We became Ain't Misbehavin'. It was quirky, totally original, fun and personally rewarding. The thing that was a double-edged sword for the band - and it still is - was that we couldn't be categorized because we ignored everything except where each song took us. Sure, we did some covers of some wonderful tunes, like Steam Powered Aeroplane by John Hartford, like Moonglow, like Louis Jordan's Saturday Night Fish Fry, like Louie Prima's Jump, Jive and Wail - but we didn't do 'em like anyone else. The joke was that we did Jump, Jive and Wail twenty years after Louie Prima did it and twenty years before Brian Setzer did it. We were a band out of time with enough loyal followers to barely sustain us but not enough of those smart people to give us a label of 'successful local band.'
So what? I had become driven. For the first time, I had found an avenue to put the hard rock and the jug band and the rhythm and blues, and the soul singing, and the country music, and the Boy's Chorale screaming and everything else into a context that worked for me. I had found my voice - finally. It was a panacea, a melting pot of styles that had gotten me to here and, now, it was up to me to find the right sound for each song and make it into a little movie. Johnny Edson would give us the lyrics and chords for a song of his and we would run with it. And he was happy with the results. And so was I. We sounded great. It was total collaboration. It was inventive, harmony laden, quirky, lots of humor and panache - and great people to work with.
A couple of asides about the band (and this could mean something, but probably is just coincidence): Everyone but Sally, including our long time sound man, Randy Buck, is a Gemini. Johnny is also a Gemini. Doug met his wife at an Ain't Misbehavin' gig - still married. Boo met his wife at an AM gig - still married. David met his wife at an AM gig - still married. Sally met her husband at an AM gig - still married. I met Becca at an AM gig. We were married for seven years, until death parted us, when breast cancer took her.
That band lasted for four years and then I rested - or maybe I fumed - because I felt everyone else had abandoned custody to me. The baby we had raised, the band, had been ditched before it had time to reach its full potential and there was nothing I could do with it because there just isn't that much call for a washboard playing singer who knows a bunch of quirky original tunes and can't even tell you what key they are in.
I did a short stint with a funk band called 1/2 Chicken to Go. It was a little wearing because, although there were a few songs we did that I liked, most of them were based on the concept of 'boogie 'til you puke' and I missed the lyrical, melody driven, harmonious base that I could insert my cigarette-and-beer-tarnished vocals into.
So what's a boy to do? I drank, smoked dope, did speed for a long time and finally got busted. Eventually went to prison, but this time for ten months on a ten-year sentence - so my average length of time in the joint was improving in that regard in a cost/return sort of way. You couldn't have asked for a better time to be in prison. I had been on appeal for five years (a pesky 4th amendment issue) and went in as a 'voluntary surrender' while Clements was governor of Texas and the War on Drugs was testing the grease on the revolving door of the Department of Corrections.
Well, things didn't turn out so bad, after all. When I was about to be released on parole, I got a letter from a woman (the aforementioned Becca) whom I had known for years. She said she'd like to see me when I got out, had seen me play music years before and decided that one day she'd marry me. As luck would have it, she was right.
Ain't Misbehavin' eventually did a reunion gig in 1992 that led to playing the Kerrville Folk festival and a Live Set at KUT radio station. The Live Set eventually became a CD. It's available through this website.
Johnny Edson (now more comfortable with playing live gigs) enlisted me and David Christy to form a band called Moonburn. We played old standards and some of Johnny's songs and a few of mine. We did some time in the studio to capture it for later, but didn't make much of an attempt to play more than once a week. The CD from that exercise will probably end up as bonus tracks on some later effort.
We didn't garner much of a following but playing still made me feel good.
When Becca died in 1995, everything changed. Her boys (my stepsons) moved away with their dad and, all of a sudden, it was just me and Blossom, my wonderful daughter. Music was put on a different burner. I had, still have, a guaranteed non-paying once-a-year gig at the fundraiser for the elementary school my kids went to, where Becca was attendance clerk. But pursuing an actual musical career was secondary to surviving and putting food on the table for the kids.
Then, in 2004, I went to a birthday party for David Christy and Doug Powell and sang a few tunes for old times sake. One of the attendees leaned over to me and said, "Y'all need to have a reunion." After a few days the light bulb came on. "Yes," I told myself. "We do need to have a reunion". That sparked an all out effort to make this reunion as good as it could possibly be. I pitched it to the band and everyone agreed that we should do it. We practiced sporadically for several months and performed at Antone's one wonderful evening, April 2005. It was great, so good that we did another show a few months later and we never sounded better. We had, and we still have, a terrific time playing. And all of the work that was put into the reunion gigs spurred me to get back into the studio to do my own stuff. All of a sudden, after not writing a song for years, I wrote a few new ones and polished up some old ones.
So here I am. I finished my own CD, using Ain't Misbehavin' on some tunes and reaching out to other musicians for exactly what I want for every song.
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