The Wichita Full Monty

My musical adventures include a brief stint with The Bobby Clark Show (named changed to protect the guilty) during the summer of 1981. The BCS was a little Vegas rip-off act that traveled the southwest during the early 1980s. I met Bobby after being called as an emergency sub for his gig at the Hilton Inn in Amarillo, Texas in 1980. It was a bizarre experience, to say the least. But I was young, and had not yet learned to pay attention to my intuition when it argued with my desire to “go on the road!” with a band, any band. I met him again a few months later in Austin as he laid musical waste to the sparse crowd attending his two week booking at the downtown Sheraton Inn. One more sub date, and then, as his regular drummer decided not to return, I took the job for the summer. His manager/Dad promised many wonderful things, and I fell for it, my intuition bound, gagged, and locked in a closet in the back of mind somewhere.

Our first stop with the band was in Wichita, Kansas. The lounge was a gaudy 1/4 scale copy of the old showcase room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. The band consisted of two keyboardists manning a Wurlizter electric piano and Krumar string machine respectively, a Van Halen wannabe on guitar, an accountant who had become lost and ended up on stage holding a bass, and me on Bobby’s personal Rogers drum kit — each tom shell stuffed completely full with packing foam. These drums of his produced an amazingly subtle sound somewhat like a finely sharpened number two pencil being tapped on a thick clay wall two hundred yards away from a microphone on a very humid day in Venezuela. Bobby insisted that I play his “professionally tuned” kit because it would “look great on stage and sound awesome.” I never produced enough volume on those drums for Bobby or his Dad and finally graduated to sticks only slightly less thick than a Louisville Slugger.

There were no drum charts for the elaborate Vegas medleys that we massacred nightly. I was typically two or three bars behind everyone in transition. But then, they were two or three behind Bobby, who often left out entire pages of music because he was “responding to the timbre of the room.” One night during week one in Wichita, Bobby worked up an extra strong lather during his Mac Davis mammoth medley and dramatically employed the power knee slide across the dance floor to the wondrous delight of the seventeen over-60 divorcee club members in attendance. The Mac Davis look he was sporting included black pocketless polyester slacks that fit as tightly as Saran Wrap over a Jell-O mold. Upon commencing the power slide, the center seam of Bobby’s slacks self-destructed. What had been pants now resembled a pair of chaps, and the burlesque nature of Bobby’s pose was greatly enhanced by his earlier decision to dispense with undergarments for the evening. There lay our man-boy leader on bended knees, back arched and arms held skyward in a victory gesture, while our seventeen Golden Girls screamed their approval at his Chippendales finale. The band showed no strength of character, losing all composure as the tune faded in chaos to the soundtrack of our snickering and the ladies applause.

Two more months of insanity followed that first night. And when I finally let my intuition out of house arrest, it began lecturing me and hasn’t stopped since. I guess it knows me all too well.

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