I’ve been reading a lot of rock memoirs this summer. It’s the one genre I avoided while writing the Weight of Sound, because I didn’t want anyone else’s stories seeping into my fictional world. I just finished two great ones—I Live Inside, by Michelle Leon, and Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be, by Jen Trynin—and now I’m thinking about the memoir I never wrote: The Autobiography of Ed Harley.
When Uncle Green first tried to play shows outside of Atlanta, the challenge of booking fell to me. These were the pre-internet days, so I was armed with nothing but a landline, scraps of papers with possible club contacts I’d gotten from other bands, and a spiral notebook for logging my results. Cold calling rock clubs is never pleasant, and each show required half a dozen or so attempts to book. The process became much more bearable once I started to pretend I wasn’t the drummer, but the band’s manager, Ed Harley (a name stolen from those cinematic classics, Fletch and Pumpkinhead.) As Ed, I found it easier to sing the band’s praises, commiserate on how hard it was to work with musicians, and beg for any sort of bone I could get thrown. More than once I even made plans to share a drink with the club manager, if I happened to be traveling with “the boys” when they hit town.
Ed’s career was short but productive. A local club owner once got so mad he called Ed a series of profane names and promised, just before slamming the phone down, to someday tell the band the truth about their incompetent manager. A cute young couple who booked us for their wedding later confided Ed was such a hard negotiator they almost gave up. Ed was even quoted in an issue of Musician magazine devoted to tips on touring, singing the praises of Ford Econoline vans. In spite of all his loyal, unpaid service, the band went in another direction a few years later, choosing to hire a booking agent and manager who actually existed.
I started putting some of these events down on paper, but did not wind up writing a memoir; as much as I love reading true-life stories, it turns out I’m better at making up characters and seeing how they react to experiences similar to my own. Last I heard Ed is in Hawaii, though, so maybe he’s writing his own book. If so, I hope he treats me fairly.