Monday, July 10, 2006

Elvis Guy Number One

There are two rules for young musicians newly arrived to Music City looking for work. First is to follow up on any lead, because you never know who you might meet. Second it to have a price and stick to it. You start playing for free, you'll always play for free. When I first came to town, the minimum price for my services was fifty bucks. I would play all the Margaritaville and Brown Eyed Girl you could dish out as long as you threw me fifty at the end. And free beer never hurt.

A friend called me one day to go audition for "some Elvis guy." When I arrived at the audition, in a dingy basement in West Nashville it truly was an Elvis guy. The jet-black hair, the glasses, the rings, the chains, even his clothes for hanging out at an audition were more than a little Elvis like.

Vegas Elvis, not cool Elvis. He made a point to tell us that he wasn't an Elvis Impersonator, he just did a "few Elvis songs as a tribute" in his act.

So for the audition, we played nothing but Elvis songs. The other guys who had been called in to audition were as far from "musicians" as you could get. Elvis wanted to see what we could all do individually. The drummer said he could sing. He wanted to do the Green Green Grass of Home. Not only did singing completely strip him of any sense of timekeeping on the drums, he was the worst singer in the history of bad singing. I've never watched American Idol, but I've seen commercials, and his singing was so bad, he would have made the lowlight reel.

So after an excruciating hour of a total musical catfight, Elvis decided he liked me and took me into another room and got all serious. He had a gig scheduled in six weeks, some kind of convention.

Conventions pay really well, I thought.

And he wanted to know my schedule for rehearsals.

Rehearsals. What a dirty word. I asked if the rehearsals were paid rehearsals. He said no. Then he continued, saying he wanted to rehearse three or four nights a week leading up to the gig.

I was starting to feel like I had wasted my evening. There was no way I was going to rehearse for free with this joker unless the gig paid really well. Which convention gigs sometimes do. If I was going to make 750 or a grand, it would be OK. So I flat out asked him what the gig paid. He said, "I'm still negotiating, but I'm thinking it's going to be between 35. . . "

He's going to say, "hundred" I thought. He's one of those guys that is open about how much the pay is and it's going to be an even split. Thirty-five hundred split four ways wouldn't be too bad. That's the only thing that made any sense. Thirty five hundred.

He said, "between 35 and 40 . . ."

What? Now this just doesn't make any sense. The words hung in the air, taunting me, confusing me. Thirty five and forty what? He stopped talking. That was it. His sentence was finished.

"Thirty five and 40 what?" I asked thouroughly puzzled.

He looked at me through his Elvis glasses and said with pride, "per man."

I said "thirty five to forty DOLLARS per man? You want me to come rehearse four nights a week for a month and a half to play one show for thirty five or forty dollars?"

Needless to say, I left. About a year later, I went to the soon-to-be-opened Green Hills Grille to apply for a bartending job. There was a crew putting on the roof. That crew included that Elvis guy. I guess that convention work didn't pan out for him.


At 2:53 PM , Blogger SistaSmiff said...

Heh. Seems I've heard this story before.

I've missed the plethora of Knucklehead stories. I know you've kinda had a little going on and all that, but, geez, you have some good stories.

At 5:52 PM , Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

This story gave me that same sickening sense of regret that has crawled into my gut many times.

At 6:34 PM , Blogger ceeelcee said...

Remember when we showed up too late at the O'Charley's in Brentwood for our free dinner before our gig? "We'll each have two raw prime ribs to go and a caramel pie please."

That was, I think, the third out of five times we got fired there. But it was worth it.


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