Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I'm going to try to get back to doing some storytelling here on a more frequent basis, and I'm hoping that I can bust my writer's block and get back to having some fun here.

The name is misleading, because the folks in the band pronounced it "Voyyyyyyyy-Ag'eeeeeeeeeeeeee. Very european sounding. It was actually a really good band, but we didn't go anywhere and I left shortly after playing with them several times for reasons explained below.

I think I found the band online, or maybe on an ad at a Guitar Center bulletin board. No matter. It was a month or so before 9/11, and I recall that because I was waiting for a used Sonor drum being shipped from Germany and of course it finally arrived months later being apparently untrackable and having been searched numerous times. I was playing a really nice Sonor Hi-Lite Exclusive kit with a gorgeous black lacquer finish and copper colored hardware. Just a beautiful and great sounding kit. It was a rare kit to begin with, and I could only find matching add-on drums in Germany on Ebay there, and only a few willing to ship to the USA.

But I recall wanting to add more toms to that particular kit because it was a funk-jazz-rock band very suggestive to me of the late, great Curtis Mayfield band from back in it's heyday. We were playing diverse material, all of it I'd heard before and I was looking forward to getting a few more toms to engage in some more active drumming as the music called for.

So I show up for the audition and their departing drummer is there to offer his evaluation. He's got his kit there, but I've brought my own in, because his kit is horrid. It's cheap, the heads are way worn and everything is very dirty and dusty. The kit has not been taken care of, and the cymbals look no better.

Now, I've seen master drummers playing on sad kits, don't get me wrong, but this guy didn't look like one of those guys who could blaze on a crappy kit.

So after a couple of songs he packs up and tells the band I'm the guy and we run through the material, which is several sets worth of songs. Again, I've heard them and know most of them and catch 95% of the stops and special fills and such and it goes really well. I taped it digitally to DAT and it still sounds good.

We got together a week later, as I recall it was the day before 9/11. We had another great practice running over the material twice. Again, I taped it and it's still as good as I remember.

The founder of this outfit was a guy we'll call Carl. Carl was in his late 30's, college educated with some kind of programmer job. He had picked up guitar cold 5 years before, and he was an excellent player. His leads especially reminded of Curtis Mayfield, which is a big compliment.

This was his first band, as I'll discuss more later. We were doing covers of popular songs but in a jazzy and funky and extended way. There was lots of wah wah pedal, which frankly was fine by me because there was some serious guitar playing going on amidst that wah wah'ing.

A guy we'll call Robert was apparently a long time friend of Carl and he played a huge 8 string bass and tenor and alto sax. He also was a great player and soloist and I'm thinking he had arranged all the music we were doing. He occasionally played bass either with our other bassist or solo. 

Lisa was the bassist and she was great. She had a nice, seventies Fender Jazz and later got a pristine seventies Fender Precision fretless. From the first note, she and I noticed we had a good chemistry and that we played very well together. It was almost one of those subconscious sorts of deals, where we each knew where the other was going.  She and I would play in later showcase gigs for various artists.

There was a singer whose name escapes me and we'll call So-and-So. One of those ladies who knows she is nice looking and acts the part, God's gift to beauty and humanity and all that. And quite the be-yotch. She didn't care for me at all, and was one of those new musicians thinking that in 6 months she'd be in Hollywood and on TV, when she "made it".

Well, I will say she was an excellent singer. Classically trained and could hit all kinds of notes and sustain for an eternity. I was duly impressed, and so was she. Impressed with herself, that is.

One very memorable arrangement this outfit did was of the Bill Wither's great "Ain't No Sunshine {When She's Gone}". That girl could sing the heck out of that tune, wringing all kinds of emotion and such out of that already great song. She did an extended vocal intro with all kinds of vocal gymnastics, and their arrangement then added a great electric guitar solo and an awesome sax solo.

So my hedging and delaying my decision I guess greatly upset her. 

So I come for the third rehearsal with them. Unfortunately the talented sax player Robert has suffered some kind of massive stroke or heart attack and will obviously be out for some time.  We nonetheless move through a few numbers, and all is well musically. 

There was a good keyboard player there that had come a few times and decisions were pending on both sides. She like me had been in lots of bands. Everyone else in this band, save for Lisa, had no other band experience. This, and most of them were in their mid-30's, was their first band and first band experience.

That seemed to be a good posture for me to take, because although they were ready to have me "join" right away, I wasn't ready to commit until I got to know them. At the time, I was playing with a couple of other bands at the time, but looking seriously for just one band to work with, and I was up front with them about it.

So after a break, when I re-enter the rehearsal room, I'm confronted by female singer, and backed up by the guitarist and founder and pretty much group leader. They don't think I'm serious about their band, and they see themselves "touring" in less than a year, and with my day job and family and other bands, they need to know that when "they make it" that I'll be there and abandon family and job at the appropriate time.

I briefly shared some gems from my years of musical experience with them, as I packed my drums and gear, on the realities of "making it" when you're  a cover band. On "making it" in Houston, Texas. On planning to be in LA in a year when they have yet to do a gig, and the only recording being done had been done by me. 

They weren't good enough for a Vegas hotel or bar gig, but might land a steady gig at a remote hotel somewhere where it's hard to get bands. In other words, a very talented band but not playing their own music, and not having any of their own music to one day play. Thus, they'd be a great cover band and maybe one day a first rate cover band, but that was a long way off.

As I loaded out my gear, two guys about my age who had been playing guitars in the room next door had heard what was going on during my inquisition and asked me if I'd jam with them. Turns out they were playing lots of blues rock stuff I liked by artists like Doyle Bramhall, Storyville, Arc Angels and the like. And so I unloaded into their room and that's another story. The story of Drivin' Wheel.