I'll Give You Two For A Tall One
I'll Give You Two For A Tall One
Which Way Is Left In Canada ?
by Chuck RitenouR
I'll Give You Two For A Tall One
Our caravan left Lewellen, Nebraska at around 10 o'clock Monday morning the 19th day of July. The temperature was a sweltering 95 degrees. My old Chevy van had no air conditioner. Mike's Lincoln was a convertible. He and Hollywood were cruising between Chuck's van and mine. Since the speeding ticket affair, everyone drew a partial pay at the end of the gig and travelled together. When someone stopped for gas, everyone topped off their tanks. The fuel was paid for out of the pay received for the last night of our engagement. Since Chuck and I carried most of the heavy sound equipment, our vehicles took more gas than Mike's Lincoln which added to their grumbling.
We were headed to Casper, Wyoming and a night club called the Silver Spur. It was a six nighter that began on the following Monday, July 26. The Cash Brothers from Tallahassee Florida were being paid two grand for six nights. Even after the agent's twenty per cent, a very handsome pay day. The plan was to hang out in a cheap motel and practice for a week. If things went well, we would be placed in the monthly rotation and get a raise. The distance between Lewellen and Evansville, a small suburb of Casper was about 265 miles. According to the map which only I could read, we'd arrive in the general area in about 4 and a half hours. We hadn't planned on stopping, but the route took us by historic Fort Laramie. We stopped for a bit of light hearted tourism. Everyone bought a few souvenirs. Chuck gave each of us another 25 dollars for post cards, stamps and such. Hollywood spend most of his "allowance" on an Indian head dress. Mike bought a small pair of baby moccasins for "little Mikey" and spent the rest of the money on a phone call home. It was the first time he'd bothered to call since leaving Tallahassee. I bought an Indian peace pipe and got some post cards for Bean to mail to her folks in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and brothers in Arcola, Virginia. When Mike finished on the phone, I could see a change had come over him and knew there was a storm brewing,but thought we'd get by somehow. I felt like I understood his feelings. I had a five year old daughter living with her mother and step-father in Front Royal, Virginia. I decided to call home after we reached Evansville and got into our motel rooms.
We arrived in Evansville at about 8 o'clock that evening. We were all exhausted. It took another hour to find a motel with enough empty rooms to accomodate us. Bean and I had our own room at last. During our stay in Lewellen, we had slept in my empty van on an old roll-away mattress that I kept between the equipment and the front seats should I have to make a very quick emergency stop. On several occassions, it had saved major damage to the speakers. Tonight, we had a bed and a private phone. While Bean enjoyed a hot shower, I phoned my parents collect to see how everything was going. I hadn't made a call since leaving Tallahassee either and I felt the shame of it.
As it would happen, my daughter Katie was staying with my parents for a few days. It was such a thrill to hear her voice. She said," Hi Daddy Chuck. Did you know Mommy and Daddy Jim are going to change my last name to Daddy Jim's last name?" I was stunned. Of course, I didn't know and now that I knew I was determined not to allow it. It was also the first my parents had hear of it. They were not pleased. My mother waited until I had said my good-bye to Katie and then got on the phone. She said to call her again tomorrow around the same time and she'd know more about everything. I told her I would. After hanging up, I felt crushed, crushed by the guilt of having been away and waiting so long to call. Just before leaving, I called Katie's mother and let her know I'd be on the road. I felt betrayed and foolish for not expecting something like this. I felt like I was standing at the edge of the world and at any moment the edge would break off and I'd fall cracking into a thousand pieces. I wanted to leave immediately for Virginia, unfortunately there wasn't enough money to do it. I had already paid for the room. I told myself, tomorrow. Tomorrow, you will call Mom and she'll know what you should do.
Bean came into the room wrapped in a wet towel and laid across the bed. "Anything wrong?" She asked. I tried to smile and sound confident when I answered, "Nothing that can't be fixed." I undressed and left my clothes in a pile on the floor and took a long hot shower. When I came back into the room, Bean was asleep. Mike and Hollywood had the room next to mine. The walls were pretty thin and I could hear Chuck over there raising hell. I stepped back into my pants and went next door.
Chuck was standing in their doorway yelling, "What the hell are you two trying to do? We're from out of state! Jesus, you'll get us all busted! I just can't believe how freakin' stupid you two are." He turned to me shook his head and said," You talk to them. Maybe,you can talk some sense into them. Christ Almighty! I just can't believe this." As he walked out of the doorway, I looked into their room. They were both in bed with two very young girls. The girls swore they were 16 years old....still it was statutory rape anyway you sliced it. Both girls were by this time crying and between sobs asking if "the band leader" was going to call their parents. I assured them that would not happen and made them promise to never speak of it. I told Mike and Hollywood to please get dressed and take the young ladies back where they found them as soon as was humanly possible. I looked at Mike and said, "I wouldn't want to have to call your wife for bail money to get you out of jail." At this both girls stopped crying and bound into the bathroom with their clothes in their hands. Mike said, "You son-of-a-bitch, you didn't have to say that!" He and Hollywood rolled out of bed and were dressed before the girls came out of the bathroom. I watched them all get in the Lincoln and peel out to the sound of tires screaming and the thick odor of burnt oil.
I went back to my room and as I sat down on the edge of the bed said,"You'll won't believe what just happened." Bean did not respond. She was out.....sound asleep. As I took the wet towel off of her and pulled the sheet and blanket up over her still damp body, I wondered what made a young and beautiful young woman like her want to tag along on a trip like this. I could only come up with three possible answers. She was either hopelessly in love with me, mentally deranged or both. It never occurred that she might not have much of anything else to do.
The next morning at 7 o'clock, I was awakened by shouting outside the room. Mike and Hollywood were both standing just outside my door pitching a fit. I pulled my pants on and opened my door and said, "Morning, fellers." Mike said, "It'll be a good morning in about 30 more minutes. Me and Hollywood just quit. We're going back to Tallahassee and if you're smart you'll do the same. Hollywood said, "that bastard only gave us a hundred dollars apiece to get home on...a hundred dollars apiece....how the hell are we gonna make it back on two hundred dollars?" All I could say was "Holy shit. What next?" Bean walked out of the room and said, "well if you've made your minds up don't expect us to try to talk you out of it, but I'll tell you what. Breakfast is on us!" So we walked across the street to the Shoney's and bought the breakfast buffet. I could see Chuck and Penny had returned from the super market...more bread and baloney. Bean and I hugged both of our ex-bandmates and stayed in the Shoney's for a few more cups of coffee as Mike and Hollywood crossed the street and left for home. Bean laughed and said, "I'm gonna miss those two dumb asses."
When we finally made our way across the street, we noticed Chuck's van was leaning a bit to the right. Upon further investigation, we saw the two tires on the right side had been slit and were completely flat. I remember thinking well now I know what next.
I knocked on Chuck's door and Penny opened it. I said, "did you??". Before I could finish, Chuck said, "yeah, I saw them. I'm talking to the insurance company now. I already have another bass player on the way from Minnesota. Steve should be here tomorrow and if he plays as good as he talks, we'll be up and running again before the gig begins. Chuck and I arranged to use a small storage area at the club to store our gear and rehearse during the afternoons before the club opened. Steve arrived on Tuesday at noon as promised. He had a very expensive Rickenbacker bass guitar and a very new Fender bass amp. We hurried over to the club. Chuck was laughing as he said,"I just know this is gonna be good!"
For all his expensive equipment and big talk, Steve was no musician. After about 2 hours of struggling with the simplest three chord Willie Nelson songs, we gave up. Chuck took Steve outside and told him he was sorry, but we just wouldn't be able to use him on the road. Chuck and I thanked him for coming and gave him fifty dollars for making the trip. We helped him get his gear in the car and watched as he drove off. We went back to the motel. Chuck told me not to loose faith. He'd get back on the phone to Professional Musicians Referral Agency and get us a real damned bass player.
I sat in my motel room while Bean watched cable TV thinking that something wasn't adding up. The money wasn't adding up. Chuck had just given Steve fifty dollars and that wasn't like Chuck. Chuck would squeeze a nickel tight enough that you could see tears rolling down Thomas Jefferson's face. At eight o'clock that evening, I called home. My mom answered on the third ring..."yes, she'd accept the charges."
"Now, Chuck don't worry about a thing. I've got a lawyer friend of mine to represent you. His name is O'Neill. He's already petitioned the court for a continuance and Judge Whiting has the case. An attorney had posted a legal notice of this action in the Tallahassee newspaper as that was your last known address. If you didn't respond, the Judge could and would allow the name change. Now, don't worry. Take care of what you have to take care of out there and call me again tomorrow around the same time. Is Bean there? Let me talk to her a minute." I said, "OK, mom" and handed the phone to Bean and simply said, "Mom." While Bean talked to my mom, I took a long hot shower.
When I came out of the shower, I opened the cooler on the floor expecting to get a cold soda. The soda pop was all gone and in its place was twelve of the prettiest cans of beer I had ever seen. Bean laughed at me and said, "talked to Mom, thought you could use a drink and by the way...so could I." I opened two beers crawled up on the bed and handed one to her. We each took a long drink and as I wiped the beer that dribbled down the corner of my mouth on the sheet I said, " Damn it, Bean, you're the best." She smiled and said, " I hope you never forget it."
There was a knock on the door, It was Chuck. "Can you believe it. That bastard, Steve stole my stereo equalizer. The Bartender said he came back after we left and said he had forgotten something. His ass has had it now. I made a police report and the Wyoming State Police are after him for felony theft. I can't believe the idiot. He must have forgotten he gave Professional Musicians Referral his address and that I have his mother's phone number. I just talked to her. She's gonna wire seven hundred dollars here by Western Union tomorrow morning. I told her if I get the money before the police catch him, I'll drop the charges." I said, "Didn't you pay about three hundred dollars for that equalizer a year ago?" He just smiled and walked out the door.
Time was no longer on our side. Professional Musicians Referral had run out of bass players. So now, we had to speak to the club owner. Bob was about sixty years old. We explained what had happened. He agreed it was tough luck and said, " too bad you don't have a bass player. I have a friend, Paul, a tall feller can sing just like Waylon and plays guitar pretty darned good too." I played bass years ago and Chuck was well aware of the fact. I knew what was coming. We were about to get a damned good bass player....me! Bob said he'd honor our contract if we hired Paul and played the six nights. It was too late for him to find another band. I asked for a phone book and ripped the pawn shop page out of it and went in search of a bass guitar. I always carried a spare ampifier...a 50 watt Fender Bassman with two twelve inch JBL speakers. It was beginning to look as if our luck was changing. The agency found us a guitarist. Tom could sing as well as play and would join us the following week. I found an old Gibson EBO bass at a pawn shop. It cost thirty dollars for the bass and fifteen dollars for the new strings. Chuck was so happy he paid for it and gave it to me as a present. Again, I wondered about the money, but decided to let that ride until later.
We met Paul on Friday afternoon. It was the twenty third of July. We had three days to get ready. Bob the club own sure was right. Paul was thin and was every bit of six foot eight inches tall. Fourteen inches taller than me and a full foot taller than Chuck. On Monday, July 26th the sign in front of the night club read: The Silver Spur Proudly Presents Too Tall Paul and the Cash Brothers from Tallahassee, Florida.
The show must go on. The show sucked. Paul was not a lead guitarist. We couldn't do any of my songs because Paul couldn't play them on guitar. So, it was six nights of Paul singing Waylon Jennings songs, sorry folks, no Willie. During the week, I spoke with O'Neill and a plan of action had been drawn. I would not contact Katie's mom and just prior to the trial I would fly home, appear in court and fly back in time to play the next night. I would only miss one night and I would pay a local musician to replace me for that night.
At the end of the week, Bob said, "I'm sorry boys, I won't be able to use you again. You just don't have it together. Good luck." Bob paid us $1,600 and sent the agency a check. We paid Too Tall Paul four hundred dollars. I got Bean to take a picture of Too Tall Paul standing next to me in front of Chuck's van. If not for him, I would have been broke. Instead, I had six hundred dollars. That Sunday, Tom from Dallas, Texas met us at the Trailways station in Casper. We were without a gig. Chuck called Vic in Lewellen, Nebraska. Vic said come on down on Wednesday and I'll throw in a few rooms in the Keever Courts Motel just outside of town.
With no place to go and nothing much to do for three days, we decided to camp a few nights. Wyoming's Glendo State Park was about two hours away. It would be three nights of camping and fishing. Tom said it was no big deal and he was up for it. So, we had a plan and we had a gig. Afterall, it was the first week of August and we had somehow managed to make it through the month of July. We were still doing it and I was learning. Every minute of every day I was learning. I was learning lessons that would serve me well for the next thirty years.