billy   Pocket

 barner

Musician - Drummer -Singer - Writer -Author

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                                                                                             By Billy “The Pocket" Barner

 

A Brief Bit Of History
          The core group of Hometown Blues Band from the beginning [in 1965] consisted of three members. They were Doug Skoog (keys, blues harp and vocals), Curt Southworth    ( tenor and alto saxes and flute) and Bill (BJ) Krett (lead and rhythm guitar). That core group went through several additional musicians and changed the band name , but the CORE group evolved from three members to four when I joined the band [as drummer, vocalist] in 1968. We always had a problem finding and keeping a bass player. 
          This story takes place in the summer of 1971. Back then the band rehearsed daily at the Spanaway Washington farm house in the middle of five acres that my wife, Sharon, and I were renting.  The band was, once again, in between bass players and wanted to hold auditions. The last bass player we had was Larry. He was a talented guitar, bass player and was very good. Larry had quit the band suddenly for an unknown reason.

The New Bass Player
          I had picked up a side gig with another established Tacoma based Rock Band. Both bands were aware that I was rehearsing and gigging with the other, so there was no real conflict. I suggested to the members of Hometown Blues Band that I invite the other band's bass player Chuck  to audition for the bass player position. The guys agreed, Chuck auditioned and scored the gig.
           Chuck was a very good singing bass player. He had, for lack of a better term, a unique personality. While we were carefree and reckless, Chuck was sensible and logical. He was friendly, but very serious about the band business, his playing, and life in general. Chuck took himself very seriously and was extremely conscious of his demeanor at all times, even to the point of making sure he never appeared animated in any way. He rarely smiled.  He had a great smile when he did smile. I don’t believe I ever saw or heard him laugh. I’m sure that was because Hometown Blues Band didn’t take anything seriously; as individuals or as a group (with the exception of our music),  as you’ll see in this story. 
          Curt, Doug, BJ and I were constantly cracking each other up with our silly antics. The most reaction we ever got from Chuck was a hint of a smile which he would immediately regain control of by shaking his head, looking down and ceasing to smile. Conversations with Chuck were always interesting. Whenever you approached him and began talking, he would lean back slightly at the waist, fold his arms, cock his head slightly to one side, squint his eyes and look at you with a poker face similar to the one you would see on Lee Marvin or James Coburn in the movies. 
This seems like as appropriate place as any to start telling this one of many stories about Hometown Blues Band. In order to, better, bring you, the reader into the story, I will proceed by writing in present tense. (Chucks image and full identity are being protected pending his consent to use it)

 

 

 

A Nose For A Good Photograph
           Now having Chuck in the band, we need to have new promo pictures taken. Our photographer is Dwight McLain. Dwight is an old school buddy of  Doug, Curt and BJ’s. Dwight is another very interesting and colorful character, [whom I will describe at another time for the sake of keeping some semblance of continuity to this particular story]. A short sweet description of Dwight is: He was a truck driver, biker with an amazing ear for good music and an equally amazing talent for photography. At any rate, the time has come to go out on a photo shoot with Dwight. Dwight has scouted out some wooded areas ahead of time for a nature backdrop. Dwight and the Hometown Blues boys had previously chosen funkier environments as backdrops for our photo shoots like in old barns, broken down abandoned buildings and garages and have even one taken gathered around a compost pile and we always dressed down rather than dress up. This time, at Chuck’s insistence, we agree to break character and actually clean up and try to look presentable for a shoot in a natural forestry surrounding. We travel to all the different areas that Dwight has chosen and he snaps a dozen or so pictures at each one. At one sight in particular, we are all standing around waiting for Dwight to position us. I happen to pick a leaf from a tree branch hanging next to me. I’m mindlessly fiddling with this leaf as Dwight moves me into position at one end of the group pose. Realizing I have this leaf in my hand, it suddenly occurs to me that it would be cleaver if I stuff the leaf into one of my nostrils for one shot and not mention it to anyone. 
          Several days later, as we are all at rehearsal, Dwight shows up with the proofs of the photo shoot. Out of character, Chuck actually becomes excited and animated.  He quickly removes his bass strap from around his neck, hustles over to Dwight, snatches the photos from Dwight’s hand and starts carefully examining each photo. Intently leafing through each one hurriedly, he’s most anxious to see the proofs, obviously looking for the best shot of himself. Suddenly he stops…. Freezing his gaze at one photo, he pulls it off the stack and holds it up in the air exclaiming “This is it! This is the one! This is the perfect photo”! We are all amazed to see excitement on the face of Chuck. As he draws the photo closer to his face for further examination of the “perfect “ photo, we witness that rare smile on Chucks face dwindle and transform into an expression of shock and disbelief.  He pulls the photo even closer to his face and blurts out in a loud angry voice, “What the F@*k  is that in Barner’s nose?!  Doug Scoog snatches the photo from Chuck. He looks at it and breaks into uncontrollable laughter. The hysterics become contagious as, one by one, each of us check out the source of the amusement. I’m thinking, “Mission accomplished!” I knew when I did it, my little leaf in the nose trick would be a guaranteed crack up. 
           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  BJ                    Chuck  (ID Protected)     Doug                 Curt            Billy (with leaf adorning nose)

 

             As it turns out, Chuck was right. It is one was the best photo, and I loused it up, but the story still brings heaps of hilarious laughter to this day at Hometown Blues Band reunions.

Book–em Lynn!
          It is about this time that, for some reason and without our knowledge, Curt Southworth’s wife, Lynn, decides that she will take it upon herself to start booking the band on a road trip through Montana. Lynn has never taken on these duties before, but we’re game.  
After some effort, Lynn is successful in booking Hometown Blues Band in several Montana clubs around the state. So one day, out of the blue, Lynn announces that she has arranged this road trip for the band. The tour will have us zigzagging around Montana for about five or six weeks. We are surprised that Lynn has spontaneously helped us promote the band and found us more work. We need the work so we rejoice in the news of this pre arranged road trip. We know Lynn is enthusiastic about the band working more. It turns out that there is more than one reason for Lynn’s efforts. We will not discover the real motive until we return from the Montana tour.

The Tour Begins
          The time has come to set out on our tour. Doug’s 1954 International Travel-all and BJ’s 1960 Ford Econoline van are strategically packed with our equipment and luggage leaving just enough room for our bodies to squeeze in. We kiss our wives and significant others goodbye and head out to our first club gig of the tour, The Molly Brown in Bozeman. 
          We travel straight through and it’s around mid-day when we roll into Bozeman. Our first stop is The Molly Brown club. Tired from our less than comfortable trip, we disembark and walk into the club. The club is dark and it takes a few minutes for our eyes to adjust from the bight sunlight outside to the darkness inside. The bar is to the left of the door as we enter and no one is behind the bar. As our retinas adapt, details of the interior start to become recognizable and we notice that the club is empty of patrons. One of us shouts “Hello! Are you open”? A response rings out in a rather gruff male voice saying ”Yea… I’m open”! I’ll be right with ya”! Soon a figure immerges from a back room at the other end of the bar. The man is about thirty five, dark brown hair, tall and slender, wearing a red, white and black plaid western shirt, blues jeans and cowboy boots. “You must be the band” he says as he walks out toward us carrying a case of beer. We introduce ourselves and he introduces himself. “ My name’s Abe. I’m the manager and the bar tender.” he says. “Which door should we unload through”? we ask. “There’s a door in the rear alley that opens up right next to the stage”. he replies.  After a cold beverage and a brief conversation with Abe, we unload our equipment, set it up on stage and run a sound check.

The Bozeman “Hilton”
          Tired from our trip and ready to clean ourselves up and rest a bit, we ask Abe where our accommodations are. He points out an old three story brick hotel building down the block. Back in the vehicles, we drive down to the hotel. I don’t remember the actual name of the old hotel, but we come to sarcastically refer to it as “The Bozeman Hilton”. Believe me, The Hilton it is not!  Man, this place looks like something straight out of a 1930’s Western movie. As we enter the lobby and look around it is obvious that, like the exterior, the inside hasn’t been updated since being built in the1800’s. The interior walls are brick upper with old wood raised paneling on the lower portion. Old plank floors are partially covered with old  Persian carpets and the furniture is a mix ranging from  broken down antique western to 1950’s vintage thrift store. To the left as we walk in  is the desk clerk sitting behind a caged-in front desk. It seems like a movie set. We register and the clerk reaches back and takes the room keys out of an old wooden cabinet with little individually numbered  wooden cubbyholes. The keys are skeleton keys attached to those  green diamond shaped plastic hotel key fobs with the room number embossed in white on them. “The room rate is $9.00 a night and your all on the third floor”. says  the clerk. We pay the clerk and head toward the stairway leading to the upper floors. This stairway is tilting down severely from the wall side on the right to the railing side on the left. As we ascend, trying to keep our balance while carrying our bags, each step has it’s own unique squeak or groan as we step on them on our way up. We’re about midway up to the flight of stairs when the clerk shouts “There’s one bathroom per floor, so you’ll have to share”.
          I’m on the third and uppermost floor now. My room is at the far end of  hall. As I walk toward my room, I pass the third floor’s shared bathroom on the right, midway down the hall. Glancing quickly into the bathroom, I continue on down to my room. Approaching my room I see that over the door of my room is an EMERGENCY EXIT sign with an arrow pointing into my room. Unlocking the old lock with my skeleton key, I open the door and curiously enter. Inside and against the wall to the right are two twin beds. Both of the beds have drastically sagging mattresses. Upon further observation I can see the old springs which span the bed frame revealed under the curling up corners of the thin, worn out mattresses. Just looking at these beds, I can almost hear groaning sounds from the ghostly essence of  previous victims who tried to sleep in them. Matching lime green tuck and rolled naugahyde plastic head boards are screwed to the wall behind each bed. The headboards are obviously hand made by some amateur. The headboard on the left features a huge burn hole about the size and shape of a flaming basketball. This charred sponge rubber stuffing and melted naugahyde is a telltale sign that someone had nearly cremated themselves there while smoking in bed. Upon further investigation  I notice that the window straight ahead, on the opposite wall from the door also has an EMERGENCY EXIT sign over it. [It’s comforting to know that in case of a fire, all the panicking occupants of the third floor will be racing through my room fighting to be the first to the exit.] There’s a fire escape landing just outside the window. Next to the window to the right is an old porcelain bathroom sink attached loosely to the wall. The sink is dubiously hanging there pulled away from the wall. It’s weight is held in place mostly by ancient looking cast iron plumbing underneath. I set down my luggage on the un-carpeted cracked and aged linoleum floor and walk over to the sink. To my surprise, in the sink, I discover a half eaten sandwich. Trying to find some humor in all of this I think to myself, “Awfully nice of someone to leave me a snack”….Not!

 

A Loo With A View From The Top (WARNING: SENSITIVE MATERIAL / some very minor exaggeration)
          I’m fatigued from the trip. I need to use the restroom, so I meander back down the third floor hallway to the [shared bathroom]. The door to the bathroom, like the doors to all the other rooms, are nine foot tall, old solid wood, paneled doors with transom windows hinged onto the tops of the doors. The opaque glass panels tilt outward on a chain for ventilation. 
          Inside the bathroom on the left is a big old claw foot bathtub. To the right is a very large wooden platform spanning the depth of the bathroom from wall to wall and about 18” high from the surface of the antique hex dot tile floor. Atop that platform is another tall wooden platform and mounted to that platform is an antique Porcelain toilet with a large brass pipe connected to a gravity fed pull chain flushing tank mounted near the 13 foot ceiling. The front edge of the toilet comes to within an inch of that second (top) platform. The toilet is too high to reach from the first platform making it impossible for a man to stand and urinate into the toilet without either A) climbing onto the top platform, straddling the bowl and aiming backward or, B) sitting on the toilet to urinate. I need to do more than just urinate, so I climb up on to the first platform and lower my pants in preparation to sit on the toilet. Oh oh (I think to myself) the toilet is still another platform up and it’s impossible to raise my foot onto the second platform with my pants down around my ankles. Hmmmm, I haven’t been this puzzled about the art of toileting since I was a toddler and I didn’t expect to have this sort of bathroom challenge for many decades to come. 
          “Okay“, I think to my self…”I can do this”. With some creative thinking I discover the secret of ascending and conquering this majestic high rise latrine. Spurred on by a “never say die” determination and the building onset of abdominal discomfort, I eventually arrive at a rather dramatic but effective solution. I find it necessary to completely remove my pants and underwear in order to climb to the first and then the uppermost platform. 
          Now, half naked and in unfamiliar territory, I begin my ascent to the top of “Mt. Loo“. Now climbing , a cold breeze whips past by butt cheeks as I step onto first and then the second challenging platform. The air is thin up here now and I feel a bit drained, but I can see the summit and I’m determined to go on. EUREKA!! VICTORY (or so I think). Now standing at the edge of the summit, I am standing on one side of the toilet facing the wall that’s behind the commode, knowing that one false move [while attempting to turn around] could send me crashing all the way back down onto that cold tile floor so very far below. “I MUST REMAIN CALM!” (I tell myself). I take a long slow breath and after regaining my composure, with sweaty palms, I firmly grasp the brass pipe of the flusher tank tightly and in one swift motion UUUHHHH!!, I quickly turn around to face forward while throwing my back and head forcefully against the back wall! SMACK! Now, with my back and head tightly hugging the wall and with a death grip on the pipe, I freeze in that position for a few moments to regain my composure. WHHEEEW!..I breath a sigh of relief  and  re-establish that tight grip on the pipe. I still have to straddle the bowl. Closing my eyes tightly I take a deep breath WHHOOOOP! and swing my right leg over the toilet. Swoosh!
OKAY, OKAY, OKAY!! I am OKAY! Now standing straddling the toilet, I've got both hands firmly gripping the brass pipe behind me. OH MY GOSH!! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! I'M STANDING AT THE TOP! I MADE IT!

         Now I feel invincible!.... indestructible.... I feel daring!  I decide I'm going to release my grip on the pipe and stand up here with my arms stretched out to my sides in a Victorious display of bravery and human achievement... A celebration of my successful ascent to the summit of Mount Loo! The slop pot with the highest elevation from a bathroom floor in the world! 

        Challenging fate, with my arms stretched out to my sides, I stand straddling the toilet naked from the waist down. I look down to where this long dangerous journey began. YES!!! I’ve reached the top of what looked so far away just moments before, but seemed so long ago. I HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT to take my place on THE THRONE!

         Oh oh! I soon realize that I can no longer bask in the glory! I have business to do! Slowly and cautiously I bend my knees bracing my body weight with both hands on the toilet seat until I feel the ice cold toilet seat make contact. .....BURRR......Now seated, I realize I'm still not out of the woods! I'm finally sitting on the john, but there is no platform surface in front of the toilet and my toes can’t quite reach the edge of the platform on either side! 

I am leaning too far forward! My legs and feet are DANGLING IN MID AIR! This feels rreeaaallly strange. I have no ground support! I'm just balanced up here like an acrobat on the Ed Sullivan Show! MAN! don’t know if I can ....go..... with my feet suspended in mid air like this and not on solid ground! This is freaky! It’s like trying to do number two while sitting on a toilet seat atop a flag pole. 

        With some concentrated effort I manage to complete the first phase of the task. But just as I think I am home free, it occurs to me. With no floor under my feet to balance and brace myself….. and no surface to hold onto. How can I do the paper work without loosing my balance and tumbling off the toilet?

         Well, sparing you from any more unpleasant detail, I’ll just say that I pulled the chain and managed to complete the mission and make my descent safely back down. 

 

 

Down To The Nightclub Bumpidy Bumpidy Bummer (Opening Night)
           Gig time rolls around and we’ve gathered in the hotel lobby to start our walk over to the Molly Brown. We are all excited about kicking off the first night of our tour to a packed house of excited Blues fans. The street is empty, as we cross it and enter the club. The club is as empty as it was this afternoon when we loaded in and set up. We ask Abe, “Where are all the people”. He says, “Hopefully some will show up later, when they hear the music….. but you guys start on time, even if it’s just me in here.” So we start on time and play the first set to an empty house. We take our break on time and play our second set again to an empty house and the same for the third and fourth sets. Not a single solitary soul passed through the door all night. We finish the first nights performance and say good night to Abe and go back to the hotel and crash.
          We get up the next morning and go back to the Molly Brown. Abe greets us with a scowling expression on his face. “You guys are FIRED! Pack up your stuff and get out of here!” We ask “Why?”. He says “Because you’re too loud.” One of us say’s “Oh you mean we were too loud for all your patrons who don’t exist?” 
           Well we pack up our gear and Abe pays us a pittance of what we earned even for just one night. Then Abe tells us he has contacted the agent that Lynn went through whom handled the clubs we were booked at for the rest of the tour and they all canceled our appearances there as well…. OH!
         We all gather to discuss what we should do. Naturally, Chuck wants to head back home. (That’s the common sense thing to do, right?) No! That’s not how Hometown Blues Band rolls. We all pool our money and add it to what Abe paid us. We have enough to by a small keg of beer and gas up the vehicles and get our selves (NOT BACK HOME! HEAVENS NO!) ………to Yellowstone Park!
          We now have our beer and fuel supply and are in the vehicles parked in front of The Molly Brown,  ready to head South to Yellowstone. I’m the passenger in the Travel All with Doug at the wheel and the engines idling. I’m thinking we’re ready to roll. Doug’s just sitting there looking straight ahead with a curious squinty look on his face. I break the long silence and ask…“Did we forget something?“ Doug Turns off the ignition and says. “ I have some unfinished business”  as he opens the door and gets out of the truck, I’m thinking, “I’m not going to miss this!” I hop out wave a come here gesture to the guys in the Econoline as I follow Doug (who’s  storming toward the front door of the Molly Brown.) Now inside, Doug walks up to the bar and call’s out…“Hey Abe! Come- ere!”  Abe slowly saunters over and says, “Now what do you want?” Doug quickly reaches across the bar, grabs Abe with both hands by the shirt collar, pulls him up over the bar and with a haymaker from the Deep South, SCHWACK!!, Doug drops Abe like a sack of wet laundry with one punch. HE’S OUT! We all exit the Molly Brown feeling quite vindicated, hop back into the vehicles and head out for West Yellowstone.
          On the way down, we get thirsty and divert from the main road onto an old  dirt road. Following it up a ways, we spot a nice spot to make a day camp in the trees and crack that keg. We drain the keg, rest a bit and finish our journey.

 

 

 

Home Town Blues Band Makes Front Page Headline News in West Yellowstone Gazette!
          Once in Yellowstone, we spot a gas station with a souvenir shop attached to it. We need gas and to use the bathroom so we pull in. Once the rigs are filled and we’re emptied, we mill around inside the souvenir shop and strike up a conversation with the proprietor. He’s a jovial old guy. When he talks he sounds like Gabby Hayes from the old Cowboy Western movies. He asks us,  "Where ya from and where ya  goin'". We give him the rundown and he laughs, finding our story very amusing. We spot an old cast iron printing press from the 1800’s located behind the counter, where this old character can print a headline on a souvenir newspaper called the West Yellowstone Gazette. The old timer says “You fella’s need to put your plight into print!” We asked, “How much does it cost?”.  “Well, after hearin’ a great story like your’s…won’t cost ya a thing ’ It’s on me.” What cha want for a headline?’ We all start thinking about a headline when he blurts out…. “How bout - HOMETOWN BLUES BAND LAYS AN EGG IN BOSEMAN.”  Hearing him say that  was funniest thing we’d ever heard and it was perfect. He printed one for each one of us and Doug and I still have ours. To this day we laugh our butts off every time we see that souvenir paper or think about it! 

Curt’s Call To Lynn!
          Well, it’s mid afternoon and one of the guys presents some pot. In traditional Hometown Blues Band fashion, we figure there’s no time like the present to party and getting high will possibly produce some innovative ideas of what our next brilliant move should be. We light up and start tokin’ and laughin’ We’re getting down to our last few buck’s and are hundreds of miles from home. Sensible people would be freakin’! Not us! We can’t stop laughin‘!” Well, all of us but Chuck are laughing. Chuck’s not laughin’. He doesn't show it, but he’s quietly freakin‘.  We convince Curt that he has to call his wife, Lynn, and ask her to wire us some money to get back home. Remember, Lynn booked this tour and has no idea of what has occurred. Curt really does not want to make this call, but, as usual, we finally persuade him to do it. We all go to a pay phone with Curt to give him “moral support“. We’re cheering Curt on… Yea! You can do it Curt! She’ll listen to you, Curt! Just tell her to wire the money! You can do it!…  Curt hesitantly picks up the receiver and drops a quarter in the slot…..“Hello, operator… I’d like to make a collect call to Lynn Southworth from Curt Southworth.“ he says. Lynn answers the phone and Curt begins talking in a meek voice. “ Hi Shnookums”   We immediately started cracking up historically and Lynn can tell immediately, that we are up to no good. The more Curt tries to explain, the funnier it gets. We’re making such a scene’ gathered around this this public phone booth, that it attracts the attention of a West Yellowstone Police Officer in a patrol car. The officer slowly drives up next to us as we are splitting our sides in hysterical laughter. He rolls to a stop in front of us and rolls down his window. We’re looking at him and thinking “Oh No!”, but we can’t stop laughing. The officer just looks at us, gazing inquisitively for several minutes, then he just shakes his head in dismay and slowly and drives away with an expression on his face like “I don’t even want to know.” Holding our rib cages with tears running down our wide grinning cheeks, we let out sighs of relief, look at each other and start right in laughing all over again. 
          Lynn hangs up on Curt. Curt hangs up, turns to us and says, “She’s pissed… she says we’re on our own!” 
Well heck! Lets see how much money we have left. Okay… enough for each of us to get a drink at the Saloon across the street. 

Enter The Mountain Man
          We go in to the Saloon and belly up to the bar. We order our drinks and are still laughing about the phone call Curt just made. Also sitting at the bar is a big middle aged fellow with a long bushy beard and long hair. He’s  dressed all in very worn fringed buckskin including knee high buckskin Trapper Moccasin’s and wearing a Coon Skin Cap. Oh and of course a 13 inch blade Bowie knife sheathed in his belt. He’s rugged looking (for sure) but seems friendly. He overhears our conversation and we start swapping stories with him. His name is Francois and he’s a French Canadian Trapper. (I have no idea what he's doing in West Yellowstone, but I'm  hoping it's not to collect hippy pelts).

          Francois starts buying us drinks and food and we drink, eat, laugh and converse with him into the night. Eventually, closing time comes around and Francois knows we have nowhere to stay, so he says, “I’ve got a room at the Motel down the way, lets go there and continue the party. We don’t have much choice so off to Francois’ Motel room we go.

         Our Trapper friend has some pot so he shares that with us and he gives us $20 or so to help us get back home. He tells us we can crash there and he falls asleep in a chair. I crash on the floor, as do a couple of the other guys. The rest crash on the bed. I’m sleeping with one eye open the rest of the night, periodically checking out Francois and that 13 inch Bowie knife. 
          We sleep til past noon. We get up and start making plans to head out. We leave Francois sleeping in the chair and go to gas up the rigs to head toward home. Once back at the trucks, we start brainstorming on what our next [dumb] move should be. We know the money Francois  gave us won’t get us all the way home. We recall that we had seen a sign on the way to Bozeman that said “Lewis and Clark Caverns”. Someone says, “I’ve never been in a Cavern, have you?”   Most of us say “No, let’s go!” Chuck says, "Let's go home"... Lewis and Clark Caverns.... Now that was the sensible thing to do.......So....... Off we go...... destination: Lewis and Clark Caverns. 

 

 

 

Terror on the Tram at Lewis and Clark Caverns.
           We take our time and drive slowly to Lewis and Clark Caverns to conserve gas. (After all, we’re not stupid….. well…. not…all the time.)
We make it all the way the to the Caverns. It's now late afternoon / early evening. We drive through a large camp ground area then start winding up a long switch back road up the mountainside to the Caverns.  We park in the Caverns parking lot and go into the office. The last tour of the day is just starting and there is only one couple that’s going and they are already headed for the Tram with the guide. The ticket person says, “Since it’s the last tour and there is only one couple going, I’ll let you guys go for no charge. She runs to the door and hollers to the guide, “Wait Dan! These folks are going too!” Dan is the Park Ranger Guide. He stops and waits for us to catch up. Then he leads us to the Tram that will take us straight up the steep mountain side to the Cave entrance.
          The Tram is like a 20’X20’ set of bleachers that are so steeply vertical that the back of the person sitting in the seat in front of you is leaning against your shins with the back of their head between your knees. I mean it’s practically 90 degrees from level. The guide, Dan,  makes sure everyone is buckled in and starts the pulley for our ascent to the mouth of the cavern a couple hundred feet straight up the side of this cliff. About 30 feet from the top, the tram jerks to a sudden stop!. Dan yells Oh oh!!”  Now we’re sitting there in the Tram, dangling from the cable, staring straight down this vertical mountain side to the parking lot 200 feet or so below. We can’t see the Dan, the guide. He’s at the top of the Tram. Dan says ’What the hell is going on with this damn thing!“ and starts banging on something metal with a hammer. Suddenly we feel the Tram break loose and start falling to the ground. Our lives start flashing before our eyes… We’re going to die!!! When few seconds and about 40 feet later, SCREEECH    BANG! we come to a violent stop. Dan starts laughing and shouts “Just Kidding!” … Oh really!!!! Does anybody have any toilet paper?
We get to the top and go through the tour with Dan. It is really an interesting tour and Dan turns out to be very friendly. He asks everyone where we were from. The couple share their story and we share ours, including all the details of our tour and that we still have miles to go to get back home and are out of money. Dan, says “I’ve got an idea! When we get back down you guys can set up your gear and start playing music. Your music will echo down through the mountains to the Camp Ground below and all the campers will come up to see and hear your show. It’ll be a Lewis and Clark Caverns Rock Festival!” You guys can pass the hat around to all the campers and maybe get enough money to get yourselves back home!” 
          This sounds great to us. Now back down we set up our gear on the parking lot. Park Ranger Dan helps us unload and set up. All set up now, Doug Skoog cranks up his B3 and starts noodling licks on the keys. Park Ranger Dan is standing out in front watching Doug with a look of excitement on his face. (After all, he is the Promoter of this spectacular event).  Now, as Dan looks on, Doug looks Dan in the eye like a Drag Race Driver at the light tower. Dan Looks back at Doug and starts rubbing his hands together in front of himself saying ‘Boy! This is going to be good!“ Doug holds down a massive chord on the B3 and pushes his foot down the volume pedal to the metal and just at the right time Skoog flips on the Leslie Speaker. SWOOOSH!! All of a sudden something comes flying out of the top rotor of the Leslie and hurls through the air right at Park Ranger Dan. Dan starts to duck. As the object unfurls in mid air, a plastic sandwich bag turns into a parachute right in front of Dan’s face as particles of marijuana pepper his face and scatter on to the asphalt. Skoog had placed a lid of grass in the rotor of his Leslie and forgot it was there. I’m thinking, “Oh oh. We’re busted!.” But Dan says. “Oh no! don’t waste any!” I’ll help you pick it up.” Turns out Park Ranger Dan is a Head! Could have fooled us!
          Well, we kick off the music and just as Park Ranger Dan said, campers start filtering in and before too long,  the parking lot is full of campers dancing and grooving to Hometown Blues Band. We pass the hat around all night and make enough money to get back home and a little extra for each of us to put in our pockets. 

 

 

 

Honey, I'm Home!.... Honey?, .... Honey?, ....  Lynn?
          When we get back to Tacoma, we take Chuck to his car first then we swing by Curt’s house to drop him off. As we pull up, we see the door to his house is wide open. The mattress to Curt’s bed is on the front lawn along with a few clothing items and some trash with some of Curt’s clothes and personal belongings mixed in. Curt get’s out and slowly walks through the messy yard gazing at what’s left of what was his home a week ago. It’s like watching a refugee walking through the aftermath of battlefield. Then he goes into the house. After a few minutes, we come in behind him. Lynn is gone and has taken Curt‘s step son with her. The place is looted. All Curt’s record albums, stereo equipment and clothes are gone. All the furniture, kitchen ware and food is gone. All that is left is a mess. Curt finds a note. It says she left… and with one of Curt’s (so called best friends) non other than our previous bass player Larry. And she’s wiped Curt out of all his belongings but the clothes on his back and in his suitcase, his horns and his flute. Curt is crushed. We put our arms around him. Curt says, “She didn’t get my horns.“ 
But Curt and Hometown Blues Band endured and we actually went on to do much more adventuresome and memorable tours. 
Needless to say, Chuck never played with Hometown again. I guess he didn’t share our vision. As blurry as was.

          Last I heard, Chuck is a highly successful booking agent in Los Angeles. 

 

                                                                                                                           THE END    
 

Hometown Blues Band Lays an Egg in Bozeman

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