Some gigs that a musician plays don't really stand out in his/her memory. Other gigs become embedded in a musician's mind and he/she can remember every detail down to the odd key signature or crazy tempo that was played on a particular song, the picture or artwork on the wall, the wood engraving on the interior of the structure, the dancer possessing no sense of rhythm, even the layout of the parking lot. Sometimes it is hard to understand why the memories of one gig stand out so much more than others. One gig that I'll never forget is "The Fight Gig". It's easy to understand why I remember this one so well.
This occurred back in the late 70's or early 80's. Dad's band, The Bourbonaires
, had a gig to play in Harlan, KY. Dad was leader/trombonist, Dean Gatwood blew trumpet, Edgar Allison played Hammond organ, Wayne Cablish was at the drums, and I played sax and clarinet. My sax setup was state of the art, and like Lexington sax legend and innovator Duke Madison, I had an electronic octave divider hooked up to my sax. (I remember hearing Duke play that thing and I just had to have one. Unfortunately, the equipment still didn't make me sound like Duke.)
Dean and I rode to the gig with Dad in the old Hurst Music Dodge cargo van. It only had two seats, so I would sit in a lawn chair in the back. I remember how cold it would get back there, as the heater blew out the front and never seemed to make it back to me. That old van had no carpet, no interior trim, no air conditioning, and only an am radio. It was okay though, as every musician has to pay his dues along the way!
On our trip to Harlan, Dad told us about the last time he had played there. It was twenty one years earlier, and he told us of that original "fight gig". As his story went, a couple of drunks at the party continued to argue about what song the band should play next. A fight broke out and the club manager sent everyone away. He told them "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here". The party broke up, the manager paid the band, and they went home two hours early.
As we arrived at the club on this infamous return engagement, I observed that the place looked classy. It was very clean and impressive facility, not one that you would think of as rough. It looked like a typical country club clubhouse. When the guests started arriving, it was apparent to me, by the way they dressed, that these were the most affluent folks of the community. It certainly did not look like the same place that Dad had described in "the fight gig" from twenty one years ago.
We got everything set up and played a couple of tunes. I think we started with "Satin Doll" and then Dad may have sung "King Of The Road". After the second tune, a fellow came up and asked for some country song...I can't remember the name of it now. At the same time another guy told us not to play the crappy song that was requested, but to play a different song. The fellow that had requested the first song did not appreciate the guy calling his song request "crappy". The two guys started wrestling and the club manager had to come out of his office to break up the scuffle. A few minutes later, everyone was gone. The club manager came up to Dad with a check and told us to go on home, that everyone had left to go downtown and watch the fight. Unbelievable! It was deja vu for Dad. Funny thing is, we didn't know either song request anyway.