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Monday, December 16, 2013


Last night I was out to dinner with our "Dinner Group" which meets once a month on a Sunday night just so that we keep in touch with some of our friends.

We went to Fanny Hill to the area which faces the river. Rich Schroeder was doing a "single" accompanying himself with guitar. Somehow, country artist Johnny Paycheck came up in our conversation, brought on, I think, by a song that Rich was doing. That brought back a a rush of memories to me, having performed as opening act for Paycheck twice; once at the Turtle Lake Casino, and a long time before that, at a resort way over in eastern Wisconsin. It's been so long ago now that I cannot remember the name of it for the life of me.

When I arrived, out back I could see Paycheck's big Silver Eagle bus, so I knew he had arrived. I found the owner, introduced myself, and he set up the parameters for my show; do a half an hour, no more, no less.

As show time approached, I was back stage giving the guitar a final tuning, when the owner walked up briskly with a panicky look on his face.
"How long can you go?" he asked. "What do you mean 'how long can you go'", I replied? "I mean, how long can you go. How much material do you have?"

So I told him I could probably do well over an hour if needed. He told me that was good because he couldn't find Johnny Paycheck! I knew Paycheck was on the premises; I had seen him crossing the restaurant earlier on his way to the men's room.

The owner then told me that I should do my half hour, then look over to the side of the stage. He pointed to where he would be standing. Then he said, ""If I go like this: (circular motion with his hand) it means keep going. If I go like this: (cutting across throat with index finger) it means you can quit. ... we'd better get started . . ."

So I went out and introduced myself to the audience and launched into my show. After half an hour, I glanced over to where he was supposed to be, and he wasn't there. so I continued on for another ten minutes and then glanced over again. This time he was there, frantically giving me the circular motion.

So I did another ten minutes, checked the side of the stage again and got the circular motion yet again! Now I was closing in on 60 minutes, doing one bit while thinking and wondering what I will do next, and I feel one of those cold, stress sweats break out and run down my back.

So I do another ten minutes, glance over and I get the "Cut" sign. So I do one more short bit, thank the audience and exit. I reach the owner. "What the hell's going on??"

"We couldn't find Johnny Paycheck", he says.
"Well, I know he was here. I saw him! Where was he?"
"He was on his bus."
"On his bus?? So, what was the problem?"
"Well, he wouldn't get off the bus until I paid him first . . . in cash!"

I just shook my head in wonder and walked away. From then on I always referred to Johnny Paycheck as "Johnny Paycash."


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