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My "In Man" Story...and how it applies to band management, and life in general

Discussion in 'The Big Pile of Stuff & What to do with it' started by SOTSDO, Jan 6, 2013.

  1. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Literally decades ago, I was once an In Man, playing with a popular Saint Louis group as a sub. And, from that stems my In Man story - a tale that applies not only to instrumental music (and being an In Man), but also to life in general. It's a long story, but there is a moral (and another musical tale) at the very end, so please bear with me.

    When I was a youngster in Saint Louis, working out of the local, I would occasionally be called to play in instrumental music jobs that were a bit outside of my comfort zone. Big band stuff I could handle (even with all the sharps that they entailed), but one type of playing bothered me in particular, and I steered clear of it as a result.

    This was modern pop and rock. I like to have all of my ducks in a row, and hate playing without a chart in front of me. However, all of the groups that I saw playing modern music back in the day worked without a stand. I figured that they all worked from head arrangements (largely correct), and that you had to have long and extended practice to pick up on the tunes (not so correct; read on).

    One day, I received a call from a friend (Fred, owner of every size of clarinet ever made), who told me that he had just turned down a job but had mentioned me as a potential replacement. I asked him what kind of work it was, and he replied that it was a show band operation with a horn line, and immediately added (knowing my concerns about head arrangements) that I should not worry about it and just take the job. When the call came, I accepted based upon Fred's recommendation, only to start worrying about how I would hack the notes without a chart.

    The venue was the Pipefitter's Union Hall, which is really more like a country club. Located in far north Saint Louis County, it is often a venue for society weddings that are too large for a hotel ballroom. Elegant in layout and decoration, I've worked there on many an occasion, but not with this particular group.

    I showed up early as instructed, with black pants, white shirt, narrow black tie, and my prescription sun glasses as well as my low A baritone. I presented myself to the band manager, and immediately inquired about the group's arrangements. He told me "Don't worry", and directed me to a rack of identical blue blazers to complete my costume for the evening.

    I got my jacket, put my horn and special horn stand together (this was a standing gig), and got up on the bandstand with the rest of the folks who could read music (the six horn horn line). Seeing two others who I knew, I immediately inquired as to where I could find the charts, and was again reassured, "Don't worry". Great.

    We got together for the run through with the non-music readers (the leader's core group, including a lovely and hot female vocalist who I never saw or heard of again), and I was handed a sheet with the chord progressions listed out for each of the tunes. Okay, fine - now I had at least an outline of what I was to play.

    Truth be told, my job was a simple one. Being on baritone, my job was to play the root of every chord that the ornamental horn line played to back up the "heavy" portions of each tune. And, as long as I had the listing in front of me, it was just a matter of playing the right note at the right time (I knew the tunes by ear as far as when to play, just not knowing what specific note to play; playing a bass instrument often has its advantages.)

    All well and good, and the run through went really well. I'm not much for improvising, but they usually didn't have the baritone do much of that, so no problems. But, the nagging fear was that I could not remember the progressions, at least for some of the more obscure (from my point of view) tunes.

    And that's when I was enlightened as to their method of deal with this little problem. The solution was to list out the tunes for each set on w-i-d-e automobile masking tape, with the tape being three or four inches wide. The progression for the horn part was laid out with the root of each chord (for the bari and trombone if needed) written in wide, bold Magic Marker ink. Three feet of space on the floor of the stand (which was invisible to the audience and dance floor) was used to lay them out, and there it was, all on the floor in front of me. Pure genius...

    I immediately sought out the catering manager, and borrowed the biggest marker that she had, a great wide red marker. I then listed out all of the tunes and their progression, had a brief review of another important portion of the job (the horn line "moves"), and then went off to visit the catering line, where we were to pick up our supper prior to the downbeat.

    (It was on this evening that I discovered the wonders of Crab Rangoon. I saw what appeared to be pizza rolls, filled a plate with them, and was delighted with the very first bite. The poor catering staff probably wondered what was happening to them, as I revisited the line later in the evening, loading my plate each time.)

    Comes time for the downbeat, I took my position on the stand. I had the look (the shades and the jacket), I had the moves (the elaborate choreography - basically, I took my lead from the trombone player and kept my motions in sync with his), I had a full stomach of Crab Rangoon (and the promise of much more as the evening went on) and (most importantly) I had my written out chords, all in big, bold, red lettering, laid out in front of me, with the remaining sets hanging off of the back of the stand.

    This group was run by a percussionist, who was featured out in front of the rest of us, on a higher riser, equal to the thrust for the vocalists. He opened his performance back then with the theme from '2001', the opening portion of Also Spracht Zarathustra. The trick was that we would play the opening chords (in the dark), whereupon reaching the kettledrum part the white light would come up on him as he wailed away on the toms for the tympani part. Once that was done, the same chords would be played again, with the white light coming up this time on the rhythm portion of the group (the non-music reading rock folks). Then, the third and final set of chords would be followed by full light on the entire group, with the lead trumpet showing off the whole while, following which we would play the majestic descent to that big fat C chord at the end.

    Once this point was reached, the entire light setup went black while the chord was sustained on the organ. Then, the white light came up on the drum kit and the leader opened with the intricate, four different rhythm opening of Mitch Rider's Good Golly, Miss Molly/Devil With The Blue Dress On.

    All well and good up to this point. There I stood, in the dark, concentrating on the point that I would be entering with the chorus - "Devil with the blue dress, blue dress, blue dress..." - making sure that I had my feet set right, my horn well out in front (I was playing a Yanigisawa baritone, with the wonderful short neck setup - the only way to fly for a standing gig, in my opinion) with my right arm rigidly supporting it, and my eyes on the floor where I knew my first note would be indicated on my carefully drawn "chart".

    Wait for it, wait for it - and then it was time. I focused my eyes on the spot where the first tune was located, and up came the lights on the horn line - a solid set of PAR cans, each fitted with a red gel in the filter holder.

    At that point in my life, I had already had a course in optics, plus several courses in astronomy, each of which involved a lot of issues surrounding light. But, despite all of my careful preparations prior to the downbeat, I never thought for a single instant that my wonderful lists of chords would be bathed in the one form of light that would make them virtually illegible. Bummer.

    I got through the rest of the first set by muttering to the trombone player and doing some on-the-fly transposition - quick and dirty, but good enough to get by. (It helped that sometimes we were lit normally.) Then, during the interval, I used a borrowed black marker to outline each of my carefully drawn letters, and by the start of the second set I was ready for the rest of the evening.

    Since that time, I have never done a band job without first checking the serving line to see if Crab Rangoon is on offer, and then making sure that all of my marking devices were as black as coal. No more surprises, at least not on that account.

    Which brings me to this Saturday. We had taken the entire band book home from our rehearsal space before the Christmas holiday, this to pull the sets for an upcoming event. Nineteen boxes of music, eighty one color coded folders, and ninety charts later, it was all in place, double checked, and ready to go. (That's one hell of a lot of music, I tell you what.)

    As we leave for rehearsal quite early on Saturday morning, I decided to load the trailer on Friday night. I dollied all of the black music boxes (filing tubs, bought as a group from Office Depot a year or so ago) out to the trailer, stacked them neatly and locked them in with load bars, and went to sleep for a well earned rest,

    It is winter down here - mild by northern standards, but it still gets down to freezing now and then. It did that Friday night, and when the trailer came to be unloaded on Saturday morning, I found that no less than three boxes on the lower tier had split, shattered or otherwise failed, this due to age, embrittlement, and the cold temperature. One of them actually "blew apart" into flinders - it took me ten minutes that evening to sweep out the trailer. As our music is kept in hanging folders in each box, the mess was considerable.

    Unloading was a cumbersome process - stacking only one tier high on the carts meant two boxes for each load, plus having to find something for the three boxes that had failed completely. Several of the others had similar failures, even after being brought up to room temperature.

    I spent the rest of the day after rehearsal and lunch, chasing around town looking for a new set of music boxes. One thing I don't want to experience is the same sort of failures while loading out for a gig.

    With my former employment with OSHA, I spent a lot of time dealing with material failure of all sorts, including a number of plastics failures at low temperatures that cost someone their life. But, never did I think about such problems when dealing with the mundane business of off-loading my band library.

    I now have a heater rigged to place in the trailer should I have to load it ahead of time, and I'm hoping that that will be enough for the new boxes to remain in one piece. We'll see - I'm going to test one of the new boxes in the garage this evening to see if our light frost is enough to allow it to shatter.

    In the meantime, the lessons to be learned here are twofold. First, always check the buffet line ahead of time to see if they are serving Crab Rangoon. Second, you have to anticipate failure and prepare for it, not only in the obvious cases (horn malfunction, circuit breakers tripping out) but also with light and cold. Live and learn.

    I would love to find "heavy duty" plastic filing boxes that are black, key together when stacked, and are robust enough to withstand handling and stacking. Alas, those commonly for sale are getting flimsier and flimsier.

    (I never played as an "In Man" again. The sun glasses got left under a bridge in South Vietnam - watch where you set stuff down, or you may never see it again. The baritone is long ago sold off. My trombone playing friend had his "Taps" notice in International Musician about twelve years ago. But, I think we'll have Crab Rangoon for supper this evening...and I still carry black marking pens, just in case.)
     
  2. great story.

    never heard of crab rangoon before, just looked it up, will be giving it a try. If I can get the ingreedients here.
     
  3. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Crab Rangoon

    We make it in the form of Crab Rangoon 'rolls', using two egg roll skins to wrap each load of cream cheese (that you should have), shredded crab meat (that you should have in tins, if not fresh), green onion tops chopped (those you should have), Worcestershire sauce (that you can get), a very light touch of hot sauce (Tobasco - I don't know if they export it, but it could be omitted without losing much) and granulated garlic (fresh would work, but it's much more messy).

    My lovely wife's award winning recipe for them follows:

    Crab Rangoon Rolls
    (as related by Joyce Ann McIntosh-Stibal to the Mount Vernon (IL) Register-News in 1983)

    12 ounces shredded, chopped and drained blue crab meat (fresh or tinned)
    8 ounces cream cheese
    Portion of standard sales package of egg roll skins
    2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    1/2 teaspoon granulated or powdered garlic
    2 green onions (discard white portion), finely chopped
    "A dash" (i.e., very little) of Tobasco sauce (can be omitted if desired)

    Process all ingredients except the egg roll skins in a food processor or by hand until well blended.

    Spoon out about one and one-half tablespoons worth of the mixture of the ingredients in the middle of two layered egg roll skins (mixture should resemble a little sausage when properly formed), then fold the ends of the skins, roll and seal with water. Make sure to pinch all folded and rolled portions of egg roll skins to ensure that they are tightly sealed. DO NOT roll too tightly; the filling has a tendency to expand when heated, and will break through the casing if packed too tight.

    Deep fat fry at 350° F for approximately two to three minutes, or until the casing is golden brown. In this form, serve as main course of a meal. Recipe produces an ample meal for three.

    Please note that this recipe is for the "main course" version of Crab Rangoon, prepared this way for my husband who is a bit of a pig when it comes to this delicacy. Alternatively, you can use won ton skins (doubled), one teaspoon of the mixture in each casing, and serve them in the classic form as appetizers.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
  4. Thanks for the great story - and thanks too to your spouse for the recipe!!
     
  5. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    And...

    ...the test music box made it through the night without a problem; it retained all of its flexibility and integrity. The age testing will just have to wait.
     
  6. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    You are a great writer and wonderful story teller. Your memory for detail is simply amazing. What I remember now is that I used to play a lot of gigs in Elks Lodges, at least I think I did. :-? Of course I used to drink a lot back in those days. Elks lodges were one of the few places that served liquor by the drink in Utah back then and one couldn't let that opportunity go to waste.
     
  7. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    If you liked that one, you'll love my Hollerith card story. It too has a music hook...
     
  8. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    And...

    ...along these lines, I need to add a "Learn From Your Errors" section here. I learned how to run a band by observing all of the things that others did that were "contra" to good musical, business or ethical practice.

    I freely admit that I have made mistakes in my life, in all areas (not just music). But, each and every time that I make one, I try really hard to make sure that circumstance is never duplicated. Fool me once, shame on me and all of that.

    Some of this comes from my long association with the ISO 9000 series of industrial standards. If you accept the philosophy behind these voluntary standards, and start implementation at an early stage in any process (business, social or family), it ends up making your life a lot more productive, safe and easy on everyone in the long run.

    Take my method of moving into a venue. I've worked for bands where the trailer looks like a pile of trash with some microphone stands - everything placed in there helter-skelter. When it comes time to set up at a venue, it all gets dollied (or, more usually, carried by hand) into the ballroom and dumped on the stage. Then, the leader tries to sort it all out in a half hour while the sidemen come in the door and get in the way.

    I've seen this same scene reenacted many, many times over the years, more than enough to learn from the mistakes of others. (My suggestions to my former leaders about this have universally been ignored, by the way.)

    My trailer gets loaded like a World War II attack transport. Everything in a proper carrying container (to ease setup and prevent damage to frail stuff like the stand fronts and lights), and it all gets dumped on the dance floor (which is kept clear by my contract signed with the Purchaser). The stand light snakes and power cords are on top, followed by the other equipment boxes, with the music boxes beneath.

    All of this means that the boxes are spotted into the trailer in reverse order (stuff on top ends up on the bottom once in the ballroom) when loading things out of the music room. It takes a little thinking to do it up front (and doing two jobs in one day can be a real logistical nightmare) but it makes things a lot easier in the long run.

    Stay tuned...
     
  9. Yes please And thanks for the recipe, I'll send it to my wife, along witht he one I got from the interent.

    Tabasco is universally available. Even in Germany where very few people can take anythign as hot as a Jalapeno, never mind Tabasco chillis. I guess you meant he red kind.

    Worcestershire sauce - yes

    Just checking - green onoins are what I'd call spring onions? Small white bulb up to half an inch in diameter, long green stems, almost like a lee, but a lot smaller - 6-8" long and 1/4" diameter?

    And egg roll skins will be an adventure, but I'm sure we'll find something. Guessing it's a lot like the dough for Samoosas.
     
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