Wes never did shake Stewie’s hand.
Bogus wasn’t headed for the upper echelons of gigdom any time soon, if ever. Wes Piddens’s first band had spunk, dedication and business cards, but lacked management and anything more than mediocre gigs.
So, they couldn’t be over-choosy when auditioning replacement bass players. But still, a canvas ex-navy kit bag? Who toted their bass around in an ex-navy kit bag?
Prang Buntoff did.
Wes wasn’t impressed. It spoke to him of someone prone to skipping town at the drop of a hat. Also stored in the bag were a Country Blues Songbook, some cigarette papers and a barely metre-long curly guitar cord, hardwired into the bass.
Wes wasn’t hopeful.
“I’m not hopeful”, he whispered to his boon drummer Baldry while Prang upended the offensive kit bag and admired his paltry treasures.
Baldry slowly bowed his head and knocked it a couple of times on the rim of his snare drum.
But Prang wasn’t too bad. They lashed him with a dozen songs and he kept up. They told him they wouldn’t be needing no Country Blues Songbook. He teared up a tad, but didn’t argue. Told him the short curly cord was a tad outre for a pro band of their calibre. He told them he’d save up for a new one – once this one broke.
The kit bag rankled. But since Wes’s own guitar case was airing out on the veranda on account of it perpetually reeked of tomcat pee on account of he’d bought it for five bucks from Mucus Makarov, who let his tomcat pee in it, he felt he’d be judging Prang from the low moral swamp.
So, Prang was in.
He played a blinder at their next gig and didn’t get very drunk. Tethered as he was to his amplifier by the short cord, he had no stage presence, but you always knew where he was. No, the trouble with Prang was that he brought Stewie along.
“This is Stewie.”
Wes was changing a guitar string – so he didn’t shake hands.
“You guys cane it, man.”
“Yeah, well, thanks. We give it a go.”
“Stewie can do Blueberry Hill.”
“What? Ah found mah threeeill!?”
So, just for laughs, they got Stewie up next set to sing the old Fats Domino number. He sang it like Tom Waits, Amy Winehouse and Chad Morgan – all at the same time. It was original, alarming, and the drunks went wild for it.
Stewie joined Bogus.
Trouble was, no one in the band knew.
Next gig was a triple header at the University Bar. The first band didn’t bother with a name, but they were good. They played Frank Zappa stuff like I Am The Slime, then took off to another gig, the busy bastards!
Then came this bunch of private school toff boys with a lame name, The Stanley Street Band. Lame. Just lame. When Baldry heard the name, he pulled a drumstick from his back pocket and gnawed on it.
But they were OK. They were tight. Turns out they were Midnight Oil before Peter Garrett. Yep.
Bogus did their thing. Then Stewie turned up out of nowhere and started singing with Wes. He pulled the microphone stand down from Wes’s six and a half feet to his five foot zero and started to yelp like a skittled dog. Wes managed to save the set by pulling the microphone way back up out of Stewie’s reach and surreptitiously blocking him with the Stratocaster’s neck whenever he tried anything funny.
To round out the night, Stanley Street drummer, Rob, suggested a massive jam on Coming Home, Baby and it went off big time.
During drinks Baldry caught Wes’s eye, swivelled his head towards Stewie and mimed a gory execution.
Huh? (Stewie was pretty drunk)
“Mate, it was fun doin’ Blueberry Hill with you the other night, but, you know you’re not in the band, don’t you?”
“Can I just do one more song?”
“One more. Original… Can I borrow your guitar?”
So, Stewie took to the stage, fired up the guitar and clawed his way through twenty- seven verses of the most impassioned god-awful wailing and frenzied guitar wanging imaginable.
It was pretty embarrassing. Wes made himself scarce.
Stewie concluded his catharsis, stowed Wes’s guitar in its catpeed case and disappeared.
Baldry pretended to throttle himself.
Next Day Wes felt guilty about sacking the non-member.
But he was glad he hadn’t shaken his hand.
He opened the catpee guitar case to discover shredded bits of Stewie’s fingers drying on his strings.
A lesson to us all.