An Open Letter to the Mavericks
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.
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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.
I will never forgive the Mavericks for stealing my thunder on that final Sunday night. Look, I jumped on the local-boys-make-good bandwagon just like all the other media hacks, and never uttered so much as a peep when I discovered that THE MAVERICKS DO NOT PLAY A SINGLE NOTE OF THEIR MUSIC. ALL INSTRUMENTS ARE DUBBED BY MEMBERS OF THE ORIGINAL MONKEES. The only Mav who actually performed any music was superguitarist Peeler, who has inexplicably left the band to become the designated eye gouger for an Italian rugby team.
So give me a break, pardners. I would never take cheap shots at you when I could easily harp on the obvious dichotomy between your tough-guy cowboy image and your suburban yuppie lifestyles, from Bobby Reynolds's soft-spoken demeanor to Paul Deakin's GQ-slick hair, not to mention Raul Malo's secret life as a cross-dressing cabaret star at Warsaw. I would never stoop to such tacky tactics. I'm a classy, live-and-let-live kind of guy.
Of course, I can't say the same for the millions of loyal, record-buying fans who voraciously devour my every droll little pearl of literature in this
STELLAR WEEKLY DOSSIER OF SCINTILLATING INVESTIGATIVE REPORTAGE (trashmongering gazette). They might be less forgiving. Many of them own handguns.
Given the fact that you are now guitaristless, and that a well-armed and informed readership might not receive news of your callous mistreatment of a fellow musician as graciously as I have accepted it, I hereby propose a little "arrangement" whereby all parties concerned can come out ahead, and my faithful, trigger-happy readers can rest assured that justice has been served.
Did I mention that I play guitar? I know I don't have the prime quality everyone looks for in a band these days - great hair - but what the hell, you're a country band - I can wear a ridiculously huge cowboy hat like Garth Brooks or Clint Black and no one'll ever know the difference. As for my musicianship or lack thereof, no problemo. All the other instruments are dubbed; we get one of the MCA lackeys to place a call to Michael Nesmith and presto - I never have to worry about tuning again. I can't fly up and down the fretboard with Peeler's studied wizardry, but I know how to furrow my brow and look like I'm concentrating on some incredibly intricate passage when in fact all I'm playing is a cheap take on a tired old Chuck Berry riff, and isn't that what being a star is all about?
Picture the headlines: "MAVERICKS MAKE AMENDS, HIRE GUITAR-SLINGING JOURNALIST" - it's the kind of sentimental, Disney-esque angle the media druids love to play up. I can almost see us dining with David Geffen at Spago now.
Of course you'll want some time to think about it. Just keep the three-day cooling-off period for firearms purchases in mind while you discuss it among yourselves. As an added incentive, I might ask you to consider the four magic words I uttered to land the Safe Sex Sunday gig at the Cantina: "I have the negatives."
Happy trails, pardners.
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