Friday, June 13, 2014

On our way once more!

We have benefited from our time "ashore" these past winters, but this one seemed longer.  After five years doing nothing but traveling and performing, it's weird not to be in front of folks, doing what we do.  Then, it's weird getting back into it!

Getting ready to perform is a matter of ramping up from "practice" to "rehearsal."
Fingers will hurt for a while, but it all comes back pretty quickly.

Getting ready to travel, however, is a different critter.
We moved from the van into the apartment and added household stuff--some from storage--and found a place for everything.  Now, we've had to determine what of our current household needs to be reinstalled into the van, and where.  

Hours and hours dragging things out, back and forth, countless miniscule (but important) discussions and decisions--all in hope of avoiding that "Oh, no" moment out on the road when you realize you forgot something that is going to affect your daily lifestyle until you replace it, if you can.  A life this compact involves some very customized applications for "just right" items it took a lot of searching to find.  They fit and work just right, and the trivial becomes large, like a grain of sand inside your sock.

Judy spends hours planning where we're going to stay on the way to the gig, directions, schedules, where we want to be on days off, times we definitely don't want to be on the road, hours not to hit major cities, bypasses and beltways--all the minutia comprising an itinerary for true itinerates.

Anyone who has seen us perform can imagine what goes into the maintenance, organization, and transportation of instruments, props, and equipment.  The other traveling pros we know all deal with these issues as part of the creative process beneath the surface--the big, tough part of the iceberg.
It's the off-it-for-months aspect that's caught us a bit off guard.

But, we got it done, and in a couple of hours we'll be pulling out and we'll be performing again tomorrow afternoon.

Hope to see you out there!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In conclusion...

I often hear autobiographers comment that the process of recounting one's life is "cathartic" or "healing."

I lean more toward "time consuming."

Even though I focused on a single aspect of my past, and just hit the highlights, it has gone on for months, has it not?  Enough already.  Besides, I'm out of names to drop, so the rest is just work history.

We left Tucson in the late 80s for the East Coast, traveling by van and travel trailer.  My firstborn son, Dylan, and I had seen a hot rhythm and blues duo at the Tucson Street Fair who employed a washtub bass that actually played like an instrument.  We looked at each other and said, "Let's try that!"

It worked.  Dylan (19 at the time) got the knack right away, and we began rehearsing to convert my comedy-laden single into a father/son act.  We had particular success in the Denver area, and busking at the Boulder Mall.  Folks were loving the very idea, and we had a rich future of intergenerational comedic possibilities.

Leaving Colorado we had a choice of highways east.  One led through a little town called Branson, Missouri, according to ads in the tourist guides, a town completely devoted to the "Ozark" way of life, with hillbilly comedy revues and tons of bluegrass and country music.  We just didn't see how we'd fit in, and chose the other route.  Not long after that, Ray Stevens, Andy Williams, and a Japanese fiddler all opened theaters there.  In Columbus, Ohio, Dylan traded in his washtub for a girl and I was a single again.

Though I (and Judy and I) have performed hundreds of places--festivals, fairs, concerts--I think the peak experience for me was performing for 2500 troops waiting in the staging area at Aberdeen, Maryland to embark for the Persian Gulf War.  The radio station Judy was working on air for (WAMD) put on a USO-type show for them, rounding up all the talent and special guests they could, and it was a great time.  They were so appreciative, they made every one of us performers feel like a really big hit, and when it was over, we felt like we had done something good.  And off they went.

Cut to the north woods of Michigan, where we were homeschooling our daughters in the mid 90s.  For a music project for the girls, we put together a little family band.
Judy, whom I had never heard sing "out loud" before, began to sing with the girls.
That's how I discovered her, and now she's the star of the show.

Thanks to those who expressed any interest at all in these recollections.  I hope I did not misconstrue mere acknowledgement as encouragement, and did not drive away many of our several followers.

In recent years, we've been to Branson a few times--a couple to perform; but the highlight of our Branson experiences (including the Hughes Family show, which is amazing!) was getting to see Jim Stafford perform with his family in their own theater.  That being said, here's how we remember him best:

(Thanks to Alan Hillberg for sharing this vid!  Check out his channel on YouTube.)