[Dixielandjazz] Re:gigs

Larry Walton Entertainment larrys.bands at charter.net
Tue Oct 4 12:12:42 PDT 2005

Hi Dan and Tom

I too started playing in the late 50's.  You have to understand that St.
Louis is a completely different animal than some of the entertainment towns
like Vegas, LA, New York or Chicago but in the 50's and 60's there was a lot
of work available. Here in the Midwest it didn't pay very well for the most
part.  If you were really serious about music you went somewhere else but I
had family here so I never gave the bigger world a shot.

In the 60's music was controlled here by a few bookers who were band leaders
too. For the most part in the union.  I came out of college in 1962 and
returned to St. Louis where I started working for the bookers.  Some were in
with other unions that had halls and they could put in four or five bands
during the weekends and a couple several nights of the week.  They were
pulling down some cash.  Their cut was usually one man's pay.  Not too
shabby but the clinker in the soup was that they would hire guys that had no
idea what end of the horn to blow in or would take breaks and not come back
or get drunk etc.  Some were even hostile to the crowd.  The people seemed
to tolerate the BS out of the musicians until the advent of the DJ.  Then
they bolted big time and the gigs just never have come back although more
people are hiring musicians for their parties and dances now than 15 years

I really don't like clubs much and now I just can't tolerate cigarette smoke
so no clubs for me.  Fortunately I do country clubs, private parties and
assisted living homes now and have built a business based on that.  I am in
direct competition with the people that give away entertainment or work
cheap.  I only make it because I have a better product and have been at it
for a long time.

I really blame three things for the state of professional music today.
1. New technology that allows top entertainers to come to your party through
the DJ's.  Excellent sound system availability.
2. Really bad business practices by musicians, bookers and the union.
3. So many musicians that will virtually give away their services.

Money also plays a role but not as big as you might think.  I can put a band
into a private party for less than a DJ.  DJ's are no longer cheap and can
cost $1200 here.  The range seems to be $600- $800.  I think the reason is
not really money anymore.

Few bands are really versatile.  Have you listened to most bands?  They play
the same style all night, sound the same and just sit there holding their
horns.  It gets a lot like bluegrass.  I can take BG for about 30 minutes
then I want to go.  I like variety and I try to mix it up with different
sounds and styles.  I think that this is the appeal of the DJ's, they can go
from Miller to Rap with zero effort.  If you don't think that people are
hyper in their entertainment tastes just watch people channel surf when a
commercial comes on.  They get bored really fast.

Personally I am as guilty as most about just sitting there and playing music
but I recognize the problem and try to change it.  Saturday night to the
horror of the band leader I went out into the crowd of young people and
played a screaming sax solo.  They formed a circle around me, screamed and
cheered when it was over.  Three couples actually  followed me out into the
parking lot after the gig to tell me how cool they thought that was and how
good I was.  Now how much effort did that take?  None.  The other band
members were pretty surprised too.  I had talked to him (the leader) about
two years ago about doing this but he didn't think it was a great idea so I
didn't.  I'll bet he wants me to do it again.  The gig was at a very upscale
country club wedding.

Another thing that we do at weddings is the leader takes the chart for the
couples first dance, has us autograph the parts and gives it to the couple
so they can have it played at their 50th.  They love it.

Larry Walton
St. Louis
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <tcashwigg at aol.com>
To: <DWSI at aol.com>; <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Tuesday, October 04, 2005 12:19 PM
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Re:gigs

> Hi Dan:
> I will attempt to clarify my off the top of my head comment,
> I started playing High School dances back in the early sixties at about
> $350.00 to $500.00 for a good one with a four or five piece guitar band
> when surf music was the rage, and Louie Louie, and Liar Liar were the
> top hits of the day along with the Beach Boys.    I actually booked
> about 150 high school dances a year at this price level and then got
> the Big Gigs at the end of the year for the Prom's  which paid
> $1,500.00 to $3,000.00.     Twas not a bad living in those days.   I
> made a good reputation for providing good music for the market and what
> the kids wanted at the time.   Not OKOM by any means, I had not even
> heard of OKOM by them and the only thing I knew that would qualify was
> Louis Armstrong, who was my idol because I had played Trumpet in High
> school and actually met him.   Other than that concert where I met him
> I knew no other OKOM musicians because of course they were "OLD MEN".
> Guys Like Turk Murphy and Lu Watters  were popular with the "Old Folks"
> but I hade no exposure to them because they played Bars and teenagers
> were not allowed in them.
> I got my first real listening experience on OKOM when I played a rock
> club next door to Clancey Hayes club on Broadway in Oakland (circa
> 1965) which by the way was packed seven nights a week as I recall, as
> was the rock joint we were in.
> We had a larger going out every night audience in those days and a very
> broad range of music to choose from, lots of clubs were doing great
> business with Blues, Jazz, OKOM, Swing, Big Band and rock of several
> styles.   They are ALL gone now, drinking laws ran most of them out of
> business and most of their clientele moved to the suburbs as the young
> folks got married and started raising families away from the big
> cities.   with the older folks moving away from the cities they took
> the audience for the OKOM Dixieland clubs away.   For a few years there
> was activity in the chains of suburban Pizza parlors for it, and even
> that dwindled down to usually no more than a Banjo player for most of
> them.
> I attribute this to the non-promotion and marketing of the music and
> the bands themselves, and letting the establishments get away with jut
> having a sign that said "Live Music" tonight   of "Band tonight"   So
> the OKOMer's failed to see the importance of marketing themselves, and
> the union of course tried to convince everyone that all musicians were
> equal and the same and should be paid UNION SCALE.   This was fine for
> some but terrible for others who were spending money to promote
> themselves, getting their name in the paper photos and interviews etc,
> and becoming local celebrities and well respected as entertainers.
> The average non promoting laid back musicians just could not get any
> respect because they were not doing anything to earn it and push
> themselves into the limelight like the Entertainer types, and hot dance
> bands.   Remember people still DANCED in those days which is what
> launched this music to it's greatest popularity in the first place.
> In the Sixties I noticed a trend towards the I am so Hip scene and I
> want the audience to sit and pay attention to me because I am a great
> star player attitude and so much cooler than those other cats. etc.
> We all know the attitude thing.   Except for those that still have it,
> they never learned from their mistakes and they also never realized it
> when their audience also left town and did not come back.
> I watched Turk Murphy going broke at McGoons while 14 nightclubs I
> booked exclusively on Broadway were packed seven nights a week with
> cover charges and two or three drink minimums.  Those clubs were
> entertainment rooms, albeit they did degenerate with the Topless craze,
> which I did not start, nor like from a business standpoint.  I did not
> mind the shows until they got so sleazy that even decent folks who
> would tolerate naked breasts on a stage stopped going there.   The
> attempt to turn North Beach into Las Vegas was fine until the wrong
> folks bought the clubs and ran them into the ground as sleaze joints
> with professional pick pockets and such as waitresses, and doormen,
> bouncers etc.   I used to have some very good bands playing that street
> with many styles of music and the area was booming and interesting as a
>   world class night life center for about 8 years.   We had Vegas style
> show bands, a Big Band, Folk band, Comedy, and The Jazz Workshop,  with
> acts Like Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, El Matador with acts like Chet
> Baker and Marion McPartland, Basin Street West, where I promoted Miles
> Davis, and Count Basie and Mr. D's where I booked Tony Bennet, Greek
> restaurants with Greek music, Italian Restaurants like Enricos with
> Italian Entertainment, a Morrocan restaurant with Middleastern
> Entertainment with Belly Dancers,   All class establishments,  Bimbos
> up the street with First Class shows, like Buddy Greco The Village up
> the Street where I booked Harry James Orchestra and Buddy Hackett,   I
> also had the Peppermint Tree up the street with top Soul and Rock bands
> for the teenagers.
> The country moved into the economic attitude as the population started
> moving into urban sprawl that we must charge more money to less people
> to make a profitable business out of our clubs, I actually saw some of
> the owners put a wall down the middle of a club and open another one
> next door to make it appear more intimate on slow nights.  They did
> however double the cover charge and double or triple the price of
> drinks to the point that nobody but unsuspecting tourists would come
> there and spend any money.
> Now then,the urban areas started building Performing arts centers, and
> developing city orchestras and local theater groups and nobody was
> driving back into the city night after night to support the larger
> places.   They built their local orchestras with mediocre run of the
> mill musicians, and the local wannabe actors and actresses who had day
> gigs as Doctors and Lawyers and Business owners Car Dealers, local
> drama class teachers and developed their own little circle of local
> stars of "Pretty good" entertainers and musicians and stopped bringing
> in High caliber acts and Performers who could attract fans and paying
> them their going rate.   Now you have a decade or two of this and the
> folks in the urban area actually start to believe that their local
> cheaper acts are Stars because they have been in the local newspaper
> and become celebrities in their own minds.
> Yes it appeared to be cheaper, and they work for less and there are
> many more local events springing up but they are all about non-profit
> fundraisers for any cause anybody wants to affiliate with just to have
> something to do, you know
> , those events to "Save the Glow Worm"   Or "Habitat for Rattlesnakes"
> where the drawing card is the EVENT rather than who is performing at
> the event and actually drawing the people.   Again if the act does not
> demand and get Promotion and respectful status then they will not gain
> a larger paying audience being billed as "Live Music"  or entertainment
> on five stages.
> The folks who run most of these events have no clue about music or
> musicians and really do not care, musicians have sat back and not
> promoted and taken care of their status in our society for so long now
> that they in many cases simply have no respect at all and so many have
> played so many events for free or less than minimum wage for every good
> fundraising cause on earth that nobody wants to pay them living wages
> in line with all other jobs and professions anymore.
> Just take a look around you folks:   How much does it cost you to bring
> in a plumber?  a guys to repair your washing machine?
> the mechanic to work on your car?  even the guy who repairs your
> instrument?  Your dentist, Heck the guy who mows your lawn and blows
> away the leaves etc. make more money than most musicians.   The
> musicians who make themost money are those that own music retail
> stores, :)) Hello,
> We keep turning out more and more wannabe players from schools all
> around the world but never bothered to teach any of them anything about
> how to actually earn a living, so now we have several million people
> wandering around begging for a stage to try and play to an audience,
> and they will play for anybody for anything they offer.   Nobody seems
> to realize or care that musicians are people too, we (the lucky ones)
> have mortgages to pay, insurance, taxes, dental bills, doctor bills,
> water bills, electric bills, auto payments and insurance, and yes $3.05
> and more gasoline prices.  and on and on.    All the plumbers and
> electricians and carpenters, hotel workers, bartenders,nurses, even
> farm workers etc. have larger numbers in their union organizations and
> fought for them to keep getting increases in wages as inflation crept
> up on our overall economy.   The Musicians union folded their tent in
> many areas and chose to take the easy route to staying in the game by
> representing the Symphonies where the money was from larger groups of
> findable players to collect dues from, and for the most part never
> bothered to address the larger number of musicians breaking into the
> live music scene during the Rock years, and taking the firm stand that
> Rock and Roll is just a fad and it will fade away, never last etc. not
> worth the trouble to deal with it etc,.
> well guess what it did not go away and it is bigger and diversified
> even further to day and there are countless kids and adults out there
> with instruments trying to even buy their way onto a stage "any stage"
> just in the hopes of being heard, and many of those stages used to be
> OKOM stages.    Now even those in charge of community events and small
> festivals etc, are turning to the Free often terrible bands to play
> their events rather than paying for professional musicians and
> entertainers, because the professionals are not getting enough dates
> for the buyers and or communities to even recognize the difference
> anymore between "Pretty good" and "Really Good.
> I f musicians would once again compete with Quality rather than
> Quantity we might reverse the situation, the simple fact is that there
> are far more opportunities to pay out there in today's market, but they
> are not all in our backyards, however every other house on your block
> has two or three kids with instruments trying to go out and play gigs
> and they will play them free just to get on a stage.   Every time an
> event promoter fills up their event with these kind of acts and old
> timers who gave up on getting paid or never did try to get paid because
> they just  dabbled in music for fun while they earned a living doing
> something else, the market for Paid gigs dwindles downward.
> My word selection about "MORON" is based upon the ugly fact that none
> of these folks are or have been paying any attention for thirty or
> forty years to what is happening to and with music all around them
> therefore the sheep are herding themselves and nobody knows where they
> are going, except BROKE trying to support themselves as professional
> musicians.   It is a business, or at least it used to be folks, and if
> you treat it like one it will usually treat you like one.
> If that event can afford to rent stages, rent P.A. companies, pay
> security guards, rent porta potties, pay for Police and emergency
> services personnel as dictated by their cities, pay for permits,
> advertising, accounting, legal, labor to set up the stages, and booths,
> and all the other LINE items  in their budget, then the ONLY REASON the
> musicians are not getting paid or are getting paid less than reasonable
> living wages is because they are not demanding to be put into the
> BUDGET in the first place.
> I said this over a year ago, If you want to get respect go earn it and
> demand it, people think we all just do this for fun :))
> Bandleaders who run good bands, go get yourself on the boards of
> directors of your local Chamber of commerce, community groups, Lions
> clubs, Moose Lodges, Kiawanis, Cancer societies and any number of Non
> -profit organization boards and let your voices be heard, educate these
> folks to this terrible situation and start to reverse it.
> The only people that are truly Non profit here folks is many of US,
> everyone else is making a good living off of US but only because we
> have allowed it to happen.
> I hope that answers what your were looking for Larry,  Sorry to rant.
> Back to my room now,
> Tom Wiggins
> -----Original Message-----
> From: DWSI at aol.com
> To: dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
> Sent: Tue, 4 Oct 2005 07:31:12 EDT
> Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Re:gigs
>    In a message dated 10/4/2005 1:59:05 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> dixielandjazz-request at ml.islandnet.com writes:
> Like I  said a while back the folks who are in charge of getting music
> have no clue  what they are doing and as long as they can come into
> contact with  musicians that are also clueless this is going to only get
> worse and  worse.
> Sadly,
> Tom Wiggins
> Tom:
> You have made consistently wise and helpful comments about  the band
> scene
> for as long as I have been on this list. But this time I am  missing a
> piece of
> your logic; perhaps you could fill me in.
> How are things so different now (people in charge of getting music and
> those
> playing for free are morons) versus back "then," however long ago,
> "then"
> was. I grew up playing for fun at high school dances, bars, and at many
> parties.
>   No one accused me of taking bread from the mouths of working
> musicians. In
> fact,  one of my favorite fun times, was to walk into a beer hall, ask
> to play
> the  old upright, and see how long it took to be offered a job by the
> management.  What an ego kick that was. Later, when I got regular gigs
> playing
> in
> better bars  with a real Dixieland band, we never complained about this
> sort of
> thing.  Why?
> Help me understand how times have changed. Seriously!
> Dan (piano fingers) Spink (who has played on both sides of the  line)
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