Battle of the Bands

Dear blog readers:

This is a true story that I wrote up back when it happened. I just found it in a folder called “really old non-poker stories.” Enjoy!

Battle of the Bands

This was late 1980’s. I was playing in a very good band that was regionally famous. We’d been together for a long time. All five of us were full-time musicians, making enough to buy houses and raise families and such. We were what one might call: for real.

We played about half the time locally, in major bars that booked us 5 nights per week, and the rest of the time we went on the road, playing the same type of week-long engagements. We had a truck, a van, and CB radios. One day we were traveling from one gig to another, out in the middle of nowhere, and we passed a huge dance hall that had a giant marquee that said, “Battle of the Bands — Today at 1:00 PM — Entry fee: $25.”

It was 11:30 a.m., and it was a full day off for us. We did not have to set up and play that night. The other band members wanted to turn around, go back to the dance hall, and enter the competition. I reminded them that we had taken a solemn vow years ago to never again enter a Battle of the Bands. But the setting was apparently too sweet to resist. We mulled it over, and like an alcoholic falling off the wagon, we turned around and pulled into the dance hall parking lot.

We went inside and met Delbert, the owner. He told us that the dance hall is only open on Saturday nights, except for one Sunday per year, today. He said that the local talent prepares all year for this day.

There were nine entrants. Each act was to do three songs. We were scheduled last. First prize was $500. Second prize was $200. Third prize was an antique accordion.

(I secretly imagined that I could throw the competition so precisely as to land us third prize, since I was the only one in the band who knew his way around a piano keyboard, and I’d often thought about getting an accordion just to have one.)

We enjoyed the show from backstage. My favorite performer was Ginger, a delightful, confident nine-year-old girl who sang Patsy Cline songs. She was good, by any standard. The most amusing performer was Rodney. Rodney was a giant man who played a miniature harmonica. Everyone loved him. Another crowd favorite was a band called “The Boys up the Creek.” They had not been boys for 50 years.

As it became clear what the situation was, I had an attack of conscience. I called for a band huddle, just before we went on stage. I asked the band if anyone else was feeling funky about swooping down like hawks and snatching these people’s $500 and then flying away. They mumbled and nodded and shifted their feet. But we all knew it was too late to back out.

We hit the stage as usual, full throttle. The music, the lights, the crowd, it always infused us with a cohesive energy that was 10 times bigger than the sum of our parts, all in the time it takes to count to four.

By our third song, the dance floor was hopping, for the first time all day. At the end of the song, we were supposed to be done with our set. Delbert got on the house PA and yelled, “You can’t stop now boys!” (Translation: “People are buying drinks now.”) So we played for another half hour.

Backstage again, a wrinkled, gray man approached us. “You guys are the best band that’s played here in 40 years.” He was one of the judges. We were a lock for first prize.

Delbert took the stage. He announced third place. My accordion fantasy was shattered. Then he announced second place. It was Ginger. She radiated pure bliss as she accepted the $200. Then Delbert put on his biggest voice while we anticipated the inevitable, “And first place goes to…”

“Rodney Jones!”

Huh? We were dismayed, yet relieved. Shocked, yet comforted. After we packed up our instruments and loaded them into the truck, we went out into the hall and we found Delbert mingling at the judge’s table. “Great job, boys. Let’s talk some business. I want to hire you guys and work you into my rotation for Saturday nights.”

The person in our band who is our front man, and energy source, and who usually does all the speaking in these situations, is my cousin, A.J. Angelo. A.J. said, “Thanks Delbert. Yeah, we’ll talk. But about today’s contest, I mean, not that we expected to win or anything, but still, we couldn’t help but wonder why we didn’t even get third place.” He was stammering, somewhat embarrassed, but gnawingly curious, as we all were, as to just what the heck happened here.

One of the judges looked up quickly, with concern, and said to us, “Are you saying that you guys were in the competition? Delbert came up to us half way through your first song and told me and the other judges that he had hired you guys to finish off the show with a bang. Delbert? What’s going on here?”

“S’okay,” Delbert said. “These are good boys. They didn’t want to run off with Rodney’s money anyways, did ya boys?”

Delbert had read us perfectly. How did he know? It didn’t matter now. All was right in the world, except for one thing. “Hey Delbert,” A.J. said with a grin. “Do you think we could get our twenty five bucks back?”


  • AJ Angelo Posted February 8, 2010 10:37 am

    Hey Cuz… Have I mentioned how much I love you! You are so much da’man!! Thanks for the great, great memory! By the way, we did get the $25 back… AJ

  • mongoose Posted February 8, 2010 11:10 am

    that, is a great story.

  • nick chapman Posted February 8, 2010 1:30 pm

    That is absoluely fantastic. I can’t believe in all these years I don’t remember hearing that! Great story Tommy

  • tecmosuperbowl Posted February 8, 2010 1:38 pm

    A+ story Tommy!

  • Jay Posted February 8, 2010 4:03 pm

    Any peek into the past is a perk. More!!

  • jude Posted February 8, 2010 5:15 pm

    Love them old folders! Nice.

  • Wayne Lively Posted February 8, 2010 6:25 pm

    Nice of AJ to finish the story. I loved it.

  • Dan Lang Posted February 13, 2010 10:20 am

    Great story. I can’t believe AJ let you walk out of there without that accordion. Hopefully you came across another one in your future travels. Your blogs are terrific, keep them coming.

  • Márcio Posted March 1, 2010 8:55 am

    Great story and great storytelling. Hope you love poker enough to compensate for the fact that an artist such as yourself is not sharing his art with the world. Your book is not only a great poker book, it is a great book. You definitely should think about writing. Maybe your old stories could be a good start 🙂

  • Paulo Posted December 14, 2015 11:39 am

    If my state votes for one person for President, but aenohtr person wins the national popular vote, then the votes of the people of my state would be disregarded under the NPV compact. If my State legislature subsequently decides that the popular will in our state should not be disregarded and appoints that slate of Presidential Electors which the people of my State chose a plenary, absolute, and complete power which any state legislature may resume at any time then that might tip the balance in the Electoral College to the NON-NPV plurality winning candidate. So who are you going to SUE in order to enforce the outcome under the NPV? There’s no way to enforce it because what my State legislature would have done is 100% constitutional even AFTER the popular election. Read the Bush vs. Gore (2000) decision. So, what the NPV compact amounts to is an agreement to elect BLUE candidates, but if the NPV should work out to elect a RED candidate, then the States are FREE to RENEGE on the NPV compact and elect a BLUE candidate. The “system” of elected the President should be IMPARTIAL. That’s rule #1. What you get when you mix the NPV compact with the Electoral College is a rigged system. If you want to improve upon the present Electoral College system then AMEND the Constitution in the usual way if you can. Otherwise, realize that none of the States are locked into the “winner-take-all” system, and that a better system may will be that used at present by Maine and Nebraska, where the Electors appointed are decided as follows: 2- Statewide popular voteremainder one Elector per congressional district. If adopted nationwide by the States, then nearly every state would have at least one Congressional District that was competitive, That in itself might be a motivation to make more CD’s competitive rather than safe for incumbents as States seek to win more influence in selecting the President. The Electoral College is by design a representative body and the Electors appointed ought to represent fairly the people who elect them, much like representatives elected to a legislature. Nobody would hold an election on a state-wide basis for a state legislature, tally all the votes in the state and then award all the seats to the political party that won a plurality. Nobody with an ounce of sense would suggest such a system on a national scale for picking the President. It simply perverts the winner-take-all concept into an even larger national problem. Representatives are elected by districts. Presidential Electors are representatives. Each state gets a number of Presidential Electors representing the number of members that State has in Congress, both the House and Senate. Presidential Electors ought to be elected using the same districts as Congressional Representatives and Senators. Doing this removes many of the complaints of those who favor the NPV but without magnifying the problems of the winner-take-all system to a national proportion.

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