It occurred to me recently, after a long, roaming conversation with a hopeful young musician that unless someone went down that road, you have no idea how very difficult, I would even say scary , is that path. There is no formula anywhere, no how to book on the process, partly because every musical journey is unique and unique with only the trauma and dangers that come from that individual’s set of circumstances or abilities.
The path that Sparrow took in his appearance, for example, when I hear him talking about it, is quite different from my own; my approach to or to Dennis DeSouza in Trinidad, whom I came to know in the years after Tradewinds became popular, for advice on how to proceed with this problem or not, would not have been helpful because that their obstacles or advantages were nothing at all. mine. The popular aspiring artist struggles with something vague, and in each case the individual must find their own strengths and obstacles and learn by doing how to handle those things successfully . It’s not unknown territory, because the details are very different from case to case, and behind every successful musician’s story I know there are usually very specific things about that individual.
For example. When I launched Tradewinds in Toronto in 1966, having previously had two bands, I did so knowing that Caribbean travel to the group would be mandatory because even though there is a Caribbean immigrant population in North America, the holy mecca for that music would be the countries from which those people came – Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, etc. – and everything about the band’s success would depend on Tradewinds becoming popular in the entertainment venues of those countries. From that basic fact I was aware, for example, in those years, the 1960s, that a band touring the Caribbean, especially at the time of the Carnival or the Festival, would have to travel with ‘ u their own musical instruments as the local supply has already been used by the resident bands.
I look back on it now with surprise, because this meant that when Tradewinds left Toronto on a Caribbean trip we were traveling with 27 pieces of music bags – speakers, amplifiers, wire connections, microphones and various cables for them – in addition to our suitcase. of clothing and shoes. Having to play in a variety of locations where technical facilities varied widely, we had to travel with different types of plugs and adapters for our equipment that were not always available in the outdoor venues throughout the region – plugs three-pin electrical, for example.
Looking back on it later, it was close to an impossible undertaking starting with the very unloading of the 27 pieces in each country we came from. I remember living sitting and waiting in Timheri for almost an hour, and for the common passenger luggage to be unloaded, before the airline arrived at our equipment. I came to see it as a kind of craving, but one that can’t be avoided if a band wanted to tour. Later, companies in those countries grew providing such equipment for rent, but in the early days it did not exist; you brought your own gear; case closed. Also, of course, we were coming to these countries, as we say in Guyana, “with two long hands with us”. We only had residence in our country of origin; for the other places it was a hotel, a rental-car, a restaurant, a whole series of living arrangements to make. Moving the five musicians around on a daily basis was a hassle, including set up, sound check, performance, breakdowns, media sessions, and so on.
In my homeland, Guyana, I had friends to help provide those connections, as did the other guys in their own turf, but we usually made five stops on each trip, so in four of them we were in the basically on improvisation. I was looking back at those times and wondering how that melee didn’t unfold from day one; in the days when there were no commitments, being in that way was, for me, like being in prison 24 hours a day.
Above all, however, I admit that my “cup of tea” was not my cup of tea. The constant packing and unpacking, daytime hiccups setting up and checking sound, a non-verbal hotel environment often after the gigs, with parties going on into the early hours, were a big load for a small village boy like i was not used to that way of life. I saw the need to make these tours for people who couldn’t come to the music, so we had to take the music to them, but the mechanics of it were onerous for Dave Martins and I suspect Kelvin Ceballo, our Trinique drummer, too. I could never understand American country singer Willie Nelson mocking that lifestyle in his song “On the Road Again.” I used to enjoy Tradewinds coming to Guyana, where I could spend a few days with my aunt in the Hague, even sleep a couple nights there, connect with people I knew as a teenager, but did the way not for me what he did to Mr. Nelson. On those walks, I always looked forward to the day when we boarded the plane taking us back to Toronto; me and Trini’s drummer. It wasn’t “on the road” where I wanted to be, but to make it in the music business is an absolutely necessary journey.