My mother used to tell the story of how—at a very young age—I stood up in front of a crowd and, without any prompting, did an acceptable impression of Elvis Presley.
That’s when she knew, she told me, that music and performing were in my future. Accordingly, shortly afterward she bought me my first guitar—a Stella with Black Diamond strings—and thus set me on a course a course for the rest of my life. Continue reading
To the 2-3 people who follow this blog: I apologize for not posting anything for, well, a while. A combination of financial, personal, medical, geographical, cybernetical (is that a word?) — and probably astrological — problems have interfered.
It’s easy to Tweet on an iPhone; a blog post: not so much.
But, rest assured, cyber-buddies, I will be back at the ol’ keyboard long before this time next week, with enough content to make up for my lapses in spades.
So. please don’t give up on me. I’ll still be holding my open mic at Pizza Baron tomorrow night at 7:00 PM, but will be heading back out of town again immediately afterward. If I can get online before then, I’ll have 5-6 new posts before next Wednesday. If not, then that following Friday.
Too much information? When I return—I’ll type, and you’ll decide!
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been drawn to the arts—most of them, anyway. At one time or another, I’ve fantasized a career as a
- movie director,
- TV producer
Unfortunately, the only career I was ever able to make a living at was as a professional musician (Well, maybe a little as a writer, but not the way I’d imagined). No matter, though: I lived out my dreams vicariously, through biographies and autobiographies. What follows are three autobiographies that had the strongest impact on me and informed me as the person I am today.
The name Moss Hart might not be familiar to most of you reading this today, but during the ’30s and ’40, the playwriting team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart was as well known as Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park) are in the naughts. Together, the two of them wrote Broadway hit comedies that are still performed today, such as You Can’t Take It With You, The Man Who Came To Dinner, and George Washington Slept Here.
In Act One Mr. Hart tells the story of his early life in best-seller fashion: from his impoverished Manhattan childhood to his discovery of live theater and the lure of Broadway to his apprenticeship as social director at myriad summer resorts to his initial attempts at writing plays and his first meeting with Mr. Kaufman—in prose that is infused with an unabashed affection for all things theatrical and free of any artifice—and ends as the pair’s first collaboration, Once In A Lifetime, opens to rave reviews on Broadway.
Interspersed with Mr. Hart’s own story are tasty vignettes of the period: The Algonquin Round Table, summers in the Catskills, the rewards of Little Theater—but most of all, the story of man who never lost his passion and his dream.
It was this book, above all other things, that provided me a sense of optimism, a passion for art, and a love of live theater that continues to this day.
Papa John (1987
If Moss Hart’s story represents a dream realized, Papa John, this autobiography of the John Phillips—founder of The Mamas & The Papas—is a nightmare of sex, dysfunction, and addiction. In a tale laden with 60s excesses Mr. Philips chronicles his ascension from Greenwich Village folksinger to his gathering the the rest of the group members forming them and directing them to the apex of their critical and commercial success—followed by his downward plunge (spiral is too moderate a term) into drugs and attempts at rehab, all the time dragging with him the other members as well as those with whom he came into contact.
Although Phillips tries to paint a sympathetic self-portrait, he fails and the sense of entitlement that informed him, both personally and artistically until his death, shines strongly though.
Although I admired John Phillips as an artist, Papa John provided me as good an explanation as any as to why I’d always been uncomfortable watching him perform.
The life of Sammy Davis, Jr. could have been that of any Black man growing up in the 40 and 50s, except for his exceptional talent as a singer, dancer, and all-round entertainer.
Yes, I Can, opens as Mr. Davis is in a car wreck and, fearing an impending death, reflects upon his life from a childhood as the youngest member of his parents’ vaudeville act, through his success and discovery in his teens and early 20s, his marriage to Swedish actress, May Britt (then considered
Through Mr. Davis’s recollections, we learn the reasons (and accompanying tribulations) behind his conversion to Judaism, his self-doubts, the racism he encountered in the Deep South, the loss of one eye, and finally his triumphs as a world-class entertainer.
Yes, I Can is an easy read and many will find it inspirational if not illuminating. As such, it reads as easily as a summer beach novel.
These three autobiographies—along with one other that will have to wait—are pleasant diversions, yet still offer—if not a glimpse, then a peak—into lives that are different from most of our own.Image Credits: Respective publishers.
From my previous post, A good dance band is never out of work, you may have surmised that once-upon-a-time I was a professional musician. For quite a few years, in fact. And, as a band leader, I learned a few things about business that I carried over to my website design company when I left the neon light of the Las Vegas Strip (Really!)
But, that will have to wait for another time.
The following steps apply to businesses, entrepreneurs, employees—and even musicians. Y’all are intelligent enough to make any necessary substitutions.
- Get your act together. By “act” I mean the literal meaning of the noun, as in “something brought about by human will”. In other words, what you’re gonna do. Here are some of the components: choose your material, rehearse and arrange it, decide what songs you’ll be playing as well as the order in which you’ll present them. Decide what kind of audience you prefer and choose, arrange, etc. accordingly.
- Research venues. Make certain that your music fits a venue that actually exists. If your kick is Nigerian toe-slapping music, make sure there’s a place where that kind of thing is appreciated. Or that there’s at least the potential for appreciation.
- Decide whether you must be paid (in some manner) or if you might be willing to play showcases, open mics, and festivals for the experience and publicity. Choose your venue accordingly.
- Approach whoever does the hiring and arrange for an audition.
- Choose the material you’ll perform at the audition. Because you’ve researched the venue, you know what will work and what won’t. Don’t play for yourself; play for the decision maker.
- Show up early. Set up quickly and unobtrusively. Don’t chase out any customers who are already there.
- Perform your audition set. Don’t chase out any customers who are already there.
- Tear down quickly and unobtrusively. Don’t chase out any customers who are already there.
- Unless the owner indicates that s/he wants to talk to you immediately, as soon as you’ve torn down completely, approach him or her and tell them you’ll contact them the following day.
- Then, do so.
So, until we meet again: Keep rocking.
A good dance band is never out of work.
What in the heck am I talking about? and, what doe it have to do with content creation or business?
Here’s a hint: It has absolutely nothing to do with playing danceable music; but, then again, it has everything to do with it.
Break it down: People like to dance, even those who can’t. There seems to be some biological-neurological-physiological-psychological—something—that responds to certain rhythmic patterns and set one’s toes to a-tappin’. Don’t ask me, I’m in that second category.
But, just accept it: people like to dance. Think Studio 54. Think disco. Think house (the music, not the TV show). Think Saturday Night Fever. Do you know how much money the Bee Gees made off that soundtrack? I don’t either, but I bet it bought a shitload of Capezios and Angel Flights.
Corollary: People like to dance, so a band that plays music that people can dance to is going to be popular with people who dance (or would like to dance). That attracts them to your venue.
Corollary: Club owners, bartenders, and cocktail waitresses like people who are dancing, a/k/a customers. Why? Because dancing feet are thirsty feet and alcohol is the divine lubrication of happy-thirsty feet . . . which leads to more drinks being sold. Simply stated: Drinking = dancing. Dancing = drinking. The circle of life.
So, here we have the needs of both the audience and club owner-bartender-cocktail waitress being filled. And, yours, too. As the primary mover behind this miracle of symbiotic synergy (synergistic symbiosis?), you’re getting paid for your services . . . aren’t you?
Some bands look down on playing danceable music: They want to play sold-out concerts in mammoth stadiums. Or small, intimate coffee houses, where the lights are dim and the smoke is thick, and the audience listens rapturously to every nuanced lyric turn and subtle, muted note.
They’re allowed. Just substitute “crowd-pleasing” for “good dance band,” or “content creator,” or “business owner,” or whatever else you’d like it to be.
That’s just one of the wonderful things about a good metaphor—which is exactly what “dance band” is.