The submission date has now passed for the gig story raffle for the Upton bass pickup, and we’ve gotten a bunch of great gig stories as a result! I’ll put the remaining ones out this week and announce a winner (picked randomly from the stories entered) at the end of the week. This is the first of many Upton pickup raffles, so if you missed the entry date for the last one you can hop on board for next month’s raffle (not gig stories next month… I’ll let you know the new raffle topic soon).
Today’s gig story comes from double bassist Steve Pinkston:
In the mid-1970s, I was the bassist with a touring band that was backing up a Vegas-style singer on the hotel/nightclub circuit. Robert Kory was pleasant, always paid us on time, and had a lovely baritone voice. However, Robert was not exactly the brightest fellow I’d ever worked for. As an example, he billed himself as “Robert Kory, the Singing Baritone.” He couldn’t understand why I giggled whenever he uttered that bit of tautology.
At that time, American bands had to post a bond when they crossed into Canada to work. The amount of the bond was equal to one-third the retail value of all of your music equipment when it was new. This applied to all equipment not manufactured in Canada, and supposedly was to ensure that we would not sell our filthy American gear in Canada (My Canadian-made Traynor bass amp was exempt). As you can imagine, this created quite a hardship for many touring entertainers, and you generally had to pre-arrange the bond with a Canadian bondsman before you got to the border.
We were just wrapping up an engagement in Idaho Falls, and our next venue was a two-week stint in Lethbridge, Alberta. I had heard from other touring musicians that there was one remote border crossing called “Kingsgate” where the guards—all long-haired music fans—were sympathetic about the bond problem to the point that they would let American bands cross without the bond. The only problem was, this crossing was nearly 300 miles out of our way. I managed to convince Robert and the other guys to take a chance and give it a try.
We got to the Kingsgate crossing in our three separate cars about 6:00 in the evening. Sure enough, here were a couple of Canadian hippies in their official uniforms. They seemed really happy to see us. “Hey now! An American band, eh? Come on in and have some coffee, eh?” We started chatting with them, while Robert started filling out the considerable pile of paperwork involved in allowing us to work in Canada.
“Hey, you know we’re supposed to have you guys put up a bond on your instruments and stuff, eh?” None of us said anything, but shot nervous glances at each other. We didn’t have a back-up plan. The hippie guard went on, “But we think that’s a bunch of political baloney from those hosers over in Ottawa, eh? We never make the Yank bands do that; just don’t spread it around, eh?” We silently relaxed, and went on chatting with the guards, letting them play with our instruments and listening to their self-deprecating, eh-punctuated jokes. Robert kept on filling out the immigration and work-visa forms for all of us.
After about an hour, all of the forms were filled out. The head hippie-guard said, “OK, then, all we need now is to see everybody’s ID, and you can get on to your ‘gig,’ eh?” We all pulled out our driver’s licenses and started showing them to him. Everything went smoothly until he got to Robert. The guard looked at Robert, looked at his ID, looked at him again, looked at his ID again, and said, “So… who the hell is Riley P. Farkas?”
Robert smiled in that sweet, clueless way we had seen many times before, and replied in his lovely singing-baritone voice, “Well, Riley P. Farkas is my legal name. Robert Kory is my stage name. See, it’s printed on all of these 8×10 publicity pictures. Would you like one?” Our Canadian pals suddenly were not so friendly anymore. The head hippie-guard said, with barely controlled rage (an emotion you don’t see too often in Canadians), “You stupid damn Yank! You wrote your damn stage name on all these official papers, eh? What do they teach you in school down there?” Then he grabbed the inch-thick pile of official papers—all duly signed by the fictitious ‘Robert Kory’—and tore them in half. “OK, start over; and this time, mister FARK-ASS, put down your real, legal, honest-to-God, stupid Yank name, eh? Oh, and you better see about getting that bond arranged. Since we’re gonna have to explain why we voided twenty-five official forms, we have to do this by the book, eh?”
Robert called his agent in Calgary, who found a bondsman the next morning, and drove the bond paperwork out to the lonely little Kingsgate border crossing. By the time we got across, we had been there for twenty-six hours, through two shift changes, eating candy and the Canadian equivalent of Slim Jims from the vending machine, and had to listen as each shift of Canadian hippie border guards told the story to the great amusement of the next crew of Canadian hippie border guards. We made it to Lethbridge just in time to set up and play our first set. On our first break, Robert said, “Gee, Steve, you sure were wrong about that border crossing. Those guys didn’t seem friendly at all!”