That night half the band met a “record producer” in jail

by Steve, October 25th, 2019

(Adapted from a post I made on TalkBass.com)

I don’t know what made me think of this, but thank you for your indulgence in this longish tale of band hijinks of yore. The story takes place in the late summer and early autumn in a Midwest college town, circa 1989. Names are changed to protect the guilty and their enablers.

After loading out from a successful gig, Bob the rhythm guitarist and Serge the drummer departed in my girlfriend Linda’s Buick station wagon, and promptly ran into a phone pole in the alley behind the club. The cop shop was about a block away, and Officer Friendly soon showed up and hauled Bob in for DUI and Serge for possession (he was holding a little weed). Linda’s car got a little banged up and was towed to the impound lot.

Linda was not pleased, but she’s the one who had agreed to loan her car to Bob in the first place. I was not held responsible, but Linda had words with Bob.

A day or two later, we were hosting a party at the band house out in the country. Bob and Serge had been released on their own recognizance, and they invited a friend they’d met in the hoosegow.

Shawn Stanton was the scion of an oat roasting executive in neighboring Oat City, well known for the cloying odor of burnt oats that sometimes wafted as far south as University City. He showed up early with several sacks of groceries for the party. Also showing up early was our number one groupie Beth-Anne, who was excited to make us all stir fry with the supplies Shawn brought. Bob later wrote a song about Beth-Anne and her penchant for making us all stir fry and sitting in on band meetings and giving Serge advice on how to not get kicked out of the band.

Bob excitedly told the rest of the band how he and Serge had met Shawn in jail, how they got to talking about the band, and that Shawn wanted to produce us and sign us to a recording contract.

The lead guitarist Mike and I raised our eyebrows at this.

“You want to produce us, and you haven’t even heard us?” said Mike. “Sounds fishy.”

“I’m offended that you don’t trust in my ability to describe the band and sell us!” said Bob.

“You want it in writing? Get me a pen and something to write on!” said Shawn, also offended at our lack of faith. At some point he produced one of those business-style check books that’s a three-ring binder, as if to show us he was serious. Between that and the 70 bucks he dropped on food for us, who wouldn’t take him seriously as a record producer?

Anyway, much big talk was made about flying us to New York to re-record the album we’d just recorded but not pressed, yada yada yada. We all got drunk and high on weed and shrooms and god only knows what else, and everybody had a good time eating Shawn’s food and drinking cheap Midwest beer from a keg.

When the keg ran out, I headed up a mission to drive to town to get another. On the way out, we ran into Ray, who was in his van on the road at the end of the driveway.

“What are you doing up here alone, Ray?” I asked.

“Drinkin a beer,” he said. “You want one?”

“Oh, no thanks man,” I said.

“Too bad,” he said, looking down.

I didn’t know what to say. Ray looked up after a bit.

“Where you goin?” he asked.

“Keg’s out; we’re goin into town to get another,” I said.

“You know there’s bad spirits by the river,” said Ray. “You gotta do something about that.”

“What am I supposed to do, Ray?”

“When you get to the bridge, you gotta stop the car, and you gotta stomp out a cigarette on the side of the road,” he said.

“I don’t smoke,” I said.

“Take one of mine.” Ray handed me a pack or Marlboro reds. Ray was dead serious, so I took a smoke from the pack and put it behind my ear.

“Do I have to smoke it?” I asked, handing him back the pack.

“You gotta light it, and you gotta stomp it out,” he said.

“OK,” I said. Ray was not messing around.

I got back into Margot’s car. Margot was Mike’s girlfriend, and she must have been the most sober person at the party who had a car. I explained what I’d agreed to do.

“Oh OK,” she said. “I’ll just pull off before we cross the river, and you can do your thing.” Margot was always game. I gave Ray a wave the tires crunched on the limestone gravel and we pulled away.

The bridge was about a mile down a gravel road, then a quarter mile right on a paved county road. Margo pulled off at the bridge, and I got out of the car, lit the cig, tossed it onto the gravel shoulder and stomped it out. No spirits were observed at that time, but I admit to having been a little spooked. And a little nauseated from lighting the cigarette.

When we returned with a fresh keg from the Kum & Go, Ray was still drinking alone in his van. Shawn was gone. The party was raging and went long into the night. Nobody signed any record contracts, but we had a good time dancing and singing and howling at the full moon.

A few weeks later, Serge was working a dinner shift at his job as a dishwasher in a restaurant owned by Fern, who also owned a crystal shop and practiced the kind of meditation that supposedly can lead to levitation.

Serge had forgotten to show up to court for his possession rap, and Officer Friendly showed up at his workplace to arrest him on a bench warrant.

Fern was not pleased by this, of course. The restaurant had an open kitchen, and Serge’s arrest was quite public.

When Serge got out, Fern told him he was fired from his job as a dishwasher. Not because he was arrested during his shift, mind you.

Fern told Serge he was fired because his seventh chakra was flaring.

The band didn’t fire Serge, flaring chakra be damned. We all kind of liked him, and he had more friends who came to our gigs than anybody else. Maybe that flaring chakra made him play a little busy at times, but it all seemed to fit. All the bohemian college kids and townies danced and danced.

Shawn Stanton disappeared into the riff raff; maybe he went back to Oat City. We never heard from him again. Since we didn’t get that record contract, we went back to plan A, which was to move to the west coast, where we played a few gigs before breaking up and going our separate ways.

Serge got a job laying tile, and he’s still hitting the skins last I heard. Bob still writes good songs. We did some long-distance collabs a few years ago. Mike and I see each other ever few years. Everybody but me went through some form of rehab or got sober at one time or another, and I don’t think anybody ended up doing hard time (unlike the drummer from the band I played with in high school).

Anyway, thanks for your indulgence if you got this far. Bob and Serge, if you find this and remember any of it differently, you’re entitled to your own versions of history.

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