Monday, December 14, 2009

On The Road - Gabe

...continued from On The Road - The Barn 

As many of you know, I've been slowly writing this series called On The Road based on my first experience as a road musician at the tender age of 19. Fortunately, I was aware enough at that time to keep a hand-written journal of this life journey, and now have the pleasure of sharing it with you.

Some of these stories have been told from my perspective today, others are a combination of my memory and my journal, and this one is lifted directly from my diary, word for word, right out of its pages (grammar and spelling included) with no narration from me.

I find this chapter to be of  particular significance because it introduces you to a character that has gotten a lot of attention lately... the owner of "the barn" described in the last chapter - Gabe. And right after I began this series, I started receiving comments from people who said they had worked with Gabe as well back in the 80s and had shared similar experiences to what I went through. In fact, I was so intrigued with wanting to hear their stories that I set up a Facebook page here so these people could write in and share them (you need to unfold the comments in the wall posts to read them). In fact, the page just received a new comment yesterday from a woman who says, "I too played in a Gabe Garland Band....I remember the old man had a wart on his tongue....ugh!"

It just doesn't get any better than that folks. So if you're interested in finding out what happened after I drove across the country by myself only to land at a barn in eastern Pennsylvania, read on! But be warned... this is a long post. Probably one of the longest I've written to date. But I wanted to contain the "meeting of Gabe" all within one entry to keep the continuity of the experience.

We pick up from my 2nd day at the barn. Enjoy.

It was at this point where I was starting to get my jitters a little bit. I mean I had been anxious the whole way out, not to mention extremely curious about everything in store for me but now it was time to “prove” myself so to speak, so when the reality of it all hit me, it kind of blew me away a little bit. I mean here I was 1000 miles from home, all alone with 50 songs to learn in 6 days, trying to fit “right in” with a professional road show, having very little experience in this particular style of musicianship, with about 30 strange musicians listening to every note I was going to play. Yes, I had the jitters, but alas, that good old self control, patience and whatever else it is I posses that gets me along so well in life, kicked into gear and started me to work.

Well, the first day of practice wasn’t too successful – they started me learning some funk tunes I’d never heard before with synth solos and everything, plus they really wanted me to first get the show material down which consisted of a lot of medley type arrangements of different artists – so that was something I had to learn with the band – not off a tape. But I managed to get a few songs down the first day – 5 or 6 I guess but I knew I’d have to double that for each day we had left – only 5 days to go before we played and I needed to learn about 35 more songs. At this point I still hadn’t met Gabe yet and was real curious as to what this guy was really all about.

Day 2 of practice – We worked all day – about 10 hours on the show material and that was good practice. Everyone gained instant confidence in me and we were really starting to get somewhere. That night I met Gabe.

He wasn’t too far off from what I had expected. The first thing he said to me was something of the nature “It’s a pleasure to meet you – Oh, he’s good looking too.” This comment gave me kind of a strange first impression but I soon learned this was just part of the eccentric old man’s behavior.

Now, Gabe is a relic, kind of like a Vaudeville act gone future, bursting with experience but unfortunately having the subtlety of a bulldozer when it comes to applying it to the future and to people and their emotions.

Gabe is 60 some years old, has gray hair, a round pot-belly and talks with a kind of growling rasp. This man knows a LOT about show business and he knows it too. He’s very wise to the aspects of the business end, the performing end, the recording end and most importantly – the audience’s reception end of this art. He knows what the word “entertain” means for both the people and us. So – in his eccentric way he has bought a large barn and refurbished it into a schoolhouse/studio for wayward musicians. He’s made lots of money in the past and now, in his retirement age, has decided to invest it all in this worthy project.

Now, when it comes to applying his knowledge with lesser experienced musicians – especially women – here is where Gabe is at his bluntest.

On the third and fourth day of my visit to this “musician’s commune for hopeful success” we had the pleasure of Gabe’s personal guidance. We had been practicing this one particular section of material extensively for the last 3 days and felt we had it pretty well figured out and tight. So now it was time to play it for Gabe. Well, we didn’t get 4 bars into the first song when he stopped us to tell us it was all wrong. Now granted, he is experienced and all but his method of expressing this experience isn’t too flattering to say the least. He’ll start with, “Hold it, hold it, this is all wrong” and continue on with “that sounds like shit” or “you don’t know anything about drumming – you suck!”

Now if you proceed to talk back and state your claim you get absolutely nowhere except to make him mad, so – the best thing to do is to let him speak his mind and try not to let it get to you personally. He has a very brutal way of expressing his opinions and I found most everyone was afraid of what Gabe would think of their playing. He would come right out to tell you what you’re doing sucks and would make you feel pretty small sometimes in the process. But this particular method of brainwash teaching was effective in making us all aware of what he thought was wrong.

When it came to women he was Webster’s definition of a male chauvinist pig. As far as he was concerned women were helpless, problem, stupid to the business crybabies but he knew (or thought he knew) that they were smart enough to manipulate men for their own needs. He knew that if they looked good too that they would sell on stage and he always expressed more T+A to the audience.

Well, the particular girls in our band, Mary, Glenda and Shirley were definitely 3 of a kind…

(to be continued)

And so again we will pause here until next time. Stay tuned... there's MUCH more to come!

Next Up: Submitted Reader Supplement


JD at I Do Things said...

Ooh, I can't wait to read about the T&A -- sorry, "girls" in your band and how they got along with Gabe. From your description, I'm going to say not too well.

Gabe sounds like a real character and someone you were very lucky to work with, despite his eccentricities.

What a fun life you've had! And how great that you kept a diary.

Michelle said...

Gabe sounds just like my church's choir director.... Fortunately I can let stuff roll off my back, but some in the choir have a really hard time with it.

And it's so not fair where you cut off. I hope you post the next one soon :)

mom said...

I sure love reading about the times in your life , that I never knew anything about!!! It's all so interesting---you should write a book!!

Ed said...

Sure, leave us hanging...

I can't wait to read about when he starts teaching high school and meets Vinnie and Horshack...

Maureen said...

Holy crap, why does the image of Andy Kaufman's alter ego Tony Clifton come to mind when you describe this guy???

Wow. Can't wait for the next part though. Thank goodness you kept a diary; even if it WAS a flowery covered one ;)

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

jd - Your perception is correct. It would be an understatement to say they didn't like Gabe too much.

michelle - I'll probably post a new chapter about once a month. But in blog time, that's pretty soon.

mom - If only we had blogs and Facebook back then huh? You'd know waaaay too much about what I did then!

ve - Uh, actually that was the much younger Gabe - before he got into the music business. But good call all the same.

maureen - Tony Clifton is actually a pretty good description... except add about 30 years to that. Oh, and those aren't flowers on my diary... that is some kind of paisley/Rorshcach/LSD type of pattern. Big difference.

Elizabeth said...

This is so fun to read. I can't wait to find out what happens next with the "girls"!

Jocelyn said...

Waiting, breathlessly...I can only hope George Clinton shows up to help you with Da Funk.

Roger Miller said...

always leaving us wanting for more...

Gabe sounds like my next door neighbour, a know it all that doesn't look too pretty but actually ends up with some positive results.

I look forward to seeing where this story leads - too old for the T&A (maybe), but from a nineteen year olds point of view, it should be interesting. :)

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your story. It has a lot of lessons to teach.