Prelude - February 2, 2003
Hello Ric!! I’ll be writing a new chapter on the Blues Cruise. We leave tomorrow morning (Feb. 3rd). But I wanted to let all of our Southern California/Inland Empire friends know about a date we just got. It’s in Riverside at Lake Alice Trading Company. It’s on Sunday, Feb. 23rd and it starts at 2pm. Yes, finally a Sunday afternoon gig…just like Carlos O’Brien’s used to be!! We are hoping a lot of you will show up so this can become a regular thing!! My apologies to those of you who are too far away to come. I can’t separate you as far as zip codes go, so I had to send this message to everyone. But one thing I want to tell you all…We were not nominated in Band of the Year this time…but, our good friends, and great musicians, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, were nominated for the first time. They sooo deserve this award…they’ve been at it as long as we have…and are a real band…not a front man with back-up musicians which I see in some of the other nominees. Those of you who have seen their exciting show will probably vote for them anyway. But for those of you who haven’t been as lucky, please take Miss Honey’s word for it (you know I always tell you the whole truth and nothing but!!) and vote for them. That’s all I wanted to tell you…and I can’t wait to tell you all about the Booze (I mean Blues) Cruise!!! Love ya all, Honey
February 13, 2003
Dear Fans and Friends,
OOPS!!! You're not going to believe this!! Actually, I find it extremely funny, and the joke's on me. Remember the note I just sent out saying we were NOT nominated for "Band of the Year" this time around....well, guess what??? WE WERE!!! There was some kind of computer glitch when the press release came out, and our name was left out. So, when you receive your ballot and see our name, don't wonder about my sanity. This one time I can blame it on someone else. We still love Little Charlie, though, and wish them the best of luck. But let's be honest....winning is way more fun than losing!!!
With much love, Your Very Own Author, Piano Player, and CIA Investigator (and I WILL get to the bottom of this crime!)....Honey
Sunday February 9, 2003
Just as I promised, a first-hand account of the Ultimate Rhythm and Blues Cruise. But first, I’d like to give you the good news about Mugs. He’s hanging in there, doing well with his new lifestyle of baby food, pills, and water injections. The vet seems astonished at how well he looks and acts, and he’s not even losing any weight yet. (For those of you who are new to the ‘Diaries’, Mugs is our little Shih-Tzu dog, 14 ½ years old, with kidney disease). Rod is the most attentive caregiver…never complains and does most of the doctoring. Of course, being Italian, he’s always making sure we are well-fed. But with Mugs’ sickness, he doesn’t ever want to eat, so it’s a constant challenge that Rod meets head-on! Sometimes, I catch him outside barbecuing a steak for Mugs! There’s nothing he won’t do for that dog!!
The second bit of news is…we have a new drummer!! I know you’re all wanting the real story behind the change…and I’ll give it to you. But first!! The cruise!!
The whole band, and Jim, our road manager, all flew into Fort Lauderdale on Monday, Feb. 3rd. The buzz at the Hilton, when we checked in, was already at a fevered pitch. It was almost booked entirely by the cruisers, and there was a pre-boarding gig going on with a local band playing. The party had begun!!
The whole band, and Jim, our road manager, all flew into Fort Lauderdale on Monday, Feb. 3rd. The buzz at the Hilton, when we checked in, was already at a fevered pitch. It was almost booked entirely by the cruisers, and there was a pre-boarding gig going on with a local band playing. The party had begun!
On Tuesday morning we boarded buses at 11:30am that would take us to the boat, appropriately called ‘The Melody’. It took several busloads to get all 700 passengers to the dock, but finally we were all through security and waiting to go onboard. But then, a voice came over the intercom, telling us all to immediately evacuate the building. So, outside we all go again, with rumors of a bomb-scare being whispered from person to person. After the Sheriff’s Office did their thing, that is, after they realized the two potential “bombs” were just kegs of home-made beer, we were all lined up to go through security one more time. Finally we were allowed to go onboard to our rooms, but since I had put the wrong room number on our three suitcases, we had a tense hour, with Jim running all around trying to locate our bags. Jim is very efficient, however, and soon had recovered our bags and gotten us all tucked in and informed of our schedule for the first day. We had to play that night at 9pm, and the last night at 11:30pm, which sounds like a lot of spare time now, doesn’t it? Well, think again. Our time was scheduled to include two separate autograph parties, three interviews, three photo shoots (two of those being Evie from K.C. trying to get us a new, decent band picture), and there must be a couple of other things I’m forgetting about. We handled it all with our usual professional stunning precision, in spite of our high alcohol intake, and mainly with Jim, our executive secretary, keeping us on a tight schedule.
There were four bands playing the first night, at 9, 9:30, 11, and 11:30pm. You can see that the bands overlapped, so you could hear two different bands in a two-hour span. There were two stages, one outside on the “pool deck”, and one inside on the “lounge deck”. The boat had about seven different levels, so you were completely lost most of the time. But wherever you ended up, there was a good time to be had. The bands playing on the 4-day cruise were Taj Mahal, Koko Taylor, Chubby Carrier, Curtis Salgado, Lonnie Brooks, The Regulators, Bernard Allison, Li’l Ed and the Blues Imperials, and Kelley Hunt. Pinetop Perkins was there as a surprise guest as well as Bob Margolin. Bob did a very interesting seminar on his experiences playing with Muddy Waters, and played a few songs to demonstrate the Chicago Blues style, using our very own Bill Stuve on bass and Paul Fasulo on drums. He had the best Muddy stories you’ve ever heard, and he plays slide exactly like him. And he is a really good speaker. It was all filmed for BET (Black Entertainment Television), as well as 5 minutes of every band, so maybe you’ll be able to see it someday.
On Wednesday, we landed in the Bahamas and were able to go onshore all day. Of course Rod and I found a beach and laid around reading and sunning. The day ended with a magnificent rainstorm, and us limping back to the boat totally soaked. That night four more bands played, and following those shows, every night, are two different jams that last until 4 in the morning! There’s a pro jam, for all of the bands on board to play together, and then there was a semi-pro, for all of the part-time musicians (with real jobs) to get up and play. There was something going on every minute of every day…you could never get bored!!
Thursday, our only full day at sea, was my favorite day. Picture this…the ship cruising along slowly under clear, bright blue skies, through deep blue water, temperature of about 85 degrees, lounge chairs lined up in tight rows facing an outdoor stage, servers at your beckoned call, and Chubby Carrier’s zydeco band playing at an ear-splitting volume. This was “Mardi-Gras Day”, each day having a different name so you could gear your attire accordingly. People from the audience are onstage dancing, one guy in just a thong! Fancy dress is not expected on this cruise. You could wear your bathing suit or shorts….whatever!! But everybody had on Mardi-Gras beads. Even if you didn’t bring any along, you’d end up with several strands before the day was over. This was the most high-energy show I’ve ever witnessed…and I just couldn’t stop smiling! The Bloody Mary to start, followed with a bottle of Champagne was just what the Blues Doctor ordered!! I felt like a teenager again…
Friday, we stopped at Key West, and spent the day walking around and going to a really nice beach. That night at 11:30pm was our second and last show, and Saturday morning at 7am we landed back at Fort Lauderdale. It took some time to get 400 people off the boat and through customs (the other 300 were continuing on the 7-day cruise), but by 9:30am we were onshore waiting for the promotor from Lake Worth, Florida, to pick us up for that nights’ gig at “The Bamboo Room”. It was a beautiful room, a sold-out show, and satisfying finale for an unforgettable week. If you can afford it, and if your work schedule allows, and if you LOVE the blues….you’ve got to go on the cruise at least once in your life. But don’t expect sleep, relaxation, quiet, or well-mannered fellow cruisers. This is a BLUES PARTY!! And it is not for the ‘faint of heart’, so govern yourself accordingly!!!! Fact: By the end of our 2nd day, more beer had been consumed than on former 7-day cruises…3800 bottles!! Fact: The gentleman who won an award for running up the highest tab consumed what would be equivalent to 48 bottles of beer a day!! As one cruiser described it, “It’s just like being backstage for four days at ten different concerts”. The musicians are right there for you to talk to and get to know. And, for the musicians, to feel all of that love coming at you for four days…it’s indescribably delicious!!!!!
We have a new drummer!! His name is Paul Fasulo and he’s a local boy, 52 years old. He’s married and has three kids. He was currently playing with Candye Kane, and had played with James Harmon among others in the past. He was born and lived throughout his twenties in The Bronx, NY. He’s a big guy, kinda looks like Anthony Hopkins, with a very cool New York accent. I think we have definitely fried his brain, making him learn so much stuff in so little time…but he’s a trooper, never complaining. He’s been practicing about 8 hours a day to make the transition as fast as possible, knowing that touring season is rapidly approaching. A drummer is by far the hardest to replace in a band like ours. They control the band’s every move and are right out in front volume-wise, so it’s impossible to hide mistakes. Tough job!! But I think you’re all going to really like him.
Last July, right after Rick Holmstrom quit to go on his own, Rod had a feeling Steve was going to quit too. So, one day while we were on the road, he sat down and spoke with him. He asked him if he was happy in the band and going to hang in there with us. Steve told Rod he was not happy, didn’t like certain people in the band, that six years was a long time to be in any one group, that he didn’t want to end up a “lifer”, just showing up and smiling and collecting his money! He had just recently hoped to get an open drum slot in Dwight Yocum’s band, which didn’t work out. If he had gotten that job, he would have been able to give only one week’s notice. That when a slot came open, you had to move right away. This freaked Rod right out as we could never work a drummer in with only a week’s notice. And during touring season, this would be a total nightmare…our show would suffer considerably…as well as our reputation. So, to sum it up, he had nowhere to go right at the moment, but he would go in a week if something better came along. Rod had no choice but to gamble and finish out the touring season with him (and a stomach ulcer to go along with it). At the end of our last tour in November, Rod asked Steve if he still felt the same way. He said he did. It was now our down-time, when we stay off the road, so it was time to make the change. We had three months to get a new drummer ready. So began a time of the hardest work I’ve ever done in 30 years. Believe me, no one would choose to go through it unless there was no other choice! Let me ask you…say, you own a business and a very, very important employee says these things to you. Now, would you wait for him to quit, or train someone to fill his spot? I think the answer is obvious…but it wasn’t to Steve…or Rick Holmstrom.
Steve was shocked that Rod was replacing him and Rick was downright rude, mean and nasty. It wasn’t totally Rick’s fault though, since Steve didn’t exactly tell him the whole truth, leaving out almost everything that came down during the conversation with Rod of why he wanted to leave in the first place! Rick thought Rod fired him for no reason at all, even though he was aware that Rod has NEVER fired anyone in the entire 30 years I’ve played with him. Rick called up and, when he asked what really happened, and Rod started to tell him, Rick just started yelling at him that he was a liar, that he had done these evil things to Steve for no reason. Let me tell you, Rod was devastated. For one, he and Rick were really good friends, or so he thought, and second, he realized that Steve would be telling the same story to his wife and friends. When you do something unfair, but you do it on purpose, then you learn to live with it. But when you’re totally innocent of any wrongdoing, then it really hurts when you think people are looking at you as a man who could do something that heartless. All along, we were so worried about how Steve’s decision was going to hurt his wife and four kids. But that’s not up to us, so we had to let it go. We had to make the right decision for the remaining members of the band. Our job is to keep The Mighty Flyers alive and well. But we really do sincerely hope things go alright for Steve and his family. And you don’t need to imagine too hard how we feel about Rick Holmstrom. Friends, like lovers, fall hard and far!!
Our next tour is at the end of March…stay tuned for Chapter 14….goodbye for now.
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