People often ask me when I started playing on the road. The answer varies depending on how you interpret "on the road."
When I was 17 and 18 I spent a lot of time traveling around Minnesota playing grungy little bars. I don't consider that actual touring. The following story describes my first "real" touring gig... the one that started it all. The last time I lived at home.
I was 19 years old and heading home from a short-lived stint with a band called The Playbakz. Four guys and a female lead. Think Blondie, The Motels and The Pretenders.
As I was passing through Minneapolis I decided to stop at a place called PMR, Professional Musician's Referral - a place where musicians can pay to leave their resumes and in exchange will receive a list of bands looking for musicians. A win-win for both sides.
The very next morning at 7 a.m. my mom knocked on my bedroom door and told me I had a phone call. I took a second to come to and picked up the receiver from the wall by my bed.
"Ya... h-lo," I grunted.
A gruffy voice that sounded like George Burns blurted out a phrase I'll never forget.
I had absolutely no frame of reference as to what he was talking about.
"Pennsylvania what? Who is this again?"
"Gabe. Gabe Garland. I own and manage several bands and was wondering if Hazleton Pennsylvania was too far for you to go to join a band. I got your name from PMR."
I was stunned. I had only left my name there a mere 12 hours earlier and already people were calling me from the great beyond.
Over the next hour or so I learned that Gabe was an old vaudevillian entertainer who had taken up the business of buying the names of once-famous musical acts, reforming them with new members and selling their shows on the road in the highly lucrative show band touring market. At this point he was in the process of assembling 3 historic bands, The Boxtops (The Letter), the Classics IV (Traces, Spooky, Stormy), and the group he wanted me to join... The Toys (A Lover's Concerto).
It didn't take much convincing on Gabe's part to get me to accept his offer. After all, we were talking about a band that had a gold record and had made it to #2 on the charts! I was going to be rich and famous...
...and I was going to leave in 3 days.
During this call I learned I would be meeting up with the band in Hazleton where we would practice for 2 weeks, at which time we would begin a fully-booked 6 month tour. Sweet! I was finally going to be a professional, and most importantly - highly paid musician.
But then came the tricky part. How was a 19 year old kid from Minnesota with no cross country driving experience supposed to get to Pennsylvania in a tiny Toyota Corona with 800 pounds of keyboard gear?
Easy, go to U-Haul and rent a trailer that's rated at least 2x more than your 4 cylinder Toyota can handle, strap on a temporary hitch and hit the highway! What could possibly go wrong?
Next Up: The Journey
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