oor Cowboy Jazz. This group was responsible for some of my fondest touring memories. Yet the grand nature of the Cowboy Jazz modus operandi: the long tours, the great distances, the remote, exotic locations, the shoestring budgets, has caused the group to also be the wellspring of many frustrating experiences.
This one goes by the name Went Country When I Should've Gone Punk.
One of my earliest Cowboy Jazz experiences was a 34-day tour in April, 1982. I had only been in the band a short time and didn't understand the strong personalities and personal dynamics among the members.
Sometimes, a few of the personalities took to ingesting various substances, subsequently becaming prone to wild, unpredictable bouts of jaw-dropping public behavior.
Such was the case about one week into our tour. Without being specific, let's just say a couple people were acting in the most amazing ways, and the rest of the band was... on edge. Being new I wasn't expecting this, though in fairness, no one kept anything from me. I knew there were wild cards in the deck.
We had played in Fort Collins, Colorado and luckily, managed to escape town with all members on board. (Such is the biggest worry in these circumstances: you're 2000 miles from home and suddenly fifteen gigs are jeopordized by the total disappearance of key personnel.) We were headed through Wyoming to three days in Big Sky, Montana.
Everyone was in a funk, which so early in the tour, was particularly depressing.
It was the aforementioned month of April. Back East, April can be a turbulent month, but Spring is well on the way. In Wyoming, April is still a meteorological free-for-all. On our travel day, which by the way, was April Fool's Day, we ran smack into a gigantic, raging, fear-and-danger-for-all blizzard.
We were headed west on Wyoming I-80, around Rawlins. We couldn't see, the roads were icy, the winds were high and gusting higher. There were overturned trucks everywhere. In our Ford cube van (a glorified van with a big wooden box stuck to the back, which transported all the equipment and eight people) personalities were flaring. Our slim variety of options (stop or keep going) were being hotly debated.
Finally, it was decided we had to stop and try to get motel rooms. We had no extra monies, and stopping meant definitely losing some, if not all of our three days in Big Sky. On the other hand, wrecking the truck meant losing everything. Reason had won.
There's not much more to this story. We got the motel rooms. Our wild cards, cut off from eager suppliers of substances, went to sleep. The blizzard moved on and we made it to Big Sky having lost only the first of our three dates at Buck's T-4 Lodge. I even got to ski for a day, and had a wonderful time.
So where's the punch line? Well, while we were holed-up in the motel, I took the liberty of writing a letter, a blistering rant to my friend Dave Sherman expressing my raw frustration and the uncertain possibility that record deal notwithstanding, perhaps in joining Cowboy Jazz I had chosen poorly.
Subsequently, Dave answered my youthful venting, summing up my situation and feelings with humor and wit:
I can't see myself as a cowboy