As many regular readers may know, I have been into greasy rockabilly for decades. I had always toyed with the idea of being in a band. I figured them gittar lessons I took should have been good for something.
Back in the 80's , Ray Condo hit the Montreal scene and set that town on fire. University kids and old geezers alike would literally line up around the block just to get to see him.
I would always tell the bouncer that I was the band's truck driver and would bypass the line up. I looked greasy enough to look the part, so the bouncers always believed me.
Those wild shows always inspired me, and in a dance music crazed fashion victim city like Montreal, Ray's band had one of the few upright basses around.
I had befriended a snooty guitar player from France ( let me tell yoo zee facts of life, you peece uv sheet). Euro trash attitude aside, he was a great guitar player and he dug rockabilly.
One new years' eve, snooty guitar man had an after hours party at his place. Amidst the throng of freako-s and clouds of hippie-crack smoke a small group of musicians had gathered in a circle and started a Blues jam.
One cat was particularily good, although he was a cross between Pee Wee Herman and Jerry Lewis. Not exactly show biz material (12 years later or so, we hired his band at one of our swing nights and he literally scared the young 'uns).
Mr. shaky bemoaned the fact that there were never any singers at the jams. Hey looked at me and shouted, "Hey you! Can you sing?" as he handed me a guitar.
I was unprepared and didn't know any Blues, so I proceeded to do the Stray Cats' Drink That Bottle Down.
When I was done, crazy legs said to me " Hey man, you can really sing!" That's when snooty guitar slinger decided that we should start a band.
I wanted to call it Zeke and the Chickens, but buddy would have none of it. " Zat meens zat you are Zeke and we are all a bunch of cheekins."
I remembered all those hot rodders that fixed cars in the alley when I was a kid and how they would always go on about Hollywood Mufflers and how cool they sounded ( they were LOUD).
The Hollywood Mufflers were born. Sherriff Buford T. Justice on vocals (me), Cincinnati Lou on guitar, Fretless Fred on bass and Shaky D on drums ( Shaky went on to form seminal Quebec band, Les Colocs).
We played all kinds of weird gigs. Some shithole bar with 6 people, street festivals, a private party for the Milan Institute of Design (?!) Punk bars, and everything else in between.
I later found out that we used to serenade the mayor of Montreal during our rehearsals. I met the mayor at a function and told him that we were neighbors. "So you're the guys!" was his response. He just had a kid and we were keeping him up so he kindly asked to keep it down after 8 pm. ( Lou played LOUD).
We had a house gig for a while at some weird hippie bar. The place was always packed and they loved us. The drunken owner, who happened to share the same name as me, was a rockabilly fan and always followed me around like a demented basset hound.
The band eventually went on to open shows for Ray Condo and a reunion show opening for Les Colocs at a 1000 seat sold out venue.
The Hollywood Mufflers even garnered a mention in Dr. Craig Morrison's book, Rockabilly Music and it's Makers.
As any musician out there can attest in ain't easy being in a band with a bunch of dudes. Egos will clash and animosity will set in. Guitar players who smoke pot before the show and forget the tunes, don't help either.
We went our separate ways and I sang in a few bands and eventually did the Country and Rockabilly jam circuit.
The Swing dance craze eventually grew in popularity in the late 90's and the demand for dj's became great. Few people had the tunes or know-how, so I received many offers. It was a lot easier than being in a band. No arguing, missed beats, fucked up solos, screwed up endings or hauling massive bass cabinets up 4 flights of stairs at 4 in the morning. I could also get hammered to my heart's content.
I kept playing here and there even hooking up with the Wild Wax Combo (from Denmark)
in Las Vegas.
Soon after my arrival in Vancouver, I attended a New Years' party featuring Ray Condo. Much to my surprise, Ray invited me up to do a few songs. Even though I was probably to liquored to be on stage, I did ok , thanks to the handful of drunk songs that I knew for such occasions.
The songs that you know inside out and can nail, even when you're completely hammered. It turned out that I was still able to rock.
Fast forward to the summer of 2009 where a strangely similar incident occurred. This time I was motivated by a hot woman rather than a desire to be greasy.
It was a Sunday afternoon jam in some dank basement bar with no windows. The beautiful weather made it even more dismal, and even though a stellar array of musicians had shown up, most didn't really seem into it. The lack of venues in this city meant that you had to get your Rockabilly fix where you could get it.
On stage was the incredible Paul Pigat (Cousin Harley) and his physics-defying solos. Sporting a brand new Gretsch acquired after his triumphant Vegas show ( see earlier post) and backed by Ronnie Hayward on bass, the man was bringing the almost-empty house down.
Now there is something about drinking on a sunny Sunday afternoon in a dungeon-like bar serving over-priced shitty beer that makes you an extra special type of hammered.
I was chatting up a really hot burlesque dancer who had never seen me play. She tried to coax me to get up on stage, but I refused stating that I was feeling kinda looped.
She insisted again and, after a quick ogle at her revealing outfit, I turned to a friend of mine and said, "Gimme that gittar, boy!"
I proceeded to do the aforementioned drunk-songs and it rocked.
I had an idea after that show. I had a milestone birthday coming up wanted to celebrate it in style. Paul is way out of my league, but is a good friend. He agreed to play with me for my birthday. I would be the opening act for Cousin Harley.
I had a bunch of new songs to learn and I got to it. A while back, Paul had given me a nice vintage guitar, an Orpheum from the 50's. Being a bit of an animal, I beat that git-box pretty badly, which is all the better for playing authentic Rockabilly.
The time finally came for a rehearsal. Paul and I were joined by Ken Wilson on upright. One the few old school rockabilly bass slappers around, Ken is a master of the genre and even uses steel strings.
These guys are pros, so there was no foolin' around. We did two complete run-throughs back to back. There was no noodling, beer drinking, fucking around, arguing over what the band should be called and what the CD cover should look like. This was balls to the wall, bonafide, old school rockabilly.
My age was starting to show, because when it was over, my back and my legs were killing me.I was movin' and a jumpin' around and shit was hurtin' that I didn't even know could hurt.I felt good, however, because that rehearsal went smoothly and it's hard to suck when you are
playing with guys that good.
The night of the show finally came. We were joined by Paul's regular drummer, Jesse Cahill,
The Hollywood Mufflers ride again.
For some strange reason, I was nervous. I decided to only have one beer to loosen me up. There will be plenty of time to get extra hammered after the show is what I told myself.
I didn't want to be up there slurring, forgetting lyrics, tripping on cables or falling ass backwards into the drum kit. That's acceptable if you are in your twenties and in a Punk band. If you feel like puking on stage, then by all means, puke away.
At my age, I probably would have looked like some drunken hobo who just wandered in off the street lookin' to do some messed up karaoke for free beers.
Many friends were in attendance, some old, some new. A whole new generation of Rockabillies who had never seen me play, or even had any idea that I played.
I won't review my own show, because that would be lame, but, hell, I had a blast. This is how the old guys rock 'n' roll!
Hopefully, in 10 years, I'll celebrate another birthday the same way. I will Rockabilly until the day that the pry the Pabst and guitar from my cold, dead hands.
Rock on y'all!