[Dixielandjazz] Show bands was live vs. recorded music

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Aug 2 09:23:51 PDT 2009

> Howard Wiseman <h.wiseman at yahoo.com> wrote (polite snip)
> As a 57 year veteran of live theater, I can say today that even when  
> you want a band, they are getting harder to put together and even  
> harder to find?who can?play the music and are willing to rehearse.?  
> We did "Urinetown" a couple years ago and frankly couldn't even find  
> a rehearsal pianist who could play the music.? A couple tired and  
> gave up.? We quickly had to order the "rehearsal" CD.??This has  
> happened time after time.? If you live in the right part of a big  
> city, you may be able to find musicians, but it's getting to be too  
> much of a gamble.

In the Philadelphia - New York City areas there are no problems  
getting musicians who are competent to handle a Broadway show book.  
And these gigs are much sought after because they pay well.

A few of our substitute players work regularly in pit bands whenever  
they can. One, notably, in the annual Christmas Show at Rockefeller  
Center in December and January. He makes about 50% of his annual  
musical income from that 2 month show, which on some days has 2 or 3  
shows and the overtime adds up significantly.

Thus he can afford to play jazz during the rest of the year, when he  
is not touring with Liza Minelli or Earth Wind & Fire etc..

The A F of M, local 802, still exerts some influence in the NYC  
theaters and as a result the pay scales are good.

When Barbra Streisand toured Europe, (a year or two ago) she engaged a  
band of some 50 musicians, mainly drawn from the NYC theaters. This  
created work for lots of Philadelphia area musos who filled in for  
them while she toured. They cut the show books with no problems.

It used to be that way in Las Vegas in the 1960s when live music ruled.
I knew musicians who were making $100,000 a year there by doubling and  
tripling 4 hour gigs, some in shows others in lounges. Lots of jazz  
musos went there in order to eat.

That all changed in the 1970s where I saw my first "Moog" show at The  
Aladdin with many dancing girls, etc, backed by a guitar, a drummer  
and a Moog Synthesizer. Then many of the lounges surrounding the  
gambling floors discontinued music. Small world. In the 1950s I gigged  
with a trumpeter/pianist named Herb Deutsch. He was touting a "genius"  
named Moog and helping this genius develop a music machine. Made him a  
lot of money. Herb is professor emeritus, Music, at Hofstra  
University. (we're both alums) We all laughed at him back then.

Same thing in Atlantic City where 20 years ago, there were bands all  
over the casinos. For example, Banjoist Debbie Schreyer and husband  
Tom on bass worked 5 days a week at the Showboat there for seven  
years, making about $1800 a week plus 2 meals a day. (She got a leader  
fee) Then she and Tom free lanced on their days off. Pete Pepke and I  
did many gigs with them in quartet form. During those years she and  
Tom bought and paid for for a condo. When the good old days ended,they  
sold their condo and went back to Minnesota.

No, it ain't like it used to be. Too bad we can't all go home again.  

Steve Barbone

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