Re: [Harp-L] Reality check?

I live in a small(ish) college town. Most of the other bands here are hard rock/metal bands, and mostly aren't very good. My band tries to capitalize on the fact that we are indeed quite musical and play our instruments with some proficiency. We are very different from most everyone else who plays here. And even so, we only get booked in about three places around town and don't get paid very much at all.

I had always attributed that to the fact that bar owners here just had no taste and only wanted to book bands who played original music (even if it had no redeeming musical value). From the conversation here, it would seem that's just how it goes. We have seven people involved in our band, and are lucky to take home more than $40 per person on a given night. That's after playing three full sets and doing all of our own sound. Obviously, we aren't doing it for the money, because we sure aren't getting paid what's worth our time.

Technically, we are a cover band, since most of the tunes we play are covers. However, we're covering tunes most people here haven't heard of, or at least not heard recently. And to comment on the previous comment about "staying true to the recording", we don't follow that rule. I play sax solos on nearly every song and our harp player does, too, even on ZZ Top tunes (we play a couple of those).

So what do our fans like? Anything that gets them on their feet, whether it's a pop song or not. Stuff like Mystery Train, Big Boss Man, Looking Back, anything with a fast shuffle. We also do some Allman Brothers, Elmore James, Canned Heat, Floyd Dixon, JB Hutto, BB King, and lots of Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, & Peter Green, and much more. I think we get a pretty good variety in there. Still, even with all that, and after gigging for three years, we don't get no respect.

I guess that goes with being a bluesman. Following a long tradition of getting no respect outside of our musical circles. I guess it's the best I can do for being a white Jewish guy in the middle of Kansas. So here's to us, the unknown bluesmen (and blueswomen). Long may our harps wail free.


Bradford Trainham wrote:
I struggle with this question a lot too.
One side of me says that I have ideas, that I've turned them into songs and
that I should own them/appreciate them/promote them and so on. The other side "gets off" on the sorts of experiences you described with the
Oldies bands and suggests that connecting with other people is what music is
all about. The market obviously tilts toward what the audience wants and I can't
imagine humanity evolved enough to have custom allow for a musician's
creativity once he has "given the people what they want". (harp content???) I find myself trying to sneak harp into cover songs
where there wasn't any in the original.
Sometimes, as in Eric Burdon's take onSee See Rider, the band will allow it.
But when I tried to get the lead guitarist to trade off riffs at the end of
ZZ Top's La Grange, I was politely told that there wasn't a harp in the
original and that the band tried to play it "just like the record". In a huff, I inwardly asked no one... "What, pray tell, is at all original
about that song?"..., but fortunately, that one never made it out to the
level of public scrutiny... (Until now, right?) It seems that creativity would only be honored within a system of patronage,
and, as you pointed out earlier, with the economy imploding and the word of
the day being caution, I don't think we'd better hold our collective breaths
waiting on that well-moneyed patron...
Brad (Somewhere between See See and ZZ) Trainham

The beatings will continue until morale has improved.

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