Easy Money. NOT!
Sometime during the Summer of 1993 I got a call from one of my guitar player buddies. He told me that he was doing some studio work for a black gospel group and needed a sub on one of the sessions. Would I be interested? All I would have to do is one or two tracks on a single song that was basically done; the producer just wanted a couple more guitar parts.
"Sure!" I said. Sounded like easy money.
It was a late night session at one of the premier studios in town at that time.
So I get there at about 1am and it's just me, the producer and the engineer. The producer was also the Keyboardist, Bandleader, Choir Director, Arranger and Songwriter. It was obviously his baby.
The instant I heard the tune I knew this was not going to be easy money. It was pretty complex, both rythmically and harmonically.
Then I found out there were no charts.
Then I found out the producer wasn't musically literate. I was having trouble hearing a certain chord and when I asked him what it was, he couldn't tell me. So I asked him what notes he was playing with his right hand. He had to go down into the piano room, play the chord and laboriously spell it. I then asked for the notes in his left hand; same process.
I went through the tune and created a fake-sheet for myself so I could have some idea of the harmonic structure and form of the tune. I also notated a lot of the kicks and syncopation to help cut down on the number of takes necessary on the overdubbing. Normally I can just listen through a tune one or two times and create a fake-sheet, but because of the complexity of the tune and the fact that the producer couldn't easily answer my questions, it took me longer than it usually does.
I was being paid by the hour.
During the recording process, the producer just communicated what he wanted me to play verbally. Like, "Do a Nile Rodgers-type part here; you know, a little funky single-note thing." I would take a stab at it and he would go, "Yeah, yeah, like that! But make it a little brighter, you know? More of a Strat sound." (I was using my 80's-era Charvel-Jackson Model 4 on this session.) I would try again and he'd say, "Good! Now make it go up instead of down." And so on. So over the course of time, he would guide me into playing what he wanted to hear.
This is not all that unusual of a method for producing, but in this case, because of the complexity of the music, it was taking longer than usual.
And I was being paid by the hour.
And it was more than one or two tracks. Besides little single-note funk guitar parts, He wanted me to double a lot of the keyboard parts. Chords, kicks - everything.
This went on all night, and did I mention I was being paid by the hour?
The music was wonderful! There is nothing like Black-Gospel-Choir-Jazz-Fusion-Funk! I loved the music but it was a grueling process.
As I was leaving I told the guy that if I'd had even a rudimentary chart with basic chord symbols and some rhythmic notation I could have done this in a couple of hours or less instead of 5 or 6 hours.
He kind of sheepishly said, "Yeah, I know, but I don't know how to do that."
The level of his intuitive musicianship was amazing to me. I had to work and study hard to understand and be able to play like this guy did organically, with no formal musical knowledge.
I came out of the studio blinking in the sunlight at 7am with the telephone number of the guy financing the project to contact for payment. Big mistake.
The short story is after several phone calls and being given the runaround by a couple of different people who each pointed the finger at the other I gave up.
I hate chasing money.
"...the laborer is worthy of his wages." - 1 Timothy 5:18.
Not to bust anybody's bubble, but the "Christian" music industry is no different than the music industry at large; it's just another genre, chasing the recognition and money.
Now, I haven't named names; I'm not interested in drama and controversy, and what I wasn't paid is a pittance in the big scheme of things. The music business has screwed me out of way more money than this little incident did. It was over 25 years ago and I don't care about the money (it did hurt at the time). I forgive.
I do care about the music and I thought it was awesome! I'm proud of my contribution to this project, even though I wasn't paid. At least I was credited in the liner notes.
What would Jesus say? Pray for those who wrong you. I also suspect he would say that this song kicks ass! So here is the track I played on. If you happen to know who this is, I'd prefer you keep it to yourself.
IT WILL BE ALRIGHT!
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