Monday, December 16, 2013


The WannaBeatles had another road trip, this time to Indiana, a state where we'd never played before. And some sub-zero temperatures. 

It was our first time in the van traveling together since our trip to Ohio three months ago. Since then, WannaBeatle Nathan has replaced the transmission in his van. That's a sign of how much stress his vehicle has endured while towing a trailer loaded with our equipment for hundreds of miles on the highway. 

But repairing the transmission was still cheaper than a new van. 

Anyway, The WannaBeatles wish to express their gratitude to Nathan for being our master of transportation, in addition to being our finely educated keyboard and bass player and good natured roadie. 

Here he is, in his Elmer Fudd earflap hat, holding a bag of snacks and a book of Christmas Carols, ready to go.

This trip involved two shows for the same client. Each was a Christmas dinner and celebration for special customers of a local bank called MainSource Bank. The first gig was at Rising Star Casino, in Rising Sun, Indiana, on the Ohio River. The next one, two days later, was at a restaurant called Jonathan Byrd's, in Greenwood, near Indianapolis.

Nathan had already printed out the map, like a good navigator, and assumed the driver's seat. The trip was several hours up I-65, making a slight turn near Louisville, heading northeast toward Cincinnati. 

One item we look for on the road is fireworks. This is not a frivolous desire for some otherwise stable musicians, but a specific business expense. We use the small "poppers" onstage with audience volunteers each time we play "Live and Let Die." (You'll have to see our show to appreciate the impact it makes.) 

We noticed north of Nashville a sign for "Sad Sam's" selling fireworks at the lowest prices. We didn't stop, but made a note of exit 112, planning to stop there on the way back.

We passed through snowy terrain along the Ohio River, but  experienced no problems with the roads. We arrived around 8 pm,  time enough to check into our fine hotel and still eat a huge meal at the Rising Star buffet. 

As we walked through the hallway toward the Grand Ballroom of the Rising Star, we saw dozens of framed pictures of acts who'd played there before. There were all the standard country stars, like Merle and Willie, big names like Tom Jones, rockers like REO Speedwagon, even the band I used to work with in the late 80's, ShaNaNa. 

We got into the Christmas mood passing by the display of polar bears and penguins in the snow. 

We found a sign that revealed something about the age of the typical customer at The Rising Star Casino. 

We set up most of our gear onstage that night, to be ready for a morning sound check.

Our favorite soundman, Allan Waugh, was joining us on this trip, driving his own van and trailer. He had his own room at the hotel.

Rising Star Casino built a new hotel about two years ago on their property. That's where we stayed. That explains the colorful decor in the lobby. 

The next morning, we saw more snow on the ground. The temperature got down to 5 degrees, and the weather report spoke of arctic winds coming down from North Dakota.

This is the view on the first morning looking south out the window of the hotel room. 

That's the Casino, and the mountains behind it are across the river in Kentucky.

We had a nice gig, thanks to Angie, the lady who booked us for MainSource Bank. She was the hostess of the party, a very gregarious and also very professional woman, who made the entire trip pleasant for us. 

Tuesday night we had another dinner at the buffet, then took a tour of the casino itself, which is located on a dry-docked riverboat. It's basically three floors of slot machines, with a few blackjack tables and roulette wheels inserted among them. And plenty of flashing lights to get customers in the mood to gamble.


Our man Allan decided to give a slot machine a try. He started with ten dollars, and just sat there pushing a button, making random arrangements of various designs appear on the screen. (It's all electronic now - no physical gears to turn.) The screen would beep and the numbers would show that he had won twenty dollars. He kept pushing the button, and we gathered around to watch.

Nathan and I were among the cautious ones, advising him to stop playing when he reached $40. He continued playing, and his loot declined. 

Nathan said, "Stop Allan. Don't let it get below $30." But Allan continued, allowing his winnings to slip below $30. Foolish move, or so we thought. Suddenly the machine made some dramatic moves upward, as Allen somehow activated a double action free play bonus. Within a minute, his total was up to $183.

Rather than continue playing, Allan decided to stop there. He pushed the payout button, which produced a paper voucher. Allan carried that over to a cashier's window, and within another few seconds, had $183 cash in his hand. It was looking like a pretty good night for Allan. 

Dennis, always looking for a creative business angle, suggested that Allen's good fortune was the direct result of his being hired for this gig by The WannaBeatles, which might make a certain percentage paid to the group appropriate. Allen didn't quite see the reasoning of that proposal, and Dennis was just joking anyway.

Wednesday was our travel day, getting from Rising Sun to Greenwood. It was not too far, but we had to leave without eating breakfast, so we were looking for a place to stop.

We found a gas station that had snacks. I noticed they used the term "pop" for soda or soft drinks. I took a picture of their sign, since that's something we don't see in Nashville. 

We enjoy listening to music, talking shop, and carrying on business while in the van. Dennis sets up his laptop, and answers the phone "WannaBeatles Mobile Office. May I help you?" 

WannaBeatle David, our tech dude, has a cable that gets music from his iPhone to the aux input of Nathan's car stereo. That is too much sound for Dennis to operate his mobile office, so he uses his winter overcoat as a temporary sound baffle. David took this picture of Dennis under his overcoat, operating the Mobile Office.

We never saw a Waffle House along the road (surprise!) but saw a sign for a restaurant called The Sherman House in Batesville. It was already time for lunch, but we called ahead to see if they would serve breakfast. They said yes.

It turned out The Sherman House was named for Gen. William T. Sherman, the man who, among other things, marched through Georgia, burning everything in his path. Since I'm a native Georgian, I was raised with a view of Gen. Sherman that would differ radically from the view of those fine folks of Indiana who commemorate him in this particular restaurant. I managed to keep my hereditary resentment under control as we ordered and waited for and finally enjoyed our food. We even asked the waiter to take our photo.

Dennis, David, Bryan and Nathan at Sherman House in Batesville, Indiana, Wednesday December 11, 2013

One thing I noticed on the menu, besides the absence of grits, was a side item called "goetta." We used our iphones to google it, and discovered it's a breakfast meat that is popular in the Cincinnati area.  We didn't order it, so we'll never know what those folks eat for breakfast.

After the meal I texted the Good Yoko (also a Georgia native) about eating in a restaurant dedicated to the memory of Gen. Sherman. She replied "was everything served burned?" We all loved that one. That's why she's the Good Yoko.

We arrived at Greenwood in the late afternoon, checking into a Hampton Inn. We found Jonathan Byrd's, and set up our gear again for another party the next day.

We ate at Texas Roadhouse next door to our hotel. The next morning, we assembled for the sound check and show, and had another fine time. Angie was a delightful hostess again.

We ate dinner with the guests, and at our table was a man named Larry who started a conversation about Fender amps, and a woman named Jenny who had once made a leather vest for William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge boys. They made us feel right at home. Larry also became the audience volunteer who joined us onstage for the song "When I'm 64," and he was great.

We were headed home to Nashville after the show, which meant leaving around 4 pm. We almost made it to Louisville before sunset.

A few more photos from the trip home….

David calls this his Ponderosa coat because it reminds him of Hoss on "Bonanza." 

Nathan was happy to find gas for 3.09 per gallon.

The sunset along I-65 just north of Louisville.

And one more moment. After crossing the line back into Tennessee, we stopped at exit 112 on the way back - Sad Sam's, to check out their fireworks prices. Unfortunately, they charged a dollar each for poppers, and we can get them cheaper online. Another sad story (for retailers) from the internet age.

However, we did see a huge statue of an Indian, standing guard over the property. Since we had been to Indiana, and had several conversations about the odd fact that so much of our country is named for the native population that no longer lives here, it felt poignant, sad, noble, ridiculous and comical all at once to see this statue, apparently promoting a fireworks store, watching over us.  

There's no place like America. 

-bloggin bryan 15dec13

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