Monday, July 10, 2006

Elvis Guy Number Two (or the longest bass solo in the history of the world)

A couple of years after not taking a gig with Elvis Guy Number One, I got a gig with Elvis Guy Number Two. I have no idea how I got it, but it was for real. There were a series of, paying gigs in Iowa, about four of them. He was flying us and paying us. Good enough.

I don't remember the guy's name. Lets call him Orenthal Simpson. I do remember he went by Orenthal "Little Elvis" Simpson. I assumed it was because he was slight in stature. However, I later learned that it was because he was a Las Vegas native, and he had been doing his Elvis act since he was five. The dude was about 40. He had spent his entire life pretending to be someone else. He was a more than a little quirky.

Somehow he got booked in these hockey rinks in places like the Quad Cities and Dubuque, or where ever the hell it was. Unfortunately, no one bought tickets to see Little Elvis and we played in these enormous 12,000 seat arenas for 40 people in folding chairs in front of the stage.

That was the situation on the first night. I was playing bass. He lifted most of his act from some live Elvis recordings. There is one song, I don't remember what, some obscure live version of CC Rider maybe, where Elvis, on the live record, says "Play the Bass!" and the bass player takes a four bar solo. Four bars. That's about 10 seconds. We get to that part and Little Elvis looks at me and says "Play the Bass!"

Then he leaves.

He went to make a costume change. During a bass solo. And the dressing room was on the opposite end of the empty hockey rink from the stage. It was a 15 minute bass solo. Not only did it last 15 minutes, it was at a tempo that falls exactly in the "stupid tempo for a bass solo" range. Most bass solos, like most drum solos, are stupid and boring. This was the stupidest bass solo in the history of bass solos. I just stood there in my tux, smiled at the 40 folks in the folding chairs and played 15 minutes of the stupidest crap you ever heard in your life, thinking the whole time about how much I needed the money.

A few nights later, we were in a room more appropriate for the size of the crowd, and Little Elvis was visibly excited that more people had paid to come see him. It was the side room of a hockey rink, and there were probably 150 people there. Little Elvis had collected a book of charts over the years that had nearly every Elvis song ever recorded. About an hour and a half into the show, he played a big, show-stopping song. "Thank God we're done," I thought. Nope, he called another song. This happened forever. Big Showstopper, I'm thinking we're certainly done. Nope call another song. He got to the point where he was doing covers of songs that Elvis covered, like Never Been to Spain. Finally, Sweet Caroline was the last straw. The remaining group of four people who had gutted it out for three and a half hours got up and left. Little Elvis won.

Afterward, the guitar player and I went to a bar across the street from the hotel. Someone recognized us and asked us to sit in with the band. After the Little Elvis fiasco, we were ready to rock. We played a couple of songs that he sang, some Allman Brothers or something, and these good Iowa people looked at us like we were from Mars. Like the needle had scratched across the record on the jukebox. Being from the South, I called one of the handful of songs that every musician has in his back pocket that will always get the crowd rocking. Tush by ZZ Top. It worked every time all those years in Texas. I had barely gotten "I've been up, I've been down," out of my mouth, and we had cleared the room. People in that part of the country have different musical taste. Lollipop playing on the jukebox earlier should have been a warning.

So it took Little Elvis well over three hours to clear a room. It took me three minutes. I won.

2 Comments:

At 6:44 AM , Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

A bass solo during a costume change. Damn, that's funny.

 
At 9:27 AM , Blogger Ryan said...

And sad.


What do you mean by, "Little Elvis was visibly excited"?


Ryan

 

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