Siting down here in Twenty-Nine Palms at the height of my career, rehearsing my 29-piece orchestra for the prime performance of ‘Indivisible’, loosely based on the biblical ‘Psalms 29’ text, I can’t help but reminisce about my long journey upward(?).
Yes, it all started with a whimper not a bang. A solo amateur-hour gig in Singapore. I did my naive best, but the reviews were caustic: One fellow wrote “He came to Singapore to sing a poor imitation of an Elvis tune?’
Another guy, in a strangely worded put-down penned: ‘The boy is nothing if not a dog-hound.’ But my favorite was some guy, Wolfgang, who said, dismissively, “He’s not even velvet…”
2) And so, tail between my legs, I returned to DuBois, PA, and put together a duo act, taking turns singing. Called ourselves ‘Two Boys from DuBois‘ of course. We got us a nice gig, two nights in Dublin. Led off with a half-hour of ‘Tea for Two’ Yeah, I thought we were doing great until I heard someone yell ‘Tea for too long!’ A French patron was even less appreciative:
“It’s ‘BWAA’, you illiterate!” Thus ended the duo’s short European campaign.
3) Back home, red-faced, we thought a bit and did some perestroika. In fact, I switched to balalaika, we hired an accordion player and tried our luck in the Tri-State area as the Troika.But once again, bitten by the forked tongues of linguistics, it turned out that Russian is *not* pronounced as it is written. Some of the geezers did hum along with the melody at times, which we took as slightly encouraging. Still, it was time for another change.
4) In this case, a quartet and a university gig. I hired three fairly high-priced side-men, which worried me some, but I thought that for four shows at Fordham I could afford ’em. Problem was that during rehearsals, they all insisting on including their own original songs, some slightly better than others but still… The school newspaper called us ‘Four Writers of the Apocalypse…and not in a good way.” We weren’t invited back. Yet. Hey, it’s only been 18 years.
5) So of course I knew what I had to do: form a nice classic organ-drums-bass-guitar-singer soul band. We called ourselves The Quintessentials and did, I think, five shows in Philly until the press had at us. Again! “Five characters in search of a tune.” quipped one critic. Another called us “The five people you meet in Hell” We were hurt, of course, and me maybe more than the rest. As the out-front singer, when you read ‘Oy, four tops and one bottom!‘ well, who do you think they are referring to?
6) The next step was clear: hire a foxy girl singer. We settled on the name ‘The Sextets‘ and things started to look up. Even recorded a CD in DC with her alluring likeness on the front ‘Tete-a-tete with the Sextets’. The sex was great for a while, although some Vets found the ‘tet’ offensive. And in addition, Bonnie found being gawked at increasingly un-put-up-with-able. The last straw was when some drunk yelled ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ in the middle of a mushy tune and she turned to us, said ‘I’ve had it!’ and walked off. No hard feelings though. Show business is a gory trip, we all knew that.
Ok, enough history for one lesson. We did find a sweet formula in the ten-piece horn band ‘The Decadents‘, followed by the ‘Decadents-plus-one’. Soon thereafter we added Randy Baker, (or he added us?) He was already a major draw, so we were the ‘Baker’s Dozen for a year and a half. He didn’t like my suggestion ‘Duodecahedron’.
Anyway, it does become more difficult as the numbers grow to fashion your image and venue around the numbers. I guess I’ll stop enlarging the group when we hit 57 players. Call it The Heinz, do a last CD called ‘Catch Up With teh the Heinz‘ and retire.
Actually, yesterday being my 65th birthday, maybe I can go for an earlier dismissal.
Anyway, thanks for reading this far/JS (Oh, and file under ‘Fiction’, if you haven’t already. The Truth would take fifty years to recount)