Friday, September 13, 2013

Elvis Presley --Baby What Do You Want Me To Do

It was the end of the year 2009.  The economy was in the shitter.  Times were tough at the company I worked for in San Diego.  They were taking heavy cost cutting measures and several of our co-workers had lost their jobs.  The company was failing to hit its financial goals.  Don’t get me wrong, the company was still making millions of dollars in profits.  It was just that we were not meeting our financial goals.  Therefore, the company decided to shaft us on the holiday party.

That was a tough one to swallow considering how stressful the whole year had been.

I was at some dive bar in San Diego called Pal Joey’s with some co-workers bitching about this very topic when I had to go to the men’s room.  I step up to the urinal and  there with my undivided attention was a flyer advertising Wednesday night Blues jams at the bar.  A vision rushed through me.  A jam session, that could make a pretty cool idea for a holiday party.

It had been over 20 years since I played in the Monday Blues jams back in the Twin Cities.  I had a pretty good Jones going on inside me to do it again one day.  This was my chance.  My good buddy Rob so happened to be an all-around musician.  He plays piano, guitar, writes music and sings at his church.  I figured I could count on him.  Our receptionist, Mitty, had a good set of Soul-stirring pipes.  She would sometimes sing the national anthem at company events.  I figured she and perhaps, Maria (who used to be a stage performer) would be interested to.  It could be like live music Karaoke.

I talked to the owner of the bar who had no problems so long as I could promise at least 20 people would show up.  He put me in touch with the host band and they were glad to do it for only a couple hundred bucks.

The show was on.

Our company had an almost maniacal aversion to potential lawsuits.  That was probably part of the reason why they canceled the holiday party.  They didn’t want any potential lawsuits over a drunk driving incident.  Therefore, when I handed out the fliers, I specifically noted “NOT A COMPANY EVENT.”

The night finally arrived.  Someone ordered a bunch of pizzas and we easily surpassed the minimum 20 people.

The band warmed things up with a tune. Then my buddy Rob and I took the stage.  I got behind the drum kit and Rob played guitar and sang.  We warmed up with simple one, “Sweet Home Chicago.”   Mitty came up and belted out an old Soul song.  Even the lovely Laora took the stage.  Now I’m sure Laora would admit that she’s not a great singer, but she wanted to sing “Sweet Home Alabama.”  The problem was she didn’t know all the lyrics.  Thinking swiftly, Laora thought to find the lyrics on her iPhone.  It was really great.

Then it was Gabe’s turn.  Now I knew that Gabe was a witty and creative guy, but I had no idea he could sing.  He took the stage, grabbed the mic off the stand, stepped out among the people and startled us all with an incredible Elvis Presley imitation singing Hound Dog or All Shook Up or some other classic Elvis number, I can’t remember.  Anyway, he blew the place away.  Even folks on the other side of the bar who were not part of our private party started hootin’ and hollerin’.

It turned out to be a great time for all.  I was revved up for the next week because of it.  We talked about it for weeks afterward.  We talked about how a jam session is something we should do every year.  Well, we never had the chance because a year later, the rest of us were out of a job too.

Instead of posting an Elvis song that we’ve all heard a zillion times to commemorate that night, I offer this post by Elvis from his 1968 comeback special.  His awesome version of “Baby What Do You Want Me To Do?”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Los Lobos -- Shakin' and Shakin' and Shakes

It was around 1990 or 1991,  I was working at my first real job after college.  This job was with a TV news gathering service up in St. Paul, MN.  Most of the people working there were young fresh faced college grads just like me.  Now there’s something you need to know about us media people.  Whether it is TV, Radio or advertising, we all like to think of ourselves as culturally superior to the general population.  I was no different.  In fact, I might go so far as to say that I was worse than most.  I always tried to project the persona of the guy who was on the cutting edge of culture.  I was the guy who listened to all this obscure music (well, at least that part’s true) and that is what made me cooler than other people.

Anyway, one day it was slow at the news gathering control room.  This guy Pete and I were chatting when one of our pretty co-workers walked up.  

“Hey, did you guys know that Cities ’97 was having a private Los Lobos concert?”   People could call in to win tickets apparently.  Historically, I myself have never won anything like that.  Besides, I certainly wouldn’t have debased myself by calling into Cities ’97 to even try.  I didn’t visualize that station as part of my persona even if it was giving away tickets to a band I loved.  But then abruptly it occurred to me.  My buddy Rich had a brother who worked at Cities ’97.  Now this was my opportunity.  This was my chance to prove my coolness, especially to the pretty girl.

I picked up the phone and called Cities '97 and asked for Rich’s brother Paul.  The receptionist transferred me and to my surprise, he answered right away.
“Hey Paul, it’s Veggie Boy.”
“What’s up, brother!  How ya doin’?”
“I’m doing great.  Hey listen.  I heard you guys were putting on a private Los Lobos concert.”
“Yeah.  For sure.  You need a couple tickets?”

Woah, that happened really fast.  I quite honestly wasn’t expecting anything.  I was thinking that Paul wouldn’t even answer the phone let alone remember me and offer me a pair of free tickets.  I was a bit stunned, but I had to keep my cool in front of the pretty girl and this guy Pete.  I said, “Hey man!  Thanks!  See ya at the show.”  I hung up the phone and said to Pete and the pretty girl, “Well, I got my tickets.”  Then I confidently walked away.

Yeah, I thought I was pretty cool.   In all my coolness, it didn’t even occur to me to ask for two more tickets for this girl and Pete.  After all these years, I still feel kind of bad about that.

The first person to pop into my head to see this show was my good buddy Jerry.  I have to say, we saw a pretty damn good show.  Los Lobos opened it up.  They didn’t just play their latest album, they cut loose.  They even did what I thought was a pretty impressive and ambitious cover of “Politician” by Cream.

So there ya have it.  I succeeded in being cool at least once in my life.  Here’s Los Lobos playing something else since I can’t find them playing “Politician” anywhere.