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I Was Too Stoned to Perform: A Love Story, Kinda

Mort Weiss By

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It was some time in the early 1960s and this story finds me, still Mort Wise, and my band—still named the Wisemen—having just signed a contract with World Artist Management services, a very happening company whose roster had names like Red Skelton, Ray Charles, Jacqueline Fontaine and many others. I would be one of the many others to begin with, at the time, after working the toilets and rough and tumble out of the way places like the Bank Club in Ely, Nevada, where the world's largest open face copper mine just happened to be, giving employment to multitudes of men.

Another place was Winnemucca, Nevada, where there was a gold mine and I believe a silver mine both functioning with payrolls reminding me of some obscure piece of verse that I've retained throughout the years, "It was payday at the mines, and the bearded brutes came to town," ya da ya da. Do me a favor, any one of you out there; if you know from whence that verse came, please do not send it to me! At the Winnemucca gig, In front of the bandstand, there really was a large chicken wire net put there to prevent all of the empty (of course) beer bottles that were being thrown at the band (from hitting us) from the exuberant and joyful revelers that, by 11:00 pm, were in the very strong embrace of Bacchus. Remember the first Blues Brothers flick. Oh yeah!

Add the above and another hundred or so places for a very un-cool number of recreational social clubs for a large majority of the proletariats to hang and socialize and voila! You've got the picture of the kind of places (not venues) that a cat could make a few bucks at. No, not every cat could do it, but I feel that's why God invented mothers' little helpers, ya dig?

Those kind of places were great training grounds for damn near anyone who was going to try to make it in the musical show business phase of paying the rent and eating (it really is all about eating isn't it?) with your horn. I had pretty much given up the dream of playing jazz clarinet for a career and vocation; quite frankly, it wasn't happing then and It sure as hell ain't happening today. My group, the Wisemen, became a tight musical entity. Why? Because we were working, rehearsing, and playing together six nights a week and man, when you do that in any discipline you become tighter than a well diggers ass, really!

My personal manager, Robert Leonard, got us the deal with W.A.M. and I remember the day we all drove west towards the Pacific Ocean on beautiful Wilshire Blvd. to their very impressive offices , oh yeah! At that meeting is where we signed the contracts to do the recording of eden abez's piece of shit, "Wild Boy," (eden never used a capital "e" in his name) some kind of "I'm just a guy that walks among you" type thing. Whatever. The plan was to add two singers to the group, a guy and gal (we weren't doing hard rock now except for an occasional one or two a show). Did ya get that? A show, not a set. Oh yeah! The chick was a very nice looking blonde (sorry ladies, back then it was chick) who could sing and the guy was a very good looking fellow, a Dean Martin-ish type who also could really sing. I'm going to call them Dick and Jane for this little remembrance, OK? Cool.

We rehearsed each day at one of the rehearsal halls at Local #47 Musicians Union. We were getting a good selection of pop and show tunes down for performance, auditions and gigs. They, Dick and Jane, were doing singles and duets and we were doing our things, so after about a month of rehearsing we had a pretty good upscale supper club and stage show act for the "bright lights and big cities" that lay in wait for us to knock em dead!

Oh, did I mention? Surprise-surprise, Dick and Jane became an item. Oh what a joy. If you sense some uneasiness coming from me, you've sensed right. I'd been up the creek and over the mountain and back a few times in my life at the time (I was 25 years old); I'd been working, living, hanging with musicians and Hollywood types for a long time. Mostly as a leader of bands and doing a lot of early TV work and such. In other words, I was very hip to show people and their peccadilloes and nuances, and a little chill ran down my back—the dark cloud passed and all was sunny again—onward! We were tight, and we were ready and the agency knew it. We were booked into the New Golden Hotels showroom for two weeks and a two week option for more weeks at the hotel bookers pleasure—a standard contract back in the day. It was for $2,000 a week (in 1960 dollars), and a residency at the Hotel. Yes, we were excited; man, here it was a big chance to get away from the chicken wire type of clubs and like that—oh yeah! In fact, oh hell yeah!

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