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Monday, June 09, 2008

A True Story of Blues Competition

I heard this story from a musician friend of mine. I am not including anyone's name because that wouldn't add anything to the tale, and besides - this is an unverified story. But it rings true to anyone that has worked the hyper-competitive blues scene in Chicago...

There is a fine young guitarist in Chicago - let's call him "Young Buck." Young Buck has been playing since he was a teenager, and has been a sideman for many of the blues greats, both in Chicago and in touring bands. Young Buck can truly play and he sings pretty well. He is ambitious, and has his own band - let's call them "the Buckaroos."

Now Young Buck was supporting a great, elder statesman of the blues - we will call him "Old Vet." Old Vet had been on the scene for decades and never quite achieved break-out, star status. He was heading in that direction though. He started playing some of the better rooms in Chicago (including Buddy Guy's Legends) and he got some dates in Europe. Things were looking up for Old Vet.

So Old Vet got 2-week tour in Europe, but he was going to be backed by local European musicians - he had to leave Young Buck and the rest of the band back in Chicago. Young Buck noticed that Old Vet seemed to have a double booking - he was scheduled to play in Germany on a Saturday night when he was also scheduled to play at Legends. Young Buck saw an opening.....

Buck called the booking manager at the club. "Hey, Vet is going to miss his date - he will still be in Europe." "That's strange," said the booking manager. "Vet told me he would be back in time." "Well," said Buck," I double checked the schedule and he is double booked. But don't worry, I'll take the gig with my band, the Buckaroos." The booking manager agreed to this since he had a hole in his schedule.

Buck then got on the telephone and called the other sidemen in Vet's band. "Hey, Vet's double booked and I am taking the gig at Legends. My band is going to play it. Sorry - your services won't be required." This did not please the other guys in Vet's band. No, sir.

So my friend (who was a member of Vet's band) placed an international call to Vet. "Old Vet, do you know you are double booked - in Germany and at Legends, same night?" "No I am not - that is an old schedule. I cut the tour short so I would be back in time to make the gig," said old Vet. "Hmmm," said my friend. "Buck called the club and told them you wouldn't be there and he has taken the date for the Buckaroos." "The FUCK you say," said Old Vet with a chuckle. "Well, tell the guys to get to Legends early with a substitute guitar player. We will give Buck a little schoolin'."

And so Vet and the band were on stage, ready to go, when Young Buck and the Buckaroos rolled into Legends for the gig. Buck was caught, deer in the headlights. Vet said, "I been all over this town playin' for 45 years and nobody, NOBODY, steals my gigs, Buck. Oh, and you're fired. Please leave the club quietly and quickly." Young Buck stammered a bit, then left. The Buckaroos all quit his band that night.

This is a small piece of the drama that happens in Chicago's blues community. In truth, there are too many musicians chasing too few gigs. This can cause bad behavior....

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