The American Diary
The track you are hearing is "The House is Rockin"
This page is designed to give you an insight into the life of a journeyman touring "pro" musician.
Wed 31st Oct - 6-00am rise to start the journey to Milwaukee. Taxi arrives at 6-50 to take me to Whitchurch Station. From there it's a train to Manchester Airport via Crewe. There is a slight increase in security at the airport - more baggage searches etc. Take off is at 11-00am. Before long I've settled into the usual routine of drink-sleep-drink-eat-drink-sleep and so on until we reach Chicago O'Hare, 8 hours and thirty minutes later, 1-30 Wed. afternoon, local time. Shuttle bus to Milwaukee then picked up at the Amtrak station. Fifteen minutes later and I'm "home", well my second home, in Fox Point, Wisconsin. By "bed-time" I've been up 24 hours!
Thur 1st Nov.- A lazy day recovering from the long previous day. Sitting in the sun (Yes! Remember it?) reading and drinking cold bottles of Newcastle Brown. This really is a civilised country. In the late evening, the hot-tub tempts us. For those of you who don't know, a "hot-tub" is an outdoor jacuzzi, seating 6 - 8 people! A clear sky, full moon and a couple of bottles of wine finish the day on a high note.
Fri - Another beautiful day with the temperature around 20 C, so another day sun-bathing. (It's a hard life). Unfortunately tonight's gig has been cancelled for the saddest of reasons. The small town where I was due to perform is hosting a memorial service to local victims of the 9/11 atrocity. ALL entertainment has been cancelled. Fortunately a very good friend of mine, John Janzen, phones to ask if we'd like to go to a concert, in Milwaukee, instead. So this evening we're off to see Rod Stewart in concert. One of the great things about being treated as a "celeb", (LOL) is that I get invitations to attend shows. I wasn't going to miss this opportunity to see "Mr. Hot Legs"! He didn't disappoint. Two months short of his 57th birthday and the guy has so much stage energy. He would certainly put a lot of the "babies" as seen on TOTP, to shame. ("Ageists" please note!). A selection of "greatest hits" has the 7,000 audience bouncing.
Sat - Mid-morning start for the long trek north into North Michigan for my gig tonight. The weather is beautiful as is Wisconsin. The autumn colours in this part of the world are intense, aided and abetted by the bright sunlight and incredibly clear air. We have been allocated a lovely room in the hotel adjoining the Lac Vieux Casino where I am to perform. A couple of hours rest then it's off to eat, prior to the gig. The gig goes very well and is finished by midnight. It's great having a two minute walk to our room rather than the usual drive home.
Sun - Once again the weather is kind to us for the 285 mile drive back to Milwaukee. Long distances pose no problem in the mid-west where the roads are excellent and drivers skilled and courteous. The evening sees us accepting an invitation to another concert. This time it's the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (OK! Wait a minute!) with guest Ray Charles! W-O-W! What a show. The orchestra start the show with Sousa's "Liberty Bell March". The "pleb" in me comes out as I can't stop myself saying..."It's Monty Python's Flying Circus" as I watch for a big foot coming out of the ceiling! They follow with selections from "Porgy and Bess" then by selections from "West side story". All good stuff. After the intermission it's the man himself. A wonderful performance, highlighted by the haunting "Georgia on my Mind" performed as only Ray Charles can.
Mon - A really beautiful morning crisp and clear with not a cloud in sight. I settle down to write this, the first part of my "American Diary" and contemplate my afternoon visit to Marr's Music Store which is about the size of the new Tesco's in Wrexham - a musician's dream come true!
I've now got a couple of days off before heading to Chicago to start a run of 4 gigs in 4 days! Bye for now...............
Tues 6th November - At various times I have shared my thoughts on the best things about being a "pro" musician. The other side of the coin - the worst things. For me that's easy...putting gear away at the end of the night and re-stringing guitars. UGH - I hate that job! That's what I did this afternoon. Have any guitarists amongst you noticed that these simple bits of wire seem to have a mind of their own and set out to "get us" for what we are about to do to them?
Wed - Lazy morning then, after lunch, load up for the trip to Chicago. The trip south, of about 100 miles, is uneventful but the traffic approaching Chicago is, as ever, heavy. On arrival I am pleasantly suprised to see the posters outside "Reservation Blues Club" say "Roy Mack with special guest Eddy Clearwater". So I am playing host to the 2001 W.C.Handy Award Winner at his own club! What follows is amazing. Probably the best gig I have ever done, certainly the most rewarding in terms of audience reaction. Here I am, a lad from Wrexham, playing in the blues capital of the world and they like me! From the very start the audience are in the groove and right with me. I finish my show by achieving a life-long ambition - I perform "Sweet Home Chicago" - In Chicago! Although I finish my show by 12-30am it's nearly 2-00am when we finally get out of the club - so many people wanting to congratulate me and chat! A long chat with Eddy about a major future project then it's back to the hotel..."knackered".
Thur - A not-too-early start from our hotel at O'Hare for the journey back to Milwaukee. Mary suggests we take the "scenic route" along the shores of Lake Michigan. What an eye-opener. Like many people my images of Chicago are of an industrial city with a "dubious" past. Although I realised on my first trip here nearly 5 years ago that it was much more than that. Today, however, I saw the other side of the city. The leafy suburbs, beautiful parks, public recreation areas and the amazing houses overlooking the lake. Even in a country where house prices are a fraction of what they are back home the price tags on these would have LOTS of zeros! Probably a minimum of $2 million!
In the evening it's off to Racine for a gig at McAuliffe's an Irish pub with a wonderful atmosphere. Unfortunately someone had added to the posters "Direct from England". ARGH - a kiss of death in an Irish bar! I quickly pointed out to the audience that I am WELSH not English! That sets me off on a good footing and a great night is had by all.
Fri - The morning is spent making lots of phone calls in relation to a major project that we are embarking on - details at a later date. I will whet you appetite by saying that it involves lots of gigs and the possible involvement of Bill Clinton, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, Mayor Daly (of Chicago) and others! In the evening it's off to my favourite venue, the Latest Edition in Jackson. It's a "biker's bar" and do they love their blues! A very appreciative audience makes it an "easy" and very rewarding gig.
Sat - Morning and afternoon we spend in the office working on the project. Pity we have to be indoors as the sun is shining down from a cloudless blue sky raising the temperature to 16 C (60 F). The evening gig is strange, to say the least. The venue is a restaurant and bar and during the course of this 10pm - 2am gig the audience changes from late diners, very subdued, through "yuppy" drinkers, on their way to late night clubs, to, finally, the hardened drinkers out to have a ball (dancing on tables etc!). Fortunately it's only 10 minutes away from "home", and aided by a quick break down and load up of gear, we're home by 2-30am!
Sun - Another beautiful day in Wisconsin, the sort of sunshine that we can only dream about, even in August, back home and here we are in mid-November! The morning is spent working on arrangements for the project and in the afternoon we visit Mary's daughter in a town called WALES! On the way back we visit motor dealerships looking for a suitable vehicle for next spring's tour. Although the temperature drops considerably in the evenings I can hear the hot-tub calling. I think a couple of Newcastle Brown Ales will steel me enough to strip off and go outside into the tub! Tomorrow will be a lazy day with only preparation for Tuesday’s flight on the agenda.
This will be the end of my American diary, for this trip at least, so I will say "So long from the U.S.A." and hope that readers have enjoyed this little insight into the life of a touring professional musician.