Posts tagged ‘tn’
Most days as a full time Memphis musician can be very long. Yesterday, we were out of our home at 11:30 to be at Handy Park at 12. The rest of the band did not show up until after 1. My husband played until 10 pm last night with five 15-20 minute breaks. This was outside, very hot and humid. Most days are not like that, now, but Jeremy is still on Beale Street 12 hours out of most days. People think being a musician is so easy, that all you have to do is play an instrument. That is not true. You have to worry about making sure you have gigs booked, which can be difficult in a city FULL of musicians competing for the same spots. You have to make up for lost gigs sometimes by doing gigs that are well beneath what you should be playing for. It’s funny to me that the “paid touring musicians” for quite a few major artists don’t even really have to play their instruments on the stage and still get paid. My husband, and several other musicians, would feel insulted if you asked them to pretend to do what they have put all of their hard work and energy into doing. No, people may not realize it, but normal musicians work hard to gain the love and respect of their fans, too. Most of them have to do all of the legwork themselves, doing their own promotions, booking, and sales. It is almost a 24 hour a day job. I wish there was more respect for the every day musicians, who are just as talented as those world famous superstars’ musicians.
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.
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.
So, from the pictures you can see that the ride through Arkansas, Louisiana, and into Mississippi was pretty smooth. I made good time, got to see a beautiful sunrise over huge crops of corn and peppers, and Jeremy got some rest in. Soon after we got into Mississippi, we were going to have to stop for gas and switch out driving.
As I was pulling off the road to refill on gas, I heard a clanking noise. We were right by a construction site, so I thought it was all of the machinery until I rolled my window down and heard the noise was coming from under my hood. Jeremy thought the oil was low, so he added a little in, overfilling it enough to make my car start smoking on top of everything. We were now riding down Highway 49 in Richland, MS with a smoking, rattling car. We pulled off on a small country road, thinking we would just empty a little of the oil out. Of course, we didn’t have a wrench to undo the oil plug and let some of the oil drain off. After 5 or 6 cars passed by, asking us did we need a phone or any help, an older black gentleman in an old truck pulling a trailer of tree limbs drove up. He looked like one of those old men you see in the pictures drinking moonshine and playing his guitar to his dog, and he had almost no voice to speak. Jeremy asked him if he had a wrench, and he just happened too. He pulled his truck off to the side of the road, and while Jeremy let the oil drain into a bottle, the old man directed traffic, waving at everyone as they drove by. It was like a scene out of a movie. He walked over and warned Jeremy not to let too much oil out because he was on a hill. As he was walking off, I hear Jeremy scream. The oil plug slipped all the way out, and all of the oil was leaking out now. All I can do at this point is grab every bottle we have laying in the car and try to salvage as much oil as possible. Jeremy got the plug back on the oil tank, and I carefully put all of the oil we had (about 1 qt.) back in the car. The old man told us how to get to the nearest gas station, and followed us to the main road. The car stopped smoking, but it was still making that horrible noise. On top of that, I noticed that one of my belts was almost shredded to pieces.
I looked up the nearest AutoZone, which was a mere 4 miles away. I turned and headed down the highway, but we ran into an O’Reilly Auto Parts first, so I stopped there, thinking that they would probably be helpful. I got the oil, and walked up to the counter to wait on Jeremy. Once the guys figured out which belt I needed to replace, Jeremy and the customer rep came back in to finish ringing us up. We needed a new power steering belt, which we got, but the worker told us he didn’t know how to put it on. Just my luck, right? He referred us to his coworker, who came and took a look under the hood. He told us that he didn’t have the tool to remove the bolt and replace the power steering belt, and with a closer look he showed us why our car was clanking: the top ac pulley bolt fell off. The pulley and belt fell off, as well. The pulley got lodged between the power steering and the bottom ac pulley, and the guy said he didn’t know what to do. He sent us up the road to a mechanic, not knowing if the mechanic would be open since it was Saturday. I am really spoiled living in a city where mechanics are readily available any day of the week.
We drove on up the road, clanking as we rode the speed limit. We pulled into the mechanic’s and, of course, they were closed. Jeremy popped the hood, determined to get the pulley out. With a few strategic moves with a crow bar, we finally dislodged the pulley. The noise stopped, and we headed to AutoZone, hoping the shredded power steering belt would make it.
We pulled into AutoZone and asked for a tool that we could use to change the power steering belt. The gentleman inside was much more helpful than the guys at AutoZone. He told us how to change the belt and informed us that the ac belt was what was missing. So, now we were going to be without ac all the way to Florida, and we were almost 5 hours out with 5 hours to make it to the gig. Off down Highway 49 we went, on the way to Florida, praying we would make it on time.
Most people think of Beale Street as a place to go party and get drunk, which is unfortunate. I get to see Beale as a school. People flock to Beale just to play on stage and be able to play the Blues. Kids come and get lessons from some of the vets. I got to see that today, and it was so cool. Daniel is teaching himself to play the guitar, and said that they don’t really appreciate the Blues where he is from. He seemed to do very well on stage today!
It’s funny. Living in Memphis, growing up around the outer parts of the area, I never really knew about the Beale Street Legacy. As many times as I went to Beale Street when I was younger, I never really stopped and listened to the live music. I was so absorbed in the people, my friends, and the “club” that I failed to see the real Beale Street. After I moved back to Memphis, I began dating and married an amazing musician. He showed me a side of music I had never seen before. Just listening to the Blues and Soul that came out of the clubs he was playing in was life changing. I had to stay. Some people see Beale as a burden and a horrible place. I see it as a second home with an extended family. Our little girl has pretty much grown up there, singing on the various stages, playing drums, and playing a little trumpet (like her old friend Rudy Williams and her daddy). The musicians that play there every single day sometimes get jaded to the honor that they have because they are blessed too play there every day. People come to Beale Street with dreams of playing on a stage on Beale, playing that Southern Blues. My husband does it every day, in all different clubs on the street (there are only about 3 or 4 venues he has not played in on the street). I have been in the presence of great artists and musicians as if they were family. I get to live a dream. It may not be everyone’s dream, and many people do not understand my desire to just be a supporter, but it is my dream. If you ever come to Beale Street, look for what I see in Beale. Look for the real music, not just the loud noise. Look for the young musicians who are really standing out, the ones you will see all over the world in the future. Support them. Let their music support you. That is their gift to you. Don’t go to Beale just too get drunk or party. Let the music move you. Then, you will see my Beale Street.