The Bobby Rock Newsletter #36 (12-2-2021) - Getting the Show on the Road
The Bobby Rock Newsletter #36 (12-2-2021) - Getting the Show on the Road
What’s up, everybody?
Happy to have you guys back.
I spent quite a few years—through all of the 90s and then some—touring around North America in vans and RVs as a drum educator/solo drumming artist. It was a privilege to earn a living touring in such a capacity, and absolutely exhilarating to pursue a drummer’s drummer-style career direction, playing for audiences that loved that kind of ethos.
But it was also quite an arduous way to live and travel, involving constant financial and logistical juggling to pull off. This week’s book excerpt will take you, for the first time, behind the scenes on how this innovative way of touring came to be. Enjoy…
In this Issue:
- Getting the Show on the Road: My maiden voyage into “Glutton for Punishment” land. No regrets, friends…
- A Year of the Dirt: Celebrating one year since the pre-launch… today!
- Drum Vid Vault: More video archiving… this time with some alphabet drumming, multi-voice improv, and more. Let’s hit it!
Getting the Show on the Road
Here’s another excerpt from my upcoming book, which is a follow-up to The Boy Is Gonna Rock:
Will Drum For Food:
Surviving the Nineties with Clubs, Campgrounds, Clinics, and Credit Cards
This memoir focuses on the Nelson hey-day, on through a decade-plus of my pursuits as a drumming educator and solo artist. It delves deep into the creative, philosophical, and business aspects of surviving and thriving in both of those very different musical/cultural worlds and, as you might imagine, there are plenty of stories to tell!
Here is an excerpt about my initial foray into “on-the-ground” solo artist/clinician touring. It covers all of the initial logistics I worked out with Sabian to launch that very first tour.
And again, this is an unedited, first-draft preview. Enjoy…
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Making it Happen
Late one summer afternoon in LA, in a stroke of genius—or madness, take your pick—I had an idea. Sabian had confirmed four clinics for me, on back-to-back nights in September. They were in Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Texas. A vision flashed before my eyes. These four shows were basically clustered together… well, relatively speaking, at least, in terms of being in the middle of the map. But could they be managed by ground travel, as opposed to flights?
I ran and grabbed my Rand McNally road map and took a closer look at the geography. At a hard glance, I wondered, what kind of drive would it be from Lawrence, Kansas to Muskegon, Michigan? Hellacious, but possible. Muskegon to Oklahoma City? Difficult, but doable. OKC to Dallas? A cakewalk. I immediately turned to the city-to-city mileage chart and started calculating miles. Yes, on paper, at least, this could be done. And from there, a bigger picture vision began to take hold.
The three of us—Brett (Garsed), the Fox (Carl Carter), and I—would travel with the Cub (my tech) and maybe one other crew guy, in the Cub-Van, pulling a U-Haul, with all of our own gear. I would bring the guys to the clinics with me, just like I did in San Diego, but with an even more polished presentation. It would be the ultimate “drum” clinic, with a full concert-like vibe about it. We would slay folks. From there, since we were already on the road cruising through various markets, we could work-in club shows on off nights. So in this way—at least in theory—the clinic expense money and fees could underwrite our initial foray into club touring.
Circa 1990, right around the time of this first tour.
But first… the dollars. How could I maximize the current clinic allotment for expenses? To make this a no-brainer for Sabian, here was my thinking: I would calculate how much they would be on the hook to pay if I flew everywhere: flights, hotels, per diems (for food, etc), ground transportation costs, and other expenses typical of “fly-in” clinics, plus, of course, my fee. I would add it all together, then make them an offer they couldn’t refuse: that they simply cut me a single check for that total amount—which, again, they would be expecting to pay to fly me in for the standard clinic experience—and I would show up “on the ground,” with all my own gear, including a massive Sabian cymbal set-up, plus a world-class band that will fry fucking brain cells. And, as a cherry on top, we would have the Cub on board to handle set-up. They would have to say yes.
And then, once I got that arranged, maybe a few of my other endorsement companies like Pro Mark sticks and Aquarian heads could throw in a little something (and also send out some door prizes). From there, presuming my cohorts were down for trying out this experimental run for chump change, we could hopefully establish a bare-bones weekly touring budget out there, with around four or five clinics per week. This would give us two or three other nights to try and do some club shows for virtually any amount of money, since our nut was basically covered.
Speaking of club shows, another "brilliant" idea occurred to me: Some music stores would hold drum clinics at clubs because they were already ideally set up for such a presentation: stage, lights, sound system, etc. So in these cases, we could also propose that, since I had a full band on deck, we could stick around and play a full club set after the clinic—at no extra charge, of course. I was jacked!
David McAllister was my go-to guy at Sabian at that time for these kind of administrative decisions. He was a super cool character, laid-back and friendly, and lived way up in New Brunswick near the Sabian plant. I got him on the phone the next morning to propose my new idea. He was immediately receptive to it, but I remember that he kept asking questions, almost as if he was in disbelief that I was able to pull off such a thing for what was ultimately so little money.
"So now, your tech, Cubby, is going to actually be out on the road with you guys?” David asked.
"Yes. He'll do the lion's share of the driving and also handle gear set up, along with one other guy we will probably bring along,” I responded.
"And you will also be able to take care of paying your bandmates who you will be bringing along?”
"Yes, should have everyone covered. Of course, they are both doing us somewhat of a solid regarding their fee, since this is a trial run.”
Indeed, it was an offer he couldn't refuse. And why would he? This would be a win-win for all parties involved: the store was getting a top-flight event, with separate crew personnel to help out with set up, and they would not even have to provide any of their own gear besides a sound system. Sabian and all of their field reps would receive top-notch representation of their products, because I would have my own custom set up with me, in a concert-like presentation that would showcase their kick-ass cymbals in a proper band context. HSS, the US distributor for Sabian, would be thrilled because they also represented Sonor drums, and I would be dragging around my full touring set-up, at no additional expense to them. And, of course, it would be a great thing for me, musically speaking, because I could step off into the solo artist realm, which I had been wanting to do for years at that point.
Just about the only downside would be the bare-bones economics involved with everything. The good news was, I was offering an extraordinary presentation for very little dough. The bad news was, I was offering an extraordinary presentation for very little dough! (Don't try this at home, kids.) This is precisely why it is ill-advised for the classic artiste to make business decisions. Truth is, we just want to fucking play, and we try to mitigate any possible obstructions to our doing so by proposing “offers that can’t be refused.” Once we lock into a particular vision of something, like I had, we think if we propose a financial arrangement to our sponsoring entities that is even potentially perceived to be on the high side, they will say hell no, and then hang up the phone without any further discussion, hence our dream is lost forever. But this is seldom, if ever, how it works. If they are truly interested, but the number is high, then they will counter with something that's more in line with their budget constraints. (It's called negotiating, for Christ sakes!)
But no, I low-balled like a motherfucker right out of the gate, and that was on me, not David McAllister. Hell, he was just complying with my proposal. He was probably still shaking his head when we got off the phone, saying to himself, "This can't be right. How in the hell will he be able to pull it off for that number?”
To this day, a flyer from a show on this first tour hangs on the wall above my desk.
"Funk-Rock Madness and Over-the-Top Badness!"
Tons of sentiment remains...
Of course, to be fair, there was another aspect of this proposed clinic tour concept that was on my mind at the time: this clinic/concert tour idea had, to the best of my knowledge, never really been done before… at least not to this degree. A traditional clinic, involving a full band and crew, that would pull up to a store as a sort of self-contained entity? There was just no precedent for it, especially where a drum or cymbal manufacturer was concerned. So, I suppose that was another reason I felt compelled to go low and "make an offer they couldn’t refuse.” I wanted to assuage any concerns there might be regarding the risk/reward aspect of this thing. Minimal financial risk for Sabian, but maximum reward for all if we could actually pull it off. And I guess I figured once we had an initial, successful run under our belt, I could hit them up for more dough next time, right? Again, that was the theory. But for the immediate, I just wanted to get this band on the road and in people’s faces. And friends, that is exactly what we were going to attempt to pull off.
PS. For a bit more backstory about my solo drummer guy aspirations and how it all came to be, check out this other “Will Drum For Food” excerpt HERE.
A Year of the Dirt!
On this day a year ago, December 2, 2020, we kicked off an informal pre-launch of Dragon Dirt… and promptly sold through two separate blends within 36 hours.
The response was alarming, frankly, because I didn’t think so many folks would be that receptive to trying it out. After all, a "chocolate shake" protein powder it isn’t. But it turned out that the extreme amount of nutrition in the Dirt pairs well with its neutral flavor, and such has been the story for our first year: folks have been “digging the Dirt” and I couldn’t be happier about that. A big "thank you" to all of our Dirt-Drinkers out there!
This month, I'll be talking a bit about our “Dirty” plans for 2022. For now, drop by the site for more info: www.drinkthedirt.com
Drum Vid Vault
In this week’s new DVV additions, we have something from each side of the kit. First, from the Alphabet side, a simple groove built around the spelling-out of the word “DRUMMING.” And from the front-side, a little multi-voice improvisation where we keep a very basic kick/snare groove chugging along, while we integrate multi hats and cowbells. Scope it HERE:
Thanks again, friends! Connect next week...
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