The holidays were approaching fast and all we wanted for Christmas was for Butch to get his new knee installed and working so that we could get the band back “up and running”. We got our wish….Butch got his knee in and it was working great (he’s a pro at this knee thing by now) so we were ready to start rehearsing with plans to record a new CD during the winter doldrum months. Then we get the call from Stephen telling us he has a serious respiratory infection and we would have to put the recording project on hold until he can beat this thing. January turned into February and Stephen was not feeling any better. After a couple of months battling this he sadly decided that he would have to leave the band to concentrate on his health. Stephen is an amazing bass player but Mojo must go on, so unfortunately, we parted ways. The bass player revolving door continues….. We remembered a cat named Charlie that auditioned for the bass player slot the same night as Stephen. He impressed us as a monster player that night too. Would it be possible that Charlie was available and we could avoid the misery of auditioning bass players??? We figured no way is he available….Charlie is a pro and he surely in a steady gig but what the hell…..we had to find out….we had to make the call…..maybe we would get a break…….maybe we would get a late Christmas present. We shot an email off to Charlie and the answer we got made us think “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”. Charlie had just split from the band he had been working with and he was available but more importantly he was interested. Interested hell…he was in. Now we are feeling lucky (plus we are now sure there is a Santa Claus and he’s working for us) so we thought what the hell….let’s find someone to front the band. Mara had been out since July and since we were retooling it would be a good time to look for a singer to front the band. We posted an ad and hoped we would get another late Christmas present…….. We got quite a few replies but the one that sounded the most promising was Deanna. She sent us a short mp3 and something about her voice made us think “this girl might have it”. She came to the audition and we were determined not to act to quickly. We were going to audition a few people before we made a decision. No way were we going to pick the first person that walked through the door. It would not happen. We we’re going to audition a few singers to hear who was out there. Deanna sang the first song and we were all thinking “hmmm…she pretty good” after the second song we were thinking “she got some serious pipes” by the third song it was over…….the 4 of us, the 4 hard ass, high mileage, blues playing curmudgeons that walk into bars, spit on the floor and then proceed to rock the shit out of the blues, the 4 of us who had decided we were not hiring the first singer that walked in the door, no way, no how, not this time, ain’t happening……. had been won over by this young girl with more soul in her voice than a roomful of preachers at Sunday service. So, Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (and I think he’s a blues lover)
All of a sudden life can turn on a dime. Overnight we went from a tight, polished band to three road dawgs with a young chic singer who had talent but not much stage time. There was no bottom anymore. There was a big hole where the pocket used to be. Billy and Dave had been developing “the pocket” and after 3 years of gigging the groove was solid. Now that was gone and it was time to troll on Craig’s List again. Anybody that has ever been in a band knows how much it sucks to have to replace a member. You work to get the band tight, to learn how each other thinks musically and you rehearse, rehearse and then rehearse some more. When you get it tight and start to play like a unit something happens and somebody leaves the band. And that means auditions. UGH….. Just about the time we put an ad our on Craig’s List my buddy Dave Harris tells me his bass player split and his band is setting up auditions also. Dave is a killer guitarist that plays in the blues band Lea and Triple Threat —– so now Im thinking — “how the hell are we both going find bass players?” Two bands looking for bass players at the same time? Its going to be cut throat. Its going to suck. But ya’ gotta suck it up and go through with it. Dave and I talk, share notes, set up auditions and we have no conflicts with players wanting to audition. How could that be? Stephen is the first audition and he nails the audition, he’s a pro. The four of us look at each other and think “Damn, did we just strike gold?” After a few songs we were killing it and felt like Stephen would be a great fit but wait……we still had a second audition scheduled. The next audition is a guy named Charlie and damn if he didn’t knock it out of the park. Two auditions…two badass bass players….what are the odds…..this audition process is supposed to suck…..what just happened…..now we have a problem we never expected……out of two auditions both bass players were pros and we have to pick one…..what’s a band to do?
So spring was just springing and the band was just starting to get tight with Mara in her new role. Yeah she was still pretty “green” but boy could could sing. Her Dad, who had come to every practice and gig with her since day one, had become comfortable enough with us to let her come alone. That was a huge thing in our minds—we were "approved". Plus it seemed to allow Mara to “loosen up” a bit with regards to her singing. We didn’t have Dad looking over our collective shoulders. Then we get an email from Dave with “Please Sit Down” in the title block. To make a long story short Dave put his house up for sale because he and his wife decided they needed to move back to New England to be closer to family. They had been in Asheville for ten years and lets face it; life happens. Parents age, brothers and sisters have children who have children of their own and you are hundreds of miles away and the only time you see the family is when you go for a week long visit a couple of times a year. That ain’t easy. Well, they never expected to sell the house in 4 days but the housing market in Asheville has rebounded nicely and was pretty hot so how can you turn that down. So there goes Dave, a great bass player but a better friend and now we have a month to find a new bass player to fill his shoes……stay tuned cause the hits just keep on coming.
So Billy found a video of this girl from way down in Forest City. She was singing the old Allman Bros. tune "Midnight Rider" with a guitarist and a couple backup singers. Pretty loose, but the voice was expressive, and she obviously had good control of her pitch. Then Butch found a video of her entry for one of those "America's Got Talent" auditions, and it became obvious that she had real chops.
So one evening in early January she came up to Asheville, and sang a blues, and told us how much she liked songs like "Me & Mrs. Jones," and basically charmed the pants off several skeptical musicians who'd seen it all. (Do not doubt this. These guys really have seen it all. Ask Lee about playing Army bases in Germany; Butch about working in Barcelona; Dave about working a blues club in Amsterdam; Billy about any damn club between Atlanta and Los Angeles).
Anyway, we've been on a collective crash course of teaching her our stuff and learning hers. She's brought the book into the 21st Century, which is a good thing, and reminded us that sometimes it's all right to haul out some of the old bar-band chestnuts. ("No! No! You don't really mean "Midnight Hour? Oh, okay...just this once.") Her love of Joss Stone brought us to Herbie Hancock's ultra-funky version of "Love Comes To Town" that kinda scared the bass player at first, but we got it down pretty good--there'll be a recording of it up on the site pretty soon.
The big thing now is that coincidental with Mara's arrival, the gig spigot has suddenly turned on. In like two days we picked up work at TallGary's (Mar. 14); the Melody Room in Hendersonville (Mar. 22); and Tressa's (Mar. 27 and April 5.) It's good to be busy again...
Hey, I ain't gonna lie. At the end of November last year things were looking pretty grim. We'd come off a year in which we'd attempted to add a fifth member and it didn't work out. Garry was, and is, a fantastic talent, but clearly not comfortable with our, um, more aggressive approach to the music.
The previous September, we'd lost our main source of bookings, and that was a drag, because none of us was really into the necessary schmoozing and self-promotion the job called for.
There was much grousing. Nobody was saying we were great (except drunk guys at Tallgary's, which had been our last regular gig), but c'mon, we'd all been at this a long time, and there was a feeling that the skills we'd spent so long developing just weren't appreciated any more. Self pity? Sure thing, dude, and it's what's available when nobody else seems to give a rat's ass.
And then Billy found Mara on craigslist, and thereby hangs a tale.
to be continued...