Motown rebound

Published on May 12, 2011 by

Last late summer, I was referred by one of the drummers in my band, MDIII, Pete Hines, to a bandleader/bass player based in Middletown, Neal Hatcher, who was knee deep in the process of forming a Motown tribute band, costumes, choreography, the works. It was being overseen by an agent out of Massachusetts with a track record for putting together musical productions to fit numerous genres.

The show/project was called “The Magic Of Motown,” a name that I would soon find out was a most generic one. This was a monumental undertaking by Mr. Hatcher, a talented bass player, and someone I would soon find to be a level-headed man who cared about everyone involved with this project.

The band had an early December deadline for two New Year’s Eve shows on the Jersey Shore, meaning we had to have our stuff together. While it sounds easy, we were dealing with 12 people — Yes, 12 people; drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, three horns, and four vocalists. Things were complicated as the process put us in contact with five keyboardists, four of whom quit for various reasons.

Not for nothing, keyboardists have always been wildcards of sorts, in band situations. Along with the bass, they are so responsible for what goes on within the workings of a band of this type. It’s tough to get a top-notch player, as they are always in demand. By the time we got a keyboardist that was a keeper, Dec. 31 was right at our collective doorsteps, so we had to scramble. During the few months I had been with the show, we lost a male vocalist as well, so the new guy had to get up to speed.

So many obstacles stood in our path; the unknowns of a new project, a startup band, people who, while very talented, may not be as well versed in this music as others, people who broke their initial commitments, all conspired to make us all nervous wrecks before showtime. In addition, the agent was nowhere around physically. We knew him primarily through emails, and when he did show up, he wasn’t happy. Well, under some very difficult circumstances, we were working very hard to get this done, and we didn’t appreciate his harsh assessments, which bordered on insults. He was worried about his reputation. If he had attended our first two shows on New Year’s Eve, he’d need not to have worried.

No initial voyage is an easy one. There will be glitches, some out of our control, we can only control what we do as musicians and performers. At the end of the day, here we were after two shows, in a 550-seat theater, one of the shows sold out, receiving curtain call, encores, standing ovations, and signing autographs. Between shows our bandleader got a congratulatory text from the agent, and things looked promising for this big band with big plans.

However, as soon as we got back to Connecticut, the winds of change had started to roar. The agent became very involved, a big departure from his detatched and distant position. As we prepared for two early February shows in the Boston area, we learned that the horn section was fired, and two singers would be added, so now there would be six singers. That put us in the position of relearning harmonies, backgrounds, etc., compromising all that we had done up to this point, starting over again.

We had put in a lot of work, spent a lot of money on gas, transportation, costumes, rehearsals for a mere pittance on New Year’s Eve, and with these changes, we had to work even harder without compensation. I say no compensation because we spent more than we made for the four shows that we put on. The Massachusettes shows went fairly well, the second night better than the first.

The first night was glitch city, sound, visuals, everything, but we got through it. To top it off, my hotel room was freezing cold, and my lady hadn’t arrived yet. The second night we seemed to put it all together.

I have YouTube proof of that. The Magic Of Motown looked like we’d been together for while, as we allowed our personalities to augment the great music. When it was over, we did an encore, as well as a meet-and-greet in the theater lobby.

However, change was on us again like white on rice as the agent made more changes, deciding to get rid of most of this band, and incorporating the remaining members with one of his prized all-male R&B bands. This took our base of operations from Connecticut to Massachusetts.

After auditioning other female vocalists that were no match for the ladies we already have, he changed gears again, handing the reins once again to our hard-working bandleader, effectively telling him to “Call me when you got something good.” So much change in a very short time. We were relieved and excited to get back to work, but this was not going to be the case.

Shortly thereafter, the agent decided to close us down as a band, telling us we couldn’t use the Magic Of Motown name, a generic name used by countless shows all over the world, or the videos that my girlfriend shot. Good luck getting those from me, sir. The only reason given was that he and the bandleader didn’t see eye to eye.

After telling me just before this that he liked my talent and attitude, I became expendable. After seriously considering shelving the show altogether, Neal, and the core members of the show, the vocalists have decided to keep this going.

We have a new agent, someone who is committed to our success, and not their own gain and image. The show will be top-notch, even better as it’s in better hands, so look for us in regional theaters by the fall. The Magic Of Motown is no more … Forever Motown has arrived, the “Sound Of Young America.”