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Jack Blanchard’s Column: A Steady Gig At Moe’s

A STEADY GIG AT MOE’S: The musician woke up, checked his watch, got dressed, and left his motel room with enough time to get to the gig early. Tony had been living on the road longer than he could remember, moving from one job to the next… mostly small motel lounges and clubs, He’d become numb to homesickness. The other members of his combo were already in the bar, talking to customers, Bob Seger on the juke box…”Shame on the Moon”. Time for the first set… and they gathered at the bandstand. Something was wrong… Their instruments and amplifiers were not onstage! How could they possibly forget to set up on their first night at a new club? Group senility? The crowd was getting hostile about the delay. They hurried out to their van behind the club, and found the equipment still packed inside. In a panic, they started hustling the heavy cases in the back door,and were told that another band had replaced them in the main room, but they could play a private party upstairs…third floor.

After 40 minutes of grueling labor, Moe said this to them: “Forget it, guys. My customers won’t wait all night. Move it all back out and go home.” Tony said, “But we have a four week contract, and we drove 750 miles to get here.” Moe said, “ You didn’t do the job. You’re out. My bouncers will see you to the door.” The bouncers, three off-duty cops, laughed at the boss’ wit. Tony left the guys to pack up while he walked down Main Street to see if he could scare up another gig. It was a typical small town… typical of fifty years ago. No Wal-Mart, no MacDonald’s, no chain stores at all. Dunavan’s Drug Store had a sign in the window: “Special: Hot Turkey Sandwich with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy”.

The town looked friendly, but the people, mostly rough looking men in heavy plaid jackets, glared at Tony. Tony asked a beat cop: “What’s with these guys? Don’t they like strangers?” The cop said this: “We don’t like the way you bigshot musicians didn’t care enough to show up tonight at Moe’s.
If I was you, I’d ferget my suitcase and get outa town with my skin.” “We showed up…” Tony began,
but the policeman was already disappearing into the mob. Mob? This street was almost deserted a few minutes ago! He turned and began hurrying back toward Moe’s, where the guys were waiting. He kept close to the buildings, trying to keep a low profile. He passed a pawnshop he didn’t remember,
a tattoo parlor, and an adult bookstore.They were all closed, with burglar bars over the windows and doors. The street ahead didn’t look like the way he’d come. Most of the streetlights were broken, shadows were deep, and the skeleton of a stripped car was hunched at the curb.Deserted warehouses leaned over the pot-holed street. He must have made a wrong turn somewhere.

Up ahead a patrol car slid silently out of an alley, and into another across the street. He was being watched! At last! A familiar building came in sight. It was Moe’s Club, but different! It was closed, boarded up, and looked as though it had been that way for decades. Tony checked the parking lot and, of course, the band was not there… but the van was…sort of. It was old and rusted out… One headlight hung down on the end of a wire. The handle came off as he struggled the driver’s door open. Thank Goodness! The keys were in the ignition. He tried to start the engine, but it just clicked. Damn! Dead battery! He tried the starter again, and the motor caught, coughed and died. He heard a siren coming from the direction of the town, not a regular siren, but the old “wailing banshee” kind. He turned the key once more, and the engine started. Tony thanked the Powers That Be, jammed it into gear, and moved carefully out of the lot, making a right turn, away from the town. He floored the old van until it shook and rattled, and the evil buildings were replaced by ghostly forests. Country road, take me home.

Twenty or thirty miles down the narrow moonlit road, he stopped at a pay phone outside an all-night diner. He dug for his calling card, and started to dial home, when the impossible happened again…
He forgot his own home phone number! He held the receiver to his ear while he thought. There was a faint voice on the line… a woman’s voice that sounded familiar, but even though he pressed the phone to his ear,  he couldn’t make out most of the words. “Hello?” he shouted. The voice just kept on talking
as though in a conversation and he could hear only one side. He was pretty sure he heard his own name. He got back in the van and headed in the direction where he thought home was. There seemed to be no towns or intersections along this route. No comforting signs pointing the way to an Interstate Highway. He passed a junkyard with a blinding security light, and a funeral home with a blue light in the window. He felt a bump, and realized that the pavement had ended. He was now on a dirt road. It seemed damp and muddy, but there’d been no rain. It soon narrowed to a single lane, and then two tire ruts with grass and weeds between. A sickly reddish stripe on the horizon indicated that some kind of a sun was about to rise, and that he was probably heading eastward. The ruts morphed into a faint deer path in the foggy woods. The old van motor coughed, stalled, coughed again, and gave up the ghost. Perfect timing, Tony thought. Out of gas. He slid down in the driver’s seat, sent up a doubtful prayer,
and fell asleep.

A bright light stung his eyes and woke him up. The sun? He heard another familiar voice…this time closer. “Are you okay, honey?” He squinted one eye open, and said to his wife: “What day is it?” Her hand touched his face. “It’s the Sunday, bright eyes.Wake up and come downstairs.” “I’m dead and this is Heaven, right?” he said. “You’re fine. It may not be Heaven, but I think things are looking up”, she said. “Your agent has called several times, and it sounds important” The musician squeezed his wife’s hand. “What did he say?” She said, “Something about a steady gig upstate somewhere.Have you heard of a show club called Moe’s?”

Jack Blanchard (c) 2012.

Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan

Article from Lonnie Ratliff monthly newsletter

Just Some Random Thoughts From A Songwriter

This is a true story with a somewhat HAPPY ENDING ! I needed a copy of my birth certificate from Oklahoma to get mine and Craig’s publishing company (Okie Acres Music) registered with the royalty collection services for Ireland and England.
I used a Vital Records search service to speed up the process. (Costs about $40) Remember that term (speed up). Well all seemed to be going well until they hit a snag. They mailed me a letter saying that my name on my birth certificate was spelled (Lonny) and not Lonnie as I said it was so I would need to send them an Elementary School Record showing that I actually used the Lonnie spelling (Tennessee Drivers License would not work) in the early years of my life. I would also need to send them an additional $25 for all of their extra trouble to change those 2 letter in my first name. That didn’t seem like a big deal as I have become quite the expert over the years at dealing with government workers and wading through red tape. I mailed them a $25 check.
I promptly called the Pushmataha County Courthouse and when the secretary found out my last name was Ratliff she had to inform me that she knew my Mom and Sister and wanted to know what the heck I had been up to for the last 40 years. When I got her back to the business of trying to get a copy of my school enrollment records so I could then be known as Lonnie legally she said no problem that was easy. They have kept all those school records since Oklahoma became a state in 1907. I asked her how much to get a copy and she then went through the process of explaining it was free because a Pushmataha County tax paid for copies of the records. I said great can I get a copy. This was in the middle of the summer, she said they would make me a FREE COPY paid for by the taxpayers and mail it to me as soon as summer vacation was over and school started back and the person who had the keys to the school records came back to work. That would be about 5 or six more weeks since they were in the middle of school vacation so nothing to do but wait.
When vacation was over and school started back they mailed me a free (taxpayer paid for) copy of my school enrollment record which I then mailed to the vital records company who was speeding up the process for me. Then I waited and waited. Finally I got a letter from Vital Records that informed me after closer investigation they noticed that the corrections to my name had been made about 20 years earlier (I am guessing when I had to get a copy so I could get a Passport I fixed it back then). Anyway the said don’t worry about the $25 I had sent them they were not gonna charge me. I had been watching my bank accout and the $25 check I wrote them had never come through and been debited to my account. They said my Birth Certificate was being overnighted to me and thanks for my business. In about 5 days Fed Ex delivered my overnight rushed Birth Certificate. I checked the date on the first check for $40 I sent them to start the deal and it had taken 6 months & one week to complete the process.
Today, about a month since I got my Birth Certificate, I got a refund check from the Oklahoma State Dept. for $25 for my Vital Records sevices. It says cash immediately not valid after 90 days. I guess they must think everyone works at the same pace they do.
For those who followed along closely you have probably noticed they refunded a check to me they never cashed. Right now I am trying to figure out should I cash it or would it be worth $25 in pure fun to try to get them to take this check back and return my original $25 uncashed check. HA!
Lonnie Ratliff

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