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Bay City...


BAY CITY went real well. I had Dick Ackerman there to play blues harp, so we did “Armadillo on the Interstate” (which he’s been practicing), “Tillamook Railroad Blues” (which he knows), and “Milepost 43” and “Vampire Roumanian Babies” (which he did real well on). And the audience did love every one. (Yes, Bay City audiences have historically been very appreciative—but this time, with the open mike taking place right after a fancy fund-raising dinner, there were relatively few people there who knew me.)

Definitely a feel-good occasion—and I was definitely in need of one. I could use more of them.

There may be opportunities out of it. The Arts Center has a new executive director, so I made sure to introduce myself, give her one of my last 9 CDs, and pass on my daughter’s idea of “you’re out of work, why don’t you put on a concert and make money?” And said executive director did get to see how the audience reacted to the material, and maybe get the idea that a Joe Concert could draw people. I have an appointment to talk to the Arts Center’s Board of Directors Feb. 2.

The show was being videotaped, and I talked to the cameraman about getting a copy of the tape. (Gave him a CD, too. Now we’re down to 7.) Yes, he’ll do it. He believes he has some footage of me performing at last summer’s Jews Harp Festival, too (that was with an impromptu band), and he’ll send that as well. He agreed a DVD would be a good marketing tool for getting gigs.

The lesson in both of those is the old proverb about how you can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. Don’t be afraid about selling, in other words—sometimes, you actually manage to sell something.

There’ll be promotional work to do if I get the gig, of course, but that’s relatively easy: the posters are a set piece, I can do press releases blindfolded (if I don’t care about typos), and if I no longer know the local media folks personally (so many have retired, lost their jobs or died), it’s an opportunity to meet the new ones—I do at least know who and where they are.

If I do get the gig—and I do not know this—it would be good to do it with a band; the Arts Center has not only a good stage, but a good dance floor, and some of the folks do like to dance. I do know four bass players in the area (met two last night), a couple of lead guitarists, a harmonica player, a fiddler… We could probably do this.

Practice next Saturday with the Portland-area musicians (can’t call ‘em a band when they’ve never met) recruited by my dear friend Sharma to be “Joe’s band” for the Red Room gig. Got a drummer and bass player thus far, and one of ‘em (I forget which one) knows a sound engineer who also plays other things. A third fellow and I are still playing phone tag as this is written.

Another of my songs got covered—Steve Grayson (dba The Lone Arranger) recorded “Crosses by the Roadside,” and did it as a blues. Very nice. (He has a good voice for blues.) He’s probably not much more famous than I am, but he does perform, and I’d like to encourage him to perform that one. (He also does “Hank’s Song”—and his rendition of “Hank’s Song” has gotten way more attention than mine.) Other performers doing your stuff is multiplying exposure. You’re cloning yourself.

I like to encourage songwriters to perform each other’s material for that reason. I’m not the greatest one to be making the suggestion, because with my limited voice range I can’t sing most other people’s stuff; since my stuff is performable by just about anybody (including people like me, who can’t sing), I’d get more benefit out of the practice than they would. I still think it’s a good idea. Back in the ‘60s, famous folks did it—that’s one reason why so many Bob Dylan songs got made famous by other people. Famous artists don’t do it much any more—but like any tool, it’s useable by anybody.

One writer whose stuff I’d like to do (because I do want to participate in socially desirable activities I’m encouraging) is Scott Garriott, whose music I ran into in southern Oregon. (I played lead with him a number of times.) Traditional-style folk music, of the type nobody plays any more, but with really compelling melodies and very strange lyrics. And deliverable in almost a monotone (which is mostly the way I sing). I’ve told Scott his “Mattress and the Snake-pit” would come across real well as a two-step. I’d like to try it with a band.



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