Sunday, December 30, 2007

SOOP OOP and New Blog

I lied. New blog a week early.

This blog has been prompted by a special occasion. Christmas, you ask? No. How about New Year’s? Sorry.

This blog has been prompted by my decision to take Stuck Outside of Phoenix out of print.

After four and a half years, it’s time for me to put the kibosh on this little number. Why, you ask? Why bring an end to a book that has meant so much to me, led to many positive reviews and is the launching pad of my publishing life?

The short answer is that I want to get Stuck, which I published through a company called iUniverse, on my own imprint, which is Defunct Press, at some later date.

If you’d like more details on this decision, you can get the whole story later this week at my new blog focusing on the business side of self-publishing, DIY, and surviving as an independent artist, a blog which is as yet unnamed. I hope to get the first blog up this Friday, and I will publish a link to it here when I do.

Life as an independent artist is a topic I care deeply about, I have lots of experience in, and I have opinions that differ greatly from current conventional wisdom. So, if you’re an writer, artist or musician who’s looking to move forward on the rocky road to creative independence, please swing by the new blog.

When it has a name. It doesn’t yet.

And for those of you who have come to appreciate your weekly Layin’ Down the Law blog, what does this new blog mean to you? It means you shouldn’t worry. The Layin’ Down the Law blog will continue unabated as the place where I wax on about Ghost Notes, Songs from Memory, all the fun stuff I have planned for 2008, and my zany past in the Refreshments and elsewhere. You’ll get it all--just minus the publishing talk. I like to think of this blog as my artist blog and the other as my business blog. Two distinct audiences, two blogs.

But back to Stuck.

So, what if you want a copy of Stuck? It still should be available at places like Amazon for a month of so. And you’ll be able to order it at my website while supplies last. I hope to re-release Stuck through Defunct Press at a later date, but it will be a new edition. If you want one of these first edition copies, you should probably get one now.

Next week, new year, new blog. Thanks for reading in 2007. I hope to keep you reading for a long time to come.

For those about to Proust, we salute you.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chicagoland/Coming up in 2008

Okay. Back to the blog.

Blog, blog, bloggity blog-blog.

The Move

I now live in St. Charles, IL. I’ve lived here for a week, and my wife and I are settling in. The predominant reason for the relocation is Kel’s work, but there are many fringe benefits for me living just outside of Chicago.

1) I have family and friends here.

2) Major markets are close together in the Midwest, which means I can do more events to support my upcoming novel release, Ghost Notes, and solo project, Songs from Memory.

3) Anyone who knows me longer than fifteen minutes knows of my passion for one sports team. This passion extends to no other sport, and to no other team within the sport. Can you guess the team?

The Release

I have fourteen boxes filled with Ghost Notes in my closet, and 1,000 Songs from Memory CDs arriving on Christmas Eve. You should all be considering taking one into your homes in 2008. It’s a big commitment, I know, but these little fellas come from a good home, are toilet trained, and can be enjoyed for years.

Again, the official release date for both projects is March 4, but you can get them at my web site starting February 4. That's only a month and a half away!

I have a handful of events booked or virtually booked for 2008, but the centerpieces have yet to congeal, so I’m holding off on any event announcements until January. What kinds of events, you ask? Any and all of the following:

Solo Acoustic Shows
Full Band Concerts
Honest-to-Goodness Rock Tours

I’m busily booking and rehearsing for all of the above. Don't be surprised if your city is on my schedule in 2008.

Future Blogs

Barring any riveting announcements, I will refrain from blogging in December as I do the holidays, finish moving in, continue booking events, and update my web presence. You guys will all be shopping, or doing family stuff, or getting pasted on New Year’s Eve, and you won’t have much time for little ol’ me anyway. So, barring something mega-cool that I just can’t wait to tell you, you won’t hear from me again until January, when the big train of Laying Down the Law will get rolling again. You can bet 2008 will bring you what you’re accustomed to: at least a blog a week from yours truly. (I take great pride in the fact that this blog makes 52 for 2007...I’m weird like that.)

For those of you who can’t wait for something new, all I have to offer is the cover design and advance praise for Ghost Notes.

Ghost Notes

Scroll down for the praise. That’s right, Laurie Notaro.

So until January, everyone have a very happy and safe holiday and New Year’s Eve, and get ready for Betty!

For those about to Proust, we salute you.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Refreshments Grab Bag

First of all, this will be my last blog for a few weeks. My wife and I are moving across the country to the Chicagoland area, and getting a blog down once a week becomes impractical during a move. You can bet I’ll chime in sometime in December to tell you about all the cool stuff coming down the chute relating to Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory. Again, both book and CD have instore release dates of March 4, 2008, but you can count on pre-release sales to start at my Web site,, a month earlier, on February 4, 2008.

To continue from last week, here's the Refreshments' one and only appearance in Rolling Stone. Click on it to see a bigger version.

This appearance was the result of the band inexplicably coming in at number two on the Rolling Stone Readers' Poll conducted the month previous. (You can see that current month's readers' poll on the left of the image.) This surprise showing happened because the poll that month was conducted only in the Rocky Mountain states, and Denver and Phoenix were our two biggest markets. (Thanks again, Phoenix and Denver.) Anyway, Rolling Stone felt it was big enough news to send a photographer out, and we spent an entire day in Santa Barbara taking pictures. I've always liked this shot.

Here's a bigger version of the content from the scan above.

For the record, I never rode nude on the bus, but I was and continue to be a free-spirit.

Here's a shot from later in our careers, 1997, is my guess.

This is taken at the Cajun House (I remembered, Brian) in Scottsdale, and seems to be a typical Scottsdale show--a lot of people looking at you and you looking back. From this, you get a good idea of the characters we played onstage: Brian in his Vegas lounge jacket, Roger in Hawaiian get-up, and Bud ready to work on your car. Absolutely no thought went into these concepts. We were all hams and wanted to be noticed; the rest developed naturally.

And finally:

This was one of the many extras put together by Doug and Kathleen Kramer for our mailing list. Even though the Internet was up and running, our only direct communication with our fans was through these mailings. Kathleen sent out other things, too, like cards announcing tour dates and reminders of new records coming out. It was one of the best aspects of being a fan of the band, I think, getting these things in your mailbox here and there. Doug and Kathleen handled all of it. Thanks Doug and Kathleen!

Again, many thanks to Brian J. Henderson for the photos.

And thanks, everyone else, for reading. Fun, huh? We’ll chat more in December!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Refreshments Bio 1993-1995

The release dates for Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory are set. Both have in-store release dates of March 4, 2008. You can count on pre-release sales to start at my Web site,, a month earlier, on February 4, 2008.

Many promotional events in many different cities are being planned, so don't be surprised if I'm in your neck of the woods in 2008. Stay tuned!

Here we have a bio that I, with the help of the other band members, concocted at some point in 1995 to impress record execs. I'm pretty sure this effort was prompted by Marcy Drexler, who was a talent scout for ASCAP and who went way out of her way to help the band find a label early on. Click on the image to get a view you can read. You will see we still hadn't shed our silliness, or at least I hadn't.

This doc gives you a little more insight into things like our first practice, the infamous ranch trip, and Blush joining the band, all of which have been chronicled in more detail at this blog. Click the Refreshments tab on the right hand side of this page to see all Refreshments-related blogs.

There is a reference to our first big gig, leading off for Dramarama at Gibson's in our first few months of playing out. For the record--and don't expect too many admissions like this from me because I think people sometimes get the wrong impression--this is the gig that I fictionalized on Day Three of Hote's journey in Stuck Outside of Phoenix. The band in the book, Bluebottle, was simply Dramarama for a long time.

Here's page two:

Again, a retelling of the night the P.A. flickered in and out, and the night of our record release.

Epiphany Records was a local record label started by Zia Records owner Brad Singer. We weren't actually "signed" to Epiphany, but both the band and Brad benefited by being associated with each other--and we liked Brad--so the record was made to look like it was released by Epiphany. Singer supplied the bar code and the Epiphany logo, I remember, and we did the rest.

For some reason, we left out any mention of Ticketmaster in our bio, choosing instead to note our "showcases in Seattle and Los Angeles." I'm guessing this is Vedder-related, but I'm not sure. It definitely wasn't cool to be associated with Ticketmaster back then.

But you'll notice we outsold Pearl Jam in our Wheelie debut at Zia. Zia used to print off their Top 25 every week and would have the sheets sitting on the counter. It was pretty thrilling to see our names above Pearl Jam and some other bands. We were starting to understand where this thing could lead, and we were ready to follow it.

I'm going to avoid talking about 2005 just yet, since I haven't covered it in the blog, but I think you can see where we're heading. You can expect me to expand on some of these items in later blogs.

Many thanks to Brian J. Henderson for the scans. We'll have more from his collection next week.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Refreshments *Wheelie* Sales 1994!!!

The release dates for Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory are set. Both have in-store dates of March 4, 2008, just four months from today. You can count on pre-release sales to start at my Web site,, a month earlier, on February 4, 2008.

Many promotional events in many different cities are being planned, so don't be surprised if I'm in your neck of the woods in 2008. Stay tuned!

And many thanks to Brian J. Henderson for the new profile picture. Brian has kindly supplied me with many Refreshments-related scans from his collection, and we’re going to talk about some of them over the next couple of blogs.

Also, does everyone understand RSS feeds? (Don’t be embarrassed. Gerke just filled me in yesterday.) It’s an easy way to keep up with what I post here. Just look for the little orange and white icon, click it, and choose your option.

So Wheelie came out on December 4, 2004 (Funny, the 4th seems to play into a lot of the album releases of my life. See above.) There was some uncertainty regarding what weekend it would come out. We promised to premier it at the Yucca, so our staunchest fans would be the first to own it. We kept saying, “the fourth or the eleventh,” to anyone who asked about the CD. We were all listening to it in our cars and at our homes, proud as hell, waiting for the CD manufacturer to get our product done so we could start selling it. Finally, they came in, unassembled, from the manufacturer, and Kel, Rog and I spent one weekend putting 1000 of them together.

One of my best memories of being in the Refreshments was walking into the Yucca on December 4, 1994. It was early, but the place was already pretty full. I’d guess there were about 100 people there. I came in with my big box of 200 CDs, and 100 sets of eyes followed me, hungry lions honing in on some guy carrying a lamb shank, as I walked through the room and sat down at the far booth. A line quickly formed that extended all the way to the other end of the bar. The first guy in line dropped a stack of bills on the table, looked at me with blood-shot eyes and said, “Give me 15.”

That day, we sold 411 copies of Wheelie, and we would never look back. We actually had to run back to my place in between sets to get more boxes.

It was a dream-come-true, and that day will always be the apex of 1994--and in many ways the apex of the Refreshments--to me. The road ahead would lead us to great victories, but also would be fraught with difficult decisions and hard-to-swallow compromises. With Wheelie, it was all pure. We handled everything ourselves, and we succeeded on our own. There was no reason to believe we couldn’t have continued on in that way--making records and selling them out of the back of my pick-up truck--but none of us wanted that. We were destined for something else, and by the end of 1994 we were ready for it.

You’re going to hear many different numbers of how many copies of Wheelie are out there, but most of them are false. Here’s the truth, as remembered by the guy who managed the entire project.

The band ordered Wheelie in batches of 1000, but we usually got somewhere in the area of 1050-1100 in each batch, the extra being printer over-run. We placed a total of five orders, which means there are no more that 5500 copies of Wheelie in existence. We sold most of those, but we gave a lot of them away, too. Still, 5500 copies are floating around out there. It’s not impossible to score one of them, even in 2007.

Next week, random musings over Refreshments-related pictures supplied by Brian Henderson.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

*Wheelie* Insert

Ghost Notes is out the door, and I'm putting together the artwork for Songs from Memory this week. Let's talk Wheelie once again.

So, here's the insert of Wheelie.

Click on them for a larger view.

I should try to explain some of it. The front cover, the airplane, I talked about at length last week. The back cover lists the songs as property of Frosty Acres Music. I'd completely forgotten that we'd ever published our songs under anything but Chuckling Grunion Music. I don't remember the circumstances around either name, but I can assure you that these names got a laugh at one point of another, which was all the validation we needed back then.

You'll notice from the song list that the only song on Wheelie and not Fizzy is "Psychosis," an old Mortals song that was a staple of our live set in Wheelie days. ("Interstate" was rewritten post-Wheelie and made the cut for Fizzy. "Blue Collar Suicide" is another old Mortals song that literally came together in the studio while we recorded Fizzy, so it wasn't ready for Wheelie, either.)

This might be old news, but just in case you've never heard the story, "B.O.B.A." is an acronym for "Buffett on Bad Acid." We came to our senses and called the song "Mexico" when we recorded it for Fizzy.

The inside lists many names, and I'll try to hit on the ones that aren't obvious.

First of all, we felt the need to list our full names, middle names and all, so if you were ever curious, here they are.

You'll also notice Dusty sang all the backing vocals back in the day.

Dorothy Denham, Dusty's mom, was gracious enough to let a very loud band play in her basement for the first two years of its existence; hence, she earned the first thank you.

"Steve for the wagon" refers to Dusty's friend Steve, who loaned us his station wagon when Brian's van dropped a spider gear or something and we were out of a vehicle.

Matt Engstrom owned Gibson's, and I think Barett Rinzler was involved with it, too.

Tammy Fletcher I'm pretty sure worked at Yucca, but I'm not positive on that one.

Jeremy was the guy who designed the bomb flag and the drunken hot dog.

Jim and Jody at CHUD helped us design the CD package.

I think that's it. If you have questions, run them by me in the comments section.

Next week, Wheelie sales figures, as remembered by yours truly.


And the answer to the trivia question from last week:

Lo, Our Much Praised Yet Not Altogether Satisfactory Lady-Art (The title is a paraphrase of a line from an Ezra Pound poem.)

Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy-Brian (Yes, he woke up muttering it one morning.)

Bottle-Rog (A phrase roughly meaning, let's do it again, as in, "Bartender, give us a bottle and fresh horses, we're going out again," which we were at the time.)

Congrats to John and chole, who both nailed it in the comments section last week.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More on *Wheelie*

As I finalize Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory over the next few months, I’m going to blog regularly on the Refreshments.

Someone asked about the cover of Wheelie, which makes me want to talk about the entire package, which is probably more than anyone wants to know but, hey, it’s my blog.

The title of Wheelie came from “Pop a wheelie,” a line Roger came up with and quickly edited down to “wheelie.” We all liked that it evoked something from childhood, and that it sounded cool and fun.

Of course, we had to completely undercut the title with the album art. Brian wanted something that looked the opposite of “wheelie.” We settled on some kind of jalopy wreck, preferably one of those doomed, multi-winged planes that crashed on its first attempt at flight.

We liked the juxtaposition of calling our CD Wheelie and having some kind of bad wreck on the cover. That’s the kind of stuff that made us laugh, and undercutted any attempt by people--especially ourselves--to take the Refreshments seriously. That was the key in those early days.

It became my job to find a crashed plane, and I spent all day at the Tempe Library flipping through books. I eventually found what became the cover, which wasn’t a jalopy at all but a normal-looking little plane crashing, but it was all we had. CHUD Graphics helped us turn it into a cover, and we were set to go.

Of course, every CD needs a band picture, and we had no idea how to go about getting one. Someone got the idea to have our photo done at Sears--phony pose, funky back-drop and all--and we all thought that was perfect. We went to the Goodwill, bought some snazzy clothes, and all piled into Roger’s Landcruiser for the trip up to the Pleasant Valley Sears.

The result, with Rog and me sitting on the table in front of Dusty and Brian, was the epitome of what the band was in 1994: clever, spontaneous, silly, and at all costs unpretentious, exactly the opposite of what every band in the universe was trying to bring across. After that picture, nothing could stop us.

Throw in some artwork of an inebriated hotdog and a bomb flag, and you’ve got Wheelie.

All this gives me an idea for a new trivia question: which Refreshments member was responsible for coming up with which album title? The album titles are:

Lo, Our Much Praised Yet Not Altogether Satisfactory Lady

Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy

The Bottle and Fresh Horses

(Hint: Roger, Brian and I each came up with one of the above.)

Take a whack at it in the comments section. I'll reveal the answers next week.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ticketmaster Unsigned Band Contest-1994

I’m flying home from Atlanta today, Songs from Memory in the can and ready to press. I feel especially blessed to get to do this record after ten (!) years away from recording studios, and it reminds me of another time when circumstance smiled kindly upon me and my musical life.

Someone, I don’t know who, came across the announcement for the Ticketmaster unsigned band contest in 1994 in the New Times. We’d never heard of it, but it sounded like something cool to do: 36 different cities hosting a first round, then a bunch of regionals, then the final five bands head-to-head in Los Angeles. The winner got a check for something like $5,000 and a week’s worth of recording time at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle, enough time for an efficient little outfit like ours to make a whole record.

The Phoenix event took place at Minderbinders on Hayden Lane in Tempe. Five bands participated that Saturday afternoon, on an outside stage with no shade. The only other band I remember participating was Azz-Izz. I’m pretty sure we went on last. There was almost no one in attendance. We probably had a gig later that night, so I doubt anyone intent on the Refreshments experience bothered to go to Minderbinders that afternoon.

Strangely, I remember the gig being one of the best we ever played. We were getting better, gelling into something more than four guys who drank too much and hammed it up for the audience. We were a band getting ready for its close-up.

And we took Phoenix! Ticketmaster awarded us with an all-expenses-paid (although I remember Rog having to call the home office at one point to shake some cash out of them for things like tips for baggage handlers) trip to Seattle for the semi-finals.

I can honestly say I don’t remember a thing from the Seattle show--the venue, where we stayed, nothing--except for the fact that it was in Seattle and that we won again. (Thank goodness I’m getting this stuff down now or I may have lost it forever.)

So the finals, Los Angeles, five bands ready to claim the ultimate prize.

And we knew we had a big advantage over the other four bands going into it. Our fans got wind of this not-too-far-out-of-town show and many--a hundred or so, I‘d guess--made the pilgrimage to L.A. to cheer their boys past the finish line. It was greatly appreciated. If any of you are still out there, thank you.

Ticketmaster, fresh off the Eddie Vedder run-in, was out to prove how band-friendly it was, so this show in L.A. was pimped out. Grand ballroom with hardwood floors, video cameras flying here and there, dozens of monitors. I remember seeing the footage of it, and it reminded me of some elaborate MTV production mixed with a dash of American Bandstand.

We went on last of the five bands, which made us look like the “headline band,” especially when we went onstage and a good chunk of the heretofore ambivalent audience rushed the front of the stage and started dancing. We played “European Swallow,” “Suckerpunch,” “Down Together” and maybe “Mexico” or “Mekong.” The four other bands, all competent, were doing some variation of the grunge thing, and there we were, four guys from Tempe playing fun pop songs way too fast, and one hundred folks dancing their asses off. It felt inevitable, even as far back as that first gig at Minderbinders, that we’d take the prize. But it was still surreal after our set when the head of Ticketmaster announced our names and we himmed and hawed onstage, got our pictures taken, feeling both elated and ridiculous.

It turned out that 7,200 other bands submitted for the contest. 1 in 7200. It was a good thing no one told us the odds.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Wheelie and the Beeramid

Finishing Songs from Memory in Atlanta this week, I'm in the mood to ramble on about another independent recording project.

The Refreshments were offered many things in those first months of gigging. Lots of bands wanted to play with us, and lots of club managers wanted us to play their venues. People offered to be our fan club president (thanks, Kathleen) and to run our official Web page (whatever that was; this is 1994 we’re talking about.) We could feel that people wanted to help us, wanted to be part of this thing we’d started. If they thought they had something that would be of value to a fledgling band, they offered it.

Don Salter was one such person. Don approached one of the band members after a show in what must’ve been the early summer of 1994. Don owned and operated the Saltmine, a recording studio in Mesa, Arizona. Don loved the band, and he wanted to have the Refreshments into his studio, so much so that he offered free recording time to get us there. If we didn’t mind coming in at odd hours--times when Don didn't have a paying act in the studio--we were welcome to have a go at it.

Free? The price was right.

We got ready to make our first record by doing what we always did, playing and practicing. There was very little discussion of how we wanted the record to sound, no pre-production; we were proud of how we sounded live, so we were done, as far as we were concerned. The only thing we really had to decide was which songs we would record, having more than an album’s worth of material by then. We quickly decided to record only our “first batch” of songs, more or less what we had going into our first gig, plus “Mekong.” We would go into the Saltmine and play these songs, just like we were playing a live gig, only this time tape would be rolling.

And that’s what we did. We went into the Saltmine, usually late at night, set up, cracked a twelve-pack, played our songs, cracked another twelve-pack, played some more, broke down our equipment and went home. This happened maybe two or three times for basic tracks, once for guitars, twice for vocals, once for mixing. It was all done by the end of the summer, Wheelie in the can, our first record.

Don Salter’s fond of telling the story of the Beeramid, and he tells it well, so I’m reluctant to repeat it here. Basically, one night while we recorded basic tracks, the band started building a pyramid of beer cans in the window between the console room and music room. By the end of the night (sometime early in the morning) the Beeramid was so tall and impressive that the engineer had to struggle to see around the thing to view the band.

The Beeramid. It’s an adequate symbol for the whole project. Anyone who’s heard Wheelie knows why. It’s still out there somewhere, Wheelie, if you can find it. I was careful to keep a few copies for myself, but over the years I’ve found reason to part with one here, one there. I’m down to one copy, and that one’s staying with me.

We’ll do more on Wheelie later, as it fits into our time line. There's plenty more to tell.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Yucca Tap Room

I leave for Atlanta tomorrow to finish Songs from Memory, so I'm publishing this blog a day early. Enjoy!

As I finalize Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory over the next few months, I’m going to blog regularly on the Refreshments.

I seem to recall, during this early period of the band, roughly the spring of 1994, a lot of experimenting with different venues. We went out of our way to book less obvious places to play. I don’t remember if this was because we were trying to set ourselves apart from the Mill Avenue scene or because we genuinely were curious about these off-Mill venues. Probably a little of both. I remember playing a dance club called Phrogg’s on Apache, and the Improv comedy clubs in both Tempe and San Diego. The results of these experimentations were usually unsuccessful, sometimes worse than that.

The exception was the Yucca Tap Room.

Dusty was the instigator of getting the Refreshments in at the Yucca. He somehow became aware of this little club on Southern Avenue supposedly famous for serving bloody marys at eight in the morning. Dusty insisted we all go over there after practice one Sunday night to check it out.

We all liked the place. It had wood paneling on the inside, which is good for sound, and a comfortable, neighborhood vibe. There was a dart game, and a shuffleboard game along the back wall. There was no band playing while we were there, but I think the normal Sunday night act, a cover band, hadn’t started yet. No bands from the Mill Avenue scene played there.

I think what I most liked about the Yucca was that it was different. The Blossoms and Dead Hot could lay claim to Wong’s and the Sun Club and Chuy’s, but this club could be associated with the Refreshments in some way, maybe even becoming the official unofficial home-away-from-home for the band and its fans.

The deal was simple. The Refreshments would play every Sunday night at the Yucca. There would be no advertising. To help entice otherwise responsible people out to a smoky club on Sunday night, there would be no cover charge. It became a special intimate show for those who knew about it and were foolish enough to ruin their Mondays at work for a good time on Sunday night.

Sunday nights at the Yucca rocked. We played our asses off, and people came and drank and danced and sang along. (In 1994 there was still a culture of dancing in Tempe, which would quickly change as clubs got too crowded for anyone to dance.) The Yucca became another piece in this thing we were unknowingly building, this subculture of people who were finding fun and validation at these gigs featuring this new band, singing along, dancing their asses off.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

All You Can Eat

As I finalize Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory over the next few months, I’m going to blog regularly on the Refreshments.

Okay, All You Can Eat.

Before our first gig, we chose our band name, All You Can Eat. There were others in contention. Someone wanted to call the band Traveling Surrogate Fathers. Roger was particularly fond of Pop Enema. My wife recalls Vitamedavegimen being a serious possibility. In the typical corniness of this era of the band, we wanted anything that defied anyone who tried to take our band seriously. You could talk all you wanted about songwriting or musical talent or whatever, but our brand of rock ‘n’ roll would be at least half silliness, on some days a good deal more than half.

There was only one problem; there already was a band called All You Can Eat.

I discovered this little oversight at East Side Records on University Avenue, after a month or two of gigging as All You Can Eat. Lo and behold, right there facing out behind the counter, an album by All You Can Eat. They were four guys from San Diego, and they looked not unlike us. I never heard the record—I wish I’d bought it—but I remember getting the distinct impression they were a bit more punk than the Tempe version of All You Can Eat. Anyway, I reported my findings to the band, and we collectively cursed and went back to the drawing board.

We, of course, weren’t horribly disappointed to lose All You Can Eat, but it meant we had to go back into the emotional and political tug-of-war that is a band hunting for its name. It’s not so much that you want a name that’s perfect, but you don’t want a name that anyone in the band simply can’t live with—and you really don’t want a name you can’t live with.

One day a practice, during this nameless period, Roger said something into the mic, “[blah, blah, blah] and the Refreshments.”

I stopped him. “Did you just say ‘the Refreshments’?”

There are a few problems with calling your band the Refreshments, not the least of which is that it’s so close to the Replacements, which were heroes of mine while growing up in the Midwest. We were a pop rock band that didn’t take itself too seriously, and we drank a little, and we celebrated drink a little in our music, all things synonymous with the Replacements; it probably would’ve been smarter to go with something else. Still, the Refreshments resonated with me. “Fresh” was the thing that stood out in my mind, and that there was something fun and harmless about it, like a sixties pop band. Fresh, fun, harmless, what’s not to love?

When it became clear that nobody could think of anything better and we had a gig coming up, we went with the Refreshments. I think Blush was the last hold-out--and I bet he’d still say today that he was never crazy about the name--but even he eventually caved. From then on, we were the Refreshments, for better or worse.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Um, Waterwings?

Okay, I completely screwed up and forgot to write about All You Can Eat this week. Next week, I promise.

As I finalize Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory over the next few months, I’m going to blog regularly on the Refreshments.

So, this unnamed band was off and running, coming off a successful first gig and looking to broaden its horizons.

Blush had recently procured the job of booking bands at Gibson’s, the refurbished Chuy’s, on Mill, a medium-sized club that sported a ridiculously high stage and elongated floor, and we proceeded to exploit his new position. We started leading off for bands at Gibson’s, Wong’s and elsewhere, and we made a point to do something wacky every time. I remember going to Kmart and buying waterwings, which were worn by all of us onstage, and another time buying little girls’ Easter hats. (I think the Easter bonnet gig was at Edsel’s Attic, which was a club right above the Spaghetti Company on Mill.) I remember Dusty looking particularly fetching in his bonnet, and Blush wearing his on top of his trademark black hat. Once, at Wong’s, we bought a helium balloon machine and I sat onstage, drunk as a sailor, blowing up balloon after balloon for a half hour before our set. We swore on our seventeenth gig (why seventeen, I don’t know) we would all wear evening gowns. By the time we arrived at our seventeenth gig, everyone conveniently forgot about it. The gimmick had run its course.

This all sounds dorky in retrospect, but it was fun at the time.

Once the ice was broken, we just kept playing, three, four, five nights a week, doing our best not to take ourselves too seriously, hamming it up, having fun, and writing songs. This era brought tunes like “Mekong,” “Wanted,” “Dolly,” “Broken Record,” “Buy American,” “Los Angeles,” “Professor,” “Appreciate,” and I think we started working in “Una Soda.” (Again, an old Mortals song we co-oped.)

So, when did things start to change from our friends and girlfriends dancing and cheering us on to something else, something bigger, something more potentially scene-changing?

I’ll always remember a gig at Wong’s, rocking out “Suckerpunch,” when someone stepped on a cord and Roger’s microphone went out. We all looked at each other, like all bands do at these times, wondering what to do. That’s when we heard it.

The crowd had picked up the lyrics. “Baby I was never cool enough/To get a job at a record store.” They were singing, yelling the words to “Suckerpunch” right back at us while we played. There we were, a local band for all of a couple of months, leading off around town, no CD to sell, but people already knew the words to our songs. Goosebumps rose on the back of my neck. This was getting good.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Refreshments' First Gig

As I finalize Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory over the next few months, I’m going to blog regularly on the Refreshments.

In January 1994, our new band was practicing in Dusty’s basement, writing songs like “Mexico,” having fun, drinking beer, and generally keeping one eye peeled for our first gig.

Brian came to practice one night with news: Flathead, a great Tempe band that played regularly around town, needed an opening act for an upcoming weeknight gig at Long Wong’s. Would we do it?

It would be easy to say we jumped at the chance, but I remember hesitating. Brian had only been in the band for a month or so, and there was some concern whether we had enough songs to fill a set. We only had a week or so to get ready.

Every band comes to this point. “Are we ready?” We decided to take the Flathead gig. Hell, going into these things half-cocked is half of the fun, right? It leaves a nice little space where magic can happen. We practiced, and drank, and practiced.

We all agreed to wear safety orange for our big night, “So that nothing would go wrong,” as Roger explained from the stage. I seem to remember Brian wearing a bright orange turtleneck, bought for him from the band fund since he had no orange in his wardrobe. We took the stage and played our set, which included “Mexico,” “Banditos,” “Psychosis,” “Carefree,” “Interstate,” “My Penis,” “Nada,” “Girly,” “Suckerpunch,” “European Swallow,” “Down Together,” and probably “Feeling.” (This list is mostly surmised from my sense of when we wrote these songs. “Don’t Wanna Know” was written well before our first gig, but I don’t think we’d worked it out yet. “Blue Collar Suicide” was written before this too, but we didn’t get it ready until just before we recorded Fizzy. “Mekong,” I’m fairly certain, came later.)

Our set was a bit rushed--as it would be for years--but otherwise it went off without a hitch. We rolled from one song to the next, Roger explaining the concept of our safety orange to the crowd, commenting on the heat under the stage lights. The place was full (this is Wongs; it didn’t take much), and everyone seemed to have at least as good a time as we did. The response to the gig confirmed our suspicions: people would like this thing we were conjuring up in Dusty’s basement. All we had to do was get in front of them, and they would like it. We couldn’t wait to do it again.

And that was the way All You Can Eat made its debut to the world.

“Wait a second,” you say. “Who's ‘All You Can Eat’?”

I could tell you, but then I'd blow my blog for next week.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Uhavegonaway Round-up/Upcoming Events

The first ever Uhavegonaway to Oregonaway Show was a blast! I got to play songs with my good friend Jim Gerke, drink beer, eat pizza, talk trash, play tunes from my forthcoming solo record, and pass out Refreshments stickers. Big thanks go out to Joe and Erica for the use of their pad for rehearsal, and to Jimmi G for making the trip all the way from Mesa, AZ. Worth the trip, Jim? Any time, dude.

And the answer to last week’s trivia question? None other than Tommy Tutone. Yes, that’s right. Tommy Tutone jumped onstage with the Refreshments at what I’m now convinced was our 1996 La Luna show and played “867-5309/Jenny” with the boys from Tempe. I remember sitting in the back of the bus as Tommy and Roger rehearsed the song. My first thought upon hearing Tommy sing was, “Wow, he sounds just like him.”

Congrats to Robert’s party-of-three for guessing right, or for at least guessing. They walked away with three Refreshments stickers.

So, now what?

First of all, I’m still hoping to play one more gig before the end of the year. I’ll keep you posted here and at ye ol’web site as events unfold.

Secondly, I have the final, formatted version of Ghost Notes sitting next to me right now. Over the next three weeks I’ll be proofreading it and making final decisions on format, layout, etc. This thing has to read and look great, and it will read and look great. Get ready for Betty, everyone!

Thirdly, at the end of September, I leave for Atlanta to finish Songs from Memory with my good friend and partner in crime Bret Hartley. That bass guitar I dragged out of the closet for the Portland show will not be going back in anytime soon.

Fourthly, as I get my projects finalized over the next few months, I’m going to blog regularly on the Refreshments. Expect ten or twelve Refreshments-related blogs between now and the end of the year, skipping weeks here or there to keep you abreast of things like new gigs and events related to Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory. I look forward to getting back to the Refreshments story, and I know many of you like to read them, so we’ll pick up where we left off in May.

That’s it. Thanks again to the folks who came to the show last night. We’ll do it again in 2008.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Redding Challenge

Next Saturday is it!

It's the Uhavegonaway to Oregonaway Show on September 1, Labor Day weekend, at the Mississippi Pizza Pub in Portland, Oregon from 6 to 8 PM. If you don’t know about this show, you must find out now before it’s too late! Hope to see you there.

I thought of another Refreshments-Portland-related trivia question. Know the answer and you could win some Refreshments booty at the show. Here’s the question:

What singer/songwriter, and Portland resident, played his most famous song with the Refreshments at the aforementioned Portland La Luna Gig in 1996?

(Ed. note: there's been some debate whether this show happened in 1996 or 1997. Frankly, I don't know for sure, but I know we played with this guy at a sold out show at La Luna in either 1996 or 1997.)

If you know the answer, tell me at the show on Saturday and you’ll win a Refreshments sticker. These are the genuine articles, the oval, purple and gold stickers that were used as promotional items back when “Banditos” conquered the Portland airwaves. For those of you unlucky souls who won’t be at the show, I’ll post the answer to the trivia question here next week.

Also, anyone who buys a copy of Stuck Outside of Phoenix at the show will get a free Refreshments sticker, and you don’t even have to know the answer to the trivia question!

On a more serious note, I have to tell you about a game I play every time I drive from Oregon to Arizona, or from Arizona to Oregon. The game is called “The Redding Challenge.”

The purpose of the game is to see how long you can scan radio stations while driving through Redding, California without hearing a song by Led Zeppelin or AC/DC.

Here’s how to play: while driving on Interstate Five, when you see the “Redding, City Limits” sign, hit the scan button on your car stereo and count how many stations you scan through before hearing a song by either AC/DC or Led Zeppelin. In my experience, the average is about four stations. See how long it takes for you and compare with your friends.

In the unlikely event that you make it all the way through Redding without hitting an AC/DC or Led Zeppelin song, something spectacular, thought I’m not sure what, should happen. I believe it’s rarer than a UFO sighting.

I just played “The Redding Challenge” yesterday and made it through seven stations until “You Shook me All Night Long” came up. I laughed, shrugged my shoulders, and rocked the rest of the way through Redding.

See you all Saturday!


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Portland, Michael Anthony, and Camper Van Beethoven

If you follow this blog, you know about the Uhavegonaway to Oregonaway Show Saturday, September 1, Labor Day weekend, at the Mississippi Pizza Pub in Portland, Oregon from 6 to 8 PM. If you don’t, click this blog post for more info.

While on the road with the Refreshments, I was always happy to pull into the City of Roses for a gig. Why?

1) We had great fans in Portland. The local alternative station was on “Banditos” early and often, and from that we cultivated a nice following. We always played to more people in Portland than in any other city on the Pacific coast. I remember selling out La Luna once, which, aside from Phoenix gigs, might’ve been the largest crowd we ever played to. (This of course isn't counting gigs like radio shows, where you can play to thousands more but not necessarily to fans of your band.)

2) Powell’s. Rarely was there enough time to spend more than an hour or two in that wonderful place, but every second was, and is, pure delight. You had to drag me out of there for soundcheck.

3) It never rained. Really. I remember being in Portland for a radio show in the sweltering heat, playing some little bar who-knows-where, playing in Pioneer Square, and not once do I remember it raining.

On an unrelated note, can anyone tell me why Michael Anthony isn’t involved in the latest Van Halen re-grouping?

I have to admit I’ve been more than a little cynical in the past about reunion tours, but all of that changed one weekend in 2004 when Kel and I drove up to Portland to see Camper Van Beethoven. Somehow, I’d managed to miss CVB back in the day (for you Phoenicians, CVB and the Red Hot Chili Peppers played Big Surf back in the late 80s; I was still in Illinois.), and I broke down to see one of my favorite bands.

It was at the Crystal Ballroom, and there were about 800 fellow CVB freaks in attendance. What a show! Nostalgia, nostalgia. They played everything you’d expect them to play, and they played everything you wouldn’t expect them to play, and they even played some stuff you would've thought they’d be embarrassed to play. I couldn’t have been happier with it. Nostalgia, yes. But to see David Lowery set up to one side of the stage as opposed to the center because Camper Van Beethoven was always about the interplay of instruments and not any individual member, to see Victor laying down the law on “Eye of Fatima” and a dozen others, to see that insane fiddle guy dancing around like nobody’s business, it reminded me what it's all about. CVB still seems ahead of its time, and they started doing it two or three decades ago.

Alas, another good memory from Portland. I hope to have more soon.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Art's Plans for the rest of 2007, plus 2008

I want to tell you about what I have planned for the rest of 2007, as well as my big, big, big project coming down the chute for 2008.

If you follow this blog, you know about the Uhavegonaway to Oregonaway Show Saturday, September 1, Labor Day weekend, at the Mississippi Pizza Pub in Portland, Oregon from 6 to 8 PM. If you don’t, click this blog post for more info.

I have at least one other major market in my sites for an acoustic show by the end of the year, but nothing's final. As always, check back here, or at my web site, and you will know all.

Okay, now for the big announcement.

As many of you know, I've been trying for about a year to get my second novel, Ghost Notes, published by a traditional publisher. Since my search has come up empty, and since I'm not patient enough to wait any longer, I'm publishing Ghost Notes myself in early 2008! This is the sequel to my debut novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix, and it's bigger, broader, and better than its prequel. I'm in the process of putting the whole thing together right now, and it's one of the most exciting things I've ever done. I can't wait for you to read it. Click the link to learn more about Ghost Notes.

But that's only half the fun.

Because of the talents and willingness of Bret Hartley, I will also be releasing Songs from Memory, my first ever solo CD, at the same time! This is my first full-length studio effort since my work with the Refreshments, and let me just say that I'm flipping over the results. The story of how this collaboration came about is a good one, so if you haven’t, read this blog post to catch up.

And check out the cred Bret Hartley brings to the table.

The great thing about releasing these two projects together is that they're companion pieces. The first single from Songs from Memory, a song called "Riverboat Captain," is also present in the novel as a song written by one of the characters. "Riverboat Captain" becomes a bridge between the two projects, and brings music to the novel-reading experience. The novel and the CD can stand alone, but they can enrich each other, too.

Expect pre-sales for both Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory to start in February of 2008 at my web site, with an official release in March.

We've just started talking about promotional ideas for the Novel/CD, and let me just say that 2008 will be a very busy year for me.

Everyone stay cool out there.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Portland Show Update/Rock Lit

I’m afraid I have to start with a bit of bad news. Stephen Ashbrook has graciously asked to bow out of our Uhavegonaway to Oregonaway Show Saturday, September 1, Labor Day weekend, at the Mississippi Pizza Pub in Portland, Oregon from 6 to 8 PM. Stephen has a family outing he’s looking forward to, and he can't make it. So, no Stephen on 9/1. He will be missed.

In an effort to fill the void, Jim "Jimmi G" Gerke and I will be doing a short set together, which will include covers from some of our favorite bands, including a few that fit the theme of our show. You can count on songs by…Oh, you’ll just have to come and find out.

So, to update, Gerke plays first, Gerke and I hold down the middle, Art plays last.

You’re probably wondering how much this little shindig of ours is going to set you back. Surely, for a couple of hours of entertainment you’re prepared to dish out a few bucks. You’ve done it before, and this Uhavgonawhatever sounds right up your alley. Well, guess what?

It’s free.

That’s right. You will not pay a cover to come and hear Jim Gerke, and Art Edwards, and Jim Gerke with Art Edwards, and anyone else we can cajole into playing that night. You can save your cover for a drink, or for dinner, or for later in the evening when you go see a band. This one’s on us. Everyone have a good time.

Of course, if you must pay for something, copies of Stuck Outside of Phoenix will be on sale.

I promised some more publishing talk, so here it goes.

From my experience trying to get Ghost Notes published, I could draw some blanket conclusions. For example:

1) Ghost Notes is not good enough to get published.

2) Those in the publishing industry are blind to the potential of Ghost Notes.

3) People are not interested in reading rock novels.

Which do I believe?

None of the above.

I don’t believe number one because my novel is damn good, and you’ll just have to trust me on that until it comes out. I wouldn’t have wasted a year trying to get it published if it weren’t.

I don’t believe number two because people in the publishing industry are just like everyone else: they want to keep their day jobs. Representing and publishing rock literature is not a good habit to get into if you want to eat, pay the mortgage and advance your career. There are easier sales out there, and they have to take it where they can get it.

I don’t believe number three because most readers either have no idea there are such things as rock novels, or the rock novels they’ve read haven’t been very well-written. It’s a sad commentary on the genre that few seem to do it well, or if they do, they write only one such book before moving on to a more respected, or lucrative, genre.

But I don’t think this genre can be ignored by the publishing industry. Here’s why I think rock novels are so important.

If you follow publishing, you’re probably aware of the fairly recent NEA study "Reading At Risk" that found a sharp decline in young readership, and in particular young male readership, over the last ten years. Things were already pretty bad in this demographic, but to generalize the finding, people, in particular men, 18-34 years of age are less likely than ever to read anything for pleasure, much less fiction.

Why would that be? Why would people roughly my age and younger be turning away from the novel form, or from reading for pleasure in general?

Here’s why.

Most literary genres—erotica, Sci-fi, western, chick lit—play to our curiosities. If we read sci-fi, we're curious about outer space. If we read westerns, we're curious about being a cowboy. If we read erotica…you get the picture. These genres play to our curiosities and thereby capture our imaginations, making us devoted readers.

What are the curiosities of people, particularly men, in this under-represented demographic? (Okay, not that curiosity.) Well, I know what mine was. I wanted to know what it was like to be in a big rock band. I wanted to know what the gigs were like, the inter-band relationships. I wanted to know how it felt to "get signed," have a song on the radio, play big arenas, meet Gene Simmons.

I don’t think it’s a crazy leap to think that part of the demographic that is less likely to read for pleasure is also the demographic that grew up listening to rock radio, that bought CDs and guitars, that idolized Jimmy Page, David Lee Roth, Bono, and Kurt Cobain. They bought records and read the album sleeve while the record played. They went to concerts and rocked out and wondered what went on backstage and on the tour bus and back at the hotel. They would’ve done anything to shake the hand of their hero and say, “Your music changed my life.”

The industry--writers and publishers--has failed this demographic because they haven’t played to these people’s curiosities. They haven’t, on a very basic level, given them what they wanted. We've missed the boat.

So far.

Next week, learn how I plan to help this little cause along.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Ten O'Clock Scholars

A couple of you knew the answer to last week’s trivia question, which is the Ten O’Clock Scholars, the precursor to the Gin Blossoms. The Ten O'Clock Scholars performed songs like "Lost Horizons," "Angels Tonight," and "Dream with You," all staples of the Blossoms' early days and all appearing on their independent release Dusted. If you've never heard Dusted, it's kind of a snapshot of the Gins' live set back in the day. The songs are played a bit too quickly, but the band's unmistakable pop sensibility is on full display. Jim "Jimmi G" Gerke and I have talked about getting a version of one Dusted song, "Fireworks," ready for the Uhavegonaway to Oregonaway Show. How's that sound?

There was actually an American Bandstand-style “video” of the Ten O'Clock Scholars shot for a Portland television show--short-lived, by all accounts--called “Night Zoo.” I distinctly remember seeing the video back in my Tempe days. Swafford, who still has a video tape of it, claims that Bill Leen, so upset at having to lip-synch for the cameras, attached a wire hangar to his bass in protest. (The hangar was to signify a wireless unit.) Anyway, what a valuable piece of Tempe music history! Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to YouTube and pull this up any time you wanted, or any of those live Gins videos shot at Chuy’s in the early 1990s?

Oh well. At least we have this guy.

For those of you who have expressed interest in my solo album, here’s an update. The drums are done; Kevin Leahy has never sounded finer, and my partner in crime Bret Hartley is currently laying down guitars. I’m listening to the tracks as we go, and let me just say that the Laughing Yoga guy is almost as happy as I am. I go to Atlanta in early October to add bass and vox. Then we mix, master, and Wham-o!

Next week, I’m going back to the topic of book publishing, where I'll sum up my experience trying to find a home for Ghost Notes. This will lead up to my announcement in early August of my plans for the rest of 2007, and my big, Big, BIG plans for 2008. If you could only hear what I’m listening to right now.


Laughing Yoga

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Portland Trivia Question

The answer to our trivia question from last week? None other than Doug Hopkins, the late guitarist of the Gin Blossoms, who called Portland home for a brief period in the eighties. According to James Gerard Swafford, who knows everything about this kind of stuff, Doug moved to the City of Roses in 1986 to escape the Phoenix summer and to start a band with fellow Phoenicians Swaff; Bill Leen, who would later be the bass player in the the Gin Blossoms; Dave McKay and Randy Sanders. They were all there for about six months, hung out too much at the Hung Far Low in Chinatown (Swaff still has a coaster from the place), and came back to Tempe in the fall once things had cooled down.

So, there you have it, the biggest Tempe/PDX musical connection there is!

All this, of course, prompts another trivia question: what was the name of this short-lived Portland band, which Swaff calls the first draft of the band that would become the Gin Blossoms? If you know, post it in the comments section. If you don’t, I’ll post it next week.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Portland Show Update

So you know this much:

Saturday, September 1, Labor Day weekend, I will be playing solo acoustic at the very cool Mississippi Pizza Pub in Portland, Oregon at 7 PM. I will be playing tunes from my forthcoming solo album, along with a Refreshments classic or two. Old news, right? Tell us something we don’t know.

How about this?

My support for the show, the guy leading off for me at 6 PM, will be none other than fab Phoenician Jim "Jimmi G" Gerke, who will be making the trip all the way from the Valley of the Sun just to regale you with his heartfelt tunes of merriment and woe (He’s also escaping the summer heat). Yes, it seems James Allen had a little too good a time at the Laying Down the Law Show in June, and he can’t wait to get back out there for another taste of the action.

For those of you who don’t know him, Jim Gerke has been part of the Tempe music scene for, what, like, a hundred years, playing in bands with the likes of me and Tim Anthonise of Gloritone, and generally keeping things fun for anyone who ever sat next to him at Long Wong’s. Jim also sings lead on the single for Stuck Outside of Phoenix, a tune called "Nickel". Check it out, if you haven’t.

And here's something else.

The show will be called the Uhavegonaway to Oregonaway Show.


Because Jim, having lived in Phoenix for most of his life, has steadily watched droves of folks abandon the heat of Arizona for the milder climes of Oregon. (You might even say he’s been tempted a time or two.) This show will celebrate that special relationship between AZ and OR, the sun and the rain, the desert and the foliage, the tan and the green, and the many folks who have made the choice to stay or leave, one way or the other. We’ll drink Oregon beer and wine, play road trip songs, and make fun of Californians. Maybe we can even get Stephen Ashbrook to stop by and play a song or two.

If you’re one of those folks who's made the migration to Oregon from Arizona, or to Arizona from Oregon, or maybe you’ve just thought about it, tell us all about it in the comments section. I know you’re out there. We’d all love to hear from you.

So, come on out to Portland’s Mississippi Pizza Pub on Saturday, September 1—Labor Day Weekend!—at 6 PM. Jim and I will each have our own set, but you can bet we’ll be playing some songs together. That’s just the way it works out.

Next week, tune in for some Tempe-Portland music trivia. For example, can you name the most famous Tempe musician to abandon the Valley and settle for a time in Portland?


Friday, July 6, 2007

The Search for an Agent-Part 3

So I had four agents considering Ghost Notes, and I had all the time in the world to wait.

Unfortunately, all the time in the world wouldn't be long enough to hear back from all four.

The first agent I heard back from quickly. This agent, whom we’ll call Agent 1, was a junior agent, meaning he was relatively new to the publishing game. Agent 1 couldn’t say enough good things about Ghost Notes. He called the writing “pretty tremendous,” but he couldn’t identify the book’s target audience, and thus which editor to sell it to. He wrote, “This is a reflection of the publishing industry and of my inexperience as an agent, not your work.” He offered to look at the next thing I wrote, and thanked me for thinking of him.

Nice complements, to be sure, but not what I was hoping for. Alas, I still had three agents to go, and all three were seasoned veterans. I just had to wait for them to read the manuscript and make their decisions.

And January came to an end.

And February came and went.

And March came and went.

I heard from Agent 2--this one a big time agent with an agency that represents writers anyone would recognize--on April 6. After what I thought was a very enthusiastic request for the whole manuscript a couple of months previously, he rejected it with a form letter.

And April came an end.

I heard from Agent 3 on May 7. This agent wrote a very nice personal note, referring to it as a “tough call” but ultimately passing on Ghost Notes because she didn’t feel a personal connection with the material. She also said she would be happy to see my next manuscript.

And May came to an end.

So it was June, ten months after I’d started sending out query letters, and I had one agent still considering Ghost Notes. Just to make sure she hadn’t forgotten me—it had been five months since I’d emailed her the manuscript--I sent another brief email to her, updating her on things like my solo record.

And June came to an end.

So here I am, July 6, 2007, almost a full year into my search for representation, 111 agents queried, and things aren’t looking grand. Am I disappointed? Of course. Is it the end of the world? Hardly. This is not our parents' publishing industry; we have options now that people twenty years ago wouldn’t have dreamt of. If no one wants Ghost Notes, it just means I have to work harder to find my book’s audience. Self-publishing is never the easy way to go, but it has its upside.

And after 111 agents said no or said nothing, what's my option?

Next week, more on the Portland gig, Saturday, Sept. 1.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Search for an Agent-Part 2

Was I ready to give up? Hell no. I had a whole list of agents waiting for something special, and damn it, with Ghost Notes, I had something special.

In September of 2006 I sent query letters and other related items to 25 agents, names I’d culled from,, and other places. I felt pretty confident that I’d get some requests to see the manuscript. With Stuck, I’d sent a total of 25 queries, and I’d gotten four requests to see at least part of it.

As September pressed on, it became apparent that I was in a different publishing world than the one I’d entered four years previous. Of those 25 agents, I received exactly one request to see part of the manuscript, and that came only after some pretty serious cajoling by me. The agent kept the partial for a week or so, but ultimately passed.

In October I got even more serious. I sent out query letter after query letter, 42 in all. I received many nice notes in response, but exactly zero requests to see the manuscript. 42 queries, zero requests.

At that point, it was time to figure out what I was doing wrong. I’d sent to a total of 70 agents, and I had almost no positive responses. I began doubting my query letter—as I’ve explained in previous blogs, if your query letter is no good, no one will ever see your manuscript—and I started to rewrite it. I also took some of Agent B’s comments to heart and went back into Ghost Notes. Once there, I found much I could do to make it better, so I went back to the grindstone, rewriting and editing Ghost Notes, trying to make sure that the next agent to see it would be blown away by what he read. This rewriting and revision took about two months, and in the end I had a new, catchy query letter and a manuscript I was even more proud of.

On January 3, 2007, I sent out queries to another 41 agents. These were my last hopes. If it was going to happen with Ghost Notes, it was going to happen in this batch.

And, finally, something went right.

I got one request for the whole manuscript within a matter of minutes, I got another in a week, and I got a couple more over the next month or so. In other words, I had four requests to see the thing, four very real possibilities of landing an agent. I guess that new query worked. You can read it here.

And they weren’t casual requests, either. The agents were excited. Some were familiar with the Refreshments. Others wanted to know if any other agents were looking at the manuscript. I felt, after six months of querying, I was finally getting somewhere. I just had to sit back, wait, and let the process run its course.

Next week, what did Tom Petty say about the waiting?


Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Search for an Agent-Part 1

So there I was, in August of 2006, with a finished manuscript on my hands. It was my second novel, and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think it was the cat’s pajamas. I’d been working daily on the novel form for almost ten years--whether I was in the band or working a day job or hardly working at all--and I felt that, with Ghost Notes, I’d climbed the mountain.

Of course, I loved and still love Stuck Outside of Phoenix, but first novels are inherently as much about learning to write a novel as they are about the novel itself. Moreover, I had my eye on Ghost Notes as I was writing Stuck. I knew I had something bigger and better coming down the pipe, and writing Stuck was simply the first step to getting it here.

Ghost Notes came much quicker than Stuck. The narrative arc was essentially done after the first draft, and the characters were more fully formed from the onset. The revisions were tough, but revisions are always tough. It took six and a half years of mostly daily writing to finish Stuck. I finished Ghost Notes in three and a half.

Then came the tricky part, getting Ghost Notes published.

I started with three agents. (In modern trade fiction, agents are the gatekeepers to the publishing world. To get your novel published traditionally, fiction writers either have to get an agent or they have to know somebody. I don’t know anybody.) We’ll call these three agents Agents A, B, and C.

Agent C was an agent who’d read Stuck back in the day and commented favorably on it, but in the end she didn’t take the book on.

Agent B was a colleague of a respected writer friend of mine.

Agent A was my dream agent, one who’d read and commented very favorably on Stuck, and who’d offered to read my next manuscript as soon as it was done. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I wrote Ghost Notes with Agent A in mind.

On August 14, 2006, I sent out query letters to all three agents, as directed by their submissions guidelines.

I was thrilled to get a request for the whole manuscript--which was then called Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven--from Agent B, the friend of a friend. This agent read the ms almost immediately and responded at length about it, which is a very cool thing. (Almost all responses from agents are form letters.) She liked much of the book, but in the end she suggested I rewrite it and focus more on a supporting character she liked very much. While I also liked the supporting character--as the sequel to Ghost Notes will attest--I wasn’t ready to dismantle three years of work because of the comments of one agent. I thanked her and moved on.

Two weeks later, I received a personal response from Agent A, dream agent. This agent reiterated his appreciation of Stuck, but he said there was no way, in the current fiction market, he could take on any rock fiction, as it would be “next to impossible” to sell. This agent said he wanted to make sure I didn’t think his rejection was a reflection of my writing, which he remembered liking, but rather a reflection of my book’s subject matter.

While I appreciated the compliment, I was disappointed by the idea that my book would be next to impossible to sell. Of course I knew, High Fidelity aside, novels with rock ‘n’ roll backdrops weren’t thought of as best seller material, but I’d done my job well enough, and I’d hoped to get Agent A to read the ms and decide for himself. I wrote a follow-up email, clarifying some of the non-rock ‘n’ roll elements of the book, but to no avail.

So I was three weeks into my search, I’d queried three prime agents, and I had no takers. Still, I wasn’t panicking. I had a year to dedicate to this pursuit, and there were hundreds of agents out there who represented novels. I’d find someone.

“And what about Agent C?” you ask.

I still haven’t heard from her. If you see her, tell her to check her inbox.

Next week, the search continues.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Portland, Portland, Portland!

City of Roses, here I come!

It’s been far, far too long since my last show in Portland, so I’m making an effort to get back up there to have some pizza and play some music.

Mark it on your calendar. Saturday, September 1, Labor Day weekend, at the very cool Mississippi Pizza Pub in the Alberta district.

Dinner with Bud.

I’ll be playing a set of music solo acoustic starting at 7 PM. You’ll hear some of the tunes from my forthcoming solo record, as well as a Refreshments classic or two, as well as a cover song or two, as well as the requisite witty banter in between (thrown in for free).

There will be an as-yet-undecided opener at 6 PM. If you feel you have what it takes to open for me in Portland, shoot me an email telling me about your act. The club is very eclectic--musicians, artists, authors, you name it--so run your idea by me. You need to be able to perform for about 45 minutes, and you need to be well-rehearsed. Come on, man. What do you have to lose?

The rest of the details for the show are still being hashed out, but you can count on a set of music solo acoustic by me at the Mississippi Pizza Pub on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 7 PM.

And you can count on me eating some pizza.

Everyone on board? Cool!

Also, as we approach the night of the show, I will divulge the process I’ve been going through trying to find a publisher for my second novel, Ghost Notes. It’s been a fascinating fourteen-month trip--whether you have an interest in the publishing industry or not--and I hope you’ll check back weekly to take in the segments.

Then, sometime in August, I’ll clarify my plans for 2008, plans that involve Ghost Notes, the solo album, and oh so much more. This is it, baby. Get ready.

Next week, tune in for the latest on Ghost Notes.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More on the Laying Down the Law Show!

Here's a touching blog by a friend of mine on his experiences in Chicago this past weekend. Enjoy!

Layin' Down the Blog

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Day After

Um, wow.

This gig would not have happened without the Herculean efforts of Randy Anderson of Buck Daddy, who not only secured the gig, but promoted it, got players for both the Buck Daddy and the Refreshments material, wrote and recorded almost an entire album of Buck Daddy originals, scheduled rehearsals, had posters made, put up with a few primadonna moments from me (yes, it’s Art “Buddy” Edwards) and performed his first ever gig as a frontman. Could you tell? I couldn’t. That explains why he didn’t allow himself any caffeine until after the Buck Daddy set. Running on adrenaline. Whatever you’re doing, Randy, keep doing it, and send me some in the mail.

And if Randy has his way, we’ll do this whole thing again next year. He won’t get any argument from me.

But I’m not ready to start talking 2008 yet.

I’m hoping to take my acoustic act on the road in 2007, securing dates for the second half of the year. I’ve got two cities already on the radar. If anyone out there would like to have me in your town, and you think together we can get others to turn out, run your idea by me. It might not be as impossible as you think.

I’d also like to thank the fellas who laid down the law during the Refreshments set, Randy, Danny, Bobby, and Todd. They showed up big time, helping to send some Refreshments fans back to their happy place. (Jim Gerke may be permanently stuck there.) A potent shot of rock. Everyone who came for that, got it.

I’d also like to thank the guy in River Oaks who loaned me his pristine Fender P-Bass, and whom I never met. Sir, the ax is fab. My thanks is perhaps late, but no less sincere.

I’d also like to thank Sue Potter, who manned the merch fort with patience and aplomb.

So, what did I think of the night?

If you were there, you know what I thought, or at least how I felt. I had fun, I screwed up, I laughed it off, and I had fun again. I got amped, got tired, then I completely ran out of breath singing, “Come on River Otis make me.” Playing Refreshments music can take your breath away. I knew that going in.

So, thank you, Chicago. We’ll see you again in 2008.

Tune in next week for the announcement of my next gig. Maybe it's in your city.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Hey, six days until the Chicago Martyrs’ gig on Saturday, June 9th, for which tickets are now on sale at (800) 594-TIXX! Who’s ready?

Thanks so much for all of the ideas for the blog. In an effort to keep things positive, I’m going to write about P.H. coming into the band. A person so vital to our success deserves a blog all to himself.

In June of 1996, the band, deep into talks with Mercury Records, was without a drummer and a practice room. (By the way, places to rehearse are vastly underrated as reasons for/impediments to a band’s progress.) For a month or two, we'd been bouncing from rehearsal room to rehearsal room, drummer to drummer. Gibson’s on Mill let us crash their stage for the occasional practice. We played a few gigs with a pick-up drummer. The Blossom let us into their practice room, and for fun we jammed with Phillip Rhodes, a favorite drummer of ours. We knew our future as a band rested on getting the right person, and we weren’t likely to settle until we found him. As the bass player, I was more than a little concerned.

P.H. was the obvious match. We’d been trying to get him in for a try-out ever since we’d heard his previous band, Rain Convention, a staple of the Tempe music scene, had disbanded. Eventually, he gave in to our cajoling and showed up at Gibson’s one afternoon ready to play.

There was only one problem: P.H.’s drum kit had no ride cymbal.

I pointed it out to him while he set up. “Hey,” I said. “Where’s your ride?”

“Don’t use one,” he said.

I was flummoxed. To me, a ride cymbal was as essential to rock music as a snare drum. How on earth did this guy think he could pull this off without a ride cymbal?

I ignored my incredulity, and we got going. At P.H.’s suggestion, we started with “European Swallow.” Roger kicked in the intro, and the band came in.


Believe it or not, before that practice we'd been concerned how P.H. would take to the material. Rain Convention was a fantastic band, but it was a jam pop band, in the tradition of the Samples, and in my limited experience of hearing P.H. play I’d never heard him go all-out on a rock groove.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a problem.

P.H. attacked “Swallow” with his kick and snare, grooving along with us, taking the song by the throat and leaving the rest of us to catch up. During the chorus, where we were used to the ride cymbal clamoring away, P.H. cleverly went to the bell of his crash cymbal, replicating the sound of a ride. I barely noticed the difference. After 30 seconds of “Swallow,” we knew we had our guy. He could’ve been playing trashcan lids and we would’ve asked him aboard.

P.H. became the one to turn to for an easy, direct, and—after he said it—obvious answer. Whenever the rest of us were freaking out, P.H. could silence the anxiety with a word or two, get us back to where we belonged, make us ready to rock. There would be many opportunities for freaking out in the coming months and years. We needed him.

And, yes, he eventually got a ride cymbal.

For those of you coming to the show, don’t forget to get there early—8:30—for my acoustic set. We’re all geared up to lay down the law. I hope you’ll be there.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

More Numbers Fun with Fizzy, Bottle, and Banditos!

In an effort to pump the Chicago Martyrs’ gig on Saturday, June 9th, for which tickets are now on sale at (800) 594-TIXX , I will dedicate as many blogs as possible between now and then to topics related to the Refreshments.

Here are some more numbers graciously supplied by John, our friend in radio with Soundscan access. Take it away, John.

As far as Bottle goes, 58,508 total copies sold. (3,420 cassettes and 1,076 digital) Of that 58k+, 255 were in 2007. Top 10 markets for sales of TB&FH are (in order):

Phoenix (9,847)
Washington DC
SF/Oakland/San Jose

Interesting that NYC is number 2, and that Minneapolis, DC and the Bay Area made the Bottle list over Atlanta, Detroit and Philly, three from the Fizzy top ten. If I had to guess, I'd say some of these markets gave "Good Year" a few extra spins back in the day. At a total of 58k records sold, only a few hundred copies separate one city from another.

Back to John:

TB&FH sold 7,136 copies the first week it was out (9/21/97) compared to Fizzy's 2,847 first week ending 3/3/96. (Fizzy had a run of almost 2 months in the summer of 96 where it sold 10,000+ per week.)

Ah, do I remember those first 2,847 Fizzies!

Fizzy was released the same week as five or six other Mercury acts marketed to alternative radio. As I remember, most of those acts sold somewhere between 50 and 500 copies that first week. The Refreshments were the big winners at over 2,800, and that led the label to continue to work the band at radio, which led to all of our later success. From this, you could reasonably argue that all of the band’s national success was dictated by that first week of Fizzy sales--in other words, by the buying power of our grass roots fans from well before our record deal, mostly in the Phoenix area (If I remember correctly, 2100 of those 2800 were sold in Phoenix. John?) They were the reason we got serious consideration early on, which is the only way we had a chance.

Thank you, grass roots fans!

And I also remember that month or two when we sold 10k a week. I don’t think I slept from June to August 1996.

Back to John:

And since I have way too much free time at work today, here are the top 10 stations that led the nation in spins on Banditos for 2006 only:

KMXP, Phoenix- 193
(ed. note: John’s former employer. Thank you, John.)
KEDJ, Phoenix- 151
KFTE, Lafayette- 141
WRTT, Huntsville- 141
KVGS, Las Vegas- 138
WXRK, Cleveland- 109
"Lucy"- XM Satellite- 108
KMYZ, Tulsa- 88
WBBB, Raliegh- 85
WHTG, Monmouth, NJ- 79

This list seems all over the place. Phoenix I understand, but of the rest of those places I only remember playing Las Vegas (Blush would’ve probably quit the band if we hadn’t), Cleveland and Tulsa. (Anyone out there from Lafayette, Huntsville, or Monmouth?)

Tune in next week for the last Refreshments blog before the law gets laid in Chicago. Hey, I’ll even let you pick the topic! Add a comment to this post stating what you’d like me to write about next week, and I promise to give it serious consideration.

Getting ready to rock,


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Numbers Fun with Fizzy, Fuzzy

In an effort to pump the Chicago Martyrs’ gig on Saturday, June 9th, for which tickets are now on sale at (800) 594-TIXX , I will dedicate as many blogs as possible between now and then to topics related to the Refreshments.

Remember my post from a couple of months ago where I estimated possible sales figures for the Refreshments’ first album, Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy? Well, it turns out we have some up-to-date numbers for you.

Enter John, a radio man who not so long ago was the mid-day music director of KMXP in Phoenix. He read my blog and, after abusing his Soundscan privileges, gave me the skinny on how many copies of Fizzy have sold. Here’s what he had to say.

I was reading your blog which discussed the number of copies of Fizzy that were sold. I logged onto Soundscan out of curiosity, and it shows 374,790 sold to date, with 982 being sold in 2007. (Of that 374,790 would you believe that 42,550 were cassettes?!?) The total number shipped could be higher, but only the label would know for sure. The top 10 markets in which FFB&B sold are (in order):

Phoenix (38,302)

Thank you, John.

Back when I used to be privy to these things, Soundscan was commonly thought of as representing at least 90 percent of all records sold in the U.S. (I bet it’s gone up since then.) In other words, we used to guess that up to ten percent of records sold weren’t “soundscanned.” They were sold at Mom & Pop record stores, which were record stores not owned by chains or corporations but by actual people. (I know, I know. It sounds crazy.)

So, if Fizzy soundscanned about 375,000 copies--and that’s not even all the copies that have sold--my estimate of 400,000 copies of Fizzy shipped (Remember, gold record status is measured by that vague, outdated number of records shipped) probably is a bit modest. Considering all of this, I’d guess we’re somewhere closer to 420k.

But again, only Mercury Records knows for sure how many copies of Fizzy have shipped.

However, my estimates for the current number of copies of Fizzy sold per week and per year were a bit off. My original source had it selling 100 records per week, which comes to about 5000 records per year. According to John, who compiled all of these numbers at the end of April, Fizzy has sold 982 copies in 2007, which comes to something more like 55-60 records a week and 3000 per year. (My original source may have been exaggerating, or the number could’ve gone down since then.)

At this rate, no gold record is eminent, but hey, who gets into this game for gold records, right?

Our top 10 Fizzy cities read like this in December of 1996:

10) Chicago
9) Sacramento
8) Detroit
7) Portland
6) Los Angeles
5) Atlanta
4) New York
3) Boston
2) Denver
1) Phoenix

Compare that to John’s current list, and there’s not much change. (Sacto fell of; Philly came on.)

Next week, More numbers fun with Bottle and “Banditos.”


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Art's First Solo Record due Early 2008!!

So, there I was, last July, minding my own business, when I got an email from a long lost friend from my days in Moline, IL, a guitarist named Bret Hartley.

Many of you have been through this. An old friend finds you on the Internet. You exchange emails, crack jokes, remember the good old days, talk about how you’d like to catch up sometime, but it never happens.

That’s usually how it goes. That’s not how it went with Bret and me.

It turns out Bret’s had a great deal of success since we played together in our band (the Varietles, Moline, IL’s only Replacements wannabe band circa 1989).

Bret had become a respected Atlanta session player, writing, playing, and recording with the likes of Sugarland, Clay Cook, John Austin, and Billy Pilgrim.

It was good to hear from Bret. We’d always gotten along, and we’d always spoken the same language when it came to music. I suggested, off-handedly, we should play together again, and asked if he’d like to add some guitar to a song I’d been recording at home, a song called “Riverboat Captain.”

“Are you serious?” he said.

“Yeah, why not?” I said.

The next thing I knew, Bret was setting up recording time at an Atlanta studio, booking a drummer and an engineer. He took care of everything, and I gave him “Riverboat Captain” to do with what he would. “Pretend it’s like that interior design TV show,” I said. “Here’s my bedroom. Have at it.”

In a week, I had an mp3 of “Riverboat Captain” sitting in my inbox: full band, pro guitar and drums, a clever breakdown in verse 3, and a bridge guitar lick bigger than god.

You have to understand what I gave him to work with. He got nothing from me but a snapshot of the song--creaky acoustic guitar, bass, scratch vocals, and a bad-sounding drum machine--and Bret delivered back to me and IMAX movie.

I called Bret as soon as I'd heard it.

“You like?” he asked.

”Let’s do it nine more times,” I said.

So, we are. Nine (or ten) more times.

It’ll be my solo record, and it’ll be out early next year. Bret will be playing all of the guitars, producing, and mixing. I’ve written all of the songs, and I’ll be singing, playing bass, and generally throwing my weight around. Drummer Kevin Leahy, who’s toured with the likes of Shawn Mullins and the BoDeans, among others, and who played on “Riverboat Captain,” will continue his stellar work on the rest of the songs, and it will all go down at the Ben Price owned and operated Studilaroche and Bret’s home studio this year. Drums start May 21st.

I’m not kidding. This is happening. Part of me has been waiting a decade for it, and it’s all possible because an old friend looked me up. Gotta love the Internet.

So, how does this relate to the The Chicago Martyrs' Show on Saturday, June 9th? I’ll be playing many of the songs that will be on the forthcoming CD at this show. If you attend, you’ll be one of the first to hear them. So come for the millions of great reasons already stated, but also get a sneak peak--perhaps the only sneak peak--of the material for my first solo effort. I hope you like it.