Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Bar Tab

The Cowslingers played a show in Nashville with the Blue Moon Boys at a place called Wolfy’s on Broadway. Broadway is the main tourist strip where bars have bands all day/night bashing out country classics and playing for tips. These bands playing for tips are made up of ringers that come from all over the country with the hopes of landing a gig in Shania Twain’s backing band, and are generally the best musicians you have ever seen. During the day they hope to be playing a session somewhere. If they can't, they sit in on gigs like this. These guys are always really good. Insanely good. Kenny Taylor from the Blue Moon Boys and Bobby Latina watched some fat guy in a baseball cap at Robert’s Western World that they said was maybe the best guitar player they had ever seen. They had no idea who he was. That was at 4:15pm on a Saturday.

Why Wolfy’s thought it was a good idea to have a punky rockabilly band and a scruffy cowpunk band like us wasn’t really clear, but I always liked Nashville, so I was all in. We walked around the tourist traps, tried on Elvis sunglasses, and gazed at instruments for sale so expensive even Garth Brooks would have winced. The best part of the Broadway area is staring at the various hillbillies that have driven into town for a drunken trip to their Mecca, each one of them hoping to spend quality time with Reba or one of the Judds. Although Reba may pretend to want to be with “the people”, the country music social contract does not allow her to be honest and say, “Get the fuck away from my Escalade you scary hillbilly. I’m going home to my 5500 square foot house and getting a massage from my in house servant Ku-Tran”. You have as much chance at hanging with Reba in Nashville as Jennifer Anniston swinging by your squalid apartment to give you oral pleasure. These people live on a different planet than you or I.

Mainstream country music is funny that way. They like to pretend that you might run into any of their chart topping country stars at a Wal-Mart. The illusion that is sold to the un-savvy public is that the difference between artist and consumer is slight. We’re all good folk just trying to get by. The stars are not allowed to distance themselves from the public, not allowed to drive foreign cars, and for God’s sake don’t pretend to be above the audience. “It is such a pleasure to go out on the road and play music for everyone in this great nation. To feel the power of God come through the crowd is amazing. There are so many great towns in America, but I must admit I love home cooking. I love coming home and tasting my Mama’s biscuits.” Meanwhile, Reba is knocking back a 1969 Domaine Romanee Conti after working out with her strength coach and consulting her personal chef. Even the Rubes must know this in their hearts, but they choose not to believe. “The willing suspension of disbelief” I believe it is called…

So there’s a bunch of Rubes wandering around Nashville knocking back Miller Lites, and we’re waiting to play. It was a Saturday night, and we were driving back to Cleveland after the gig. I’m sure I had committed to being at one of my then girlfriend’s never ending string of family get-togethers where I would struggle to stay awake while the other men watched golf. Let me tell you friend, it’s not easy to watch golf in a darkened finished basement when you spent 230a-1030a driving a van back from Tennessee. It would always be the same endgame. I would fall asleep with my mouth open, as her father and uncles wondered why she was wasting her time with me. (This is a question that has yet to be answered I might add.)

We had created a bar tab at the club, and I know we all had a few beers. OK, probably quite a few beers. The only thing I remember about the gig was making a rather distasteful remark about all the Pentecostal women in town for some conference on presumably guilt or private suffering. That didn’t play nearly as well as I thought it would. Eh, what are you going to do? We played the set, broke down our gear, and threw our stuff in the van. The Blue Moon Boys got ready to play, and we clowned around with Nic and Kenny before leaving. We split right as they headed up to play, looking forward to our next gig together. Those guys were the best rockabilly band of that era, hands down. The added bonus was we all liked hanging out together. We tried to do gigs as often as possible. We drove home without incident, and I probably fell asleep in a basement later on Sunday.

I remember calling Kenny afterwards to try and set up some shows. I could never seem to get in touch. Some time passed. Probably a year and a half. We were all doing a lot of traveling, playing the same circuit. We’d see their name on an upcoming flier, or see they had played the club a few weeks prior. I think it was at the Star Bar in Atlanta where a bartender said, “Man, the Blue Moon Boys are pissed at you, huh?” I had no idea what he was talking about.

It turned out that none of us had paid the bar tab in Nashville. Three of us had eaten meals. We all had 6-8 beers. After the show, the guy that owned Wolfy’s had an unpleasant exchange with the Blue Moon Boys and they had to pick up the bill. It was probably about $50, but to guys like us in the mid 1990s, that was a big hit in the wallet. Now, if Kenny had called me the next day and said, “Hey motherfucker! You stuck us with the fucking bar tab!” I would have sent him the cash that day. However, I had no idea we had even done that. Instead they were pissed and we were blissfully unaware.

After I learned of our slight, I called Kenny to repair the breach. He was fine after I explained, but told me how they had shit talked us all though the Southeast. He laughed about it, and I started to understand why I was having trouble getting booked in Alabama and Georgia. So if you ever wondered why you didn’t see the Cowslingers and Blue Moon Boys play for a period of time in the 90s, that’s why.


At November 28, 2011 at 12:33:00 AM EST , Blogger Brandonio! said...

Great story Greg!!

At May 1, 2016 at 11:50:00 PM EDT , Blogger old man taylor said...


that guitarist was Johnny Hiland who is well known among guitar obsessives

as far as that bar tab thing it probably happened but i don't remember being mad at you guys.we would have been mad at Wolfy the owner.we were always solid with ya'll.

what I remember is going to Atlanta and having the whole town bitch about you guys bumperstickering all the cars in the Star Bars parking lot.we had to deny we knew or liked you.we figured maybe you had a reason? you big city rust belt guys!

we figured it out years later if i remember right .you guys had no idea some crazed bastard swiped a stack of Cowslinger bumperstickers and covered up windshields and headlights after you hit the road. by all accounts the guy was relentless.

oh the humanity of it

At May 4, 2016 at 4:50:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

We used to keep free stickers by the merch. Some guy took a whole stack and nailed every car in the back lot. The entire city of Atlanta was furious at us, though we had no idea until we rolled into town the next time. What a disaster.

You guys were pissed you had to cover our tab. Oh, I remember that....


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