Reports of the Past

REPORT From The Field


Recently there have been a couple of events that I really wanted to write about, but didn't. I didn't know how.

The subject is one of real support versus 'mouthing' support from individuals claiming to be supportive of local musicians and musicians in general. This subject has come up three times in the last couple of months, and I'm reminded of it today as the list serve talks about an article featuring Buddy Guy's new five million dollar home.


Seeing Buddy Guy do so well makes me wonder how much the Buddy Guy business team has done to help those they may have stomped on a bit to get where they are. But, I'll return to that in a moment...


Following, you will find three short tales of misguided individuals who believe that they are supporting the music. I believe they are not.


At least, not always...


There is a local man who has spent a lot of time promoting the blues. He has been active in the media, and has done many good things for the music and for some of the musicians. Knowing how artists have been screwed over the years, this man has taken it upon himself to manage a couple of the elder statesmen, partially to be sure that they are treated fairly.


Recently, The New Jack Hippies had the opportunity to do a festival gig with an elder statesman of the Blues that this man manages. It seems that our elder statesman has not recently had a full time working band of his own, so I was asked if the New Jack Hippies would play back up band for the Bluesman after we finished playing our own set. I was happy to say yes, and added that set on to my list of sets for which the Hippies were to provide background music.


It was a great show and everything went smoothly.


When pay day rolled around, and I was putting together the money for each of the musicians, I had not yet heard from the Bluesman's manager. I contacted him via e-mail. I asked him how much he was planning to send to me for the Hippies performance that day, so that I would know how much to pay each of the individual Hippies.


Our supporter of local music replied that he was "shocked". He stated that he had assumed that all of the Hippies were working for free to help support the old Bluesman.


Had he simply stated that he was giving all of the money to the old bluesman, I would have been o.k.. I had already discussed the matter with Roger, Chaz and Teri, and we had all agreed that if the assumption had been made we would quietly step out of the way.




The use of the word "shocked" intrigued me. I wrote back. " Why is it shocking that musicians expect to be paid for their work?".


The reason our 'supporter of musicians' decided to dedicate part of his life to protecting the elder statesmen was an empathy for the bluesmans' experiences, including times when his client was younger (in his 20's - 50's) and might have played on the same bill as some big star only to be told afterwards that there was no money in it for him.


The guys in the New Jack Hippies are in their 20's-50's now. He didn't see the correlation....


In the same manner, a friend of mine who used to work with Sonny Landreth tells of her experiences on the road when Sonny opened up for Buddy Guy during his South of I-10 tour. "They were playing some great towns and cool venues and packing them in the door. But, every night the tour manager would come to Sonny and say "Hey man, we ran into some unexpected expenses and we can't pay you tonight."


I'm not certain whether Buddy even knows that this happened. It may have just been the management, or this one character acting alone - pocketing the extra $$$. Buddy HAS kept in touch with Sonny, and I'm sure that Sonny will be a dinner guest at Buddy's new five million dollar home some day.


The reason I finally broke down to write and tell you these stories is that I just received a phone call from a "supporter of local music". This woman has seen our band play a couple of times and loves what we do.


She called a few weeks back to ask if we could play at a private party at her home. I told her that the date was free and gave her a price. She responded by saying, "Oh, we didn't intend to give the musicians any money", but that we were welcome to all of the food we could eat, and all of the beer we could drink.


I told her that I would let the band know, and that some of us might want to show up, enjoy the party, and maybe play a couple of songs on accoustic instruments. I asked which part of town she lived in. She replied "Oh, I don't live in Houston, do ya'll go out of town?".


She called back today to ask if any of the Hippies were interested in coming to her party. I told her that we had become quite booked, but that her date still remained open. Some of us may come, but that she should not count on us for the evening's entertainment.


She then asked if we had any of our music recorded, so that she might play some of it at her party. I told her that the Hippies have twenty different CD's that we have recorded together and individually over the last two years, and that I sell them at all of the gigs. I went further to tell her that we usually earn only $10-30 each at the shows. Money doesn't go very far when divided between 10-20 Hippies. I added that there were times when Roger and I didn't take any money for ourselves so that the other musicians could make a little more. On these nights, I told her, we had to make the money we needed to support ourselves from our CD and T-Shirt sales.


She responded, "Oh, I didn't want to buy them - I just wanted to borrow them! Is that o.k.?"


I avoided her question and invited her out to the Wednesday jam at EinStein's Pub in Katy.


She asked, "How is your foreclosure going?"




-Guy Schwartz
The New Jack Hippies
Houston, Texas, USA - Live Jams


Reports of the Past