09 Aug 2009 @ 7:23 PM 

The Final Note

By

Lans Hobart


Chapter 1

The last note sounded and Skeet Seaton plucked the low E string on his bass really hard, letting it slap against the fingerboard and pickups so it had a real percussive quality.  It was a trick he had picked up from watching blues guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn.  He took off the bass and handed it to Brian Shaw, his bass tech and then grabbed a towel next to his amp and wiped the sweat that had been flowing down his face almost nonstop for the last three and a half hours.

Tonight he was backing up Bruce Springsteen on the North American leg of his solo tour, but it didn’t really matter.  Skeet had played with tons of artists in his life across all genres of music.  From Clapton to the Indigo Girls.  From solo dates with Mick Jagger to Branford Marsalis.  From Prince to the Dixie Chicks.  He had played and recorded with them all and, as a consequence, he was very in demand.

They had just finished the last encore and hit the last note of Bruce’s classic “Born To Run”.  Skeet waved to the crowd and walked off the stage.  He was dripping in sweat and he hated it.  He was met again by Brian who gave him a fresh towel and a pat on the back.  Bruce, who was almost as sweaty as Skeet, grabbed his shoulder.

“Nice show, Hoss!  You were really on!  You sure you can’t stay for another leg, or at least a few more dates?  We love having you around!” Bruce said as he wiped away the last of the sweat.

“Sorry, Boss.  I have to put the finishing touches on the new solo record.  I had a blast though.  Maybe after the album is in the hands of the record company…”  Bruce broke in.

“When that thing comes out, you won’t have time for me!  You’re gonna be touring everywhere.  I got a feelin’ it’s gonna be heading to the top with a bullet.  Maybe we could talk about an opening slot,” Bruce said with a big grin on his face.

“From your lips to God’s ears!”  Bruce shot him an odd glance.  “It’s a figure of speech, man.  Just because I’m Buddhist doesn’t mean I can’t borrow one of your Judeao/Christian sayings, now does it?”

Bruce broke into a laugh.  “Well, I suppose we could rent you a couple for awhile.  Oh well.  Meet and greet in 10, OK?”

“Sure, I’m gonna catch a quick shower then I’ll be in, but I gotta cut it a little short. I got this guy coming for an interview and then I have to catch a red eye back to O’Hare,”  Skeet said as he inched his way toward the band dressing room.

“No problem, Hoss.  We’ll see you in a few.”

Skeet found the trip to the dressing room slower than he had expected.  There were a number of pens and paper shoved in front of him as he tried to walk.  Brian had tried to clear everyone and not to bother Skeet right now, but Skeet insisted on speaking to each one, signing whatever they wanted signed and took enough pictures that he felt like he was blinded by all the flashes.  He genuinely liked the interaction with the fans but he also knew that, with a new solo album coming out, the extra attention couldn’t hurt at all.

As the last autograph was signed and the crowd cleared away, Skeet remarked to Brian, “Good thing I’m not claustrophobic, eh B?”

“Ain’t that the truth!” Brian responded with a grin.  Brian had been with Skeet for over 25 years.  While his official title was ‘Instrument Technician’, he was really Skeet’s right hand man.  He took care of almost everything for Skeet.  He essentially ensured that the only thing Skeet had to worry about was playing and being creative.  While Brian looked up to Skeet for his enormous talent, he treated him more like a little brother.  Brian took care of him at every turn and the entire entertainment industry knew that Brian’s word was law.  Even Skeet’s management company dealt with Brian, only bringing Skeet in when most of the details were already hammered out.

This was not to say that Skeet wasn’t in charge of his own life.  There had been a few times when Skeet had overridden Brian and Brian had been fine with it.  Brian was definitely not on a power trip.  He loved Skeet and wanted what was best for him, and, in turn, Skeet trusted him implicitly.  If Skeet had an ‘inner circle’, it was Brian and that was about it.

Skeet made it to the dressing room where Brian had already laid out some clean clothes.  Skeet took off his shirt and headed straight for the shower while Brian grabbed one of the 5 basses that were sitting on stands in the corner and began to clean it.

“What time is our flight again, B?” he asked.  Brian had already told him numerous times but it was par for the course and he was used to it.

“We need to get outta here about 1:30.  The flight leaves at 3,”   Brian said in a tone that sounded like this was the first mention of flights or leaving or times, even though Skeet had asked the same question and gotten the same answer just before he went on stage.

“Man that was a great gig, B!  I love playing with Bruce…” Skeet shouted from the shower.  “…but I’ll definitely be glad to get home and finish up this solo record.”

“It’s been a blast.  What time do you wanna head into the studio tomorrow?  Not too early, I hope.”

“No, lets plan on 5 or 6 in the afternoon.  I don’t have much left to do.  I’m gonna need the Alembic fretless and the Fender jazz for tomorrow, k?” Skeet asked.  He knew there wouldn’t be a problem.  There never was.  Brian always had the stuff ready to go when Skeet arrived.  Luckily for both of them, Skeet had made enough money to have a small studio in his house in Chicago.  Brian even had his own small place out back and pretty much had free run of the main house and the estate.

“Is that interview guy here yet, B?” Skeet asked as he turned off the shower and grabbed a towel.

“Not sure, but I’ll go check.”

Skeet emerged from the bathroom and headed for his fresh clothes.  He really hated being covered in sweat all the time, in fact, he hated to sweat at all, but he knew it was all part of the job.  “Give me a couple of minutes to get tidied up and I’ll be right there.”  Skeet looked down at the couch.  It called him.  He knew that if he did the interview in the reception area, he would have to sit on a bench at a table.  But in the dressing room, he could rest his back on the couch.  “Just have him come in here.  I need to sit down on something comfy for awhile and this couch looks just like what the doctor ordered.”

“What doctor?  Man I have been after you to see a doctor about your back for months.  I can tell it’s bothering you.  Would you PLEASE go see one?”  Brian said.

“Yea yea yea.   I’ll get to it when we get back.”  Skeet definitely had a back problem and Brian was always hounding him to see a doctor.  So far, no amount of pain or nagging had been enough to get him to go.

Skeet glanced at the clothes Brian had gotten out for him.  There was pair of black Levi’s and a purple bowling shirt.  He slipped into the fresh outfit and made himself comfortable on the couch.  It was big and puffy and he almost sank into it.  He took a deep breath and finally felt a small wave of relaxation wash over him.

“Excuse me, are you Hanigan from some music magazine?” Brian asked in a loud voice hoping the right person would hear him.  He had no idea what this Mr. Hanigan was supposed to look like, but he knew the type.  Brian had always been able to spot the music press.  He always said they looked like nerds and bookworms who were trying really hard to be cool.  In spite of his great record for picking them out, he was having no luck.

Skeet fixed himself a drink and leaned his head back.  It had been a long day and he was ready to relax but he still had this interview to finish up and then a 4 hour flight and he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep on the plane.  He thought if he could just get 10 minutes, maybe he could recharge and be ready.

The door opened and Brian walked in, paused for a second, shot Skeet a look and rolled his eyes.  Skeet was confused and it showed in his face.  Skeet was just about to ask what was wrong when Brian stepped to the side and she walked in the room.  She was not incredibly tall but had the most gorgeous green eyes that Skeet had ever seen although they were partially obscured by a pair of glasses that gave her that sexy librarian look that Skeet loved.  She was wearing a pair of tight, black Levi’s that matched his as well as a purple shirt, although not the same style as the one Skeet was wearing.  Her hair was brown and cut relatively short.  He thought she was just drop dead gorgeous.  He paused for a moment, slightly taken aback, but then got up off the couch and stepped toward her, hand outstretched.  If he had learned nothing else from his southern upbringing he did have manners.

They looked each other up and down, each noticing the similarity in the others outfit.  A big grin crossed Skeet’s face.  “Well you have nice taste in clothes, Mr. Hannigan,” Skeet said, trying to fill the awkward silence.

Brian spoke up.  “Skeet Seaton….Chap…” She cut him off which irritated him slightly.

“Chapin Hannigan.  I’m from Jazz Journal.  It’s a real honor to meet you,” she said.  Skeet was immediately smitten, which was unusual.

“Skeet Seaton, maam.  You’ll forgive my surprise, but I was expecting a guy,” Skeet said.

“Is this going to be a problem, Mr. Seaton?”  Her voice had taken on a rather irritated tone.

“Why no, not at all.  This is a PLEASANT surprise!”  Skeet was trying not to trip over himself.  “But please, don’t call me ‘Mr.’.  It’s like puttin’ and elevator in an outhouse.  Just don’t belong.  I’m just Skeet.”

“Well, nice to meet you, Skeet.  I see you’re a Roadhouse fan.”  The statement caught Skeet off guard.  He used that line all the time and hardly anyone had ever recognized it, or if they had, they had never called him out on it.

“Yea, I’m kinda the king of beatin’ a dead horse around here,” Skeet said, trying to recover.  He was feeling oddly self conscious.  He had been interviewed thousands of times but had never fumbled over himself like this before.

“That’s good to know, I’ll keep it in mind,” Chapin said with a light smile.  She wasn’t sure if he was taking her seriously or not.  She tended to think he wasn’t, as most male musicians she interviewed tended to not take her seriously.  They either had no respect for her, wanted to get in her pants or some combination of the two, so she assumed she was well prepared for any shenanigans this guy might pull.  It was one of the draw back of being a working female in a male dominated industry.

Because of this, she usually got assigned to interview female artists, but this came with its own unique set of problems.  But she had specifically asked for this assignment.  She had always been a fan of Skeet’s work, especially the obscure solo albums he had released over the years.  These albums were hugely popular with musicians and received critical acclaim, but no real popular success.

There was an awkward moment of silence which Chapin finally broke.  “Should we get started?” she asked more to break the silence than anything else.

“Absolutely!” Skeet exclaimed in a slightly over exuberant tone.  “As long as you don’t hold my fumbling over obscure lines from old movies against me.”  He realized that he was beginning to sound like the typical celebrity who was trying to sound genuine and that really bothered him.  He took a deep breath and offered Chapin a seat on the couch.

Chapin pulled a pen, paper and a small, digital recorder from her bag.  “You don’t mind if I record this, do you?  It makes it much easier in the long run.”

“I’d be a pretty sad recording artist if being recorded bothered me, now wouldn’t I?” Skeet said as he collapsed into a corner of the couch.

“I suppose so,” she said with a smile.  Skeet smiled back, took a deep breath and prepared for yet another interview.  He always did these begrudgingly since most of the interviewers wanted to know about the same stuff.  What was it like working with Michael Jackson or Britney Spears or Prince or any of the other hundreds of stars he had worked with before.

“Let’s start with the basics.  It’s widely known that you were raised in the Shattock Orphanage in Clarksdale, Mississippi, but is that where you discovered your love of music?”  Chapin asked.  She immediately regretted asking the question.

“Of course it was you nit wit,” Chapin said to herself.  “He left the orphanage to tour with Stan Balch!  He HAD to get his love of music there!  Are you going to act like a Cornell graduate with 7 years experience or are you going to act like a reporter for the high school paper?”  Her mind was swimming with embarrassment and she almost missed the start of his answer.  “Thank God for recorders,” she thought.

She swallowed hard and tried to listen intently.  She had interviewed so many musicians and had not really been that interested in what they had to say.  She would ask them the same stable of questions that every other reporter had asked since their career had begun, but Skeet was different.  Nothing about him was typical.  His background wasn’t typical.  His career wasn’t typical.  His manner wasn’t typical.  His talent definitely wasn’t typical.  And besides, for an old guy, she found him pretty cute too, but she tried to remain professional.

“Well let’s see,” Skeet began.   “When I was at the orphanage, there wasn’t much music, especially popular music.  We had a music class in school but there wasn’t much substance to it, a lot of ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ kinda stuff, until I got into 4th grade.  I had Mrs. Smith for music.  She loved real music and passed that love on to us, well, to me anyway.  You know she was the first cousin of Big Mama Thornton?  Yea, we listened to a lot of blues…”  Skeet told Chapin the usual story he told every other reporter.  Mrs. Smith gave him an appreciation for great songs of the common man and taught him a few chords on the piano.  He would sit at the rickety old piano in the big hall at the orphanage and plink away for hours.  After a couple of years, he joined the Junior High School band and began to play cello, but he much preferred the playing blues on the school’s stand up bass and eventually the Fender Jazz bass that the high school jazz band would use.

He told her the story of sneaking in to see the legendary guitarist Stan Balch at the age of 15 with his high school band director, Mr. King and even being able to sit in.  He told her how well they hit it off and about quitting school two days later because Stan needed a bass player.  He related numerous stories of being on the road in an adult world at 15.  He told her about how the music made him feel and that, unlike most of his life, it was something he had control over.  He talked and talked.  It had gotten to be a script he had almost memorized over his 25 year career that was simply repeated for whatever reporter, radio interviewer or fan that happened to ask.

She asked him about all the people he’d played with and, as usual, he ran down a virtual who’s who of rock, pop, jazz and country music.  She asked the standard question, “Who have you enjoyed playing with the most?” and as usual he answered Stan.

Shortly after joining the band, Stan and Skeet found they had a lot in common.  Both were orphans, although Stan was adopted when he was 7 by the Balches and had grown up in Chicago.  Both had an intense love of the music and discovered that they complimented each other in almost every musical way you could imagine.  When they started writing together, they topped the charts numerous times and made tons of money, a situation that had been completely unfamiliar to Skeet.

“Who has had the most influence on your career?”, Chapin asked.

“Stan, obviously!” he answered with a half chuckle.

Chapin didn’t get the joke.  “Obviously?  Why Obviously?”

“Because he made me rich!” he said and roared with laughter.

Chapin was suddenly taken aback.  Could this man whose feeling and soul she had admired so much have just been in it to get rich?  “So it was all about the money?”

Skeet’s laughter stopped suddenly and stared at Chapin quite coldly for a moment.  “Have you heard ‘Live at the Paradise’?  Have you heard ‘Ace In The Whole’?  Have you ever listened to ‘Hot Java’?  We had a musical chemistry that was unmatched.  He is the greatest player I have every worked with and probably ever will.”

Chapin recoiled slightly which caused Skeet to realize that he was coming off a little aggressive.  He forced a slight grin.  “But he still made me rich and you can’t argue with that, now can ya?”  Both of them giggled.

“Now in ’89, you recorded your fist solo album, ‘Hittin the Note’.  There was some incendiary playing on that record,”  Chapin began.

Skeet shot her a confused look.  No one ever asked about the solo stuff.  “Uh huh.  Thanks.”  It was all he could muster.  He didn’t have a script in his head for this.  Improvisation was something he was well versed at with his bass, but in interviews?  Not so much.  Skeet caught himself and tried to recover.  “I’m surprised you’ve heard that album.  It didn’t get much airplay when it was released…or since.”

“I really think so much of the great music out there goes unnoticed by the public at large.  But this interview isn’t about what I think,”  Chapin said, quickly jumping back into the reporter role.

“Well, maybe it should be.  I’m not trying to pimp that album, but you’re right.  There’s so much stuff out there that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  I’m not sure I think that ‘Hittin The Note’ qualifies, bit it would be great if people could take a good, hard listen to what music is out there, not just what’s in the top ten this week.”

Chapin could tell she struck a chord and really wanted to talk more about undiscovered music, but she was here to do a job.  “What drove you to make that album?”

They continued their talk for an hour and a half and were both having a blast.  Brian, however was ready to go and assumed he was doing Skeet a favor by saving him.

“We gotta head out, Skeet.  They don’t hold the plane for anybody, even the likes of you!” he said with a grin.  “I’ve got the stuff loaded so we’re just waiting on you.”

“What time does that plane leave again?” Skeet asked.

“Um…2:30, so we really need to leave now.”  Brian was counting on the fact that Skeet couldn’t remember anything.

“2:30?  I would have sworn it was 3:00.  Oh well,” he said.  He turned to Chapin.  “I can’t keep track of anything.  I don’t know what I’d do without Brian around.”

“Well thank you so much for sitting down with me.  If I need any follow up info, I can contact your management company.  That’s the Larry Baker Agency, right?” Chapin asked.  She was disappointed the interview had to be cut short.

“Nonsense!” he exclaimed.  Chapin was taken aback and cut him off quickly.

“Nonsense?”

“No no no.  I mean don’t call L.B.  Just call me.  It takes too long for you to contact them, then they contact me, then I contact them…you’ll be way past a deadline if you have to wait on that.   I tell you what.  Do you have a card?”  he asked.  Brian looked at him completely puzzled.

“A card?”  She paused.  He looked at her expectantly.  “OOOHHH!  You mean a business card!”

“Of course,” he said.

“Yea, I have one right here!  Just write the number on the back,” she said

“Oh, that won’t do…” he said trying to sound as disappointed as possible.

“Won’t do?  What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I’m gonna need two of them.”  He worked hard at trying to hold in his chuckle.

“Two?  Ok, here ya go.  But what do you need two for?”

“Well, I’ll write my number on the back of this one and give it to you.”  He paused.  “And I’ll keep this one so I can get a hold of you.”

“Get hold of me?”  She sounded thoroughly confused which left Skeet very nervous and self conscious.

“Well, in case you wanted to go have coffee and discuss the plight of the popular music scene,”  He paused not knowing what else to really say.  “…or something.”  He really hoped that she was going to take this as charming.

She looked at the card for just a moment and then the right synapse fired.  He was wanting to ask her out!  She looked up and looked into his eyes.  “Of course,” she said as she handed him the card.  “Anytime.”

Skeet could hardly contain his glee.  Meanwhile, Brian could hardly contain his thought that this whole thing was silly.  He rolled his eyes and tossed his bag over one shoulder and Skeet’s over the other.  “You ready?” he said.  The impatience was obvious in his tone.

“Yea…yea,” Skeet said.  He turned to Chapin.  “Well it was wonderful to meet you Ms. Hannigan.  Be sure to call me if you need anything else.”

“Yea, definitely.  And you do the same,” she blurted.  Skeet just smiled.  Brian rolled his eyes again.  She quietly wondered if she could embarrass herself a couple more times before she left.  She shook his hand and made a swift exit.

“Pretty cute, huh Brian?” Skeet asked.

“If you say so, Skeet.  If you say so,” he said as they headed out the door.

_____________________________________

Get Chapter 1 in a .pdf.

Posted By: Lans
Last Edit: 09 Aug 2009 @ 03:24 PM

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