Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seven-Inch Vinyl: A Rock and Roll Novel Excerpt - Chapter Four: Memphis.

(From the soon-to-be-published novel Cpyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

The place was filled with the daily lunch crowd. Teddy sat at one of the last remaining seats at the counter. The waitress, Dee, approached him.
“I’m afraid your toast got cold, sweetie,” she said.
“I’m real sorry about that ma’am.”
“And I told you about that ma’am business too, didn’t I?
The sullen young man didn’t respond. Just one look told her he was stewing over some crisis. Dee slipped back into the kitchen and when she returned she was carrying his guitar case. She gave it to him over the counter.
“I put this in the back for safekeeping.”
“I appreciate that…Dee.”
The waitress smiled that he used her name this time. “You look a might on the used side. Would a burger help maybe?”
“I’m afraid I’m a little off my feed.”
“Well, sugar you can’t be sittin’ there during the lunch rush without ordering something. How about a coke at least?”
“That’d be fine.”
“And don’t you go runnin’ off on me again, its bad manners. You nurse that pop for as long as you like. When things thin out in here later, you and me are gonna’ have a little talk and you can tell me all your problems, okay?”
“Alright.” He managed a smile that made the waitress quite happy.
As she walked toward the soda fountain, a tall, balding, badly overweight gentleman came into the luncheonette. He wore an outrageously colored sports jacket and matching trousers. He took the last counter seat, next to Teddy. He looked to be in his forties and smoked a cheap, fat cigar that sent lines of smoke right passed Teddy’s nose. The boy fanned the air around his head, but the heavyset man took no notice.
“What’s your pleasure, Cap?” Dee asked the man when she returned and placed Teddy’s Coke in front of him.
“How’s the meatloaf today, little darlin’?”
“Same as usual,” she replied with a shrug.
“Well, I’ll have it anyway with mashed potatoes, peas and iced tea…extra gravy for the potatoes.”
“Coming right up.”
At about the same time two other men entered the luncheonette and sat in a booth not far from the counter. They were the two yes men from Artie Franklin’s office. When they recognized Teddy they let out a hearty laugh. The sound caused both Cap and Teddy to look around. Seeing the men made Teddy squirm. Cap offered no reaction, probably because Dee placed a heaping plateful of food in front of him. He looked around for some ketchup, and noticed a bottle just beyond his reach on the other side of Teddy.
“Excuse me, son, would you pass me that there ketchup?”
Teddy picked up the bottle and handed it to him.
“Better watch out how you talk to that boy, Cap.” One of the record company men called out from his booth.
“How’s that Billy?” Cap seemed more intent with tapping the bottom of the ketchup bottle until the contents flowed out over his meatloaf.
“He’s the cat that told Artie Franklin that if he took his head out of his ass he’d learn something about the music business.” He and his lunch mate enjoyed another laugh.
“That right, son?” Cap asked so that only Teddy could hear him.
“Afraid so.”
“No need to put yourself on a cross over it. Fact is, there’s plenty of people in this town wish they had the stones to tell Artie Franklin off. That includes them two hyenas over yonder.”
“Well, all the same, I wish it hadn’t been me that done it.”
“Can you play that thing?” Cap asked pointing his fork at the guitar case on the floor.
“I can if I ever get the chance. Are you in the record business?”
“Records? No, I’m not a record man. My name’s Cap Stewart. I put on road shows. The Cap Stewart Cavalcade. You ever hear of it?”
“No, I can’t say as I have. I’m Teddy Boyette from Kentucky.”
“Pleasure to meet you Teddy.” Cap put his fork down long enough to shake the boy’s hand. “We do a lot of local shows hereabouts, sock hops, stock car rallies and such. I got one getting ready to go out next week. You looking for work?”
“Me?” The question stunned Teddy.
“I got a feelin’ I could use a looker like you to draw in all the teeny boppers on the road.”
“Well, if this don’t beat all? Less than an hour ago I got thrown out of Artie Franklin’s office and now you offer me a singing job and ain’t neither one of you heard me sing or play a single note”
“Oh, I’ll hear you sing soon enough. You interested?”
“Heck yeah I’m interested. I’d be crazy to turn down a paying job!”
“Well, son, let me explain a few things about that.”
Cap went on to detail how his shows worked. The Cavalcade would be out touring for several weeks. They’d play small towns in Tennessee doing one show per night, perhaps two on weekends. Several acts were on the bill, each act performed onstage for about twenty minutes. The artists all began the tour on equal footing with the more experienced of their number at the top of the lineup. However, that could easily change once the show was out on the road. Audience reaction would determine future billing on the next stop on the tour. This way Cap ensured the performers wouldn’t become complacent. They’d work harder and do their best in the hope of moving up in the pecking order.
It was all geared for the big final show at The Regency Theatre in downtown Memphis when the Cavalcade got back to town. The performers would be paid for that show depending on where they appeared on that final bill.
“I know it ain’t the big time you been dreaming about,” Cap wrapped up his sales pitch as he finished his lunch. He took one last gulp of his iced tea. “But a lot of young performers starting out look at it as a good way to get some experience, polish up an act. It might stand you in good stead for the next time you went to see one of them record company fellas.”
It made good sense, but Teddy had reservations.
“I understand that, Mr. Stewart. It’s just… I was counting on making some money.”
“We’ll pay for your food and lodging and such while we’re out. If you do real good there’ll be some cash in it for you when we get back here to Memphis. You might even make enough to buy yourself a car.”
“I already got me a car.” Teddy informed him.
“You do? Why didn’t you say so in the first place, son? If you’d be willing to haul some of the gear, I’ll pay you three dollars a day and gas money.”
“So, I don’t get paid for singing but you’ll pay me for the use of my car?”
“That’s right.” Cap said.
“This music business is sure nothing like I expected. Mr. Stewart, you got yourself a singer and a driver.”

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "I wake up in the morning and I wonder. Why everything's the same as it was? I can't understand, no I can't understand, why life goes on the way it does." From: The End of the World, by: Skeeter Davis.

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