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.