The band from left to right; David Favaloro (sax), Me of course on keyboards (M3 & Werlitzer piano), Larry Bond (bass), Johnny Elmer (drums), Ray Dubuisson (trumpet), Mark Ridley (trombone)
This was my first, full time professional band.
We actually started in the fall of '73 when my ol'buddy David (the sax player you'll notice in the next few bands) came and 'dug' me out of the Regency Lounge on Dowman Road in East New Orleans. I was playing with a weekend band called 'Southern Comfort'. Considering how well we partied (and played) that was an appropriate name. We had just been raided the month before by the N.O.P.D. Vice Squad 'cause they had it in for Mitch and (dare-I-say his sidekick) the manager "Red".
Anyway, Songbooks first job was in the side lounge of a Stakehouse on Pass Road. We worked up our sound, went through some personnel changes, and a few months later, made it to the 'coast' at Jimmys' James' place called Cesears Pallace. We really thought we'd made the big time but in retro-spect that whole Coast thing was just great starting point to my career. Hey! I was 18, 19 years old and making a real living playing music for the first time, so what if it was 6 nites a week from midnite to seven a.m. and I was living like a vampire? I thought it was the good life!
I remember the night some old guy passed out on the floor. We stopped playing, announced a break and Jimmy got Dave and Mark to help carry the man to the back door so he could "get some air". Ten minutes later we went back to playing like nothing happened. In the paper the next day there was an article about 'Man dies at nightclub'. It seems the man was dead when he hit the floor but ol'smooth Jimmy followed his motto ~ "The show must go on!" This place could have been a great pilot to Dark Shadows, it was that scary!
Oh, the stories I could tell (and may tell later on in these pages) about the Gulfcoast, gigs, band members (we later found out) on-the-lamb, the wine, the women, the... aahh, wait now, where was I? Oh yea, anyway, this was my humble beginning into the (and I use this term loosly) "professional" music business.
Last time I heard, Dave was still loaded and playing sax, Larry's in Mississippi, retired from the service and looking for gigs, Johnny's either out-of-town, out-of-state or out of his mind (as usual), Ray passed away not too long ago (having been in and out of hospitals with (very) poor health for many years, even died 3 times on the operating table but still came back to play his trumpet (no, I'm not making this up!), and Mark is STILL threatening to buy a piano, learn to play it, and then start his own band! Some things just never change!
The music business... it just get's better!
A side note about playing with Ray Dubuisson... Ray and Johnny gave me my start and taught me alot about the business. I will always respect (and love) them for that. In all my years in the music business, I have never known a nicer soul than Ray Dubuisson. At his funeral, the attendence was like a *Who's Who* in the regional music scene. I saw musician friends that I hadn't seen in 25+ years there... all there to say their last goodbyes. Ray was a very special person to more folks than you could imagine... he will be missed.