The Hitman Blues Band

 

 

Old Friends Come Through

 

Welcome back!

This is a look behind the scenes of what we've done, how we got there, and various issues we faced. It's not about what we've had for breakfast, or ramblings. If you have an interest in the REAL story of a struggling band, trying to break through, then read on.

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We left off after the tour of 2011, and not being happy with "Blues Enough".

We decided it might be a good idea to participate in the International Blues Competition, held in Memphis every year around the end of January. However, you can't just go. You have to win a local competition, and our local blues society already had it during our UK tour.

Hmmmm. So we looked around for other blues societies, and found one in upstate NY - the Capitol Region Blues Society, who hadn't had their competition yet. I joined, and asked if we could compete - yes! We'd be competing against a very popular local band, considered to be a lock, but what the hell. So, we drove about 4 hours and...

The other band cancelled. The main guy was sick. So, by default, we won! Now, they weren't gong to hold any fund raisers for us (it's up to the band to get to Memphis, book rooms, pay for meals and booze, etc.) but we held a few of our own and raised enough to get rooms at a less than ideal hotel in a shady part of town. Still, we were in Memphis!

Memphis is about 1200 miles from New York, and of course we couldn't afford airfare. So we piled into a van, and took off down the road. After stopping off at a friend's house near Nashville for the night, we arrived in Memphis just in time for the mandatory band check-in (if you missed it, you were out!)

There are five or six venues that host the bands playing at the IBC, and we got assigned to BB Kings. Cool! Big stage, great sound, and a Hammond B3. There were seven other bands, and four would go on to the next the next level (semi-finals). We played quite well, as evidenced by videos taken of the performance, but we didn't make the cut. Apparently, we missed it by a fraction of a point. Still, we cheered on the other bands (none of which made it to the finals, but that's another story) and went to the workshops and awards brunch. So it was cool to do once, but I don't think we'll do it again.

Real Americana story:

On the way back, we're driving through the Cumberland Mountains. It's so foggy you can't see more than 20 feet ahead as you're driving. It's February 6, and we pull into a gas station. I ask the guy "When does the fog lift?", thinking he'll say "about 20 miles" or something. Instead, he gives me a look and goes:

"Waayyllll, prob'ly about Joooonnnne."


So we're back in New York, and man, I just don't like the way the album sounds at all. It just didn't seem to blend. Now, there was a fellow named Bob Stander who I met in first grade, and was in classes with him right up until Junior High. I was in my first band with him (he played drums, I hadn't started playing guitar yet so I was the singer). We were all of about 11 or so, and played The Who, CSNY, Jefferson Airplane - stuff that was on the radio.

We both stayed in the music business, but lost touch over the years. Bob became a Grammy winning engineer, a producer, as well as an excellent guitarist and bassist. And, it turned out he lived within a 20 minute drive! So I called him at his place, Parcheesi Studios, and explained the situation.

Could he fix it? "Sure! Come on over!"

A week later, he had it done. He remixed it, I punched in one small vocal part (the end of "Every Piece Of Me"), and he did his studio magic stuff. And it sounded GREAT. Then the next surprise - he was going to get it mastered by Gene Paul, son of the great Les Paul (you've seen his name on the famous Gibson guitars, but he was also a ground-breaking recording engineer.) Mastering is the final step in the recording process - it's what gives a recording its "shine". It takes years of training to learn how to take a recording, figure out what specific frequencies need to be adjusted, and have the right equipment and the knowledge to use it.

The end product was exactly the way I'd heard it in my head.

And so, at the point where I was seriously considering dumping the whole thing and starting over, Bob saved the day. But he admonished me: "Next time, record the whole thing here!" Which we did, with "The World Moves On".

It became evident the band couldn't afford to go back to the UK in 2012, plus we were booked up here in the US, but I made plans to go back myself in 2013. Then, on October 4, 2012, I took a wrong step on a wet floor in a fast food place. I heard a sound like a rifleshot as I went down.

That was my ankle snapping in a number of places. I'd never broken anything before, but this made up for it. My ankle was shattered in three places, all the tendons and ligaments snapped - I guess I fell exactly the "right" way to do maximum damage.

After getting a steel plate put in, with all the expected discomfort, I was able to start doing gigs again - sitting down at first, then standing up for short periods, then finally standing through the whole performance. But, as I had been warned, it never really healed the same. Even now, after getting off stage or driving in a car for a while, it swells up and I stagger like Quasimodo. From what I gather, that's just how it's going to be from now on. Oh well, no leaping off amplifiers for me, I guess.

In the summer of 2013, Joanne and I went overseas - first to Paris, where I sat in and played at some very cool clubs, and then on to the UK where I did a mini-tour backed up by Storm Warning. SW is a fantastic group, and although we didn't have the horns, it was a lot of fun and sounded great. I even went to Wales and played at Cafe Jazz in Cardiff, backed by a great trio that learned all our stuff - just for the one gig.

But it was clear that, unless we wanted to completely lose momentum, we had to get the whole band back to the UK. So, we made plans to tour in 2014. The band was tight, everybody who needed to be was sober, and we were getting airplay on a bunch of blues shows worldwide.

And, once again, things went sideways.

To be continued.

– Hitman

 

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The Hitman Blues Band

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