Weekendz with Bernie

part one

I sometimes describe my experiences in a certain band by joking "it was like being on the road with the Three Stooges."


Indeed, there were three of us, our road trips reverberated with a sort of chaos reminiscent of the famed trio, and not the least of it, I often felt like a stooge. Well, there were three of
us...But the little jest passes muster only as a canned one-liner because unlike the real Stooges, there wasn't much comedy. Instead, our traveling vaudeville act consisted of revolving bouts of whining, slacking, scrimping, bitching and tantrums, with a little Blues and body putty thrown in for good measure.

I gigged with this group in 1991 and 1992, when I was attempting to quit the road to retool my life. Because I spent my entire career on the road, the unfortunate effect of leaving was to cause things to grind to a total, screeching halt. Broke and without meaningful work of ANY kind (and despite that it was exactly opposite the plan), I was taking every gig, no matter how sad, no matter how little it paid, no matter how dire the prospects.

I was
taking every gig, no matter how sad...The gig in question didn't seem fishy at all. It began as a normal "Wanna check out my band?" phone call from a guy named Bernie, and judging by his repertoire and roster of clubs, it sounded like a better-than-average Blues gig. Bernie even offered a minimum $100 a gig on a circuit where $60-$80 is typical.

So one sunny summer afternoon I drove to Bernie's house in the suburbs to meet him and his bass player George. That was the entire band: guitar, bass and drums. The stripped-down format demands a lot of the players (filling all that empty space is a lot of work!), but the small number of players also made it easier for Bernie to pay the higher scale.

In his late thirties, Bernie was slightly overweight and balding. He was a decent guitar player and his knowledge of Blues and Roots Rock was extensive. We set up and played for a while, and things felt good. Bernie offered me the gig and without hesitating I signed up for (drum roll...) "The Blues Savages." Hands down, Blues bands have the best names.

Sounds OK so far, right? So what is it that made it so, well, stooge-like?

Next: For starters, Bernie turned out to be...