Master Guitar News - 2008
December 10, 2008: I put up a MySpace page for my latest CD (now over a year old), My Ship. There are several complete songs posted there that you can listen to without buying anything.
Working on a new page that has links to websites of students and former students that are in the music business to one degree or another. It's not even close to done, still some names with no links. It will be a work-in-progress from now on as my teaching load turns over and I get new students who play in bands or work in the industry in some capacity.
October 8th, 2008: A week ago Saturday I played at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Plaza. I met Lindsey Buckingham's drummer. Lindsey Buckingham was playing the Uptown Theater last weekend and they were staying in the hotel. Lindsey didn't come down to the club unfortunately, but his drummer and a couple of the road crew came in and stayed for a while. Also unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, so no pictures for the web site.
The move to BB's on Saturday afternoons has been looking good. For those who don't know, the band is paid a percentage of the drink sales, so if the crowd is down, or not drinking, our money goes down. The situation at the Embassy Bistro was such that I was seriously considering punting the gig and booking students on Saturday afternoons. Don't get me wrong, I would rather play a gig, but not a gig for poor money. The money at BB's for the last 3 weeks has been good enough to cause me to hang with the gig for at least the rest of the year and see how it goes.
Tonight I'm going to play solo at the Intercontinental Hotel. I would love to pick up a steady Wed night gig there. I don't know if tonight is an audition of sorts or if I'm just covering a hole in the schedule. I've been enjoying the solo gigs I've been doing lately - just me singing and playing acoustic guitar.
September 13, 2008: Opened for Black Oak Arkansas last Saturday night. It was fun. Lots of bikers. Thanks to Andy DeWitt's (bass/vocals) wife Nancy, and my brother Kevin, there's some cool pictures up on the photo page.
Mama Ray is moving the Saturday jam to BB's permanently starting September 20th.
August 15, 2008: The situation at the Embassy Bistro remains tenuous at best. We are planning to be there tomorrow. I've been told that they now have their liquor license and will be serving adult beverages. We are taking things a week at a time. Apparently Harling's is out of the picture. Mama is talking to Lindsey Shannon about moving the jam to BB's
Tomorrow we are introducing a new Hammond Organ player into the mix, Ken Lovern. I worked with Ken in Kevin Mahogany's band many years ago and I'm very much looking forward to playing with him again.
Aug 13, 2008: Sorry about the Embassy situation. Especially for those who showed up and there was no band - the club wasn't even open. "Closed for remodeling." No one deemed it necessary to tell the band either. We showed up to play the gig as usual. Boy was Mama Ray PISSED! And believe you me, you definitely don't want to piss off the Mama! Well, since we were there anyway, we just took our gear out of the back room and went home. At this point all bets are off as far as the Embassy is concerned. Mama is working on the situation. I will let everyone know as soon as I know what's going to happen.
July 3rd, 2008: Mark Valentine booked a gig for me and my 24-year-old son, Eric, on the deck at O'Dowd's in Zona Rosa. It was real short notice, and I'd never actually played a gig with Eric before. Of course, I taught him how to play the guitar, but you can't "teach" the craft of going over in a nightclub without actually doing it. Eric's done a few gigs here and there but nowhere near the hours onstage that I'd done at his age. He has taken my advice and got a teaching business going first. You can always play cover tunes on the weekend at the local neighborhood bar. Result: He's got more money than me, his retirement is as secure as possible and he owns his own house - or at least he's paying for it. Yeah, when I was his age I was gigging every night, livin' the dream, and had been for quite a few years, digging a financial hole that I didn't climb out of 'till I was over 45. Anyway, the gig was Valentine's idea. It was short notice, no time to rehearse or prepare - besides that, it's kind of against my philosophy to rehearse for a gig like that, I mean, just one more gig playing cover tunes in a club - so I threw Eric in the deep end. Bottom line, the management loved us and we're booked back several times over the summer. Pretty gratifying. Not only did I teach my son how to play the guitar, I now get to teach him the fine art of surviving the gig in a club. Play peppy, anthemic material, very few ballads, appeal to the ladies. If the ladies are there the guys will come, but the reverse is not true. Let people participate. Get 'em singing, get 'em dancing, that way they get hot and sweaty and buy more drinks. A performance art attitude is best. Don't worry about the drunk guy that wants to sit in and sing "Family Tradition" by Hank Jr. Let him do it! Yeah, it may sound horrible but he and all his friends will love you for it. It's not about the music, it's about the fun - and the drink sales! Take requests and if you even know part of it, play it anyway - go ahead, repeat the only verse you know 3 times, nobody cares or notices. They'll think you're amazing because you can play almost everything that's requested! Woo-hoo!
On the physical front, about a month ago I started taking gigs that require me to do most of the lead singing. Sometimes I have some discomfort, and my face usually hurts for a day or 2 afterwards, but I'm doing it! Progress for sure. Three months ago I was turning gigs down that required me to be the lead vocalist, now I can do it.
June 16th, 2008: Jazz Ambassadors Magazine has published an opinion piece I wrote. JAM can be picked up for free at many locations around town, including Jardine's and Harling's. Or just go here.
May 21st, 2008: Working on a new page devoted to John Elliott.
May 14th, 2008: The April/May issue of Jazz Ambassadors Magazine's cover article is an interview with Danny Embrey and Rod Fleeman, both awesome jazz guitarists. They spent quite a bit of time talking about John Elliott. I studied with John from '79 to February of '86. More than 2/3rds of my book is directly attributable to the material I got from John. His influence cannot be overestimated. I spoke with John just last week, he is now 82 and completely retired. Anyway, Danny was kind enough to plug my book. Thanks, Danny. (http://www.masterguitar.com/html/press21.htm)
March 30th, 2008: I gotta say something about Kevin Johnson. Kevin is a wonderful drummer and I really appreciate him. He is very versatile. He plays with equal authority on Jazz tunes, Rock, Funk, Country, you name it. As far as I can tell, stylistically, there are no weaknesses. (We've never done a gig where we played Middle Eastern ethnic music to accompany a belly dancer. I have - but I don't know how he'd do on that.) I have never seen him fazed, no matter what the situation is. And there WILL be "situations" - no doubt. One thing I have learned as a result of playing with Mark Valentine for many years: you can do anything with anything. One time we were playing a dance club and the bass player didn't show up. I played Mark's acoustic and Mark had Kevin stand up to play instead of sitting down behind his drums. This was more visual, Kevin's a happy-looking guy - as can be seen in this picture - didn't faze him. One St Patrick's Day we faked a set of Irish music at O'Dowd's on the Plaza with nothing but acoustic guitar and drums - didn't faze him. (The dirty limericks between every song probably helped.) 7-piece band on a big stage in front of a festival crowd doing R&B covers - didn't faze him. White trash rock bar with some definite racial crap going on - didn't faze him. We're currently playing a gig once or twice a month (Barley's on Midland Drive) where the instrumentation is acoustic guitar, sax, and drums with Mark up front. I use a loop station and create loops on the fly and then I solo over them. This means that Kevin has to play in perfect time with a machine - doesn't faze him. When I screw up and don't hit the switch just right and add a 16th of a beat to the time at the beginning of the loop, he just adjusts - doesn't faze him. He's never expressed dislike for anything we've done or disgust with anything that has happened - and he hasn't quit either! It's really nice to be playing a wedding reception, and the jazz during dinner is just as authentic as the dance music is at the back end. Anyway, I really like the guy, and his playing, and I hope we have many more gigs ahead of us than behind us.
March 3rd, 2008: A rather historic occasion occurred yesterday at the gig at B.B.'s. Well, historic in terms of MY history anyway. I played with The Scamps - or what's left of them. A couple of these guys are bridges to KC jazz from the '30's. I work with Alan Monroe (piano) all the time, and I've played many times with Dwight Foster (sax). But yesterday was the full contingent, with Oscar "Lucky" Wesley on bass and Wallace Jones on drums. My son Eric came by and snapped some pictures.
Physically, I'm recovering steadily. I'm maintaining 50 students a week and 1 to 3 gigs a week - a pretty normal schedule - and I'm not wiped out all the time. My surgeon released me a couple of weeks ago, so as far as he's concerned, we're done. Surgeons don't concern themselves with recovery or rehab. If you didn't die on the table the surgery was a success. Never mind that it will be a year before you have a chance at feeling normal again, if ever. But...my surgeon was a great guy, I liked him. He did a wonderful job, I can tell that I'm going to come out of this looking pretty normal. I will be monitored for glaucoma for several years, there's an increased risk of contracting it with injuries like mine. I still have numbness in my right nostril, gum, a couple of teeth, and parts of my face. I have daily nerve stuff - pinprick feelings, sharp pains that last for a couple of seconds - sometimes my cheek feels wet but it isn't, etc etc etc.
Jan 30, 2008: The "party" that I played at on Sunday was interesting. It was an empty house that was on the market for 1.3 million. Empty houses are harder to sell, right? So why not have an art show? That would include free cappuccino, maybe some wine and cheese, and some live jazz for ambience. We have empty rooms with beautiful hardwood floors and blank walls. So we had an open house. Dave McQuitty supplied the artwork, and yours truly supplied the jazz. I would say 50 to 80 people toured the house in an hour and a half. We made the Fox 4 News Sunday night at 9 and they ran the story again on Monday morning, I was on TV and I got paid for playing a hour and a half of jazz guitar. Life is good. Another good idea germinated from Mark Valentine's fertile idea factory. He said he was real close to being able to get realty companies to pay for this kind of thing. So there's a whole new source for music performance income that's never happened before. That guy has a knack for making connections and putting things together that one doesn't normally associate - like art/music and selling houses.
On the physical front I am improving incrementally every day. Within the last 3 days I've begun sleeping all night. More of the numbness is leaving my face - I've still got quite a ways to go on that, I hope it continues, even though the nerve pain is pretty constant. Last Saturday at the Embassy gig I kind of crashed about 5pm. I mean, I didn't collapse or anything, I finished the gig, but I ran out of steam and my face was hurting. I think it's the volume - the vibration - that caused that. I don't see that gig ever being a quiet gig so I hope that sooner or later it won't bother me anymore. Ironic isn't it?
We got Cheerio's ashes from the vet last Tuesday, he's now on top of the refrigerator. In front of the refrigerator was is favorite spot. In the near future, maybe in the spring, we'll scatter his ashes around outside and say goodbye for good.
Jan 22, 2008: Well, on top of everything else, we had our beloved Labrador, Cheerio, put to sleep yesterday morning. It was unbelievably hard. I never had a dog growing up, he was the first dog I ever had. But, he had a good, long life. According to the chart in the vet's office he was 108 dog-years old! My 18-year-old son, Evan, and myself sat with him until the end. I came home and bawled like a baby.
Valentine keeps coming up with these jazz gigs on short notice. After the Embassy gig on Saturday I buzzed down to Crown Center and played a little two hour gig with James Albright on upright bass and Phil Brenner on sax. All instrumental jazz, very enjoyable. We were supposed to be background music, accompaniment to fine dining, but we were getting smatterings of applause after songs. So people were actually listening. I have a solo jazz guitar thing this Sunday afternoon at a party in a private home - Valentine set that one up too. I love that guy!
And, again, even though both gigs on Saturday were what I would consider fairly low intensity, I slept most of the day on Sunday. I am getting better though, I can feel it. Last night instead of sleeping propped up on 4 or 5 pillows, I slept laying down on two pillows. The nerve pain continues but the numbness has left some of my lip. I can tell that the bones in my face are almost healed - it's been 5 weeks and 4 days since the surgery. I think they say that by 6 weeks bones are healed up. I still have some swelling around my eye. I have a weird little bruise on my cheek and I think I can feel a plate in my cheek. Also, I think I can feel the plastic mesh in the floor of my eye-socket. The plates and screws will dissolve in six months to a year, but the plastic mesh will be in there forever. Hopefully I'll get used to it, and the sensation of something alien in there will go away. Hopefully.
Jan 14, 2008: Returned to the Embassy gig last Saturday afternoon. Many people had read the Open Letter. Several people expressed how cool they thought it was and several more people gave me money. I feel like I'm living in a Jimmy Stewart movie, I caught myself looking around for Clarence! Saturday night I played at George Brett's on the Plaza. I felt better than I thought I would, we quit early, but I stayed for a half hour or so longer than I needed to - just talking to people. But, again, I wound up sleeping off and on all day Sunday. But Sunday night I slept for 6 hours straight without waking up - that's an encouraging sign! Up until now I've only been able to sleep 1 and a half to 3 or 4 hours at a time. I've also had to sleep sitting up. If I lay down and put any kind of pressure on my face the pain wakes me up. Pain pill count: 3 in 8 days. I think that's pretty good. The gig situation for the rest of the month is pretty slim - one gig a week. I don't mind, I don't need to be working like I usually do, it's gonna be a while before I'm back to 100%, and it may be that my 100% may need to be redefined, we'll see.
Jan 8, 2008: Ok, it took a month before I could stomach it, but here's some pictures. Don't click on the link if you don't want to see the gruesome reality.
Jan 6, 2008: I decided to play it safe and not play the Embassy yesterday just in case the teaching and the gig on Friday was too much. I got through Friday ok, I was very tired by the end of the night but felt like I did ok. Singing didn't hurt as bad as I thought it would. However, I wound up sleeping until 3pm Saturday afternoon. I'm obviously right on the edge of functionability right now.
There was an incident at the club Friday night that was classic. During our last break, about 11pm, a fight broke out. There was a mad scramble of people getting out of the way, and other people trying to separate the two guys going at it. There was a lot of yelling and cussing. Finally things calmed down, each guy had two or three other people holding them back from each other, and then a girl lit into one of them. More screaming and yelling ensued. Finally the cops got there and were still sorting it out when we quit playing a little before midnight. The thing that sets this completely typical incident apart is that while the fight was going on, the song that was playing through the PA while we were on break was John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." As Kevin Johnson, our drummer, said, it was the epitome of irony. It was a classic little vignette from the heart of Americana. I have hundreds of memories like that. It's one of the reasons I love my job. Lots of stories.
I still have quite a bit of pain in my face. I think it's mostly nerve pain. It's that nerve trying to regenerate. I think that some of the numbness has left my lip, which is encouraging. Teaching is not as strenuous as performing is, so I'm hoping to teach this week as usual and be a little stronger for this Saturday, when I will attempt two gigs. A couple of you have expressed concern about the pain pills. I have gone through cycles in the last week and a half or so. I'll go without any pain pills for several days, then wind up using them again at night to sleep . At this point, I haven't had one since Friday night. (It's Sunday night as I write this.) Each time I go without them for several days I think maybe it's the end of them. Then, for some reason, the pain intensifies again and I wind up taking them at night for awhile. So, while I would like to think I've seen the last of them, I can't guarantee it. I appreciate your concerns, believe me, I share those concerns. But I really think I'm ok, in spite of my addictive personality! Besides that, my wife is watching me like a hawk!
On my post-op visit to the surgeon last Wednesday, Dr Jungbluth said that while he didn't want to make light of my pain, things were progressing normally, and he wasn't seeing anything that he wasn't expecting. Alrighty then!
Jan 3, 2008: Please read, An Open Letter to Friends, Family, Students and Fans.
Jan 1, 2008: The gig last night was super easy and I was home by 10:40. It was all jazz and I didn't have to sing at all but I was pretty wiped out when I got home, and had a bad night. My neighbor started shooting his gun at midnight, six or eight rounds three different times. I couldn't turn my brain off, I had the changes to Satin Doll going on in my head over and over. What a nightmare! Gunfire to the tune of Satin Doll! In spite of all that, I feel pretty good today ("good" being a relative term these days) and am encouraged by that fact. Other than another post-op visit to my surgeon tomorrow, I have nothing to do 'till Friday when I will attempt a return to a normal schedule. Friday I have 4 hours of teaching and then a gig. Friday will be a big test.