The title of this post may seem strange, but (read on) you’ll understand in a moment. First, the $328. That’s the amount of cash I’ve got in pocket from gigs at this moment. What that means is I do not have to go to an ATM. My practice and dedication to learning how to play the bass is paying me enough to earn petty cash.
Sure, I’d never have been able to support a family or to even pay for a crawl space to sleep in earning that kind of dough. Homeless I’d be, for sure; but, I am meeting a goal of earning enough to feed myself.
Last night (October 6, 2015) I earned a little cash performing for another musician who held a house concert (something all music lovers who can afford it should actually do).
Teresa presented a program that featured a program was multi-media and there was one clip presented that included Henry Mancini. When I saw him, I had a flash back.
In 1961, I was a bass drummer with Jimmy Farrell in the Santa Monica High School Viking’s Marching Band. It was an award winning band (1961 – 1962) that I’d joined after chickening out of becoming a member of the football team (no need to digress to tell you about that now).
One day, the first chair trumpet player (or somebody in the Marching band) approached and said one of the guys father, who was a producer or director or something, wanted a band to play at a party in Bel Air. You know, where the really big stars live. $20 bucks!
They needed a bass player, he said.
“I don’t play bass,” I replied.
“Yea, but I heard you playing ‘Peter Gunn.'”
The truth was that the bass line to Peter Gunn, by Henry Mancini, was about all I could thump out on the bass. It was a cool line. I think I could kind of do a couple of other licks, but mostly I’d farted around with the upright bass for fun, like kids do today playing Louie Louie air guitar. I wasn’t really serious. I think I also knew the line to Song for My Father or something like that.
“Uh, yea, first I don’t even play bass and second I don’t even have a bass,” I said.
“Hey, Charlie, that don’t matter, we got a gig and we need a bass player.” He paused. “And besides,” he said eyes gleaming, “there’s a bunch of basses in then band room.” He paused, jammed his hand in his pocket, looked at me with a glint in his eyes and said, “I got the keys to the band room!”
“You got a car, right?”
My 1956 Ford awaited the adventure.
The evening of the gig, we met at the band room after school shut down, got in the band room and scored the bass. Directions were given and we did a caravan to Bel Air, driving past Bob Hope’s house and up higher and higher into the hills. We eventually came to some Star’s house. I don’t think it was Barbara Streisand’s place, but I think she was some where in that neighborhood.
We came to a house, stopped and began loading-in on-time, but we were very close to the down beat time and it was …
(to be continued)
10/16/2015 (continuing) … really tight.
We set up. As I recall, there was an entry way, a few stairs leading down to the living room that extended out to a balcony that had a view of Los Angeles’ lights. When we arrived, there were a couple of servants handing out wine from silver trays as you entered. We didn’t get any, of course.
We were almost late so we had to really hustle to get set up. To the right and above the sunken living room leading to the balcony was a 25′ square space and that’s where the band set up. There must have been about 7 or 8 of us (maybe more). It was a little tight, but we’d barely made it on time. And, sure enough, the guests started to arrive.
We began playing and I noticed that no matter how we sounded (and we were not sounding that good, at all), nobody noticed and nobody cared.
Ladies would kiss each other on the cheeks, exchange pleasantries and move on into the massive living room chatting endlessly. Guys would come in and hugs would be exchanged. And guys in the white jackets would hand out goblets and crystals filled with red or white wine. I guess you’d call it a Hollywood social affair.
The trumpet player called another tune. And then another. Meanwhile more people came, oblivious to the noise we were making, as they made their own in animated conversation.
All was going well … until one guy walked in wearing a very sharp suit, narrow lapels and a skinny ties that was the fashionable at that period of time.
He stopped in front of the band and, of all the people who come to the party, he was different. He cocked his head to the side. And I perceived that he was listening. Well, not just listening. He was listening to everyone in the band. And, then, I felt his attention shift. He was listening … to me … no … not me … but to each musician playing. I remember thinking, “He’s listening to see if there’s a real outstanding player among us.”
And as he stood there, each player he attended to began to lose composure, intonation, time and harmony.
Train wreck! I lost it when he listened to me — the drummer who was trying to play the bass.
I was not alone. You see, his attention shifted first to each musician playing, from the trumpets, trombone, to the saxes and to the bass (that’s when I lost it). And, we all crashed like a mangled pile of steel rails falling off of a flat bed freight car.
He continued to listen for a moment, as we tried to regroup and get the groove and then — mercifully — turned, walked away and his attention went to the party and the hostess who had rushed up to greet him.
We only played four or five numbers or so, (including Peter Gunn) and we packed, got out of there and I got my $20. I thought the kid who had arranged the gig would be pissed at my poor performance, or that the hostess would be pissed and not pay us a dime.
I swore to myself: “I’ll never try to play in public like that again. Never.” It was so bad and I was embarrassed and totally ashamed.
“Sorry about that,” I said.
The gig-master wasn’t phased, at all. “Yea, it was great!” said the kid who handed me the $20. And, he said that the hostess had told him “thank you” as we were leaving.
Who was that guy who was actually listening, the only one?’ I wondered.
Years later, I saw the picture. Crap on myself! It was Henry Mancini!!!!
- Assume there’s ALWAYS at least one great musician in the audience
- I’ll never play as poorly as I did that night, under any circumstance (and I haven’t)I’m playing, at every opportunity, always improving and playing better than I did that evening
- No matter what, get paid and there’s no reason to stop playing (or trying to)!