John fights through the pain to adhere to the unbreakable rule: the show must go on.
There are a few general guidelines for working musicians: stay in the pocket, start in
tune, be sober enough to play, wear pants,
learn your parts. Of course, these are simply
guidelines, so should one fail on a few of
these, no big deal. But there is one long-standing rule that will put your gig in peril if
broken: the show must go on.
Jay Leno tries his hardest to look friendly while keeping his distance from me.
In keeping with that rule, I recently played
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in a near
delirium of fever after having spent three
hellish days shivering, sweating and doing
lots of other scatological stuff you don't want
to read about. It may have been food poisoning, or perhaps the combination of sleep
deprivation and stress had left me vulnerable
to a nasty virus.
I had been very busy. Eleven days before
Leno, I played the Academy of Country Music
Awards in Vegas with Laura Bell Bundy. After
the show, we played the after-party, and
then I spent a few hours staring at the hotel
room clock before schlepping to a 5 a.m.
lobby call to catch a Monday morning flight
to New York. Tuesday meant another 5 a.m.
lobby call for an 8 a.m. slot on Good Morning
America, and then it was back home for a
few days of studio work and a Friday evening
bar gig until 2:30 a.m.
On Saturday, my wife, Megan Mullins, and I
rose early, drove to Muscle Shoals, Alabama,
to play a Randy Owen benefit show with
Randy and a slew of other artists that we
backed up. After the show, I drove us home
arriving at 3:30 a.m., giving me an hour to get
Megan to the airport to catch a 5:45 flight
to L.A. where she had a gig playing in the
house band on American Idol. After a day of
near fatigue melt-down, I then stupidly took
a last-minute gig in downtown Nashville that
Sunday night from 10 to 2:30 a.m. I began
to feel sick during the gig, and by the time I
got home my head was pounding and I was
sweating profusely. By the next morning it felt
like I had a mild case of the Bubonic Plague.
I spent a delirious Monday sprawled on my
bathroom floor praying for a quick recovery
or a swift death. After choking down some
long-expired muscle relaxers and waking on
Tuesday to more gastrointestinal violence,
I summoned all my strength to respond to
some pre-Leno emails. Management apprised
me that the song had changed. I had to email
the band the details, cancel our horn guys
and make some changes to our stage plot. At
that point I was on autopilot, not sure what I
was doing, and tried to introduce some food
into my system before the next day's flight.
I no longer fear hell after experiencing that
Nashville to Dallas to Burbank flight, all middle
seats, sandwiched between unsuspecting commuters. I would rather sit next to a drooling
Ebola monkey than that sweaty version of me,
and I was living proof that you should always
take Airborne with you when you travel.
Once we arrived at the studio Thursday
morning, I was so pumped to be on Leno
that I began to feel okay. But when I picked
up my guitar during soundcheck, it felt foreign. I rarely go too long without holding
a guitar but there had been none of that
during my three days of porcelain hugging.
I couldn't remember what key we were in
and was never sure I was in the pocket. The
intro is all me and drums. When our drummer, Nioshi Jackson, asked, “You need a little
more hat in your mix, J Boh?" it crossed my
mind that I could really butcher this thing.
Between soundcheck and the show I shut
down in our dressing room until I had to get
dressed and go to makeup, where they added
some color to my deathly pallor. About 10
minutes before we were to go onstage, I felt
that now familiar knife-like stab in my stomach. I went down the hall, out of the studio
and found a bathroom far, far away from the
Leno camp. I made it back to the stage with
five minutes to spare. It occurred to me that
I could quite possibly lose it on Leno—prob-
ably not a first, but not anything I cared to do.
Remembering that somebody once told me,
“If you can laugh about it later, you can laugh
about it now," I smiled and walked on stage.
Remarkably, the show went off without a
hitch. Post show, Laura Bell and I went into
the sound room and listened to the final mix; I
liked our live version of the song, “Boyfriend,"
better than the album version. While there, I
got some great tips from Charlie Bouis, Leno's
live sound engineer, about mic placement.
(He placed a Shure SM57 straight on the grill,
pointing at one speaker where its cone meets
the coil, and a biggish Sennheiser I didn't recognize dead on the second speaker. Charlie
then added a bit of 1kHz sparkle to both mics.)
In short, though it was hellish, I'm glad I
made the gig. And while this column may be
a little too much information, it shows the
ugly side of the business that many don't see.
Just remember: you can break any number of
guidelines, but never break the rule.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville guitar slinger who works primarily in television and has recorded and toured with over
30 major-label artists. His songs and playing can be heard
in major motion pictures, on major-label releases, and in
literally hundreds of television drops. Visit him at:
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.