Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Buzzards

One of the most challenging tasks I have ever faced is the task of coming up with a name for a band. It doesn't seem like it should be that hard, until you actually try it, then you realize that it is an exercise requiring a certain amount of creativity, some marketing savvy, a fair amount of diplomacy, well-honed negotiating skills and abundant tolerance for foolishness.

When I started out playing with Jimmy, it was pretty much his gig. We played his songs and he got the bookings and so we went by Jimmy's professional sobriquet "j rulon" or "the j rulon band." Now, nobody knows what the hell "j rulon" means and sometimes people got a little confused when we introduced ourselves. Plus no one could figure out how to pronounce it. But it's Jimmy's name and we stuck with it.

Things began to change when Will came into the picture. Will has already carved himself out a decent little niche in the music business and has no interest in going around playing second fiddle (or guitar) to some guy with a weird name. Nor should he. He suggested that we come up with a new identity to distinguish this current project form the previous one. A very reasonable idea. Except that Will decided that he wanted to call this new band "The Cooties." At first I thought he was just kidding around. He does a lot of kidding around and it took me several months before I learned not to trust him. Like the time I showed up at a gig and set down my guitar case in the back room where Will was tuning up so I could make a quick pit stop before we went on. When I came back, Will was standing over my empty guitar case shaking his head. "Rich, you brought your case alright but you forgot to put your guitar in it." Already nervous about the gig, I completely freaked out. How could I have been so stupid? What the hell am I going to do? There's no time to go home and get my guitar! Then I noticed the evil grin on Will's face. "You son of a bitch!" He laughed wickedly and reached behind the door to retrieve my guitar. Now I never turn my back on him.

We started to realize that Will was indeed serious when he gave us each a rehearsal CD with "The Cooties" written across it in indelible ink. Nobody liked that. Cooties? What kind of stupid name is that? Big thumbs down all around.

Meanwhile Jim was still lobbying for "j rulon" and nobody much liked that either. The moment of decision was approaching as we had a gig coming up and needed to tell the booker who the hell we are. That's when the email wars began. Will sent out an email formally proposing The Cooties, but if no one liked it, we should suggest a better name. Jimmy offered j rulon and the Cooties but that was shot down by everyone. This is a band, not a group of sidemen and a star.

I finally persuaded Jimmy to give up on the j rulon idea by telling him he could use it on his first solo album. Then I sent out my list of really great band names for consideration by the group. It included such gems as, "Southland," "Last Fair Deal," "The Rounders," "The Sidemen," "The Vagrants," "The Fugitives," and several others. No one liked any of those, and besides they have all been taken already by other bands. The bass player, Clay, suggested a couple of interesting names like "The Wagoneers" (after his car), and "Trailer Park Rodeo." A little too corny. Tom the drummer chimed in with an inspired suggestion: "Squawk Mulligan", which is the name of the guy who plays the bartender in all of the old W.C. Fields movies.

Still, none of these names were really doing the trick. It was at this point that I started to actually consider "The Cooties." My argument was this: It doesn't really matter what we call ourselves as long as we go out there and kick ass. There are plenty of lousy bands with really cool names and plenty of great bands with really dumb names. It's the band that makes the difference, not the name. Think of the dumbest band name ever -- The Beatles -- if they weren't the coolest band in history do you think anyone would have remembered that stinker of a name? So why not go with Cooties? We will make The Cooties the coolest name ever! What do you say fellows?

They said no.

Clay hadn't given up yet and sent out another email with a few new suggestions, including The Pistol Buzzards. Will and I were talking on the phone one day and he said that the name Buzzards appealed to him. Kind of in the tradition of the Byrds and the Eagles. We even came up with a catch phrase: Meaner than the Byrds, More deadly than the Eagles. I decided to put my full support behind it. Will chimed in with his vote. Jimmy said he thought it was OK, but wanted to think about it. Tom said he would go with the majority. Clay had to call the booker at the club that night and tell him our name so we are now officially called The Buzzards. Please hold your applause.

The other night at rehearsal I was eating one of my special sandwiches and Tom asked me what was in it. "Free range turkey." Tom laughed, "Hey how about the Free Range Buzzards!" Jimmy thought it was great. Will just groaned when he heard the idea. Clay showed up with a bunch of flyers with the name The Buzzards on them and made no comment.

So who knows what our name will be at the next gig. But for now, let history record that The Buzzards are making their first flight on Thursday the 23rd of October at the ungodly hour of 11 p.m. in a French restaurant in Echo Park. And when they do the "Behind the Music" special on us, they'll say this is where it all began.


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