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"The Animal Circuit (2004)"

We dropped out of the Country Music Industry
in 1979 due to health problems.
A couple of years later we both felt great,
but we’d lost our place in Nashville,
and our manager had died.
After recording on a half dozen major labels
we were without a recording contract.
We went to work anyway.
playing a wide variety of gigs
from country shows to a string of New York jazz clubs.
Some of the most ornery groups were in The Animal Circuit:
Moose, Elks, Eagles, senior clubs, Condos, RV Parks,
and on and on.
You cater to the guy who books the bands
like you’re competing for the Brownie Award.
You just get him to like you
when they vote in a new bunch.
The new “Entertainment Chairman” hates you
because the other guy liked you.
If there is one loudmouth who complains about you
it can kill return bookings.
Contracts mean nothing to these people.
At one club
the Entertainment Geezer came up to us and grumbled this:
“They aren’t dancing as much as
when we have the 17 piece band!”
There were three of us on stage,
which is all they were paying for.
There is always one couple
who has been taking ballroom dancing lessons
and demands a tango.
If you play it, everybody else sits and sulks
while the tango nerds stalk each other around the floor.
It can kill a set and spoil your lunch.
A rose should never be carried in any body cavity.
The oldest guy in the place always wants Rock & Roll.
He says things like:
“We ain’t dead yet!”,
and “Let’s get down!”
I whisper to Misty:
“I didn’t think he could get up.”
They like their fast songs medium,
and there slow songs medium.
Set your metronome at 147 and leave it.
A club owner once told Count Basie:
“Our crowd likes to dance at 120.”
The Count said:
“That’s too bad. We start at 9.”
People tell me what singer they think I’m imitating:
Hoyt Axton, Leon Redbone, Willie Nelson,
and Shirley Temple.
I had to stop singing “The Good Ship Lollipop.”
They don’t understand
or want anything original.
It makes them walk funny.
If you can fake a rhythm guitar
and have prerecorded background tapes,
that will work.
Talent is not required.
We only go out for the bigger country shows now,
but the Animal Circuit has taught me this:
The less musicians get paid
the less respect they get.
We’ve never been able to compete in the small time,
and it’s not that we haven’t tried.

Copyright © March 11, 2004, Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission.


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