So, back in Vegas…

…and The Cult was going to “clean me up” for the Mama Church

What this entailed was the delivery of some services meant to un-do all the years of gloriously misspent youth I had enjoyed up to that point.

One action purported to physically eradicated toxins and drugs from the body through excercise, sauna and ridiculous quantities of vitamins among other things. Another purported to re-orient a person to the present time and location – based on the notion that most of us aren’t really “here” mentally. Other services purported to rehabilitate a person’s communication cycle, ability to recall past events and strip the retention of false data preventing spiritual growth. Lastly, I was to be trained on how to study.

It bears mentioning that no alcohol was to be consumed withing 24 hours prior to receiving or delivering services. With a 7-day 94-hour weekly work schedule, that eliminated literally all opportunities to enjoy an adult beverage. Exceptions were made on Christmas Eve.

So, I was sober. That alone was a minor miracle only accomplished thus far by US Air Force basic training (and only for about 3 weeks). I was running again for the first time since I was 16. I was introduced to “The Cans” too.

Holding the cans, as it were, was part of almost all services considered Processing (as opposed to the other kind of services referred to as Training). The cans were metal and hooked up to an electronic device that measured small electrical changes in the palms of the person holding the cans. These changes were displayed on a meter to the person delivering the service. By astutely interpreting certain patterns on the meter, areas of spiritual or mental concern were said to be discovered and eradicated.

The Cult was desperate to get anyone in the door that they possibly could, but before beginning any services, they were extremely careful to weed out anyone who ever had any dealings with actual mental heath practioners: psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. Out the door they went! Except, they missed the elderly gent with whom I was partnered on the excercise, sauna and vitamins deal.

All training and some processing services meant being assigned a partner. You and your partner would go through the service together, kind of like a buddy system. Well, I was assigned a pleasent elderly gent. That kept me from over-doing the running bit – which I absolutely would have done otherwise. He was pretty cool. We were hanging out hours a day, so we of course got to chatting a lot. He had lost his Korean wife of many years not long before. He called her “Pinky”.

A couple of weeks went by and, who knows, maybe toxins started releasing in earnest from fat cells or whatever. After the sauna, we each went to our own showers. His began taking longer and longer. Then we started hearing him saying things in the shower. He was saying “pinky    Pinky!   PINKYYYYY!!!!!” Needless to say, this was unexpected and somewhat disconcerting to The Cult. Personally, I would’ve let it go, but word got around to someone in charge of stuff.

Well, they grilled him for an hour and he admitted he had indeed been on psychiatric drugs for a while. Out the door he went!

I went on to finish the list of services Mama Church said I needed. In all honesty, when delivered correctly, most of the early-level services actually do what they say they do. I say “when delivered correctly” because I would be made to do them ALL over again when I later weaseled my way into A Totally Different Very Special Training Program. There, they reviewed my records and determined that the local wee church folks got it all wrong.

The local wee church folks can’t be blamed for whatever confusion they were suffering. Mama Church was strident about keeping the technology absolutely pure and following everything The Founder had written to the letter of the law. The problem was, The Founder had died years before, and yet the folks running the Mama Church kept on publishing new technical and administrative directives bearing The Founders signature. I’m guessing at some point the local folks smelled a rat and began ignoring directives. That also helps to explain the hundreds of boxes of unopened Mama Church literature we were storing.

Soon I’d be on my way for more advanced training at the premier Technical Church in the world located on the gulf coast of Florida. Sounded good to me! There I was to spend a few short weeks becoming the guy my wee church needed to run the training courses. I’d come back and, BAM, the training money would start rushing in and our financial woes would be over!

I was assured that nothing like the Mama Church Approval Fiasco would happen to me in Florida. I was adamant that my guitar and bass were joining me, and so it was. Good thing, too, because I would up being there for about two years! I kinda fell in love with the gulf coast, what can I say?

I’ll start covering the Florida episode – and it may take a while – in the next newsletter. For now, suffice it to say I am really glad so many of you are enjoying the stories. It was due to positive responses and feeback that I even considered getting into the current subject.

The same is true for music, really. I didn’t know where I stood and lacked any kind of objective reality on the songs I was writing and recording until I finally started connecting with you fine folks. The fact that so many of you like the music gave me the confidence to get over the self-doubt that plagues most (or all) artists and really start getting serious about taking ownership for my music career.

The culmination of that effort – thus far – is our crowdfunding campaign. We’re just past the halfway point with 14 days to go and we are at 58% of our goal. That’s pretty cool – and we owe all that success to friends and fans like you who pitched in.

Here where you can check it out:

http://themerryjaynz.com

Click on the link, watch the video, listen to all the new tracks for Love One Another (our soon-to-be-released 2nd CD), find a reward level you like and help out with a donation. We’re self-hosted on this campaign…no make-or-break point so everybody gets what they order as their reward for donating.

Peace,

-Tom

So where was I…?

Ah!! Leaving Vegas for Southern California…

(new to this story? Check part 1 first here: http://themerryjaynz.com/index.php/2017/07/21/the-cult-years-part-1/  )

By now I had met all the other Las Vegas staff members. It was less than half a dozen folks (not counting the pregnant couple in uniform that was about to disappear). Everyone but the couple came in around 6 in the evening for the evening courses. I guess I’d only been around a couple of weeks at that point.

They had given me a couple of the raw public-level intro courses and they seemed to think I was OK. They were actually all pretty cool people. But once they saw I was literate and fairly willing to be sober I was sacrificed to The Mama Church which demanded every little puke-y storefront church send qualified staff to the Mama Church for a Special and Really Important Training Program.

This program was specifically meant for a team of three staff members from any given church…three different aspects of their Super Awesome Executive Course were to be imparted and the team would then return to their storefronts and instantly make them Mama Church-sized!!! So Vegas was sending me. Myself. And I. And upon my return, the reins of Executive Director-hood and Religious Leadership would be entrusted unto well-trained hands.

The little church in Vegas had plenty of room. There were only three customers, and they were only there for training 2 or 3 nights a week. So the course room where the training happened, and the tiny kitchen, where the coffee happened, were mainly free from crowding. The main room up front was large and in good shape, but always devoid of people. An office or two saw some life a few hours a week. Otherwise it was room after room stuffed with boxes…all the same size.

Do you know The Mama Church sent about a dozen of boxes of Mama Church publications, slick glossy magazines, every WEEK to the wee Vegas church? The denizens of our storefront enterprise were expected to get all of them distributed to the citizens of Las Vegas before the next dozen boxes arrived. Mama Church knew how many to send because Mama Church could look up the population of Las Vegas. These Vegas people all had day jobs…so, nope. There were many hundreds of boxes in every unused room in this building.

Now a bit about The Three Customers. This bears a bit of scrutiny. Two were a matched pair of retired well-funded older ladies from way West Vegas. They were as sweet as could be. We hit it off right away, because I was polite and skinny. They set eyes upon me and their new mission in life was to feed me. I loved these two! Then there was Ted. Right now all I want to say about Ted The Third Customer is that there’ll be an entire newsletter in this series dedicated just to Ted, his history, our Vegas skullduggeries and his Standing with The Cult. Oh, also, he was the Best Man at my wedding. The first one. The Cult one. But that’s much later.

So, off I go to Southern California. I was expected to quit my job and move out of my cheesy-ass room. I left my ’73 Strat and Precision bass there at the wee church in Vegas. My trust was not misplaced…it was as I left it when I got back.

Of course the training I was to receive was known to be months if not years in duration, but free as the wind for staff members. In Vegas I had signed a 5-year contract (knowing it was essentially meaningless, considering the utter lack of financial compensation). So, what the hey! What I didn’t know was…..well, read on.

I flew out of Vegas and was picked up at the airport by more uniforms. A couple of 40-ish ladies, very cordial. They drove me to the Mama Church. It was really a campus in the middle of a residential neighborhood. HUGE! About 90 percent of the folks running around this place were also in uniforms. About that…

I need to come up with a made-up name for the The Cult’s hyper-devoted inner-circle group of uniformed people. We’ll call them members of the inner core or Core Members. How about that? C-members, yes?

All C-members signed a one billion-year contract – because reincarnation, of course. They all actually got paid $50 a week, so there was that. Room and board and $50 a week and all the training and services The Cult had to offer – that was free. Except C-members worked 14-hours a day Monday through Saturday and a 10-hour day on Sunday…after 4 hours of Sunday cleaning  and Sunday inspections. And all C-members were very interested in convincing you to sign that billion-year-contract too.They know you wanna!!! You just haven’t gotten enough services to realize it yet!

For these C-members to actually get any fair amount the good freebies, they had to arrange to get in Really Big Trouble. Once that happened they were re-assigned to a life of something like 8-hours of hard labor and 6 hours of free services and what not. 6 days a week. Rather than take up the revenue-generating time of a trained and experienced C-member, those in Really Big Trouble would pair up, study the services to be rendered and render those services one upon the other. The only people on Earth who were allowed to do the services this way were C-members in Really Big Trouble.

After a year or two of Really Big Trouble, a C-member can come out so trained up and serviced up that The Cult is then obligated to promote them in rank and make them Executive C-members. Because that’s how awesome the services are, right? Really Big Trouble was actually very richly rewarded in The Cult.

Well, I was never THAT kind of staff member. No uniform except for a while they wanted me to wear a distinctive red “smock”; but that’s later, too. Nevertheless, I would wind up putting in those very same 14-hour days for most of my time with The Cult. That too will be expanded upon later. Now we’ve just arrived in Southern California’s Mama Church.

Crawling with uniforms!

I was dropped off at a gargantuan building, introduced to someone, then to someone else. Someone ELSE then brought to my new “room”..because it was late.

That room was a former janitorial closet that now had 14 beds of the bunk variety in it. A couple of janitors’ slop sinks and a couple of drains built into the floor were the only other articles of decor. I’m looking at thirteen tired dudes. I am assured there IS a vacant bunk in there.

We were in the middle of the third or fourth floor. There were dozens or rooms per floor – almost all way bigger than ours. There was a bathroom down the hall but the only showers we were OK to use were on the 6th floor. There were but 6 or 8 showers stalls for a few thousand C-members and hundreds of us students from wee churches around the world.

I literally don’t remember where or what I ate the whole time I was there. And I wasn’t there long!

I was there for New Years Eve, though! But that’s a few days off yet.

I spent my days getting shuttled from office to office mostly filling out forms, but sometimes getting interviewed…or interrogated. I still had to be approved by some executive Mama Church C-members before I could do this Very Special Training.

I think the interviews were where things started to fall apart a bit. Definitely.

I was actually looking like a great training candidate until some C-member with a form to fill out was compelled by duty to extract from me in minute detail the entirety of my sex and drug histories. I was bluntly honest. For about two or three hours. Hey, I had just turned 29. That’s fifteen years of gloriously misspent youth (and I was only getting started).

Needless to say, I was on my way back to Vegas, pronto. But not before I got to go out on the town for New Years Eve.

It took them until the 30th or so to determine that I wasn’t Executive Material. They also took pains to explain to me that all the LSD I had mentioned prevented me from ever becoming a C-member. In this lifetime. This little bit of actionable intelligence is what enabled me to actually sign one of those billion-dollar contracts at one point later in my brief career with The Cult (garnering much-needed goodwill and generating much grease for certain wheels…but, later).

They never stopped wanting you to sign that contract…even when they knew you were ineligible.

Anyway, I had become pretty good buds with these two dudes. Like me, they were flung unsuspecting from their crappy little storefront churches (in their cases in Australia and New Zealand) to the mama Church. We all shared a mild suspicion of the C-members and when it was announced that the C-members were going to be partying on New Years Eve unto their uniformed selves, and that the rest of us were free to do whatever, we three hit the town.

I still had a couple hundred bucks I’d saved from the florist delivery job in Vegas, so we bounced around a bit and finally saw a club that sounded like it was a-bompin’…

We paid $50 to get in (New Year’s Eve, Big City…) and found that we were the only white people in the place. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had! I drank like a fish and danced with all these beautiful ladies. I was well-accustomed to beautiful ladies never giving me so much as the time of day. This was great!

We all caroused till the early hours, eventually eating in a diner before heading back to The Cult.

No shower. Three or four hours of sleep. And I’m on my way to the airport.

Back to Vegas. Broke and hung over.

I arrived with Special Instructions From the Mama Church intended for whomever could rightfully be considered the Executive Director at the moment. The C-member couple had successfully escaped! One of the part-timers was supposed to step up, but that was like asking someone to hold a live hand grenade!

Someone finally opened The Special Instructions and it was a laundry list of training and services that a drug-crazed sex-fiend like me would have to complete before being considered for Any Special Training Program. My wee little storefront church was tasked with delivering all this training and all these services to me because, despite my shortcomings and dubious proclivities, apparently I was still potentially pretty OK. The C-members all had unlimited faith in their training and services, I’ll say that much.

Most other non C-member staff I met seemed to be barely tolerating the whole “its a religion, but also kinda like the military, but also a groundbreaking spiritual technology” thing that the C-members were pushing. The local regular staff usually were there because some of that technology – the earlier, lower-level stuff – actually worked like the bomb and had worked for them. There was always a faction that held the technology was great but the religion part and the C-members could go jump off a cliff. The C-members, meanwhile, were mainly there to keep everyone in line and protect Mama Church’s revenue stream.

So, I was to get all cleaned up by The Cult and resume my Very Special Training. At the Mama Church…or somewhere…

I’ll be covering all of that in the next letter. Many interesting wheels turned during the next few months in Vegas,  And then I was off again for Very Special Training, but this time to Florida.

At least in Florida I got to take my Strat and my bass. Never stopped playing.

Speaking of music, there are twelve tunes in our new CD Love One Another – none of which would have come out the way they did if my time on this rock had been spent living to others’ expectations. I knew the expectations, and I usually exceeded them if I felt like it. But in my own way.

That’s what creating original music is like, by the way. Everyone knows what is expected of a “successful” musician, band or artist. Some of us are called to make music and don’t want any part of that commercial echo-chamber pop-star nonsense. And that is exactly what gains us the kind of audience we want…the ones that see assembly-line pop hits for what they are and seek out better music, made by people like them. Music that connects with them and gives them whatever it is they REALLY want from music.

So we make the music we like, and figure that if it attracts people, they’ll be our tribe. Is that you?

Find out, I say!!! Check out the new CD!!! We’re in the middle of our crowdfunding campaign. Make a pledge that helps us finish producing this thing and get more for your money…it will help us out more than you know. All the new songs are available for listening and a bunch of reward levels are available to fit any budget.

Click this right HERE >>> http://themerryjaynz.com

Love from Tom and Susan

I Have My Opinions on Religion and Spirituality…

…but they have absolutely nothing to do with this story.

To protect the innocent and to keep hurt feelings to a minimum, this cult of which I speak will not be directly identified. It will be referred to from this point forward only as “The Cult”, with my sincerest apologies to the 1980s British rock band of the same name.

The way I found The Cult is a story unto itself, so let’s start there.

I had just left Brooklyn for Las Vegas. The money I landed with was running out and I was renting an apartment at this point, so I had to find a job. I moved to Vegas specifically on the recommendation of a Brooklyn drummer friend who preceeded my by just a few months. Neither of us could find a job in New York City. The economy was in one of those now-familiar 10-year “recessions”; but, reportedly, Vegas was booming. I found this to be true.

Now Las Vegas is a strange place to look for work as a new arrival. Every scam that ever walked the Earth learned to walk in Las Vegas first. That fact, combined with down-and-out gambling losers and transients lured by the gambling-subsidized low cost of living made Vegas natives a very suspicios and cautious bunch.

Consequently, my first attempt at gaining employment was fraught with red-tape and layers of precaution on the part of the employer. We are talking about a $5 an hour car wash job here, yet the employment process started with a 3rd party employment pre-screening company at which I was to appear dressed for success. I put on my lucky suit (a 3-peice navy blue pinstripe that served me well in cold call sales in NYC) and set out to walk the seven miles to make the appointment.

Yes, even I knew walking seven miles in the desert in a 3-peice suit was ridiculous. Luckily, I had made some acquaintances in my apartment complex and one of them offered me a ride. We made it there in minutes, so now I was about 3 hours early.

Well-dressed and with time to kill, I was looking for shade and a place to sit. It would be just plain silly to walk around in the sun for 3 hours after getting a ride! That’s when I spotted something familiar from my days walking about the streets of midtown Manhattan. It looked like a Christian Science Reading Room, well-known as the kind of place where a bit of bible talk might take up an hour (at least) and probably result in an offer of coffee and possibly a donut (donuts!!!). Without paying any closer attention to the sign on the door, in I went; utterly content to play this innocent scam on what I thought were some well-meaning Christian sect members.

It was not a Christian Science Reading Room. It was THE CULT!!! Even back then The Cult was notorious, but not nearly as much so as they would later become. Many folks had heard of it, but not most.

The only people manning this “church” were a young married couple, replete in their standard slightly paramilitary uniforms reserved only for inner-circle hyper-dedicated church staff members.

They were SO friendly and kind and cheerful! We spent all the free time I had talking about The Cult and its founder and perusing some of their basic books and cosmological dialectic. I was impressed with their knowledge and, honestly, the material I was reading was intensely interesting. I was genuinely curious.

When they asked me to come back to talk some more I assumed that they were impressed with me, too. Nope. She was pregnant as can be and the two of them soon departed The Cult, never to be seen or heard from again. Their last task was to replace themselves on staff…with me.

Yes, I joined staff. I figured I had little to lose (I never even got that stupid car wash job). It was explained to me that The Cult’s exorbitantly expensive training and services were available to staff members for free. I wanted to know more and wasn’t quite done scamming them yet!

The question may legitimately be raised at any point in this tale: Exactly who was scamming whom? In the end, I think I won the scam wars. That’s hardly the gist of this story, though.

Let’s move on….

I had started as a staff member, and also got a job delivering flowers. I moved from my apartment to a much cheaper weekly room nearby both The Cult’s little storefront “church” and the florist who paid me.

Needless to say, The Cult’s staff members were only paid if the little storefront “church” made lots of money (it didn’t) or if I sold lots of The Cult’s books (I didn’t).

About this “church”: The Cult claimed to be a religion (they aren’t) and the IRS agreed. They opened hundreds of similar little storefront, low-rent operations all over the country. They were no different from any dry cleaner, comic book store or tattoo parlor in appearance. These little operations were supposed to send paying customers on to larger more visually appealing operations for advanced services and so on. A cursory look into these services reveals that there is literally no end, no graduation, no point at which you “did it”. Eventually, I disovered the only form of “graduation” from The Cult, but more on that later.

Meanwhile, my drummer buddy from Brooklyn was a frequent visitor in my cheap little room, primarily because he had become homeless through a flaw in his own vastly inferior scam (relatively speaking). The last time I ever saw him, we jammed some music. I played my 73 Fender Strat unamplified while he played a beat on a Las Vegas phone book with his only remaining pair of drum sticks. We smoked the last tiny bit of weed we had between us, then said goodbye.

The next day I was being sent, all expenses paid by The Cult, to a huge sprawling training “church” in Southern California. Over the next couple of years I would spend quite a bit of time there. For now, let’s just say my first visit was…inauspicious.

(to be continued…)

In a band from a long time ago, in a time zone far, far away, our Super-Fan Alicia said it was totally cool to swim in her millionaire step-fathers pool…

…and she said of course we could skinny-dip, and put in a load of laundry.

 

But as it turns out, it was not OK.

We (the touring folk band) had spent the previous night on Alecia’s filthy, flea-ridden rug in an apartment off Sunset after a great show in Los Angeles. She became a fan back east and when she was informed of our west coast tour, she opened her home to us for the night.

When, in the morning, the four of us band members (as well as the 4-year-old and the 6-month-old) were up and ready to leave, we thanked Alicia and told her that we were off to do laundry at a laundromat and get a bite to eat.

Well! She would hear none of that! Her Mom and Step-dad had a great big beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills and she was totally allowed to use it – and the pool – whenever. We were to follow her to the house and put a load of laundry in and go swimming.

Anyone who knew us at the time would have easily predicted our next question, as the grownups were two couples.

“Well, cool! Can we go skinny-dipping in the pool?”

“Yeahhhh!!! Suuuuuure!!!!” said our benefactor. And off we went.

We were to find out that the Mom had married the step-dad, who was a Hollywood/Beverly Hills realtor, then became a realtor herself as well. As a result, they did really well and now had this serious mansion in the hills. It was like a movie set of a mansion.

Off with the clothes, in with the laundry and in the pool we went! Beautiful!

Then the step-dad unexpectedly arrived on the scene. Alicia, alone among us, had kept her clothes on. The step-dad walked into the backyard pool area wearing a white tennis get-up, but with an actual ascot. Not a silver hair out of place. He looked at us in the pool. He looked at his step-daughter.

“Alecia….I am going to f#cking kill you.” With picture-perfect diction and pronounciation. All the “-ing”s fully “-ing”-ed.

It was truly THE most cinematic experience I ever had. I could hardly believe this scene wasn’t written, conceived, staged, directed by film business pros.

It took us naked folks a good 5 seconds before we had to turn around due to the inescapable urge to laugh out loud. When we finally did, we held it in as well as possible and exited the pool to get our clothes.

The conversation between Alicia and her step-dad revealed that absolutely nothing was OK, and hadn’t they already been over this and agreed that she was never to visit the house…and all with perfect diction, every silver hair in its place.

Well, we put our soaking wet half-done laundry back in the plastic garbage bags we brought it in and beat a hasty retreat.

Down the hill to Sunset we go and soon the laundry is done. Driving down Sunset, on our way north for the next show at UC Davis (like twelve hours away?) A car pulls up alongside us on our right.

A lady of at least 70, every silvery platinum blonde hair in place and simply glistening with diamonds rolled down her Mercedes’ window and gave us the clear sign that she wanted to tell us something.

Unbeknownst to us, we had left a large pile of clean beach towels on top of the van when we pulled away from the laundromat.

“Dahlinks, you are looooosink everythink!” she told us in a thick eastern European accent. Sure enough, there was a trail of beach towels going back as far as the eye could see.

I swear to this day, as we all do, that THAT was one of the Gabor sisters.

-Tom

 

P. S.

A lot more truly noteworthy stuff happened on that tour. I’m sure I’ll get around to telling more soon.

For instance, I set out on that tour with exactly 5 cents in my pocket and returned home 3 weeks later with 15 cents!

We were deemed “too naked” by actual card-carrying nudists.

We almost got in fisticuffs due to a double-booking when the other (local) artist tried to bait our band leader with anti-semitism.

And all this while toting around a 4-year-old, a 6-month-old and about 250 pounds of vinyl LPs..

The Sinatra Story

In about 2002 or 2003 in fair Covington Kentucky there was a fairly popular corner bar on the main strip. A good friend and musical collaborator at the time managed to talk his way into a Friday night open mic at this club. Since I would help load, unload, set up, break down and so forth, I would always get to perform a nice long set.

It was in the middle of such a set that a very large, very drunk man began to loudly demand that I play some Frank Sinatra.

This fellow was seated at a table surrounded by cards, friends and empty beer bottles when we arrived. Now, hours later, Frank (yes, he was wearing a gas station shirt with his name stitched over the pocket) was swaying on his feet and looking dangerous. And demanding a solo acoustic guitar guy play Frank Sinatra.

Think fast!

I put the spotlight on him, figuratively speaking, by telling him we were going to do “New York, New York”. “That’s right, Frank…I don’t know it on guitar, but I’ll sing the band parts up here and you sing the words over there, got it?”

I didn’t wait for an answer, just started in singing “Bap, bap, bada-bap! Bap, bap, bada-bap…”, you know – the musical intro. I fed him his cue to start singing at the appropriate point and with an elaborate dramatic gesture in his direction. Silence.

“That was your cue, Frank! You start singing right there. We’ll take it from the top…Bap, bap….”

This time, on cue, Frank meekly mumbled, “…start spreadin’ da nooz…”

He got better as line followed line and within 30 seconds the entire bar was singing along. I was high-kicking like a chorus girl, all the while punctuating this unlikely sing-along with stacatto bursts of horn section enthusiasm..”BAP!….BAP!”

Victory was mine! My friend’s jaw hit the floor and stayed there the rest of the night! As for Frank, I received big hugs and at least one beer from him.

Just another tale…stay tuned for more!

-Tom

The Village Voice calls themselves

“…the nation’s first alternative newsweekly…”

But it was around starting in 1955. I started looking into New York City’s only Musicians Wanted listings in exactly 1984. Prior to that I was joining neighborhood bands in Brooklyn or impromptu, short-lived bands in the Air Force.

I answered a lot of those ads between 1984 and 1991 when I finally left New York – and I got the gig about half the time, usually as a bass player. But there were 3 gigs that stand out.

The very first time I answered an ad for a bass player in the Village Voice, I was to show up at a house on Staten Island. This was either the night of Thanksgiving or the night after in 1984.

The act was a husband and wife duo who played folk. They had an established act and got a decent number of gigs. They were also the high priest and priestess of a wiccan coven. I was still getting over having been raised a Catholic, but as open-minded as I was, I still worried at first about “spells” and so forth.

There was an abundance of musical talent afoot. The leader of that group is still the best fiddler I ever played with, but I was more awestruck at my first real exposure to alternative lifestyles. For instance, their household’s primary means of financial support was the wife’s career as a phone sex lady. If the phone rang in the middle of practice we all had to stop on a dime and remain utterly silent while she wrote down the phone and credit card numbers and then called the guy and got him off over the phone.Almost all of these calls were dominatrix stuff, and so she’d often order the guy to call back and exactly when to call back – and they did!

Besides all that, I learned a lot of folk music I never would have even heard otherwise, Celtic, Gypsy, Yiddish songs, the British folk of the 60s, but I also learned a lot about paganism and wicca. I never was initiated, but I attended lots of rituals and larger pagan gatherings. There was ALWAYS nudity going on and I was down with that! This band caused or was indirectly the cause of no less than two major altercations among audience members which outnumbers those in my rock band experience two to one.

The first was at a YMHA which is like a YMCA but Hebrew instead of Christian. It was way uptown and a YMHA of great repute and renown. Half the audience were rabbis and we had a sizable set of Yiddish and Hebrew-language songs thanks to our leading lady. One song was about a rabbi whose sermons were so boring that people went to sleep in the temple. Well, a rabbi in the audience started yelling at us for the disrespect we were showing, then another rabbi started yelling at him because of the disrespect he was showing. Next thing you know, a half-dozen rabbis were on their feet yelling and things were getting tense. There were no fisticuffs.

The second was at a big pagan festival in upstate New York (or maybe Western Massachusetts…hmmmm….). There was another coven in Staten Island we were friendly with. In Wicca, at the time at least, the theory was that a full coven ought to have an equal balance of male and female energies if possible. Well, this other coven was comprised of thirteen gay men. Wicca was fraught with lots of opposing viewpoints about the traditions involved and what was legit and who was who, but this festival was run by people who could not possibly be more freaked out by a coven of gay men – so our friends were “dis-invited” – told not to show up. Long story short, festival tickets were purloined and passed along to the verboten gay coven and they showed up. While we were on stage (again), a full-blown bench-clearing brawl broke out – true fisticuffs and worse.

Some other highlights from my tenure with this band were a 3-week California tour that seemed to have been planned to maximize the driving we had to do. San Diego one day, San Fran the next, followed by Los Angeles, followed by Sacramento…that kind of driving. We drove around with four band members, about a thousand pounds of vinyl LPs for sale, a 4-year-old and 6-month-old. This trip saw us all get caught skinny dipping in the pool of a fan’s step-father. This was at a multi-million-dollar Hollywood Hills mansion. We were assured it was totally cool, but suddenly there he was. It was obviously not cool at all with him and we beat a hasty retreat.

I was fired from that band just before their gig on the nudist whale watch ship….too bad.

The next episode of note that arose from answering a Village Voice ad was a guy who had written all these great tunes and was looking to put a band together starting with a guitar player. I got the gig and started learning all these really great songs he had written, went to some practices and so on. One day at a practice he gave me a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I don’t know if you’ve ever read it or heard about it, but you learn a LOT more about the person giving you that book than you do about much else. I decided to just ignore it and carry on. After another practice or two I had apparently gained his confidence somehow, so he revealed to me his big secret: He was The Messiah….that was about the end of that gig.

The last ad-answering adventure I want to mention was with a Mr. Mike Quashie, formerly of Trinidad and Tobago. This man skyrocketed to international fame in 1959 by introducing the limbo dance to the world, and by the early sixties he was performing for Presidents and royalty – only to get bumped off the pop charts by Chubby Checker.

By the time I met him he had been in the same Greenwich Village apartment since 1966 which was in actual fact Jimi Hendrix’s apartment before that. He had trunk after trunk of 60s era costume stuff filling his apartment, claimed close relationships to Jimi’s former wife and Steve Stevens (who played for Billy Idol), had toured with Led Zeppelin and appeared in the Song Remains the Same film, and was now working in the Brooklyn Borough President’s office.

New York Times – “Limbo King of 60’s Says He’ll Sell Mementos to Pay Rent”

Well, Mike was intent upon making a comeback, and he had an act all planned out and some really good songs. The rest of the band he put together were really good players and it was starting to come together. Then it was time for costumes and photos. I was supposed to get a haircut (!!!!), put on green tights, silver spray-painted combat boots a fringe suede vest and a furry armband and go have my picture taken. I protested, but he was calling in all kinds of favors with hair people and photographers so it wouldn’t cost the band members anything. Eventually I went along with it. Even the photographer lady seemed sympathetic about the Jackson 5-era get up. She was kind enough to get me plastered enough to go through with it. I left the band shortly after that…..

I also answered similar ads in Los Angeles in 2004, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story.

In other news, there is the last and final song for the next CD release! It is written and the recording will begin soon.

I am considering doing a pre-sales thing with this next CD rather than a crowd-funding campaign – maybe even breaking the tunes up into two or three groups that align well genre-wise and doing EPs instead

We would love to know what all you guys think about that. It would help us a lot to know how you like to buy your music and how you feel about pre-sales and crowd funding too.

So, drop us a line and let us know!

Thanks ’till next time,

-Tom

This tale isn’t music-related…

other than the fact that it will become a song in the near future.

How does a Brooklyn-raised, newly tech-trained, very recent arrival at an Air Force base in the South suddenly become a highly-regarded, much ballyhooed local celebrity? How does it come to pass that he suddenly gets invited to all the biggest and best parties, and winds up with the coolest possible roommate in the dorms? How does he go from unknown outcast to The Man?

I owe it all to Iran, actually.

It all started when the U. S. tried a rescue mission in Iran in April of 1980 during the Iranian hostage crisis…the Jimmy Carter years. Some US helicopters crashed in the desert, people died, big black eye for Uncle Sam.

An Air Force Cheif Master Sergeant involved with that mission was eventually re-assigned to our little Air Force base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. We were kind of a chump base, flying relatively obsolete F-4 fighters. They were soon to be relagated to the Air National Guard, and shortly thereafter, used as target drones. This re-assignment was a big downgrade in prestige for him and, as the story was told to me, somewhat of a punishment.

This guy was a mover and shaker, a take-no-prisoners alpha male who rose to a position that most enlisted folks could only dream of, only to have his career blemished by a disaster that was probably not his fault in any way. He arrived at this little airbase only a few months before I did and he was not at all pleased to be there. Consequently he did whatever he could to make everybody’s life as miserable as possible.

One other thing I was told about this Cheif Master Sergeant is that he was referred to among the rank-and-file as “Da Creef” because he had an obvious and very unfortunate speech impediment. They told me he sounded almost exactly like the Mushmouth character from the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon. I used to watch it all the time! Oddly enough, he sang Soul and R-n-B music as a hobby and when he appeared onstage in a base talent show before my time there, he apparently sang with perfect diction and pronunciation. So it goes…

Well, when such a flaw is revealed prior to meeting someone for the first time – especially when that someone is an authority figure hell-bent on torturing those in his charge with needless and vindictive military nonsense (like daily pre-shift uniform inspections for us flight-line mecahnics who routinely were covered in sweat, hydraulic fluid and jet fuel) – that first meeting is apt to be fraught with peril.

As you might expect, my first face-to-face meeting with Da Creef was at just such an inspection. I had been there maybe a week or two. It was probably October and still 95 degrees with 95% humidity. There were three ranks of us lined up and I was in the middle of the middle rank, at attention, awaiting intense and hostile scrutiny.

While I waited, Da Creef was engaged in a level of haranguing, humiliation and debasement over uniform issues that nobody present had experienced since boot camp. Nobody was spared, it was nasty.

Finally, it was my turn. I really hadn’t been out on the flight line all that much, being so new and all, and my uniform was likely the most presentable among all assembled. As with everyone else, he looked me up and down with a keen and spiteful eye for detail. He found nothing! But as he was about to move on, he stopped, looked again and said,

“Whey yo dee-o doh boot-at??!!”

I wasn’t sure quite what I was hearing, but I translated it as a question regarding the place from which I had stolen the boots I was wearing. Namely “Where did you steal those boots at?” I couldn’t fathom why he would ask that, as it was obvious that all of us had gotten our boots from the U. S. Air Force. Why would he think I had stolen them? I was confused, but knowing his reputation, and being so recently graduated from boot camp, I barked back in classic boot camp fashion,

“I did NOT steal, these boots, Sir! They were issue to me in Basic Training, Sir!”

There was a noticeable stirring from those nearby – all still at attention. This was most un-at-attention-like, but I had bigger problems, so I ignored it.

Da Creef sort of expanded, or inflated a bit. Eyes larger, and more loudly he repeated,

“I THAY WHEY YO DEE-O DOH BOOT-AT??!!!!!”

I just didn’t know what in the hell was going on. So I repeated the answer, with an appropriate increase in bark factor. I was desperate, I guess.

“I did NOT steal, these boots, SIR! They were issue to me in Basic Training, SIR!”

Now the noticeable stirring around me was more widespread (as both he and I had gotten louder), and contained a definite element of barely stifled laughter. I was at a loss. How could this be happening? What was happening? Someone was gonna get busted, and not just me, either. Or was this some kind of practical joke they play on new guys? I was sweating bullets by now. And he repeated yet again,

“I THAY WHEY YO DEE-O DOH BOOT-AT??!!!!!”

This time, I finally caught on. He was asking me where my steel-toed boots were at. When a flight-line mechanic finishes tech school and arrives at their first Air Force base to work on real planes, they are issued a new pair of boots. You can’t wear your broken-in, comfortable basic training boots on the flight line, no matter how shiny they may be. There is unspeakable and ever-present toe danger lurking everywhere on the flight line! But my steel-toe boots were so new that they gave me debilitating blisiters so bad that I couldn’t walk. Since I was too new to spend much time on the actual flight line anyway, I had thrown toe-caution to the breeze that day and had worn my very shiny non-steel-toed basic training-issued boots.

Realizing my misunderstanding and suddenly remembering its relationship to the unfortunate speech impediment, I almost laughed out loud myself. But, such was my relief at no longer feeling like an accused boot thief that I replied with a relieved smile,

“Ohhhhh! They gave me really bad blisters and I couldn’t walk, so I had to wear these.”

Silence from Da Creef. Then I remembered expected decorum and tacked on,

“SIR!!!”

He actually looked relieved too, kind of. He just said,

“You whey yo dee-o-doh boot.”

And he moved on. We never met face-to-face or spoke again.

After the inspection was over and we were dismissed to swelter in the mosquitos and the hydraulic fluid, I was threatend with brutal beatings by some for getting them so close to laughing out loud while standing at attention during an inspection, but from most I was lauded and offered kudos for having “brass ones” and pulling off the funniest most insubordinate thing they had ever seen. Even my own direct supervisor and his sergeants were beaming at me with pride and admiration

Not only that, but there was never another pre-shift uniform inspection after that day.

Try as I might, I was never able to convince anyone that I simply mis-heard Da Creef and it was all just an innocent misunderstanding.

And THAT is how a Brooklyn-raised, newly tech-trained, very recent arrival at an Air Force base in the South suddenly become a highly-regarded, much ballyhooed local celebrity. That very night I attended a keg party off-base, and within a week had a pot-dealer roommate in the baracks. The worm had turned!

So, thank you Ayatollah, wherever you are.

-Tom

Finally! A Saturday gig in Downtown Memphis! 

What could go wrong? I was at the top of my game. My solo acoustic act was well-polished. I was all set!

Unfortunately, so were the Tennessee Football Volunteers.

Yes, despite being 400 miles away at the extreme other end of the state, when the University of Tennessee’s football team was at 4 and 0 on their way to an undefeated season and a championship. Saturdays 4 to 7 was usually game time and, as popular as I might have been, the bar wanted to hear the game. Some patrons took up a collection and asked me to just take the money and sit down so they could turn up the TV!

I took the money and sat down!

During the second year in Memphis, I was travelling to my company’s headquarters in the Bay Area. 14 days away, 3 days home, repeat.

Of course I travelled with a guitar, practiced in hotel rooms and played open jams in bars around the east bay. But I would always arrange to have some jammers in my Memphis garage upon my re-arrival home for a weekend.

Yeah, we bought our first house in Memphis. And our second child was born in that house with the assistance of midwives. Memphis was great! But my company got eaten alive by Lockheed-Martin. So, I reconnected with the folks I worked with in Vegas. I would up getting relocated by a much larger company to the Cincinnati area (Northern Kentucky).

That is when I really started playing my ass off. Well, not 12-18 hours a day like 1980, but practicing and gigging a lot; both with bands and a solo acoustic act as well. And here I met with more success than ever before. This was mostly as a bass player in a prog-rock band. I didn’t have to sing, but the material was demanding. All the right gigs in all the right clubs, many fans.

There was success as an acoustic duet with a great singer friend of mine. There was success playing solo acoustic gigs too. There were a billion stories in only 5 years in Cincinnati. I got my PA system there. I finally replaced a bass (stolen while I lived in Vegas) while in Cincinnati. Great town! And I have the recordings and videos to prove it! But I had to go.

Unemployed again, music wasn’t feeding the babies. I moved to Asheville, North Carolina.

Immediately, music was happening! First as an acoustic guitar accompanist for a vocal duo (these girls could SING). We did the Belle Chere festival and others besides.

Then, a band formed among my roommates and myself. I was playing guitar almost all the time now, too. – and singing a lot.

But music wasn’t feeding the babies. Although I spent a couple of months framing custom homes in the mountains, I had to go.

I took a chance on a $900 per week Department of Defense tour as a bass player in a bluegrass/country swing band led by my old New York folk music buddy. For this, I packed up everything and drove a 15-year old station wagon to Los Angeles.

So, can we just skip the whole Los Angeles part? Suffice it to say, my move there fed the babies, although not through music. There is a LOT of money to be made in Cali doing political petitions in a Presidential election year. And I wound up being a de-facto producer for a singer songwriter. AND, in Los Angeles, I had my biggest single-day payday in music thus far (as a bass player, of course). But I had to go.

The same 15-year old wagon six months later had sprung a slow leak in the cooling system. I was putting in as much water as I was gas on the drive back East to Asheville. But I made it.

Job availability moved me from Asheville to Johnson City, Tennessee where I at least didn’t have to drive 1.5 hours each way to make $7.50 and hour. The post-9/11 economic “downturn” was in full effect. Despite a good tech resume, people at job fairs were literally laughing in my face!

Since 2001 I had been a waiter, a home improvements contractor, a barista, a sales goon, a custom home framer and now, a used furniture guy. In Johnson City, I got a lot of traction with my solo acoustic act and even got to play at the Down Home and other festivals and such. But I had to go.

I had an opportunity to conduct a job search in The Big City: Knoxville! And so it was. I regained a footing in my tech career and greatly expanded on my skills and experience. And music equipment!

Knoxville is the best music city I’ve ever lived in. My musical impulses have exploded since being here. Songwriting and bands and jams and various musical interactions in mighty abundance!

Also, now my beautiful wife Susan is also my bass player. I have retired from bass (except for you, Kenny…)

Shortly after I taught Susan the bass guitar basics, we moved into a BIG house about 20 miles outside of Knoxville. We set up a nice big studio room and started having some wailin’ parties and jams and such. This went on once a week for months. Through availability issues, time and attrition, it dwindled down to Susan and me and Myron, our drummer.

We three kept on getting together at least weekly and started to amass quite the repertoire for a 3-piece. We soon landed a weekly gig at a local bar, which lasted over 6 months and helped get us grooved in. Things built up from there and now we’re still making music. We’re branching into online video shows instead of bars just to see what happens.

I won’t be emailing you every day like this any more. Just wanted to give you a bit of history.

We are going to keep in touch regularly, though. We have new stuff waiting to release and big plans for live video shows and more.

Thanks for hangin’ with us!

-Tom

How I found out music could heal!

My girlfriend at the time had a brother who was trying to learn bass. He was a great guy and I helped him however I could. Soon, he got invited to a party by some friends at work and the word was that there would be a jam – bring your instruments. He asked if I’d go so I grabbed my battery amp and my Strat and we went! He had his bass and a small practice amp.

One of the attendees at the party was this biker-looking dude. In New York, there was a widespread biker culture. But only a tiny fraction of these biker people owned motorcycles! Bike-less bikers!  But, I digress. This “biker” guy was all off by himself, grinding his jaws, frowny, bad vibes… then we found out he played bass.

For the next 2 solid hours, biker dude and I played a non-stop improve rock jam that got everyone’s solid attention. They shut off the stereo. It was serious! By the end, the biker guy was all smiles and hugs. Completely changed. I had been actually trying, intending, to send him healing vibes through the music. It seemed to work, at least to my satisfaction. At that moment began my continuing fascination with music as a healing medium.

All good things, however, must come to an end. And while there are innumerable stories from the Brooklyn 80’s as yet untold, we come to the part of the story where I was compelled to leave Brooklyn. For Las Vegas!

But why leave Brooklyn? Well, there was the unemployment thing….

I had a job as a suit-and-tie-wearing pavement-pounding cold-calling salesman for a corporate floral contractor. Basically a florist that wanted to corner the market on office buildings and their tenants’ floral needs. Reception desks, conference room tables. They all needed flowers. Business was brisk and I was a corporate floral sales rock-star. Then the Dead came to town. Our office was right around the corner from Madison Square Garden. The Dead had booked the Garden for something like 9 nights. There were barefoot long-haired freaks everywhere. MY PEOPLE! And here I was in a suit. I saw two of those Garden shows and shortly thereafter, my conspicuously absent work ethic resulted in my termination from the world of corporate floral sales.

But why not just get another job in Brooklyn?

Tried that…failed. Remember the Gulf War? It resulted in a recession and some high unemployment. I had a high school diploma and had done some construction work and some flower business work. There was no work for me in New York. People with Masters Degrees were competing for $5 an hour jobs in NYC. The rest of the country was the same story. Except Las Vegas.

So how did I come to know about Las Vegas? Steve Two-Thumbs! When I was jamming in Big Jim’s studio, most of the time the drummer was Steve. His right thump was deformed. It split into a Y-shape above the last knuckle. His right hand had two thumbs.

He had gotten into both of the wrong kinds of trouble at the same time (cop trouble and mafia trouble). Finding himself with a need to get gone, he hopped a bus west. By a number of random circumstances he found himself in Vegas and the economy and all other prospects in that fair city were good indeed.

Of this I was informed via a series of letters he had written me from The Promised Land. I was urged to come out west and things in Brooklyn around that time were turning in a way that resulted in my departure.

I gave my amp away and took my P-Bass, Strat and acoustic and some clothes on a plane and split.

Years passed in Vegas. A few bands, some solo acoustic shows in coffee shops. Some recording.

I became a family man! As soon as my first child was born, I sprouted a career by accident. Computers, software, databases. It all started then. Until then, it was whatever job paid the most but still allowed me to play music all night every night. Now I was feeding the babies. But the money came with a hook and I took the bait.

Next thing you know I’m relocating to Memphis, Tennessee. Must have been 1998.

I played a LOT of music in Memphis. Never really had a band, but still played out a lot. For the first year in Memphis I buddied up with a pair of guys that did an open mic. I would usually accompany them on slide guitar, and get to do my own set.

Next: Why I was paid to NOT play in a bar in Downtown Memphis on Saturdays from 4 to 7.

-Tom