The Road To Nowhere: A Working Musician's Memoir (Chapter 1)
On December 31, 1971, I played my first professional, “nightclub” gig. It was at The Emerald Room at the Sound View Hotel in Milford, Connecticut. I was a 15 year old drummer playing in a small combo that was alternating sets with the house band, The Frank Charles Quartet. Their bass player, Nick Cousins was my guitar player’s father. What captivated me and impressed me most about Mr. Cousins (AKA “Big Nick”) was that he played bass and trumpet at the same time, hammering fretted bass notes with his left hand while fingering the trumpet valves with his right, as he blew his horn.....but, I digress. The Frank Charles Quartet played for dinner, dancing and backed “the show”; a Burlesque style variety show that included a bawdy comedian, “Little Caesar” and a stripper whose name I will forever regret that I can’t recall. “Our” stripper was not the slutty pole dancing variety, but a classy (LOL) “Fan Dancer” (look it up). My little band played Rock and Roll sets for dancing during the house band’s breaks, before Little Caesar and the stripper performed the “big show’.
On that New Year’s Eve, my life was changed forever.....I played Rock and Roll on a nightclub stage, I drank beer (thanks to a bartender that would today be arrested on four counts of reckless endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor), I got a free steak dinner, I heard dirty jokes, saw a naked lady and got $20 for it all. Well, needless to say there was no turning back....I found my true calling. By the way....the stripper...uh...I mean...fancy, classy “Fan Dancer” gave us her slightly-used rhinestone bedazzled G-String as a souvenir. As there were four of us in the band, it was decided that we would “share” her gift. So, we each took turns keeping it at our respective homes, showing it off to our friends, regaling in the tale of her nakedness and doing God-knows-what-else with it. (Remember, there was no internet back then, so to feed our raging hormonal urges and curiosities we had to either heist nudie mags or actually get someone naked, the latter being nearly impossible at that stage of our careers, although we got much better at it as the years progressed.)
And so it was...the die was cast, and life as I know it, began. Booze, Broads, Rock and Roll and an accompanying paycheck! Yay! Truly, the best job a guy could ever have.
Now, as I approach this coming New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017...a mere 46 years later and still chasing the high of that night in 1971....I can’t help but look back and smile. As I have for the past 14 years, I will headline at The River Cafe in Brooklyn NY; a paragon of New York City nightlife. Yes, I will make considerably more than $20, but the experience will never match the unbridled exuberance of that night at The Emerald Room. I no longer drink, Little Caesar, the stripper and The Frank Charles Quartet are all dead, and I will probably not go home with the gift of a pungent female undergarment. But, if I did...well, my wife would probably stab me as her first major accomplishment of 2018.