This is part of a series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a bus full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
“One time we had bookings out in California. We left Brownwood, Texas and made the mistake of stopping in Juarez, Mexico. We had too much fun…drank too much and hung out with too many senoritas. We didn’t really have a whole lot of money left by the time we got out of Juarez, but we had to get on to California to work. Then, the worst happened when we got into Arizona somewhere. The bus started making an engine noise. We had to stop and get it fixed. To the best of my memory, it was an oil pump. At any rate, we were sincerely broke by the time we reached California. We found a motel that rented apartment type rooms; like two bedroom motel rooms. I told the lady who managed it, “We’re musicians and we get paid next week. We get paid every week. We just blew into town from Texas and had some bus trouble so we don’t really have the money to pay you in advance, but we would like to rent the place. We’re going to be here at least six weeks.” I have no idea what possessed her to agree, but she said, “Ok. I’m going to trust you for this week.”
We settled in and had just enough money to buy a pound of bologna and a loaf of bread. We’d managed to get out of Mexico with a few cartons of Mexican cigarettes and a few bottles of Cognac. So, we drank Cognac, smoked Mexican cigarettes and ate bologna and bread for a week.
Finally, at the end of that week, we got paid. That night we went to a place down the street from the motel that advertised all the chicken you could eat for a buck. We almost wiped the poor guy out. I mean, we were hungry! I told him fair and square, “This is the first time we’ve really eaten in a week. We’ve been living off bologna and bread. I’m sorry we wiped you out.” He laughed and said, “No, no. You guys eat all you want and come back again. That is all I ask; that you come back and see me. I’ll come out in the long run.” So, we ate fried chicken there often, but we didn’t eat hardly as much as that first time.
The irony of this band business…this music business, is that I would be up on stage with a fifteen-hundred dollar suit on, high dollar boots, Stetson hat and all kind of fancy hand-made belts and guitar straps. I would be up there looking like I had a million dollars when I didn’t have fifty cents to my name. People would say to me, “Man, I wish we were like y’all are. You get up there and work only four hours a night and make a lot of money, get all the women and have all the fun. And, I would be thinking, “Man they have no idea what this is all about. No idea.” They didn’t know how many hundreds of hours of rehearsal we put in and all the money that had to be paid out. It was not as it appeared. ”