The World According to Keitho

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Hall of shame: A gig that will live in infamy

Posted by keithosaunders on July 25, 2010

And now for one of my all time gigging lowlights.  The year was 1993.  America had just elected a president from Hope, Arkansas, gas was $1.16 a gallon, and a little corner of the internet known as the World Wide Web was born at CERN.  In sports, the Dallas Cowboys romped over the Buffalo Bills in Superbowl XXVII while the Chicago Bulls completed their first 3-peat of the decade with a 4 games to 2 victory over the Phoenix Suns. 

Back in those halcyon days I played in a club date band led by an eccentric drummer named Ronnie Allen.  Club date, of course, is a misnomer.  East coast musicians refer to any gig that is an affair — wedding, bar mitzvah,  or party —  as a club date.  West coast musicians call these gigs casuals, (equally misnamed) while Canadians call it “jobbing.”

Ronnie was a nice enough guy but he was a nickle and dimer.  Your check would arrive in the mail [late] and it would invariably be five or ten dollars short.  You would have to call him and ask him to make up the difference, which he would, but in the meantime you had expended a lot of needless energy. 

Ronnie had these corny catch phrases that he would employ at the end of various songs.  If it was a lively tune he would shout out, “That was better than a Jane Fonda work out!”  After a latin song he would say “Schaeffer is the one beer to have when you’re only having one.”  In Spanish.  If you were playing a 50s song he wanted to make sure that you knew what the ending was.  Right before the completion of the song he would look at you and scream in rapid fire, “Bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah!”  This was his universal signal to play a triplet ending.  He looked like a Mongolian psychopath but it seemed to work for him.  Suffice it to say there was nary a dull moment around Ronnie.  You couldn’t turn around without finding him beside you, telling you what to play or do next.

All of this was fine.   These were his gigs, and apart from shorting us on the money he could do with them what he pleased.  As it happened I was on a gig with Ronnie and his big band on October 23rd, 1993, the day that the Philadelphia Phillies played the Toronto Bluejays in game 6 of the World Series.  

We were at a private club in Princeton, New Jersey playing a black tie affair for their alumni association.  By the way, don’t think that this is impressive.  As a musician you have to wear a tux at almost every club date you play.  All it means to us is that it will be harder for to get at the hors d’oeuvres since the uniform brands us as band or waiter.   

Upstairs from where we were playing there was a lounge with a TV tuned to the Series game.  During our breaks we would go upstairs and watch what we could until we had to retreat back to the bandstand.  In the 7th inning the Phillies fought back from a 5-1 deficit to take a 6-5 lead.  I can recall seeing most of this comeback on one of our breaks. 

On our final break we went back upstairs to see if the Phillies could close it out to force a game 7.  God did I want them to hold on to that lead.  I would have been able to watch the deciding seventh game from the comfort of my living room sofa without a bandstand in sight.

The Phillies brought in their erratic closer Mitch Williams to pitch the 9th.  He allowed a walk and got the next hitter to fly out before giving up a single to Paul Molitar.  Each pitch seemed to take minutes to deliver.  I stood in silent agony and endured endless meetings at the mound with catchers, infielders, and coaches.  I knew that our break was close to ending — I was just praying that Ronnie would let it go just two more minutes.  Just…two…more….minutes….

“Gentleman.  It’s time to grace the bandstand.”


Couldn’t he, just this once, have taken a longer break?  We went downstairs and played to an empty room.  The entire party was watching the game.  Of course they were.  WE WERE ONLY 35 DAMN MILES FROM PHILLY!! 

So I’m thinking OK, Saunders, you missed the end of the game.  Fine.  Be cool.  Just let Williams get the last two outs.  Just go down nice and easy, Toronto.  Like the man says, “nice and easy does it every time.”  Just two outs.  Niiiiice and eaaaasy.  Easy does i….

Just then people began streaming down the stairs and I’m thinking, please God, no….please…

“What happened?!” I screamed at a passer-by. 

“Joe Carter just won the game with a two run homer!  It’s the greatest ending of a World Series ever!!”

And there you have it.  I missed it.  To this day I can’t hear the name Joe Carter without grinding my teeth.  My best friend has since given me a video tape of the game, but 17 years later I am unable to bring myself to watch it.  I’m not there yet.  

But you know, as much as I would like to, I cannot blame Ronnie.  You can’t fault a guy for doing his job.  These days, if I was leading a band I would do the same thing.  Notice how I say these days.  In those days I would have lost the gig before missing an ending of a World Series game.

2 Responses to “Hall of shame: A gig that will live in infamy”

  1. zapple100 said

    Must be great to be in a band. I hack around on the guitar, have a tele. My friends used to invite me over to practice with them. They had me turned down low so I wouldn’t mess them up. I didn’t mind, I had fun.

  2. […] now I was beginning to do the slow burn, grinding my teeth and muttering the name, Joe Carter under my breath.  (In 1993 I missed the one of the greatest World Series ending of all time […]

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