Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Gigs played fer free that haunt you sometimes

I got to thinkin' here awhile back about all of the good times I
had when I was playing with Vern's band back in the 70's, and some
of the gigs we played that kinda haunt my memory. Not that they
were bad memories, but not the kind you relish telling, or
remembering, but memories nonetheless. If you are a musician and
you have played for the public, I know you all have these kind of
memories of jobs played fer free.

I dont know why, but it seems like every time we played a "free
gig" there was some one telling us what songs we were supposed to
play and for how long, or there was something that would interrupt
our performance to the point that we cut short our playing and
packed up our instruments and went home. Here's two such stories of
gigs that we played "fer free".

The first gig was a benefit for a friend of Del Williams that had
developed a brain tumor and they had a big BBQ and dance at the town
hall in Valley Springs, with all of the proceeds to go to a fund for
his medical expenses. There was two or three bands that agreed to
do two sets each for the party goers, we being the Bluegrass band,
the other two being "country" bands. It started off on the wrong
foot right from the git go, when the ol gal running he show
instructed us to play nothing but music they could dance to. Well
guess what Vern said. They better be able to dance fast, 'cause
that's what we play, is FAST Bluegrass music. We kicked off a fast
one and the crowd was loving it, and everythang was going good for
about half of our first set, when one HELL of a fight broke out
among the crowd. They were fighting and started throwing cans and
bottles of beer, so we "exited stage left" as the ol saying goes.
The fight went on fer about 10 or 15 minutes, and after it was over,
the place was a total mess. We were out side and the ol gal that was
in charge of the shindig informed us we had to go back in and finish
playing our alloted time. I looked at Vern and he looked at me, and
we both agreed that our playing fer this bunch was over. Music
lover's indeed! My house was only a half a block away so we went
there, sat down on my patio, and commenced to pick until the wee
hours of the morning. We could hear a "row" break out up at the
Town Hall ever once in awhile and the high Sheriff had to send a few
of his deputies to quell the festivities. We never played another
free gig there again.

THEN, there's the time a year er so later that we played a free gig
at the Town Hall in San Andreas to benefit a family that had lost
everythang in a house fire. A local country band played the first
set and then we were on for a 45 minute set.

The drum setup was on the stage behind us, and every thang was going
real good fer about the first 3 er 4 numbers, that is until the
drummer from the first band decided we needed some drums to make
our music "sound good". Right in the middle of a song that Vern was
singin', all of a sudden here comes a bunch of really loud drums
pounding! WELL, you can only guess what my pal Vern said to that
idiot! Keith got to him first before I could get my guitar off of
me, and said drummer took off like a shot out of a cannon! Keith
told him, if that big okie gets his hands on you, he's gonna pull
yer arms off and feed 'em to you. Ha ha ha! So, the next time some
one asked us to play fer free, we told "em we'd be glad to if they'd
jes pay our travel expenses, and that usually came to around $
2,000.00 a day. Needless to say we never played another "free" gig.
Vern and I agreed that there was jes SOMETHING about playin' in a
Town Hall that didn't agree with our music.

Posted:  6/28/2011

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email