Musicians Not Running on Empty

A well-known proverb tells us to find what you love, make it your life’s work and you will never work a day in your life. It all comes down to loving what you do and I had an up-close-and-personal experience recently when I joined an incredibly enthusiastic audience for a tour of beloved rock & roll musicians. Yes, they were on stage, complete with the requisite roadies with their waist-length hair and beards to match. These guys were straight out of central casting.

All of the members of the groups performing were over 65 (some closing in on 80) because the entrance requirement for this elite group is that you must have been in a well-known R&R group AND you must be over 65 to join. Forget about those balding pates or worn knees, these groups still have it.

One group member, who belongs to The Cowsills, said he jumped for joy when he opened his mail day, a small card dropped out and he discovered he was eligible for Medicare. “I can join the group now,” he yelled to his family. For several years, he said, he’d wanted to be a member of the “HappyTogether” tour but he just couldn’t make it because of the age requirement.

Ah, the disappointment of such a dastardly form of discrimination. I suppose, if someone really wanted to make a case for it, they could be brought to court by disgruntled musicians who were denied entrance, but who would do that? This is a tour where you earn your spot by the years you’ve put in on the job riding tour business to large and small gigs all over the world and the records you’ve sold.

You’ve eaten bad food, probably gotten sick a few times but still had to perform that day and you just knew it was the only place for you. What a wonderful place to be despite all the pains you had to endure.

I suppose you could say it’s a form of Social Security for rock & rollers. But it’s a grueling schedule, too, as they hit the tour buses for another night on the road to another venue. How many towns are they hitting on this one? Someone jokes that it’s 300+ and I’m not sure it isn’t.

Looking at the audience, it was quickly apparent that these groups represented their rock & roll years as women stood up in their seats and the aisles and moved to the music, hands in the air, singing and smiling and feeling good all over again. Men were somewhat more sedate with the exception of a lively group of firefighters with their wives. One shouts over to me, “It’s great, isn’t it?” Yeah, it sure it.

It was joy and

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everybody loved it. A huge group sing-along with The Turtles closed the night. Greedy cell phones gobbled up the licks like so much good gravy. One woman, thinking she needed more than a cell video, pulled out her trusty iPad and began taping, but that was quickly stopped by a watchful usher who pointed a flashlight her way and asked her to, “Please, don’t do that.” Nicely put and the woman obediently complied.

I thought those matrons had retired years ago when I was still a kid. We do know, however, that the flashlight is the ultimate symbol of authority in movie theatres and concert halls.

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Flo & Eddie

Flo and Eddie of The Turtles knew how to please and so did The Association, The Cowsills, The Grass Roots, The Buckinghams, and Mark Lindsay (of Paul Revere and the Raiders). Some may have had grey hair and similarly aged beards but they performed as though they forgot the years they’d earned.

Guitar solos were still incredible and each song was greeted with loud whoops and clapping because each was immediately known. How did those guys keep their voices in such good form after they’d used them to near destruction? A guy in The Association had the clear register of a choir boy. Nice going, guys, you do take care of your instruments.

The Grass Roots

Yes, it was a sold out house and the crowd was orderly entering and leaving. Only one person held up a hand-drawn “hello” to The Association who gladly acknowledged it.

A guitarist in The Grass Roots reminded me of a favorite university professor who, however, never played guitar but had that great head of gray hair and that beard. I will bet that if my prof were in that theatre last night he would have been right up their screaming with the rest of the crowd. Special man.

Life on the road can’t be easy for anyone, much less the one woman in this tour (a Cowsills member). And there were comments on that fairly difficult state when they thanked the local restaurants for the food back stage. “We usually get what’s left from some other tour,” one guy said. “This time we got Chipolte and pizza and other stuff.”

The buses were waiting across the street, all windows covered to prevent photo ops. But one thing was missing. There were no fans waiting by a stage door for a quick photo or autograph. I don’t even know where they’d come out because

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there was no apparent stage door out front as there usually is at Broadway shows. I guess the bands were waiting for the crowd to jump into their waiting SUVs right across the street before they ventured out into that clear and unusually starry night. I really don’t think I’ve seen a sky like that in quite a few months so maybe it was a sign.

“We know it’s past your bedtime,” came the comment over the PA from the stage “and you need to get home to take your meds, just like us.” The crowd roared. Then came a gentle pitch for the merchandise on sale in the lobby. “We’re not supposed to say this, but I am. It’s humbling to bring that stuff in, but it’s even worse to lug it out to the bus again.” Again, the crowd roared. It was a very friendly audience. I have no idea how effective the comments were as a sales pitch.

But it might just help sales the next time around in 2016 because last night’s audience was told it was being taped for the forthcoming CD they would be producing from this year’s tour. Everyone did their best to oblige in the sing-along portion and I think I almost went hoarse trying to keep up. The guy in front of me wasn’t waiting for the CD because I saw him taping audio on his cell.

Last night was one of play and I fully intend to engage in a lot more in the months to come. Won’t be going to the Galapagos Islands or on the R&R cruise to the Caribbean from Ft. Lauderdale, but I’ll find some other things to do.

Play, after all, is essential and we all MUST play or we will suffer the consequences of what I suppose we could call “Play Deficit Disorder.” Hey, you guys at the American Psychiatric Association getting ready for some new disorders for the next DSM, think about that one, will you?

Written by

Dr. Farrell is a psychologist, WebMD consultant, SAG/AFTRA member, author, interested in film, writing & health. Website:

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