So we're in West Helena, Arkansas, at some dive in this hellhole of a town, playing a 3-night gig. It's funny, 'cause we were a Memphis band, and you'd think we could make some good money playing in Memphis, right? No, you'd be a dumbass if you thought that. What happens is this: The live music market in big cities is so razor-thin, profit-wise, that you can always make more money playing the outlying areas and saying you're from the Big City.
As usual, I had to be the one in the band to arrange the gigs, sign the contracts, keep the other guitar player sober, keep the keyboard player sober, make sure we were set up on time, and on and on. There's always one person in a situation such as this who will get things done. Have you ever noticed that? Well, it will make you a sour motherfucker, in case it's not you, so don't feel too bad.
This place was a huge dance hall, with a stage and a balcony where there were several tables for those who just wanted to watch and listen. I'd say it held 400 people, and it was full all 3 nights.
I was an idiot songwriter with about half a dozen hot bullets under my belt, and the other guitarist had about as many wannabe hits as I did. Other than those, we did cover songs, as all bands do in order to keep from being shot. I would try and cull the cover songs which I absolutely hated, and we'd do Steely Dan, the Eagles, etc. However, the song I hated playing the most was the wildly popular Cocaine, on the radio at the time by Eric Clapton. An armadillo lying on the road with half his shell eaten by crows could play this song on the guitar. And so could I!
It usually came in the second set, and when we played it, I was always glad it was over. But this night, in West Helena, AR, there was a guy on a cane with a long ZZ Top beard right down in front. We had a girl singer who was a slut from Hell. She'd wear these leotards and Stevie Nicks capes, and show her ass to the crowd. (We could actually play real live chords, too. But her doing the whole baseball team in a van outside before the first night (while we were setting up) really helped our appeal. I think most of 'em left their cleats on, at her request.)
After she belted out this lovely little homage to white powder and crappy chord changes, the bearded guy says, "Play it again!" I told him I didn't think so. He whipped out a $100 bill and shoved it in the girl's dubious drawers. We played it again. "Play it again!" Another Benjamin went into that steaming hellhole. He was obviously the coke dealer for the whole crowd.
He wound up paying us $1000 to play that godforsaken song 10 times in a row.
I never want to hear it again, but that was the most money we'd ever made in one night. We almost had to kill her to get her to split it up with us.