The Wild Saga of the Bourbon Cowboys Pt 1
by Phil Frazier
The Bourbon Cowboys got started after my bass player, Steve & I started talkin one day ’bout we weren’t makin’ enough money playin’ all original Rock, showcasin’ & such. I asked, “Why don’t we play Country, man?” Those bands get paid for gigs. At first he just looked at me stunned. Then he asked, “You know any Country songs?” I said Hell yeah, man. I know a sheeit load. He say’s damn man let’s do it! We told the drummer we were workin’ with about this new change and he said, “Well, I like you guys but I aint playin’ Country. I told him that we were gonna do it and sorry to see him move on.
Me and the Steve learned about 10 songs and then we went on a drummer search. By the time we found a drummer after a couple of weeks we had learned 35 songs, enuff to get a gig. We made a three song demo. got a photo taken. We practiced for three more weeks ’till I got us some gigs.
The Bourbon Cowboys were a wild bunch. We had whisky bottles all over our amps, filled with tea. We would take slugs out of the bottles on stage, guzzelin’ the stuff. There was a mannequin on stage. A female dressed in a thong bikini with a cowboy hat on, of course. We sang medleys like “When the Saints, Bill Bailey, and Shake Rattle & Roll.” We did Elvis Presley songs, sang three in a row without stopping or changing keys of the songs. We did some Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and lots of Willie & Waylon songs.. We were not the typical country cover band. We hardly ever did current tunes, unless we actually all liked ’em.
We had flashing & rotating Xmas lights pointing toward us at the gigs we put on. We were mainly a party band and would hire out for any private functions. Played a lot of gay bars in San Fran. Those were WILD & a bunch of fun. After a few moths of playing we got a booking agent who got us some top dollar gigs, like $1,500 our cut after he took his. I never asked what his was. Figured, he earned whatever he grabbed. I remember one gig we did for abut 250 Avon ladies at their party. We had a blast.
The Bourbon cowboys were basically a Country & Rock-a Billy cover band that at times verged into Cowpunk when we were drunk enuff, but we played about 15 of our own songs ever gig. We would never announce that they were our own songs tho. I figured it this way. If you announce a song is yours then the audience judges that on a different basis than if they just hear the song. Think about that. Quite a few times folks would ask us to play some of those songs again or who had done the songs. Like, “Who done that songs that goes like”, …they would say some of the words of the chorus. Most times the bass player/vocalist Steve would say,” Phil wrote that..” The person would have a surprised look on their face & say uh, that aint a song by somebody famous? ” Well, I like that song. Would ya play it again?”
The Bourbon Cowboys went on tour to Canada. ‘Course we didn’t know a thing about that country but we found out a lot of things the hard way. A lot of crazy stuff went on during that tour. One time we got booked into a little club in some tiny town, well a lot o them town towns were on the small size. Anyhow we commenced to playin’ & some young boys started yellin,’ play some Zeplin.’ I sort a thought we was in some kinda trouble tight then. We ignored several more request for Hard Rock & kept on playin.’ Funny thing was that the bass player knew some Hard Rock songs but I didn’t. We got booked in there for a week and it was real noticeable that the crowd was gettin’ thinner by each night.
After the last night as I was starting to go upstairs to my room, the owner sorta yelled at me “Hey, come over here,” the bass player and drummer had already gone upstairs. The hotel part and the club part were joined up. There was another guy, a big fella standing a few feet by the owner. I went over and the owner starts tellin’ me how my band lost him money this week. I said, ” Well, I’m sorry ’bout that but I didn’t book the band. An Agent did: He said in a kinda angry voice, “You shoulda played Rock and Roll.” I was a bit stunned at that remark and told him that we didn’t know how to do that. I figured there was no point in goin on about this, so I started up the stairs.
That’s when this big guy grabbed my arm and said, ‘Maybe we should teach you a lesson.” I pushed him down the stairs a bit and ran up yellin’ for my bass player. Steve, I was almost to the top of the stairs when I saw Steve with a two by four in his hand and asked, Hey, Phil ya need some help?
The two guys at the bottom of the stairs just looked at us turned around and walked off. I told Steve thanks, went to my room and jammed a chair against the door knob and went ta sleep.
Pt. 1 of 8