Pictures and thoughts from a Memphis Musician's Wife

Posts tagged ‘mr. 88’

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Mr. 88

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Just Be Good to Me

Suavo J. feat. Mr. 88 and the Bones with Sweet Angel singing “Just Be Good to Me” at the 2013 National Bikers Roundup in Tunica, MS

My Guys with Sweet Angel

So, you always hear all sorts of things about singers these days. Some are total divas. Some are self-centered, rude, and hard to work with. Some are just particular about what they like. Last year, Jeremy got a call from Mike Dobbins, husband and manager of Sweet Angel, “the Redbone with the Saxophone of Blues.” Due to scheduling difficulties, we were not able to work with her. In that year, Sweet Angel had another band or two, and the Bones started to take off on their own.

About a month or two ago, we got a call from Mike Dobbins. Jeremy was asked to put a band together for a Sweet Angel show. This time, the band was ready. All they needed was a guitar player. Moe, our bass player, suggested someone. He came to two rehearsals (there were only 3) and backed out on the day of the event. Moe called a guitarist named Adam. Jeremy has played with him a lot of times on Beale Street. I was sure if anyone could do the music he could. But that story comes a little later. Jeremy booked the gig for the Bones, and the Bones began rehearsing the music.

Now, I should explain something before I go any further. All of the musicians I work with are able to listen to a song and normally play it back just like the CD. You will rarely ever see chord charts, drum charts, or sheet music around them. A majority of them are self taught. I don’t mean, they only play by ear. If you gave 3/4 of them sheet music to sight read, they could. There is just something different about these musicians.

I was emailed all of the music and made sure my band got it. The first rehearsal lasted an hour or so. They seemed to breeze right through the music. The second rehearsal was a little rough. Of course, there was a different added element, the guitarist. I was not personally at that rehearsal, but I know it tool almost 3 hours. I also heard stories about the guitarist arguing and whining throughout the rehearsal with Sweet Angel. I was at the third and last rehearsal. The energy through the first run was low. When the second run was played, Sweet Angel sounded pretty satisfied, although still skeptical of if they could pull the show off with the energy she needed.

The day of the show rolled around, and we all rode together to Tunica, MS. We were performing at the Tunica Expo Center and Arena, opening up for Avant and Keke Wyatt, as well as Mr. Bobby Rush. Avant’s band was on stage doing a sound check when we walked in the door.  Jeremy thought he would be able to use the keyboard in the backline, and there was a backline for everyone else, so nobody brought their amps or big equipment in. They took a very long time to finish their sound check. Sweet Angel and 88Bones were going on stage at 7, but when the band finally got to step foot on stage, it was 7. Of course, Jeremy couldn’t use the other Motif on the stage. We had to run out and get his equipment and set it up. We did that in about 5 minutes time, and the band got started.

#88Bones

The first song was so full of energy.  Adam, the guitar player, fit right in with the band, even though his first time hearing her music was in his car on the way to Tunica. Sweet Angel was sweating by the 2nd verse! She told the guys during rehearsal that she wasn’t satisfied until she started sweating.  After the first song, I went to sit beside the stage.  The show went of without a hitch. When Sweet Angel came off stage, she told me I’d whipped them into shape. I didn’t do anything. That’s just my guys. They may not be perfect during rehearsal, but when the lights are shining and people are cheering, these guys give their best.

We got in the van for the ride home, all feeling somewhat satisfied. It looks like this could be a new path for #88Bones. Stay tuned for this adventure. Oh, and Sweet Angel has proved not to be anything more than a professional lady. She was kind, generous, encouraging, and wants the best band she can get because she puts on a show that needs just that. We truly appreciate her professionalism. I am very proud to say I am the manager of Suavo J. feat. Mr. 88 and the Bones. They are an amazingly talented group of professional musicians, and I am honored to be able to work with them. I’m so glad that they entrusted me with their future as a band.

A Day in Our Shoes

For three years now, I have been a part of a unique world of people. I was raised in Memphis, but I was never really aware of the live music scene around town. When I was younger, I sang in the choir, played piano, and taught myself how to play the clarinet. My mom always had several genres of music playing around the house, so I was exposed to all types of music. Classical always had a very special place in my heart, though. I loved the sound of a full orchestra, how that orchestra came together to make one song a magical experience for the audience. The right piece could invoke so many types of emotions without a word ever being sung.  It was not until I met my husband that I got exposed to the true life of the everyday professional musician. 

When Jeremy and I began dating, he played at a few different venues on Beale Street. Most of these venues (smaller bars and outside venues) pay the musicians a small percentage of nightly bar sales and the musicians are responsible for gathering tips to pay themselves. When you think about Beale Street, you think, “It shouldn’t be that hard to make money down there. Thousands of people pass through Beale Street every week.” Well, when you are relying on those tourists to pay you on their own, combined with the competition for money from the other 16 venues on the street, it can be hard to make a living. Many tourists come to Memphis because they are trying to save money. They want an affordable vacation. Keep in mind, whatever tips are made are split 3-6 ways, depending on the size of the band. Tipping $1 to a 4 piece band gives each of them .25 cents. So, in order to make a decent living as a musician in Memphis, it is a must that you play with more than one band.  Jeremy has played with the Juke Joint Allstars, Vince Johnson and the Plantation Allstars, the Memphis Bluesmasters, Darrell Wilson and the Soul Outsiders, the Eric Hughes Band, Carl Sims, the Ghost Town Blues Band, and Darren Jay and the Delta Souls, just to name a few. He also fronts of his own band with Suavo, which is taking off now.  You may think that is a lot of music to learn, and you would be correct, but it is a must if you are striving to make it doing nothing but playing music.

It is a rough life. That is for sure. There are late nights and long days. Sometimes Jeremy will have 3 gigs in one day, starting around lunch time and playing until 1 or 2 am. If I was not as involved with his career as I am, I would probably never see him.  On weeks when his daughter is with us, it is even more stressful. We wake up around 8-9 am when she is home and 10 am or later when she is not.  We usually grab breakfast, get dressed for the day, and are out of our house by 1-2 pm. On some days, Jeremy starts playing one gig at 1 pm, breaks his equipment down to go to the next gig at 3, and will have another gig around 8 or 9 pm. We don’t leave Beale Street most nights until 1 or 2 am. Some nights it has been 3 or 4 am. Some gigs give a guarantee pay to the bands, although that gets split and is normally barely enough to cover daily expenses. It is almost impossible to save money with what you make on one gig. You have to play several to pad the rest of the income you have coming in. Several times out of the week, a band will call Jeremy to fill in for someone who couldn’t make it to the gig. Normally, there is no refusing a gig. We can’t afford not to go, although some days and nights I have seen musicians play for 4-5 hours and walk out with less than $5 in their pocket. It can be rough. They are right when they say you truly have to love music and have a passion for it to do what the musicians I know do. I wish everyone who came to Beale Street could see just one day in the life of one of the young musicians trying to earn a living on Beale Street through their eyes. It would open so many eyes. 

Differences between playing instruments and using instruments

I was discussing with my husband all of the things that he can do with his Yamaha Motif XF8 as we were going over some material he is supposed to be learning. It is amazing how you can do so much without even really learning to play the piano. This machine does it all for you. However, my husband does all of those things without having to “cheat” using all of his keyboard’s accessories. This is what makes Jeremy unique in my eyes. Instead of using all of the different arpeggios on his keyboard, he listens to them and mimics them. He plays everything that the keyboard does manually. I hang out with a group of musicians who have taught themselves how to play their instruments. They take pride in their skills, and it shows during their live performances. I almost hate to hear an album that was completely done digital. Live instruments are where that quality is that people want to hear. Most people who get a workstation (keyboard) use it to make beats and do studio work, making all of the digital albums you hear today. My husband uses his workstation to actually play music. I love that about him. 

#88Bones @ the Center for Southern Folklore: Band Manager’s POV

Suavo J. featuring Mr. 88 and the Bones is the band that I manage. Most of the time when Jeremy plays, I take a supportive wife role. I setup equipment and play waitress and mom to most of the bands that he plays with. My momma didn’t raise a lazy woman. On occasions with my band, I get to play more of a role than band wife and mom. I get to manage the Bones. I run their website, Facebook, promote, book, and do crowd management at the shows. I am the one everyone turns too when the band is on the stage and something is needed from them. 

For the past 10 months, I have been trying to get the band booked at venues other than the cigar shop, where they play when needed. This has been in nights when the Grizzlies had home games at the Forum or when a band is not already booked on Thursdays (ladies’ night). I appreciate having a venue to play in so the band would have a regular showing. It has had its ups and downs, and we will probably be back there soon.

Tonight was different. Tonight the Bones played at the Center for Southern Folklore. This is a vastly different crowd. Tonight, my moms were there and the first time they would see Jeremy and his band play live. Tonight was the first gig with a cover charge ($10). Tonight was their time to shine and be seen. That is exactly what they did. As they began their first set, my moms and their friends took their seats. Another friend of ours came in. I walked outside, and the manager asked if I thought the guys would draw a crowd. I just kinda shrugged my shoulders and said we would see. 

As they played the first of two sets, people began piling in. These were people who were just walking by and had too stop and listen. Most of them stayed most of the night. My band had the house PACKED! The employees of the Center were wowed by the Bones. They lived up to their motto of putting some of their Memphis Soul in the bones of their listeners. The set ended with a packed house. My moms and their friends left, and a few of the others stayed around. 

The second set started with “Extravaganza.” They absolutely rocked the house with their rendition of this song, and by the second part of the song, the room was beginning to fill again. People who couldn’t come in gathered at the door to see this amazing band. By the end of the night, the crowd was begging for more. The played the longest instrumental version of “Let’s Straighten It Out” I have ever heard. but it was so appropriately wonderful. The crowd erupted when they finished. I could just imagine them on a giant stage with thousands of people in front of them. I can’t wait. 

The people filed out, and we began to break down the equipment, all feeling very satisfied. All of the money was counted and distributed. Everyone was even more satisfied. We sealed another gig at the Center, and we will hopefully be appearing at the Memphis Music Heritage Festival on Main Street in Memphis, TN on Sept. 1, 2013. I would call today an all around success. 

 

Florida Road Trip: Part 4 Sunday Night

It was nice being able to walk just a few yards to where Jeremy played. We got everything set up and the sound check done and went to eat. Paradise Bar and Grill fed us well. Jeremy ordered some shrimp to tide himself over until the end of the gig, and they began to play. The crowd slowly filled the small beach of picnic tables as the band filled the air. The first set was pretty uneventful.

The band took a break, and there was a woman with an adorable little boy standing at the side of the stage. They asked me if they could go speak to Darren, and i shooed them on up. The little boy’s name was Gavin, and he was absolutely entranced by the guitar. He had the cutest little green eyes and blonde hair mixed with his surfer shorts and tanned skin, a true Florida baby. He’d been there the night before and made his family come back on Sunday so he could hear the band again. Darren gave him a guitar pick and spoke with him for a little while, and we milled around for their break.

This is Gavin, the budding Blues guitarist

This is Gavin, the budding Blues guitarist

Darren asked me to take a lot of pictures that day, so I was shooting up a storm. I got some really great shots, and some awesome footage! I was so excited about that. Darren and Jeremy are both so animated, and I love to catch Brian, the drummer when he is really feeling the music. I smiled every time I would snap a shot, especially the shots I got of Jeremy during one of his solos.

Darren called me up to the stage and asked me to place a chair next to the stage so Gavin could sit and watch the band up close and personal. He was so excited when I asked him if he wanted to sit by the stage. He sat and watched the rest of the show right there. Image

The crowd danced. The kids played. The boats docked. It was a perfect, although cloudy day when the played. The gig went without a hitch, and we enjoyed dinner afterward as I showed Darren and Brian the pictures I took of them that day.

Darren Jay and Mr. 88 put on a show!

Darren Jay and Mr. 88 put on a show!

Hanging out listening to the band

Hanging out listening to the band

Dancing away to Darren Jay and the Delta Souls

Dancing away to Darren Jay and the Delta Souls

We went back to our room, making a few calls to see if Jeremy would need to be in town to work the next day or not. We wanted to stay just a little longer, but with what we spent, we really couldn’t afford too. We decided to go ahead and get on the road. We drove all night to get home. It was an uneventful drive, and as soon as we got home, we were back to real life and real heat. All in all, it was a good trip. I can’t wait to go back!

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