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"It All Started When I Said The Magic Words"

Good bands with normal guys are hard to keep together. 
This is especially true when they aren't getting paid enough. 

We had lots of trouble with our road bands in the early 1970's. 
I think it all started like this.... 

We were a seasoned and polished nightclub act, 
with comedy, stories, and original songs, 
when we got the number one country record "Tennessee Bird Walk". 

One of our first bookings off that hit 
was as Special Guests of Jimmy Dean, 
doing theater-in-the-round in Salt Lake City. 

Jimmy roamed the revolving stage doing jokes and singing 
with his big pit orchestra backing him in symphonic style. 
When it was our turn, 
we had to run on with all our electric instruments and amps, 
including a full size Lowrey organ. 
A bunch of roadies (Misty calls them "roadents.) ran on with us. 
Everybody carried a bunch of wires, plugs, and equipment, 
and frantically attempted to set up our show, 
while the audience waited in silence. 

Nobody had offered to let us sing with the pit orchestra, 
or we'd have brought sheet music charts, 
and made it easy on ourselves. 

The audience stared in silence while we labored frantically. 
It got uncomfortable, so trying to fill the space, 
I grabbed a mike and said "Isn't Jimmy Dean great?" 
The audience came to life and applauded, 
while our guys looked for missing wires. 

My little comment was a mistake. 
Dean's manager later yelled at me about it: 
He said this: 
"You should never say a word before you play a song! 
They don't know you! 
You made it look like YOUR show! It's NOT your show! 
Blah, blah, blah! Growl! Gnash!" 
I wondered who made all these rules. 

Anyway, the audience liked us a lot, 
and gave us an enthusiastic ovation, 
which probably gave Jimmy's manager more heartburn. 
Misty had taken off a boot to play the organ pedals, 
and was carrying it in one hand 
as she limped around trying to find where to get off the stage. 
Did I mention that the stage went around slowly? 

The next day the show was reviewed in the morning paper. 
The critic thought that Jimmy Dean should have sung more 
and talked less. 
We liked Jimmy's act and disagreed with that statement. 
Then came the killing stroke that changed our life. 
The reviewer said this: 
"We would like to have seen more of Jack and Misty." 

First I should mention that Jimmy Dean is friendly and witty. 
Then we noticed that he and his manager had a good cop/bad cop arrangement. 
I can't remember the manager's name. 
I think it was Irish. I'll call him "Bob McHitler". 

First, our act time was cut to 12 minutes. 
Then McHitler called our manager, 
and told him that we were green and needed a lot of experience. 
Our beloved manager believed that crap, 
and told our agent to cut our price, and book us A LOT. 
For the next year we ran all over the map, 
playing big and little shows for low money, 
even though we were number one in the world. 
We hardly had time to get from one town to another. 
It was like sending us to boot camp. 

We had good musicians, 
but we couldn't pay them what the other stars paid their bands. 
This led to a lot of tension, unrest, 
and eventually outright revolt. 
When you're a thousand miles from home, 
with the only musicians who know your songs, 
they have the upper hand. 
We replaced them all several times, 
but breaking in new guys hurt our show. 

Each night Misty and I would count out the cash on a motel bed, 
and after paying the band and expenses, 
we were usually in the hole. 
The constant traveling wore out and damaged our vehicles and equipment, 
not to mention us. 

It all started when I said these magic words: 
"Isn't Jimmy Dean Great?". 

Copyright  April 29, 2006 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. 
Reprinted by permission.

 

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