Show Business, Soul Men, Work | 5 Comments

Welcome to the Club(bed Foot)

CRASH!! STUB!!

“Oww! Sunnava…!!”

Okay. I’m officially a daddy now, kicking one of the kids’ toys — a heavy one! — in the dark in the middle of the night while making my rounds.

August 10, 2008 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Humor, Life | 2 Comments