Monday, March 29, 2010

Who Said Big Bands Are Dead?

Anyone who tried to put one together.

After my Barn One debacle shut down about '91 or '92, I retired from the music biz. The whole experience left a bitter taste in my mouth. I made a handful of one-off appearances in the interim, but they were far and few between. But after 5 years, I really missed performing. I wanted back on the stage and I wanted it to be different. If I was gonna do this again, it was gonna be fun.

I had little interest in performing the old set or writing a new one. And I had always wanted to front a crack band without having to rely on my questionable guitar technique. It was also around then that I was spending a lot of time with the Elvis Presley Vegas period shows. That's the Way It Is, On Tour and the albums from that period. James Burton on guitar, Jerry Scheff on bass, Sweet Inspirations on back-up vox, horns, keys, the whole deal. Yeah. That'd be nice. So I started making phone calls. I was putting a show band together.

The first two guys I called were Dave Dunton, who played keyboards on Favorite Love Songs and Chris Butler who did a crack job holding down the drums in The Chains. They were both in. From there it was asking around and chasing leads. Ended up getting Jim Dillman on bass, Pete Linzell on sax and Larry Ochs on guitar. Before I knew it, I had a helluva good core band. And we could bring in guest musicians to round it out for shows.

We ended up in rehearsals for 3 or 4 months. Once a week we'd meet to work on material, swap songs and pull a show together. With that many people, I don't think we ever had the whole band together at the same time. Once we settled on a 45 minute set and knocked it into place, I called my buddy Noel at The Continental of St. Mark's in the city. Last time I had played there would have been '89. (And Eric Clapton showed up. Or so I was told.) This was a huge undertaking, so I wanted our first show to be low key. Noel offered us Easter Sunday and that sounded fine to me.

As we got closer to the date, I pulled in my buddy Kurt Hoffman from The Ordinaires and TMBG to fill out the horns and we formed The Belles of The Ball Stars with Carla Murray and Meredith Ochs to handle back up vox. And for the cherry on top, I asked my pal Rob K of Workdogs to duet on Justine. Damn. We had a show.

Well, the show could not have gone better. Band was tight, respectable crowd for Easter Sunday and everyone had a great time. We made $50. Total. I kicked in so I could give everybody $10. And that's when the band began dissolving. It wasn't all about money. There were some personality conflicts, family obligations and all the other reasons bands splinter. I filled the holes best I could, but within a couple months, I was left with two guitars, bass and drums. Larry and me, plus Mike Rosenberg on bass and Ron Metz on drums. A four piece rock band was the last thing I wanted. And so ended The Ball Stars.

I don't regret it. I got to work with some great musicians, many of whom I would work with on future projects. We put a great set together of amazing songs. R&B, soul and some early rock songs that were a stone gas to play. It really was a dream come true. All these years later, I'm still proud of what we did. And so, on this, the 13th anniversary of the one and only Ball Stars show,

Happy anniversary Ball Stars and SAAAAAAAA-LUTE!