When touring it is good to keep a ‘Road Journal’, something to keep your kids amused if nothing else. What follows is a clip from the Road Journal of one of my students ‘Hugh’. Hugh was a networks Guru and wanted me to change his life so that he became a Bluesman. The deal was that I was with him 24/7 making his life a steep learning curve for a year. My expenses were paid and if successful I got his zooped up Mac and all its bits. I only had an Amstrad WP and its limitations were driving me crazy.
This true tale comes from Malaysia when we gigged KL the city of lights.
HOW TO GET A GIG IN KL BY HUGH MESENGER
These tales come from a tour of South East Asia I took with my student Hugh Messenger. We went with his 6 & 4 year old sons, why make a thing easy when you can let the boys make it random from the start.
These tales we put in between the music in a book I wrote of J S Bach’s 2 & 3 part inventions arranged for the chromatic harmonica.
At first we had put playing notes as to how to approach the difficult bit’s, then in a moment of clarity I thought how pompous I was being, in assuming that the bits we found hard others would also find hard. So instead we put in these reports on our ad hock tour.
This one is written by Hugh Messenger (I was hired 24/7 for a year to change his life from that of a networks guru to a blues harp band leader), I hope you enjoy his writing as much as I do. Maddest of all is that it’s true almost down to the last grain of rice
HOW TO GET A GIG IN KL
BY HUGH MESENGER
There is nothing like public performance to ensure that songs get arranged and rehearsed properly. So far we had spent our time in South East Asia writing and rehearsing new material, with precious little in the way of live performance.
It was time to play a gig. We were now settled in KL, and a bit of asking around told us that the Barn Thai Jazzaurent was THE venue in KL for Blues and Jazz. Right, we thought, time to get to work.
We decided to swing by the Barn Thai that afternoon, have lunch and see how the land lay. As we walked into the place, the forebodings began. White liveried waiters hovered everywhere, gold and jewelery dripped from every patron and the cheapest dish on the menu constituted an entire days food budget. Still, there was a nice looking stage with a professional P.A. and more importantly, an appreciative audience.
We took our seats and biting the bullet, ordered our meals. David opted for a seafood Tom Yam and I went for a Prawn Tom Yam. Our Tom Yams arrived, conveyed with as much pomp and ceremony as a Royal Wedding. Ten minutes later I was still looking for my prawns. . . Now call me old fashioned, but when I order a Prawn Tom Yam I expect the occasional prawn in it. Unable to help myself, I felt my sense of English indignation growing. Centuries of Empire building genetic ancestry working itself up, stiffening the upper lip, changing the tone of voice to that particular clipped arrogance hated the world over!
David watched this process with growing amusement, and once sure that I was full of enough righteous indignation to face a regiment of white liveried waiters he raised his hand and clicked his fingers.
Now, David’s fingers are those of a Composer, Arranger and a Band Leader. His finger clicks can be clearly heard over the noise of a Rock and Roll band in full swing. The effect within the restaurant was dramatic. Everything stopped. Forks poised half way between plates and mouths, wine-bottles paused in mid gurgle, waiters froze in place. Slowly all heads turned to focus on us.
It was in this dread silence that I heard my voice, unbidden. . . “Bring me the manager at once.”
We were ushered to the manager. The rest was easy. Within ten minutes David and myself were giving the Manager a quick rendition of “Rattle Tramp” one of David’s more flashy, impressive fast R & B duo’s played on a combo of the Steve Backer specials in low C and and Tombo’s Ultimos in B.
RATTLE TRAMP The players of this cut down arrangement, using just 10 hole Lee Oskar Blues Harps in C, are : The Doc and his 15 year old World Harmonica Champion, Paul Gillings.
Within twenty minutes minutes we had booked ourselves a set for the following evening, agreed the fee and had our meal and bar tab waived.
We stayed on for the afternoon to get a feel for the acoustics and to know the house band ‘Sax appeal’. We had a bunch of fun giving them a horn section- harp style. We got on like the proverbial house on fire.
As we started to pack up. an American with a pony tail and beard cornered us. “Wow, what was this radio gear we were using, he wanted to know. Sennheiser UHF, huh? All the way up there? “Hey, even we don’t get to play around with this stuff”. It transpired that this man was the sound-crew chief on the Diana Ross tour, also playing that week in KL. He then had words with Don the manager, asking that we not start our set the following evening until his crew had finished their work and so could come and catch our set. High praise indeed, and much kudos in Dons eyes. I decided it was time to raise our fee a little. on account of the late start of course!
P S In the course of the years 24/7 tuition The Doc wrote a work for Hugh to play in the All British Open Harmonica Championships, The Diatonic Melodic category. The Doc doesn’t believe in music competitions, as for him music is all about complimentaion. That said it is one of the best tests of one’s nerve one can get. The audience is made up of folk who know what’s what on the harmonica and they are all listening with a very critical ear. After playing that gig no other audience will give you a bad case of the nerves. The value is also in competing with oneself, keeping on top of it and delivering the goods.
Where did Hugh place in the competition I hear you ask . . . well First Place, of course.
Hugh now fronts his own well enjoyed R&B Band in Huntsville Alabama & I inherited all his then top of the line Mac ‘puterts. and I taught his sons how to fish -D