Unsung Heroes #5 “Les Dudek”

Its been a while since I have added any new posts. Busy life and lack of time are to blame. Its cold outside with a fair amount of snow blowing in. A perfect day to add a new post.

One of my long time favorite guitar “heroes” is Mr. Les Dudek. While you may not have heard of him if you like great guitar playing you should spend some time getting to know him. Even though you might not know his name if you’re a guitar player who loves Blues and Rock I’m sure you HAVE heard him at some point.

 

From Wikipedia:

Les Dudek (born August 2, 1952, at Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island)

Les Dudek’s father, Harold, was born in Campbell, Nebraska, and was a World War II veteran in the United States Navy. His mother, Alma, born in Brooklyn, was a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette. Les has one older sister, Sandy, who was born in Brooklyn. The family is of Czech, German, Italian, and Russian ancestry. Six years after Les was born, his father retired from the Navy and the family moved to Florida where he grew up.

The Beatles caught Les’ ear at an early age. In 1962, at the age of ten, Les asked his parents for a guitar for Christmas. They bought him an acoustic guitar from Sears & Roebuck. His musical influences, along with The Beatles, were Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and The Ventures.[1] He had built quite a reputation around the Florida area as a proficient guitar player, having started playing in local bands as a teenager. Those bands were “The United Sounds”, “Blue Truth” and “Power”. That reputation would place him in the studio with the Allman Brothers Band for the recording of the Brothers & Sisters album. He played guitar harmonies with Dickey Betts on the well-known song “Ramblin’ Man” and acoustic guitar on “Jessica“.[2] Dudek claims he should have received credit for Jessica. In the book “One Way Out,” Dudek claims to have written the part in Jessica from when it modulates into G then eventually back to A.

His next stops were as a guitarist for Boz Scaggs and The Steve Miller Band. Dudek was invited to play in a supergroup called Journey but he had received an offer to record for Columbia Records as a solo artist. He recorded four solo albums for Columbia Records, “Les Dudek” (Debut), “Say No More”, “Ghost Town Parade” and “Gypsy Ride”. His work was praised by the critics but widespread fame and success eluded him. He had two minor hits with “City Magic” and “Old Judge Jones” which were played frequently on local radio stations in the Los Angeles, California area, where he lived at the time, having moved to West Hollywood in the mid-1970s.[citation needed]

He later collaborated with Cher, Stevie Nicks, and with two other Columbia Artists, Mike Finnegan and Jim Krueger, with whom he formed DFK (Dudek, Finnegan, and Krueger) in 1978. A DFK album was released by Columbia Records a year later.

Between the years 1979 and 1982, Les and Cher had a personal as well as professional relationship. Dudek wrote and performed some of the music for the 1984 movie Mask starring Cher, Sam Elliott, Eric Stoltz, and Laura Dern. He had a small part in the film as “Bone”, a biker. He has worked for NBC, ABC, ESPN, Fox Sports, and E! Entertainment Television. He can be heard on many television series including Friends.

In 1989, he did a brief stint with Canadian rock group John Kay & Steppenwolf as their guitarist. But problems developed between Dudek and Kay which led to him leave the band after a month of touring.

1991 Les played guitar with Stevie Nicks on her “Whole Lot Of Trouble” tour.

Two more solo Cds later, “Deeper Shades Of Blues” and “Freestyle”, Dudek hit the road again with his own band, and has been performing songs from all his records, plus a few hits he’s recorded with other artists.[citation needed]

Finally in 2013 he releases another album “Delta Breeze”.

Discography

Les Dudek

The Dudek, Finnigan, Krueger Band

Steve Miller Band

Stevie Nicks

Cher

Dave Mason

Boz Scaggs

Maria Muldaur

Richard T. Bear

Mike Finnigan

The Allman Brothers Band

Bobby Whitlock

Note the fact that he played on The Allman Brothers Band album “Brothers and Sisters”. Yes, that Allman Brothers album. If you’re any kind of guitar player you have listened to Mr. Dudek at least once. His contribution to the album was as co lead guitar on “Ramblin’ Man” and acoustic guitar on “Jessica”. Two of my favorite Allman Brothers tunes! I first became aware of Mr. Dudek by reading his name in the credits.

For more information about Les check out his website: http://www.lesdudek.com/disco/index.htm

Below are a few selected You Tubes links of his work. I think you’ll agree with me, Les is great! Enjoy!

(HOT!)

(Also smokin!)

(Yes!)

 

 

Bizarre Finds #3 “The Guild Burnside Blade”

The Guild brand has a long and rich history. The early Guild guitars were of very high quality and compared easily with many of the Gibson and Gretsch models of guitars. One of the first Guild guitars I was around was one owned by a Bass player I worked with many years ago. The model he used was a Guild Starfire Bass similar to the one used by Jefferson Airplanes bass player Jack Casady. The Guild Starfire bass had a very rich full tone and really filled the low end in the 3 piece band I was in at the time.

My discovery of the Guild Burnside line of guitars was quite by accident. Once again, as in many of my other “Bizarre Finds”, I bought my first one on a lark simply because I was curious about the guitar. The first one I purchased came from an online auction with a fairly low cost. After receiving it I discovered it had the usual quota of problems that one sees with used guitars. Bridge out of adjustment, strings too high, everything loose and needing tightened. Additionally I discovered some issues that seem to be common with this line of guitars:

1. Almost every one I have seen has a damaged headstock. Because the headstock design uses a radical pointed tip meant to invoke a “blade” they usually have suffered some damage from being plunged by accident into a wall or ceiling. This results in some chipped wood and finish damage.

2. The wiring on the guitars tends towards the sloppy side with very unprofessional and haphazard wiring on the pots, pickups, and switches. I have had to rewire and fix several of these to get them working properly.

3. The locking vibrato bar/bridge is not of much use. I have disabled and locked down every one that I own except for one example. Guild was probably aiming for the Van Halen whammy bar guitar fan when they designed this guitar. In my opinion Guild would have produced a much better guitar had they gone for a “hard tail” approach with this guitar.

4. Finishes vary widely in quality. Some of my examples use a basic black or white finish. A couple have some nice red “tiger striping”. One of the red models I own looks like they managed to only do one half of the front of the body this way while the striping on the half is missing in action. The one that is done correctly is beautiful though.

Overall, once you get past the initial wiring issues and basic bridge/string setup, the guitars play great! Every one of the several that I own have some of the straightest flat necks and fingerboards I have ever played. I have no idea whether the fingerboard material is rosewood or some cheaper material but they are very fast and smooth. The pickup configuration is 2 single coils (neck and center) and one humbucker (bridge) and the resulting sound is very Stratocaster like in combination with the 5 way switch. The floating bridge uses fine tuners with rollers and even though I have the bridge blocked and the strings not locked, the fine tuners come in very handy for quick tuning adjustments. The guitars seem to hold their tune quite well and are very stage trust worthy. The main tuners are decent, not Grovers or Schallers, but still decent.

There is not a lot of information available for these models. In researching them I found that these models were manufactured by Guild in the mid 80’s up to and ending around 1990. They were probably made in Korea and served as a mid priced line for Guild, above the Madeira line but below the more expensive USA made Liberator/Aviator etc line. Unfortunately that’s about all the information I have found on this line so far.

As to whether you should consider buying one if it pops up in your area?

In my opinion yes, but keep in mind the issues I mentioned earlier. You will probably have to mess with them a bit to get them to “settle down”. Once you have them whipped into shape they will probably surprise you for their stability and sound. That break in period can be a b*tch though. My preferred style of playing is Blues based. Based on the design Guild used the guitar was obviously not meant as a “Blues” guitar but once you get it dialed in it turns out to have a very decent Blues sound.

So if you have a few bucks extra lying around and one pops up…sure go for it. Why not?

Black Guild Burnside Blade Front

Black Guild Burnside Blade Front

Black Guild Burnside Blade Front

Black Guild Burnside Blade Back

Black Guild Burnside Blade Body

Black Guild Burnside Blade Body

Black Guild Burnside Blade Bridge

Black Guild Burnside Blade Bridge

Black Guild Burnside Blade Headstock

Black Guild Burnside Blade Headstock

Black Guild Burnside Blade Headstock Back

Black Guild Burnside Blade Headstock Back

Red Guild Burnside Blade Front

Red Guild Burnside Blade Front

Red Guild Burnside Blade Back

Red Guild Burnside Blade Back

Red Guild Burnside Blade Body

Red Guild Burnside Blade Body

Red Guild Burnside Blade Headstock Front

Red Guild Burnside Blade Headstock Front

Red Guild Burnside Blade Headstock Back

Red Guild Burnside Blade Headstock Back

Red Guild Burnside Blade Original Warranty and Registration Card

Red Guild Burnside Blade Original Warranty and Registration Card

Bizarre Finds #2 “The Wurlitzer Gemini”

As a kid growing up in the 60’s I, like most other kids, was deeply into Sci-Fi. I watched all the cheesy Sci-Fi flicks I could manage to squeeze in to my teenage eyes and ears. Our culture at that time was totally enamored with everything related to Space and Sci-Fi and that style was reflected in our furniture, books, TV, comics, clothing, appliances, houses and pretty much everything we used. Sure, a lot of the products were pretty tacky but we didn’t care….if it had a space theme….it was cool. That trend was also reflected in many of our musical instruments including guitars.

Fender and Gibson produced a number of guitars that were meant to capitalize on this idea. So did a number of other companies. The Japanese guitar manufacturers were all over this trend in spades resulting in quite a number of really……uhhhhh…….shall we say ugly and impractical guitars. Some of these guitars were amazing as to the lengths the designers went to make them look “Sci-Fi” cool. Some had as many as 5 pickups controlled by an array of light switch sized switches and various volume knobs in any manner of strange layout backed up by chrome plated pick guards. But hey, their contribution to the world of Sci-Fi during those days were movies of a guy dressed in a dinosaur suit stomping on toy tanks. I guess the guitars from there were par for the course at the time.

Most people are aware of the Wurlitzer brand as a manufacturer of Pianos and Organs. Wurlitzer also tried marketing their own line of guitars in the 60’s and the designs were right out of the Sci_Fi style book of the period. Using names like Gemini, Wildcat, and Cougar Wurlitzer attempted to make its mark in the booming guitar market of the 60’s. The “Gemini” was clearly meant to look as “far out” as it could and really tried to capture the “space” theme.

The Wurlitzer Gemini

The Wurlitzer Gemini

I found my example buried in a section of forgotten guitars at a local pawn shop. What initially attracted my attention was the very nice looking hard shell case and the very reasonable price they wanted for it. I was unaware that a guitar was contained inside the case and my primary reason for looking at it was the nicely priced case. When I opened the case I was surprised to find this very unusual looking guitar inside. To be honest my first reaction was “What the hell????”. After I got over the shock of its really bizarre styling I began to look closer at it and started to realize this was a bit more than just another “Godzilla” guitar from Japan.

First the headstock:

Wurlitzer Gemini Headstock

Wurlitzer Gemini Headstock

I found the shape and styling of the headstock quite nice and have seen its basic design copied many times in more recent guitars. Another one of the unusual touches here is that Wurlitzer used an inlaid set of brass letters for the name on the headstock. Pretty spiffy! Another unusual touch is the fully enclosed string tree. (please excuse the burred photo)

Wurlitzer String Tree

Wurlitzer String Tree

 

The back of the headstock holds a surprise as well. Kluson Tuners!

Wurlitzer Headstock with Kluson Tuners

Wurlitzer Headstock with Kluson Tuners

Wurlitzer tried very hard to also capitalize on the whole Hi-Fi stereo craze that was popular at the time. The Gemini was a Stereo guitar and had all of the controls needed to put it in stereo for live performance. I suppose they probably marketed a stereo amplifier to go along with their lines of guitars. Anyway, unlike the Japanese guitars, the extra knobs and switches actually did something.

The general shape of the guitar is unusual also and obviously they were targeting us Sci-Fi crazed teenagers with the shape. Every time I look at it I can imagine George Jetson screaming at his “boy Elroy” to turn that thing down.

Wurlitzer Gemini

Wurlitzer Gemini

A couple more closeups:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy example has obviously been abused by a former idio—-er owner. Overall the guitar is clearly well made. This wasn’t just another cheesy “Godzilla” guitar and decent materials were used by the manufacturer. The neck is very nicely done. The pickups, while not hot as a Blues or Rock style of pickup, are targeted at the sound and style of Rock that was popular in the United States at the time. Think Ventures, or the Beach Boys for the type of tone the guitar has. Unfortunately Wurlitzer’s design ideas did not catch on with the general Rock and Roll crowd and the guitars were only made for a few years during the mid sixties. Eastman Guitar actually released a reissue a few years ago and those are now showing up occasionally on Ebay.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed learning about another “Bizarre Find” “The Wurlitzer Gemini”.

Website with more info and pictures of the Wurlitzer line of guitars. http://www.wurlitzerguitars.com/

 

Unsung Heroes #4 “Bubble Puppy”

Some who may be reading this might be asking “Whatsa Bubble Puppy????”.

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_Puppy )

“Bubble Puppy was formed in 1966 in San Antonio, Texas, by Rod Prince and Roy Cox who had previously performed together in the rock group called the Bad Seeds. Looking to form a “top gun rock band” based on the concept of dual lead guitars, a staple of southern rock that was highly unusual on the psychedelic music scene, Prince and Cox recruited Todd Potter, an Austin, Texas gymnast, saxophone player and guitarist. With the addition of Danny Segovia and Clayton Pulley, the original line up of Bubble Puppy was complete. The name “Bubble Puppy” was taken from “Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy”, a fictitious children’s game in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.[1] Bubble Puppy’s live debut was as the opening act for The Who in San Antonio in 1967.

After a few line-up changes (drummer Clayton Pulley being replaced by Craig Root, and the departure of Danny Segovia), the final roster for Bubble Puppy settled at Rod Prince and Todd Potter on lead guitars, Roy Cox on bass guitar, and David “Fuzzy” Fore on drums. In the spring of 1967, Bubble Puppy moved to Austin, Texas[2] and signed a recording contract with Houston-based International Artists, home to the 13th Floor Elevators and the Red Krayola.”

I recently came across their one and only hit, “Hot Smoke & Sassafras”, while browsing around “YouTube” and it reminded of how really good this group was. The approach the group took was quite different for the time. Most groups in this period were beginning to explore lead guitar but generally groups used a very traditional lineup of personnel, A lead singer backed by a lead guitar player, a rhythm guitar player (or keyboard), a bass player, and a drummer. Bubble Puppy used dual lead guitar players plus a heavy emphasis on vocal harmonies and very tight intricate musical arrangements.

Bubble Puppy released one very good album during their too brief time in the spot light. The 1969 release of Bubble Puppy ‒ A Gathering Of Promises on the International Artists label.

BUBBLEThe album is full of great guitar work, really unique songs interlaced with nice vocals and lyrics. Listening now, even after all the years since it was created, it still amazes me with the quality of playing and originality of ideas in their material. Its obvious the album did not have a lot of overdubbing and was what the band really sounded like which makes the playing even more impressive! Great guitar, excellent bass playing, and a very solid drummer plus great vocal!. Unfortunately due to numerous issues the band never quite achieved the success they deserved and ended up becoming a “one hit wonder”. That dreaded fate that has happened to so many bands deserving of better. One of the original founding members details the sad story here: http://bubblepuppy.com/bubblepuppy_016.htm and their later evolution to another name here: http://bubblepuppy.com/bubblepuppy_015.htm

Bubble Puppy was a very good group with very creative ideas that I believe later influenced a number of other groups that came along in the 70’s and 80’s. They should have achieved much more mainstream recognition than they did. The band is still playing occasionally in the Austin Texas area and you can visit their website here: http://bubblepuppy.com/index.html

I am sure you’ll enjoy exploring their material at the following links. Enjoy!

(“Hot Smoke and Sassafrass”)

(entire “Gathering Of Promises” album)

(As their later name “Demian” performing “Only A Loner” from the album “Demian”, great ass kicking song!)

 

Bizarre Finds #1 “The Chele”

This is the first in a series I call “Bizarre Finds”. As time goes on I may add a few more entries like this.

Sometimes it is fun to just take a chance on something. Perhaps the price is right and the item looks attractive enough that you go ahead and buy it just for the heck of it. You go into the purchase knowing its going to be a toss up as to whether you are getting a piece of junk or maybe something that might be useable. If you are reading this blog you are probably like me in that you not only love playing guitar….you love all the gear involved and take pleasure in exploring new “stuff”.

This guitar is like that. I saw it on the Goodwill bidding site. I immediately liked its “Tele” style looks as well as the interesting sculpting used on the body and headstock. I also liked the White Pearl paint scheme and pick guard. I had never heard of the brand. I am sure it probably comes from China and is not an expensive guitar. I figured if the bidding stayed low on it I would go for it. Well the bidding did stay low and I ended up paying $91.00 for the guitar plus a bit of shipping.

A few days later the guitar arrived. After unpacking the guitar I examined it. The guitar looked as good as it had in the pictures on the bidding site. The paint was very nice and it did not appear to have a single flaw or scratch…..in the paint. Unfortunately it had a rather extensive list of other issues. All were easily fixed but at first they added up to an initially unusable guitar.

1. The most obvious issue was that the screws normally used to secure the tuners to the back of the headstock were completely missing. Missing as in they had never been installed at the factory! No screw holes at all! This of course made the guitar impossible to keep in tune. A quick trip to my junk parts stash fixed that.

2. The guitar has three pickups. 2 single coil and 1 humbucker pickup. While both the single coils worked fine, the humbucker was totally dead After removing the pick guard I noted that one of the humbucker pickup lead wires had not been soldered to the pickup switch at the factory. A bit of soldering fixed that right up.

3. After putting the pick guard back on I noted that the pickups did not seem to line up properly with the strings and bridge. That didn’t seem to be an issue when I first looked at the guitar so I again removed the pick guard to see what was up with that. I found 2 sets of screw holes in the body. One set was incorrect and caused the pick guard to be offset. The second set of screw holes lined up nicely and that issue was marked fixed. Another silly factory error.

4. As with most lower priced guitars the action and bridge were way off. Initially I thought the guitar might not be able to be adjusted. Buzzing strings and unequal action sometimes indicate a bad neck. I sat down with a tuner and some tools and began adjusting. Before long the guitar began tuning up nicely and the strings settled right in. The neck turned out to be just fine. I did not bother to adjust the truss rod since the neck felt great after adjusting intonation and string height.

So that was the extent of the issues with the guitar. Most were simple stupid assembly line issues. Given that this thing was probably mass produced in China by underpaid and unskilled workers its not a surprise that there were so many silly mistakes in it. But…..much to my pleasant surprise the guitar has actually turned out to be a great playing and great sounding guitar!

While I had the pick guard off I took note of how cheap the pickups are. They are of the type where magnets are glued on underneath the coil to boost output. Usually those don’t sound all that good and I started planning on replacing them. After using this guitar live for a few gigs and in practice I have dropped those plans. I love the sound of the stock pickups even though they are cheapies!

So it goes to show that sometimes when you take a chance on a “fun” item it may turn out to be a real surprise. I wouldn’t recommend you go searching for one of these for yourselves because maybe I just got lucky with this one. The one you find might be a total basketcase. As for me I am happy with my bizarre find…….the “Chele”  (Cheap ass Chinese Tele) 🙂

J3 Atlantis Front View

J3 Atlantis Front View

J3 Atlantis Back View

J3 Atlantis Back View

J3 Atlantis Headstock

J3 Atlantis Headstock

Unsung Heroes #3 The Music Man Amplifier

At one point during my music career I used a Music Man amplifier. I thought I would use today’s post to place a little focus on these relatively unknown amps since I consider them to be another “Unsung Hero” among the more well known amplifiers brands available.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_Man_(company)

“The Music Man story began in 1971 when Forrest White and Tom Walker formed a company they would call Tri-Sonix, Inc (often incorrectly referred to as “Tri-Sonic”). Tom Walker approached Leo Fender about financial help in forming Tri-Sonix. White had worked with Leo in the very early days of Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company as the plant manager and stayed on after the company was sold to the CBS Corporation, but had grown unhappy with their management. Tom Walker worked as a sales rep at Fender. Because of a 10-year non-compete clause in the 1965 contract that sold the Fender companies to CBS, Leo Fender was a silent partner.

The name of this partnership was changed to Musitek, Inc. by 1973 and in January 1974 the final name, Music Man, appeared. Leo Fender did not like the name Tri-Sonix, so the name evolved under Leo Fender’s suggestion to call the new company Music Man. In 1974, the company started producing its first product, an amplifier designed by Leo Fender and Tom Walker called the “Sixty Five”. It was a hybrid of tube and solid state technology. The preamps used the then burgeoning solid state “op-amp” integrated circuits embodying traditional Fender preamp time constants and architecture, while the power amps typically featured a Cathode Driven Tube power amp stage, much as were used in the radio broadcast industry in AM Transmitters. There were a few models with a tube phase splitter in them, but for the most part Music Man amplifiers used the faster responding common Grid, Cathode Coupled drive from a solid state front end that players characterized as “loud as hell”. The number of designs rapidly increased. 15 of the 28 pages from 1976 catalogue were dedicated to amplification. In 1975, Fender’s legal restriction had expired and after a vote of the board he was named the president of Music Man.”

The version I used was a Music Man HD-130 non reverb model similar to the one in the following picture.

Music Man HD-130 Amplifier with Reverb

Music Man HD-130 Amplifier with Reverb

From http://www.vintageguitar.com/12887/music-man-hd-130-reverb/

“Whether in head or combo form, the HD-130 Reverb was clearly intended to knock the silverface Fender Twin Reverb off its roost; in terms of performance, many owners would tell you it did. Packed with the popular onboard effects of reverb and tremolo, the Music Man developed a whopping 130 watts from an output stage comprised of four 6CA7 tubes (a U.S. version of the EL34), but used a solidstate preamp circuit in each channel for a clean, reliable signal chain. Earlier amps, like the ’77 model featured here, used a 12AX7 in the phase-inverter stage that was later changed to a solidstate inverter circuit, too.

As might be expected, the core tone of these things changes slightly depending on the full- or half-power setting, but either sounds big and firm, with thick cleans on tap when you want them. The Master Volume tends to be very usable for generating crunch, though it is by no means a high-gain amp. With the Master up full, it will also yield massive juicy breakup when pushed toward the max, once those 6CA7s finally start to clip a little, but few human beings on the planet are licensed to play at such volumes these days!”

I never ran mine on the full power setting. The half power setting was always plenty powerful and as the above article mentions I found the amp to be “big and firm, with thick cleans on tap when you want them” with tons of “massive juicy breakup when pushed toward the max”.

These really were great guitar amps. I still have mine but have retired it in favor of a more modern “Traynor” combo amp for live playing. (another “Unsung Hero” I might write about in the future) For my stage setup I used the HD-130 head tied to a small 1 12 inch cabinet loaded with a Mesa speaker. Normally I did not face the speaker towards the audience choosing rather to face it backwards towards the nearest wall on stage while using a direct box to add just a touch of of the amp through the PA mains for clarity out front. My experience was again much like the article says with ” bold cleans, plenty of body and clarity, and the ability to cut through just about anything onstage or in the mix”. It basically kicked the ass of any other guitar amp it was next to on stage!

Music Man amps can still be found in the used market and so far tend to be priced more reasonably than other more well known brands from this era. Like any good “vintage” amplifier or instrument prices for these amplifiers are steadily climbing. If one of these pops up in your area I would advise giving it a try.

Music Man 210 HD Combo

Music Man 210 HD Combo

The Power of No

Musicians tend to be open optimistic people. We tend to look at the world and other people with a trusting point of view. We also are generally very sharing people. Music itself is a sharing of talent to create and use sounds to move others. Such is the nature of most musicians. Sadly, because of this, we are often our own worst enemies.

Choosing music as a career, whether it is full time or part time, has never been one of life’s most lucrative endeavors. Very few musicians can actually make a decent living by playing music alone and even fewer become wealthy as a result of choosing music as a career. Most of us have to work a full time “day gig” and play music when and where we can, usually on weekends. We do it simply because we love doing it. We love sharing our talents with others. We love performing. Most of us aren’t in it for the money and most of us are realistic enough to know that “making the big time” will remain an impossible dream that happens to someone else…not us. For most of us life will be an endless parade of one nighters and and weekend gigs here and there. And really? That’s ok. We’re doing what we love and as long as we are paid reasonably and treated fairly that is enough.

Unfortunately, probably because of our sharing nature, some musicians forget basic common sense. As I mentioned earlier very few of us expect to become wealthy as musicians. We do it because we love it but……there is, even on a small local level, a reasonable amount of money you should ask for when performing and a reasonable and fair way you should expect to be treated by those who would seek to hire you as a performer.

For example, lets use a venue that is, for the purposes of my post, 50 miles away in a popular tourist town. Our example venue is a small establishment that features live music as one of the selling points they tout to draw in the large population of tourists that visit the town every weekend.

Since this venue is 50 miles away we are looking at a round trip of 100 miles for each vehicle that is used by a band to get to and from this venue. Most bands have some sort of equipment Van to carry all of the needed gear to play a gig. Vans are not noted for their amazing gas mileage. We are immediately looking at an gas expense somewhere in the range of $25.00 to more depending on the Van used. If the band has multiple members there is likely to be at least one more car involved, maybe even more. For the purposes of our discussion lets say that collectively the bands immediate transportation costs are going to be $75.00 give or take.

Ok, so we’re at $75.00 and we haven’t even begun to play.

Lets assume this job has the band starting at 8 p.m. in the evening. Since the job is 50 miles each way we are going to have to plan at least a hour each direction. Now our bands costs are at 2 hours plus $75.00.

Most live gigs run around 4 hours of playing time. For instance in this case the band starts at 8 p.m. and finishes at 12 midnight. Now we’re at 6 hours total used time plus a fuel cost of $75.00.

Once we arrive at the job the band will have to unload all the gear from the Van, set it up and and test the sound system. That can take generally about an hour if we’re working at a steady reasonable pace. Now our example job is up to 1 hour for set up, 2 hours for driving both ways, 4 hours for actual playing and $75.00 in fuel costs. Time so far….7 hours.

All of that music gear doesn’t magically tear itself down so at the end of the nights job the band is looking at another period of time to break down all of the equipment and get it loaded into the vehicles. Probably another hour, maybe less if they feel like rushing after the previous 6 hours of effort. Total time so far….8 hours plus $75.00 in fuel costs.

So up to this point the band is looking at 8 hours total time with an up front fuel cost of $75.00.

Now the following scenario is likely to also happen, but not every band would choose to do this.

Since the job starts at 8 p.m., based on the above example the band members would have to leave for the job by at least 6 p.m. to be able to arrive in time to setup. That is 1 hour of driving time and 1 hour to set up. But……musicians are only human too. After driving that far and working hard to unload all of that music equipment and get it set up most musicians are going to need to take a small break and maybe even…..eat something. So for the purpose of discussion lets assume that relaxing and having dinner takes about an hour. Now we’re leaving at 5 p.m., getting home at 2 a.m. and up to a total of at least 9 hours of time involved plus the $75.00 in fuel costs.

Assuming there are 4 members in the band and all 4 take a break and eat dinner we should now consider what additional cost that may have. A decent meal in most tourist towns is likely to cost in the range of $10.00. I’m sure it could vary one direction or the other, higher or lower, but lets just say $10.00 to keep the math simple. Now we’re up to 9 hours total time involved plus $75.00 in fuel and $40.00 in meal cost.

So to this point we have only been looking at the actual amount of time and money spent on the job itself. I will only mention but not factor in the incredible number of hours spent rehearsing and the costs of all the equipment needed for the job plus vehicles themselves. Those are there too but lets just focus on the basics.

So at this point we’re at what I consider a fairly conservative estimate of 9 hours of time and $115.00 in basic expenses.

Ok, so what is the band worth? Lets assume this job is just the one night performance and that the band consists of 4 members, which is pretty typical. For our discussion purposes lets use $400.00 as the amount the band is supposed to be paid. How does the math work out using this scenario?

Well first we’ll have to subtract the expenses so $400.00 minus $115.00 in basic expenses = $285.00

Next we have to split that $285.00 between four members. $285.00 divided by 4 = $71.25 per band member.

But wait……we also have to factor in the time spent to actually do this job. That is not just the 4 hours playing but the actual 9 hours consumed out of each members life to accomplish this job. So $71.25 divided by 9 = $7.92 per hour. In other words, after all that each member actually made LESS than minimum wage in the US. In my state minimum wage will be $9.19 in 2013.

Ok, earlier I said most musicians are not in this to become wealthy. The above example is probably pretty close to the actual situations most bands commonly deal with and even though $400.00 may seem a bit low in some areas, in my area its considered a reasonable starting point.

Now….lets throw another wrinkle into the scenario. Lets say the venue expects to pay the band by….wait for it…..passing the hat for tips! Rather than guaranteeing the band a fixed amount the venue actually wants to pay the band by collecting tips from the audience. Let the insanity of that sink in for a moment……..

Years ago I got to know the owner of a very popular club in my area. The club featured live music and was generally packed several nights a week. During one chat he mentioned he had found a buyer for the club. I was surprised to hear this and given how successful the club was I asked him why he was selling? He said, the best time to sell a club or restaurant like this was at its peak, when you could show high numbers to the prospective buyer and walk away with a good profit based on those numbers. In his case he planned on moving on to another location and using some of the profit to restart the same process again and eventually sell out again. While we musicians realistically never expect to become wealthy, the owners of the establishments we are likely to play in are generally in it for the money. Unlike us, they are likely to make some pretty substantial dollars amounts when they do eventually sell it, especially if their establishment was successful.

Now here is the really important thing I want my musical brothers and sisters to understand….and really the purpose of this long post. YOU are a big part of that club owners features. Whether you realize it or not you are a part of what makes that establishment desirable to patrons and YOU will be a part of what is mentioned as a selling point to that eventual buyer of that establishment when the current owner does decide to move on and make the big bucks he is unwilling to give you a part of.

Like most musicians, most of us are not wealthy. We often cannot afford a brand new car. Many of us do not own our own homes. Often we are struggling by having to work a day job to take care of our family responsibilities and working extra hours to even be able to perform at all. In the meantime that club owner likely DOES own a brand new car and likely does own their own home and likely can afford medical coverage while you may not.

Is it even close to reasonable of our example club owner to ask you to go through all of the above……by passing the hat for tips? (Are you farking shitting me?????????)

Most musicians these days are not a member of a Musicians Union. There is no one protecting us but ourselves. Remember that the next time someone offers you an opportunity to perform for substandard pay…..or worse…..nothing. As I mentioned earlier, we musicians tend to be open sharing individuals. Don’t let that desire to share your talents with others overwhelm your basic common sense. Do the math before accepting a gig. Remember, its not JUST you that is affected when you accept a job that doesn’t at least come up to a reasonable pay standard. Any time you accept a job with substandard pay and conditions you in turn cause the next musician to have to deal with the same conditions.

Use the power of No. Do your fellow musicians and yourselves a favor and simply say….NO!

No