I was in the middle of “Sit Here and Drink” for the zillionth time the other night, with my hands mindlessly playing something nearly appropriate, and I looked around the place and thought, well, I’ve played a lot of gigs and this is one of ‘em. I’ve played most of the usual places – bars, saloons, clubs, honky-tonks, auditoriums, outdoor parks, the Opry, VFW’s, studios, backyard BBQ’s… The list could go on, but I have played some unusual places that probably aren’t on everybody’s list.
I played a gas station in Louisiana with Faron that had been turned into a club. Still had grease on the floor and auto parts scattered around.
I got to play on lots of trailers. Like, outside at a truck stop with Red Sovine, Dave Dudley and Dick Curless. And on a trailer in a barn because it was raining. And on another trailer at a mobile home dealership. I played a rodeo with Faron, and we set up on a trailer just outside the arena and waited for the hog callers to get done so they could wheel us in. Trouble was, there was no electricity to the trailer, and since hand-held battery operated tuners hadn’t been invented yet, we couldn’t use our electric Peterson strobe tuner so we had to tune during the show, because there was no set-up time once we were in the spotlight.
I played on a revolving stage once. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but you can get seasick watching the floor glide past your hands.
There was an indoor rodeo arena at Gilley’s that had a stage way up at the top, about 2 or 3 stories high. We played there in the summer when it was in the 90’s. And it was in the 100’s at that altitude. You couldn’t chug a Lone Star before it got warm.
I played at a friend’s house way back in the Kentucky hills. I mean, way back, and the whole clan was there. They were like the Darlings or something. He had a niece about 12 years old who could sing pretty well and I asked her if she could do some Loretta. She hesitated and looked around nervously and then sang a couple. I found out later that her mother didn’t normally allow her to do no drinkin’ or cheatin’ songs, but since I was the first live steel guitar player that had been seen around them parts in a coon’s age, an exception was made in my honor.
I played a gay bar in LA one weekend. Hell, I’d never even been in a gay bar on purpose, but the bandleader said, hey guys, I got us a gig this weekend, but, uh, it’s in a gay bar. So we all looked at each other and decided, what the hell, it’s a gig. Thumbs Carlisle was the guitar player, and he was one funny guy and he got us through OK with his hilarious comments. There weren’t any tables or hardly any chairs in the place, just empty beer cases stacked up along the wall high enough to serve as tables. Guys would wander in, have a beer and a dance and then leave with someone. We spent the breaks in the back room laughing our asses off at Thumbs, and got the hell outta there when the gig was over.
I played another strange gig in LA, at a gun show. It was at a fairgrounds-type of place, and hundreds of long-haired, bearded folks with swastika and White Aryan Cross tattoos came down out of the mountains with rifles and ammo belts slung over their shoulders.
In Canada they put on country music shows in ice rinks. The ice is covered up with boards, but if you don’t watch where you’re walking you’ll step in a crack and hit the ice and be flat on your ass. That happened to Hank Snow, and Faron thought it was enormously funny, but Hank didn’t see the humor in it. “I could have been seriously injured, Fah-ron” he grumbled in his best Hank Snow voice as he got up and began to look around for his dignity.
I suppose I’ll be playing more odd places in the future. I’ll report back.