By Lon Bronson
“Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head….”
Well, not exactly, but I had spent eight or more hours in mundane conversations with agents and stage managers about upcoming gig details. All that will soon be behind me as I prepare to leave for my All Star Band Saturday night performance (“get a little action in”). I kiss the kids goodnight as they leave me with the eternal question: ‘What’s the true meaning of Christmas, Daddy?’ Before I can venture a reply, they chant in gleeful unison “Vengence”, ah, I’ve taught them well.
My Durango 95 purrs away (“Baby you can drive my car”). It’s a real horror show down Las Vegas Boulevard; I’m steeling myself for the upcoming battle. Tonight we’re recording “The Gig” and that’s special. As I pull into the Golden Nugget valet I make small talk with the attendants. (“Everybody knows my name”). In Vegas it’s way more important to know the valet guys than the bartenders (but knowing the bartenders doesn’t hurt either). I make my way through the battleship gray labyrinth of wrong way turns to the Sinatra Room. Find the elevators. The frenzied trumpet duel from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” plays over and over in my mind. I half expect to be confronted by Tuco and Angel Eyes as the doors slide open. ‘(“If there’s anything I can do, just call on me and I’ll send it along.”)
Now there’s a flurry of activity – set lists must go out, mutant musician egos must be massaged, which guest artists are sitting in and are they here? I need to relax, only 22 minutes to downbeat time, where’s my beer?
Fee Waybill from the ‘Tubes’ enters our Sinatra Green Room. I’ve been a fan for years; he’s the ultimate front man. What can I say that would be cool? I manage a lame “Hey man!” Noel Coward I’m not. “I’m just a jealous guy” without any power tools.
It’s the midnight hour. Cue the good guys. Rhythm section is in place. Assemble the horn section in the wings. Tom effortlessly screams out a double C note-guess he’s warmed up! Sloppo (the forgotten Marx brother) brings up the rear. He just now begins to assemble his charts and put his horn together (“Try thinking more if just for your own sake”).
We finally take the stage. Applause is mixed with ‘whoas’ and ‘my mans’ which heralds our arrival. Band fans. ‘Cat’ lovers.
I give Mark “the look” and he clicks off four into our opener ‘Gotta Run’. I have a split second to make a decision: one more pull of Guiness or play my horn. Reluctantly I reach for the horn. The first few notes are laborious, a test of sorts: “Cold turkey”.
I once told friend Drew Carey comedy was easy and playing the trumpet is difficult. I like Drew: “A working class hero is something to be.”
The tune comes to a screaming, screeching finish and the crowd erupts…..what this is really all about. I step to the mic to address them thinking ‘So this is what it’s like to be a big Vegas star like Clint or even the Scintas’…. “Imagine” but I kid, I kid….
Over the next 90 minutes we play 15 songs , I down five Guinesses, Sloppo fumbles three more times, Fee nails two unrehearsed Tubes tunes and newlywed Penn Jilette gets kicked in the jewels by one little fool. It turns out to be an “ordinary All-Star gig after all.” I want to tell you being a live musician is a magnificent anachronism.
We’re pauper dinosaurs, new Age antiques, the last of the last yet best of the best and I’ll keep showing up til the fat lady sings.