Just a short time before this true story starts
Misty and I were performing concerts with major stars,
such as Merle Haggard, Jerry Reed, B.J. Thomas, Tom T. Hall,
Faron Young, Charlie Pride, Boots Randolph,
George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and others.
We were never anybody’s opening act,
but either “stars” or “special guest stars”.
The agents’ contracts called it “100% billing”.
We also did television with Jackie Gleason, Dick Clark,
Carol Channing, Mama Cass Elliot, and on and on.
This was in the 1970s.
Then things changed.
UPSTATE NEW YORK:
In the 1980s we were doing a few country shows,
booking our trio in jazz lounges in the North East,
and just about breaking even.
When we were playing at a Hyatt hotel in New York
a man approached us with an offer of sixteen weeks in Houston.
We were relatively happy where we were,
but a sixteen week contract is more security, we thought.
First of all, two thirds of the audience hated us
because we weren’t a cover band, as they were used to.
One woman yelled out at the end of our set,
“They didn’t play ONE SONG I know!”
We had our handful of fans so we worked to them,
but it was a rough start
and turned out to be a bad omen.
The temperature was 105 and humid.
We were living in our motor home on a gravel site
behind an RV parts store, the T-pipe on our sewer broke
and there was nobody to fix it but me.
It had to be done. so I slid under the rig on the gravel
and some weeds I didn’t recognize as poison ivy.
It was a Sunday and the parts store was closed,
but Misty saw a couple of guys in there and banged on the door.
They refused to sell her anything,
but she found the part, threw the money on the counter and left.
That evening I wound up in the hospital
with the worst case of Poison Ivy they’d ever seen.
Then I got a phone call from my sister Val
that our mother had just died.
I went to work the next night anyway.
We had a drummer that was an 18 year old spoiled brat,
but was a passable jazz player for our New York State gigs.
He was also a jazz snob and hated country.
He said things like “Jack, you can’t pay me enough to play that.”
He was rude to us, and I started to drink from all the pressure.
Before then I had never used alcohol while working.
We’d rented a junk heap from the Rent-a-Wreck Company…
On a Sunday we decided to get away
by taking a drive to Galveston.
First we got arrested.
The cop said that if we worked in Texas for more than a few weeks
we had to have a Texas driver’s license.
Also we were charged with having an outdated license tag.
We had assumed that a good license plate came with the rental.
We finally got to Galveston and the car died forever.
There were no cell phones then,
so I found a pay phone and called Rent-a-Wreck.
No answer. It was Sunday.
We somehow got a bus back to Houston,
and called them the next day
to pick up the car and give us a replacement.
Then the floods came.
It rained continuously for many days
and people were driving under railroad overpasses,
getting into deep water, and drowning.
Misty couldn’t get to our jalopy from the Walmart door,
and asked a nice elderly lady to take her to our car.
Misty felt guilty when the high water ruined the lady’s carpeting.
Time ground on.
Every night on stage was torture,
and the finance company was looking for our motor home.
We were several months behind on payments.
and trying to catch up.
They knew we were in Texas from a check we’d sent.
One night I drank too much
and said some insulting things about the house band.
They were a really fine group that played opposite us,
and I was wrong.
Everybody liked them, and I’d made our situation worse,
When we finished our contract there,
we sent the drummer home to annoy his parents,
and headed for the Louisiana border
to throw GE Finance off our trail.
Just across the line there was a KOA campground at Vinton
where we were stranded for over a month.
From the campground,
Misty would ride her fold-up bicycle into town to get groceries.
Our only company there was a big family of Gypsies
that we seemed to meet all over the country.
A job in Arkansas and a stop at a pawn shop got us out of there,
but trouble came with us.
It got better in the 1990s, and much better after that.
I never had a drinking problem again.
I think it was just an ordeal we had to go through.
If there’s an afterlife, somebody owes us an explanation.
We’re still doing our music, and life is looking okay.
Copyright © Jack Blanchard 2005 to 2016