Saturday, June 30, 2012

Envy - A Very Serious Self Inflicted Condition

As far back as 1980, when I first started playing music for a living, I have witnessed some of the most pathetic behavior in people (musicians) that I could ever imagine.
Ross Costa, the guitar player who I replaced at Ducky's (the first bar I worked at as a "Professional" musician) - the guy still hates me to this day - and the only reason they hired me was because I was no threat to anybody at the time.  Ray Christie - the first time a nice looking girl showed interest in me - he told me some lie about how she would flirt with a guy, then call her husband to come in and start a fight.  Billy Edwards - doing and saying everything possible to turn people against me - this went on for years, from about 1980 till 1988 - didn't do him any good, but damn did he ever try.  Gene Davis, who I hired as a "singer", then proceeded to tell everybody that it was his band, even going so far as to steal our original band name by registering it with Commerce And Consumer Affairs.  Allen Stolz - playing every sneaky game possible to convince me, as well as the listeners, that HE was the main attraction in the band - he lasted 3 months, at which time I enjoyed firing his sorry ass.  Jim Mitchell - booking agent - used every dirty trick in the book to silence my band, while promoting his wife's band (Tina Marie and the White Buffalo Band) - including lying to club managers and owners, cheating, and stealing from me every chance he got.  Warren Johnson, who desperately wanted to be the "Top Band", going so far as to threaten a club where he was the house band, saying he would quit unless they got rid of me there - I was getting just a bit too many people in the Cowboy Inn on Sunday and Monday nights (I was the house band at Pecos, where it was packed to the rafters just about every night).  Debbie Travis - who went out and spit venom about me to the folks who were following my band everywhere we played - also did her no good, but boy did she ever try.  Phil Christman - who ended up pouring coke (the drink) into two of the horns in my Peavey monitor wedges, and who tried to get into the equipment room to destroy more of my equipment.  Julie Shultz, who had a somewhat successful band in the late 70s, went into Pecos trying to take nights from me with her new band, using sneaky tactics and threats - she couldn't do it, but damn did she try - she ended up disbanding because she couldn't get any footing.  After moving to Ft. Worth, Texas, one guy saw me at a jam session, invited me to come to his across town, and when I showed up, he did everything he could to silence me - including trying to get other guys in his band - who didn't sing, didn't have mics in front of them, and who said, "You know I don't sing" - to sing.  I hired these two guys - Bill Powell and Jack Daniels (yes, I said Jack Daniels), they were so enraged about what I was doing that on the last night of playing in my band, they acted like a couple of 5 year olds having tantrums - right there on the stage - I enjoyed firing their sorry asses that night.  I had guys come up to me - apparently musicians, or maybe just wannabes - and try to knock me down a peg or two - as in, "Yeah, I noticed you had trouble sounding like Randy Travis (HUH, I wasn't trying to sound like Randy Travis), and other such silly attempted insults.  Off to Northern Virginia/Southern Maryland/DC area.  Auditioned at (can't remember the name of the place - in Alexandria) - how do I put this without sounding like a fathead - I won't, I'll just say that the people weren't shy about showing their appreciation for our half hour set.  The owner literally ran out the back door at our last note, and we could never get in touch with him after that.  Couldn't get near Zed, or Steve's place (can't remember the name of his club - Steve was one of those wannabes who would go around and sit in with the bands, pretty boy, the hat, the Shepler clothes, the line of shit, and couldn't get away with his shenanigans when he sat in with us) - so his revenge was, when daddy gave him the money to open his own little place, he wouldn't let us anywhere near it - answering, "I don't like Rio".  Back to Hawaii, David Jones - my own (ex) half brother, who, having the worst case of compulsive/pathological lying I've ever seen, set out to destroy me in Hawaii - telling endless lies to his drug buddies - some in high positions by that time - and succeeding in seeing to it that I could never get anything played on the radio in that town.  In Austin, Keito, doing everything possible to sing over me, as well as prevent me from playing after the shows - instead getting the youngster dancer to play Hip Hop CDs through my sound system - even when there were mostly senior citizens at the shows.  JC, who was losing his job as bass player in some country band, while I was sitting in on lead guitar, the rumor being that I was going to be hired on bass, went berserk, coming all the way over to my side of the stage (during a song) to try to insult me.  In Tucson, club manager - steroided to the hilt - I'm convinced that he hired me to play in that Hawaiian restaurant, thinking I would fail.  My fiddle got a lot of attention, and I guess he didn't like that, so he started by ordering me not to play the fiddle (yes, it was a Hawaiian restaurant, but you cannot play Hawaiian music all night for non Hawaiian people - it just doesn't work - so I started out with Hawaiian, and went on to play a variety - including one fiddle song at the end of each set).  He went on trying to bully me when I played the fiddle anyway, at which time I told him I'd had enough of the management telling me what I could and could not play - he had to deal with some really angry people after I left, but that was easier for him than seeing me make his customers happy.  In Portland, I gave ex half brother, David, a second chance, wouldn't ya know it - it did the same thing he did the first time - thankfully he didn't have the clout in Portland that he did in Hawaii.  Then came Al Morales, the sneaky, cowardly little bastard who spent unbelievable amounts of effort running all over town, saying god knows what about me, in order to turn as many people against me as humanly possible, and to make sure I could not work - and not have friends.  I actually worked with this numbskull for a while, watching him do his damnedest to get me to make him look good, while keeping me under control as much as possible - his desperation was about the most pitiful thing I'd ever seen.  This is a guy who knew about 15 Hawaiian songs (and nothing else), some of which he only knew one verse, but pretended to know the whole song - after all, these are haoles, they would never know any different.  If I told you half of what he did, you probably wouldn't believe it, but let me tell you, he did it, and then some.  Then there was the wannabe banjo player in the biker bar, "Your Johnny Cash wasn't quite there", yeah, nothing I do is quite there - dumbasses.

There are more, these are just ones that I remember off the top of my head.  A lot of it is hindsight - things I never really thought about until fairly recently.

So, while I chose to be in this crappy business, I had no idea going in, what I was in for.  I probably would have done music for a living anyway, being that it was the only thing I knew, and the only thing I could imagine doing for any length of time.  My faith in people is down to nothing, as of now I can't imagine ever wanting to work with a musician again.  I will avoid them at all costs - not only in playing, but also in associating with them in any way.  I'll continue to play out live, until I can get into one of the other avenues that are starting to take shape in the music business.

Yeah, envy, people do some very stupid things in the name of envy.  Pitiful and pathetic is what I have to say in closing.  See y'all next time.

The Music Machine

There was a time when I would hear a new song on the radio by my favorite band, and run down to Harry's Music Store to buy either the single or the album.  A single cost about 50 cents, and an album was $2.99 - I used money from my summer jobs to get these records.  This was the case with most kids - we would hear something on the radio, and fly to the music store to buy it.  We would run into the house, peel of the plastic wrapper, smell the wonderful smell of a new record, carefully pull out the record, and play it for weeks, months, and even years.  We would read every word on the jackets, stare at the pictures - it was heaven.  Well, times have changed, music has changed, attitudes have changed, and sales tactics have changed.  It's funny to hear the promotional side of the music industry exclaiming about the newest CD, or the newest "Hot" (DAMN, I hate that word) artist, that they are the newest "Hot Selling" item.  But, I've also seen quite a few documentaries regarding the parts of the business that mostly take place behind the scenes - behind all the shiny B.S. that the promotional teams put up in front of our faces.  They are all screaming about the same thing - the dismal "unit" sales.  For this sitting, I'll mostly be talking about country music, because that's what I'm familiar with.  In all the documentaries, the music biz people blame "piracy" for the sagging sales.  Well, here's what I've observed.  Not all genres are suffering from non selling "units".  When Britney Spears was the flavor du jour, she sold "units" like there was no tomorrow, not so much because she was any kind of talented artist, but because the little girls related to her, and the little boys (and probably a lot of dirty old men) liked looking at her.  There is also all of that horrible, hate filled, vulgar, computer generated noise they call "Rap", "Hip Hop", and I guess there are a few other names and sub genres that all fall into the same pile.  It is just as easy to download this stuff for free as it is for any other kind of music (I use the term, "music" falsely when speaking of Rap and such), but, the kids still pay money for the real thing - the real CD - with graphics on the disc, photos, credits, secrets, and whatever else.  From where I sit, it appears to me that the reason country, as well as most of the "Rock" genres are not selling is because nobody likes it enough to pay for it.  A side - sometime in the mid 90s, I wandered into a used record and CD store.  There were tons of "New Country" in the reject bins - and tons in the used bins.  I could find no Creedence, no Stones, no Led Zepellin, no Johnny Cash, no Merle Haggard, nothing that I would listen to - in that whole store.  Oh yeah, and there was lots of Disco and R & B.

I call the whole Nashville system, the New York system, and the L.A. system "The Machine".  The Machine is broken.  They manufacture, they contrive, and they sell.  They use cheap sales tactics, they will lie, and they will play on teenagers' need to be validated and/or accepted by their peers.  They sign lots of pretty boys and pretty girls who can't even tune their own guitars, much less play them, and most can't hit half the notes they try to sing.  Of course, there are a few exceptions - very few - Brad Paisley can actually play, LeAnn Rimes can actually sing, and Taylor Swift can actually write, play, sing, AND perform - but again, very few exceptions.  It also appears to me that these exceptions slip through the cracks, they make it in spite of the record companies, and not because of them.  Even funnier is that when that does happen, the record bigwigs will demand that all subsequent "artists" mimic these accidental megastars - how ironic, and hypocritical.

So, we've had to listen to these record companies talk down their noses at artists for decades, spitting up ultra conservative B.S. such as, "Well, don't blame US for YOUR failure", and, "You gotta remember, most of the artists we sign don't even sell enough to recoup our investments" - did you catch that - the artists that the RECORD COMPANIES SIGN - most of them fail.  So, what does THAT tell you?  What it tells me is that the A & R people (formerly known as talent scouts) who are supposed to recognize talent are inept - either that, or they are purposely keeping the bar as low as possible - in order to make it easier to sell their halfwitted, mindless, contrived noise.  Meanwhile, they are blaming piracy for their horrid "unit" sales.  So, their ultra conservative nonsense is a one way street - paved only in their direction.  You see, as is always the case with the ultra conservatives and Pop Psych gurus, "Self responsibility", and, "Don't blame us for your failure" applies to everyone except them.

I have an acquaintance who is part of the upper level of the biz, we will call him "Denny".  He worked for me in Hawaii from '86 - '88.  He was a very good lead guitar and pedal steel player, and a decent guy.  After I left Hawaii in late '88, he and another band member who worked for me at the time hired two more musicians and continued to work the Hawaii country music circuit.  In '91, Denny decided to head to Nashville to see what he could do there.  He had a good friend there who was to help him - steer him towards auditions, inform him of what was going on and where, introduced him to people who were connected, etc.  Denny landed a gig in Paulette Carlson's band, where he worked until she was dropped by her record label - I think it was just a couple of years.  He then got hired by Tim McGraw, and has been playing pedal steel and lead guitar for Tim since about '95.  I had a few conversations with Denny via email.  His views are, of course, in line with the Machine - ultra conservative, polished playing, blaming piracy for the dismal "unit" sales, and throwing the word, "Blame" around whenever it was convenient.  He once sent me a link to an article describing one of the sub organizations of the Machine and their lobbying to lessen the royalties paid to the songwriters, so more money would be for them, the record companies.  They whined about how the dismal "unit" sales were causing them to lose money, that it was all because of piracy, and they had to make up their losses somewhere.  I replied to Denny, saying that as usual, the huge corporations were ruthless, were going to bully everyone involved, and take money from the writers.  I don't know what the result was, but the article did say that they (I think it was RIAA, but not absolutely sure) were lobbying Congress to change the writers' royalty rates from 6.5 cents per unit to something like 5 cents per unit.  Anyway, that was the last correspondence between Denny and me - he didn't like hearing the other side of the argument.

As I said, the music business as we knew it has changed drastically over the past 30 years, and the music industry brass is desperately trying to hang on to the absolute power they've had all these decades.  The internet has contributed to their declining power, but they continue to do what they can in order to cover their sorry rear ends.  My hope is that their dynasty comes crumbling down within the next ten years, and it may happen.  I do know, though, that they have their eye on things, and will do whatever possible to clutch their power, but as long as the internet remains a free avenue for unsigned artists, writers and performers to show their stuff, it will be difficult for them, even with all their bullying, to keep things in their hands.  Yes, there does need to be more changes in favor of the small artists, for one thing, there has to be a way for listeners to filter through all the garbage more quickly, so they can find the good stuff.  As of now, it's a bit tedious and time consuming.  Hopefully somebody will come along with a remedy to rid the internet, or at least be able to filter out, most or all of self serving, ego driven noisemakers.  In the meantime, I continue to look for ways to get a fair price for my work.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Let's Detour And Talk To Bill O'Reilly

Dear Bill,

After 15 years of listening to and watching you, Rush also for 15, Sean for 10, Laura Ingraham, Mike Reagan, etc., and buying most of it for about 15 years, I started to see your spin about five years ago. First, you claim, "Obama wants to tax the rich" - making it sound like he wants them to pay more taxes than the rest of us. You know as well as most of us, that the rich do not pay the same percentage of their income as the rest of us. Please, numbers can be, and often are, misleading. Of course their numbers will be higher, but, if I should pay 40% of my income to the government, then so should the rich. There should be no tax loopholes, no option to hide their money in overseas accounts or investments, no special treatment of any kind. Also, they should not be able to gouge their customers or abuse their employees (there is a whole 'nother discussion all by itself). They should pay the same price for their supplies as the rest of us - just because they can afford to buy in "bulk", should not give them special treatment. Outsourcing to third world countries (so they can take adavantage of slave labor and little or no regulation) should be against American law, period. While Conservatives would have us believe that it's ok for the mega corporations to profit billions per quarter, while the rest of us live down here at the poverty line, President Obama is trying to offer more of a balance between the Ultra Rich's profits, and our (the little guy's) income. Of course, when he presents that idea, you conservatives falsely accuse him of wanting to "take over" the banking business, the auto industry, the insurance business, etc. - that is a blatant lie, and you all know it (so do we). We down here who see this, we are not a bunch of lazy, irresponsible dimwits who are so stupid that we cannot handle our own affairs - most of us are decent, honest, hard working people who have not been as fortunate as those who have "succeeded". We are also not a bunch of ignorant hippies. While your side likes to hide behind such unrealistic cliche terms such as, "Don't blame ______, take responsibility for your own actions", that is bull, responsibility is an all way street - and those who preach it, more often than not, do not live it. If someone or something more powerful than you cheats you, lies to you, bullies you, you cannot blame the person on the receiving end, you must put the responsibility on the aggressor, the instigator, the manipulator, the cheater, the bully. The clever cliches that the Pop Psychology Crowd and their blind followers like to parrot should be seen for what they are.

On the subject of "success", for every "success story", for every person who worked hard, invested his money, took risks, did everything he thought was right, and "succeeded", there are thousands who worked just as hard if not harder, invested his money, took risks, did everything he thought was right, but did not have the right connections, the right location, the right timing, the right relatives, or just plain luck, there are thousands who did the same, but did not achieve what he set out to. And yes, I said luck - contrary to what you'd like us to believe, there is always the luck factor. Nobody says you didn't work hard, we're saying that most of us did the same, but were not as fortunate - and you people way up there at the top of the food chain will ridicule us, mock us, talk down at us, you have insulting names for us, and the sad reality is - you detest us. You pretend to be in our corner, but you continue to alter the playing field in the favor of the Ultra Rich and Corporate America (and Corporate World). I've heard Rush Limbaugh slip and admit that he hates it when the playing field is evened out. And please, I'm not talking about Affirmative Action and other such silly ideas. I've heard you yourself, have a guest on that you don't agree with, who might have a good, strong argument to offer, and you'll shout him or her down, as in, "YOU'RE NUTS, YOU'RE A LOON, THAT'S THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING I'VE EVER HEARD", etc., not allowing the person to get a word in edgewise. Then there's this - you call Social Security an "Entitlement". That is still another spin on your part, we paid into that account, and we should get it when we're due. You want to talk about entitlement, how 'bout the politicians' elite health care, and unbelievably exorbitant retirement plans - now THAT is entitlement if I've ever seen it. Furthermore, corporations do not create jobs, and neither does the government, people create jobs - and yes, many poor people created jobs - back in the 50s and early 60s, when our country was at its best - a guy would work and save for ten years or so, and invest in a sandwich shop, or a hardware store, and create a few jobs at first, then more as his company grew - BUT, most didn't aspire to take over the world with their small business, most were happy just to have a small business in their little town. The ones who did have such greedy and ruthless aspirations - they are the ones who are and have been destroying our economy - because, yes, as much as you hate hearing this, they play dirty.

For the record, I've never done a drug in my life, never been a drinker, smoker, gambler, or anything of the kind; I don't steal, cheat, lie, or manipulate in any way - never have. I worked my rear end off for thirty years in a business that most of you don't consider a "real job", unless one reaches the status of Garth Brooks or Mick Jagger - which I consider (the idea) both hypocritical and elitist. I've done without lots of things, including a home and a stable life, so that I could have the equipment and other means needed in order to be in this corrupt business - and I accepted all of it as paying my dues. I treat people with respect, I am clean cut, my hair is combed, and my shoes are shined. It has always been, and continues to be a struggle - to say the least; and that's not a complaint, just a fact.

So, after fifteen years of listening to the conservative talk radio people, then spending about 3-1/2 years doing research on history and world events, I found rabbit holes that went so deep that I finally had to stop for lack of time, and, for being tired of the stalkers, the censorhip, and the general unpleasantness of trying to get my point out. At this point, I'm leaving it up to the youngsters to fight it out, while I try to make something of what's left of my time here. I can only hope that you'll at least try to see past your elitist views - and while you're not as extreme and hard core as most of your teammates, I would still like to see you be more "Fair and Balanced". Take care, Bill.


Lee Jones