If it hadn't been for Open Salon, I wouldn't have a body of work at all.
I don't know about you, but when I don't hear from someone in a while, I kinda get worried about their well-being. And that's odd, because it must be the last refuge of the Luddite: to embrace the new technologies with the old values. (Hello Gertie: can you get me Ed-i-tor on the line? I believe it's Rhinelander 409.)
I hate the don't call me, I'll call you inherent in the new normal.
We're supposed to just "get it" with what's presented and move along with our days, true, but insert dramatic ellipses here.
I'm a-skeered that the inability to cater to every last whim of the membership, now reaching into the upper integers in hundreds of thousands, signals a life-threatening illness of body or balance sheet.
(Since Citizens United, I'm doing the agnostics' hallmark dance: covering both bases.)
Fathers who give away their daughters, Timex recipients at General ThermoNuclear, 4th year celebrants at Open Salon: we all share the right to frame the limelight for only an instant.
This is my instant (great band name).
Copied and pasted for your consideration: a piece which I tossed into the ethersphere to meet a deadline which many would proclaim unhealthy. (There's an upside to self-publishing which is, ergo, 'Arthur Godfrey level' self-evident.)
It lives early-on in the archives here at Open, yes, but because it's my anniversary, I ask your special dispensation, savvy reader, for the re-post.
Know that the OS servers put a fresh date stamp on many folks' posts and let others stand, which makes true anniversaries difficult. This dates to before I became a mini-sensation in my own mind with "Cat Macarena." I had to turn off the comments the first go-round on this one, because the immediate relations found the post and started FaceBombing each other. I sure hope that doesn't happen again, though I've now kinda pre-'splained if it does.
"Ray - it's me - Stacey."
With those words I saved $700.00 and two weeks work for my three band mates and me and probably $1500.00 or more for Ray "Big Dog" Chamberlain. Had I not said or done anything, Steve, who was about to regret in an emergency room kind of way telling Big Dog to keep his eyes off his girl, would have learned where the big and the dog parts of Ray's nickname originated.
We need to go back to the mid 80's to the sleepy western NM town of Grants I still call home and the pure chance which put me on lead guitar for Badlands Band. I was working with Paul Crumb & Trudy Martin every so often, an Elks Club here a Chamber function there, and got to know Donny Tesso, master of the funky popped string bass lick ten years before it was a mainstay everywhere, only he applied it to classic country in a way which provided us endless knowing glances and hilarity on the bandstand. He went on to gainful, long term employment for Al Hurricane Jr., a name you would know if you know the popular radio of New Mexican rancheras and cumbias.
We were both ready to move on. The drummer was leaving town and cards were aligned just right so that when Donny told me Badlands was looking for a guitar player, I asked him to make the call to recommend me. He cross questioned me in a way I only later learned held extra significance as he warned me that I may not know what I was getting myself into.
Martha was off to college in the fall to earn her teaching degree, our house was an easily maintained 600 sq. ft. back then and it was this or nothing for finding work at my craft. I was to join up the following week with them in Clovis to play the Copper Penny for one week, then on to Odessa, TX to play The Sands, a little more zig-zagging over the two states and finally a week just down the interstate from home in Albuquerque.
The Clovis gig taught me instantly what Donny had been intimating: Big Dog was the quintessential slut puppy and the rest were equally into the parties at the band house which came after the gig, whereas I would be exhausted even to the point of sleeping through their shenanigans. Fortunately for Ray, his girlfriend lived in Clovis. (Only next week in Odessa it turned out his real girlfriend lived there - only not when his wife showed up at the weekend.) I was also asked to front him $60 cocaine money which I skillfully avoided doing without the aforementioned emergency room visit.
Several weeks into this new lifestyle and all I heard inside my head late into the night were Martha's words of encouragement and trust. I may be the first and only "road dog" you know about who can still face the proverbial shaving mirror and say that no, he never cheated, though one of the first new songs I learned with these guys was "Hell Yes I Cheated," which Ray claimed was his, but which I learned later was either penned by or made most famous by Mel Street. I sang backups on the tag line insincerely.
Into Albuquerque we rode, Dodge van towing a Wells Cargo trailer to play The Sundance Saloon. They/we had become a smoking hot band once again - I was the last of several replacements after many departures and unsuccessful hunts. Ray's bass playing brother Billy needed a heart transplant because of "nightlife" related problems and his non-musician brother Randy had a penchant for liberating party supplies from each venue. Hence, they had a bad reputation and had become very difficult to book.
I arrived on the scene at their all-time low point but we were making full use of our last second chance from Don Cange's Image International agency and here we were ready to play one of Albuquerque's three major venues.
There was the Caravan East, which exists to this day on East Central, which was one of a string of similar clubs from El Paso to Santa Fe to Amarillo and beyond. Even after name changes, like when the Clovis edition became known as the Boot Hill, you knew its pedigree from the plush Naugahyde, scallop shaped booths around the perimeter and the oversized dance floor in the middle, ripe for the counter-clockwise race course required by the etiquette of the honky-tonk.
The Sundance Saloon was an old Smith's (Kroger's to many of you) grocery which corporate had made their regional offices on one side and leased to Miss Ruby's night club on the other. It was way out Candelaria, almost to Tramway. Fire code there was in the teens of hundreds, though they sold two thousand tickets the two New Year's in a row we played. Just down the street, back at Juan Tabo was the Graham Central Station disco, of which there were and still are many in many different states, and its companion club, a play to the C & W crowd called of all things Cowboys.
Turns out, while the agent was struggling to find us work back in the places which hoped Badlands would never darken their doors again, Ray had lined up a possible two weeks sans agent at Cowboys if the manager liked what he heard. He showed up early during our week at the competition and he was impressed enough to offer us the two weeks immediately following. These were the days of six-nighters. Manna, sans ache - sans break.
It was an off night, either the Wednesday or the Thursday, when the Sundance closed a little early and we all headed down the street to Cowboys to get a feel for the venue. Steve, the doorman, was going to charge us the cover even after midnight and even after learning who we were, but a quick look over to the manager behind the bar made him waive that idea pronto. Already made to feel a little less authoritative, he picked up on Big Dog making those "hello Betty" eyes at the girl draped on his macho presence and words ensued. It took no more than ten serotonin deprived seconds for Ray to square off with this fool.
The manager was not happy to see this.
I was not so impaired as to miss either of these happenings.
Now the one thing you never do is come up on a coiled and ready to strike redneck from behind, but I had no time to cover the ground to face him. I tapped Big Dog's shoulder and he launched the right fist of doom right toward my face. In slow motion, as if starring in Crouching Stacey, Hidden Pants Peeing, I caught his fist in mid air before it could reach my nose or temple. Stopped it dead and to nobody's surprise greater than mine.
"Ray - it's me - Stacey," I said in a stage whisper. I had lowered my voice so that not even Steve the fool heard me say "he's telling you he's going to cancel our gig here," referring of course to the manager. "I know this goes against everything you believe, but you're going to have to find a way to back down from this," I said through my teeth. "He's going to cancel our gig. Really. That's what he was yelling at you just moments ago."
I was too new to be Ray's right hand anything. He kept giving me the once over with an expression that went in agonizing slow motion from who the hell was I to oh, you mean we're going to lose the two weeks' pay without that bothersome agent's cut?
He reached out a hand meant this time for shaking to Steve who was still visibly shaken and barely able to reassert his claims to his girl and his manhood, but who responded in kind.
For two fantastic weeks, we killed.
left to right
Robert Berne - pedal steel
Kenni with an I - guitar
Ray Chamberlain - bass
Randy White - drums
Stacey Youdin - guitar