Adding members to any group is always a crap shoot. I have a theory that for every person past two in a group, the potential number of problems (both personal and practical) compounds itself in the order of a square root. So when you get into a group with four or more people the potential for hassles of one type or another is pretty severe.
About this time I started to get some serious competition for lessons in town. A music store opened and while I was confident I could compete in terms of ability I knew there would always be people who would put some level of legitimacy on a "professional" setting, something that is tough to compete with. Before long I went from 30+ students a week to about 20. Getting gigs became all that much more important.
Initially when the store opened it was run by a guy who had all the right intentions but he ran into the problems every small music store faces - how to tap into the lucrative public school music business. This is a huge obstacle because a company called Rayburn Music owns ALL the instrument rental and sales business in most of New England. I confess to even patronizing them myself when my daughter needed a flute to play in school band.
A music store cannot make a living on guitars, plain and simple. The margin is just too low while keeping a huge amount of money tied up in inventory. Yes, you will get a certain number of people who need things like sheet music and guitar strings and reeds for their clarinets and saxes but that is NOT going to pay the rent.
Of course, today the reality of running a small store is even worse with internet deals out there, plus mega retailers like Guitar Center and Musician's Friend taking much of the instrument business. But back then it wasn't much easier and before long the guy had to sell his store. He sold it to two people who came to be friends of mine, Jeff Joiner (great guitar player and drummer!) and Catherine Cramer, also a very good drummer. More on her in a later entry here.
Well, through them I was introduced to a lady named Stephanie Murphy. Steph was just what my group needed - a good lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist - but more than that, Steph was (and is) a wonderful person with no ego issues. She also is a very good songwriter. She introduced us to the music of singer songwriters like Shawn Colvin and Gillian Welsh. Steph could rock out too though, and with her on board we began playing more gigs where dancing was part of the attraction.
Speaking of being "on board" I am reminded of one we played for some local civic group aboard the Island Queen, one of the ferries that runs between Falmouth and the Vineyard. It was a rough night on Vineyard Sound and the challenge was to swing and sway at the same speed as the mic stand to be able to keep singing into the mic! At one point I happened to glance back at Vinny, our percussionist. He was an interesting shade of gray. The next thing I knew, he was sliding open a window next to where he was playing. He would then lean out - without missing a beat! - and proceed to chum up the bluefish that swim in the Sound. This happened about three times. Vinny never said a word, he just kept on smacking those congas. Andy and I looked at each other and it was all we could do to keep from cracking up. Steph just shook her head. And the crowd kept on dancing.
Living and gigging on Cape Cod!
Peace & good music,