By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Well, you made it.
Bigshot MCA recording artists. Congratulations are unquestionably in order. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch. I always figured that either the Mavericks or I would be the next act to sign a major-label deal. Since I can't sing a lick and play guitar with such a tin ear that I have to rely on other musicians to let me know when my strings are out of tune, I can't really blame MCA for going with you guys first.
Granted, there was a time a few months ago when I might not have taken it quite as well. Maybe you remember, since you merely ruined my budding musical career, shattered my ego, and forced me to swallow my pride and accept writing assignments from this SHINING COMPENDIUM OF ALTERNATIVE JOURNALISTIC EXCELLENCE (desperate rag) or face the ignominy of a real job. Then again, maybe you're like the homecoming queen who never notices how she inadvertently destroys the lives of the runners-up by virtue of her very success, condemning them to bad marriages and Amway distributorships, without a clue as to her role in the tragedy.
The memory haunts me like Marley's (Jacob, not Bob) ghost. It took me weeks to convince Linda Lou Nelson, the proprietor of the Cactus Cantina, to give me and my band a chance to play at her club. She had expressed a few reservations, seeing as how my band had no other members, per se. Eventually I won her over, thanks to charm and old-fashioned persistence (although the incriminating photographs probably didn't hurt, either), and Sunday nights were mine. I quickly assembled a proud cadre of professional musicians, mostly guys I had met at the Bayou Bar just around the corner from Linda Lou's place. We held jam sessions on the Cantina stage for several weeks, emphasizing original tunes and massive beer consumption.
Not that anyone would have noticed. We didn't exactly pull in overwhelming crowds. I think it was partially Linda Lou's fault, as she never really went out of her way to make our old Bayou Bar crowd feel welcome, particularly when they exhibited minor lapses of taste by urinating on the floor or screaming incoherently at her employees. But I do have to give her credit for sticking with us as long as she did, especially after the night when the folks at the bar voted to ask us to turn it down so they could hear the jukebox (true story). The bartender was so embarrassed, but I understood his dilemma. A paying customer is a paying customer. If the Philistines aren't hip enough to appreciate songwriting genius when they hear it, and opt instead for recordings of hackneyed rock standards, it's not the tavern's fault.
But I digress. One week Ms. Nelson, who is always game for a good cause, decided to try a promotion called Safe Sex Sunday at the Cactus Cantina. There would be free AIDS testing at one side of the stage, and free condoms available at the bar. To my astonishment, she asked me to host it, and even offered me money. I should have held out for some safe sex as well, but I didn't want to press my luck. I threw together a band, and even hoodwinked them into an actual rehearsal. Musically, the sets went pretty well. We didn't encounter nearly the usual number of hostile customers inquiring as to how much longer we planned to go on playing.
We finished up at about 2:00 a.m., and most of my loyal bandmates split within seconds of receiving their spoils. I decided to hang out for a while and bask in the glorious afterglow of my triumphant performance. Besides, the first beer was on the house. I eased into a comfortable spot at the end of the bar where it would be easy for the multitudes to congratulate me. I was about to receive my first handshake from a departing patron, when who should crash the party but the Kendall cowpokes themselves. The Mavericks had just finished a gig at some obscure venue (like the Orange Bowl), and had stopped by the Cantina for a nightcap and some vittles. All eyes in the place fixed upon the band, and my brilliant performance was immediately forgotten.
But wait, there's more. Safe Sex Sunday was my last Sunday night at the Cantina. Linda Lou had rearranged her schedule, moving me to Wednesdays to make room for the Raul Malo-Ben Peeler show on - surprise, surprise - Sunday nights. Now, it's obviously not Linda Lou Nelson's fault if the Mavericks have a cult following to rival the Reverend Moon's. She's a legitimate businessperson and she made a legitimate business decision. Unfortunately the Bayou Bar gang, always quick to read the writing on the wall even when there was none, could not muster up the same enthusiasm for Wednesday nights as they had for Sundays, and eventually I had to tell Linda Lou to just go ahead and get something else going. Nowadays Groove Thangs have the Wednesday night gig, giving the Bayou Bar gang and myself the distinction of being supplanted by two of the area's smokin'est bands.