Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Saturday, January 9, 1999
Dayna and Sandy had a house only a couple of blocks up the street from Kevin and Emily. They’d only owned it a couple years; prior to their both nearly dying from food poisoning in the summer of ’94, they’d lived on the road in Home virtually all the time, only visiting Dayna’s parents for a few days each year. Even before their sickness and having to split up for nearly a year, they’d had periods when they got tired of living on the road. They’d been coming to the conclusion that they needed a home base of their own, at least partly to serve as a warehouse.
“Warehouse” was a legitimate need for them. They’d recorded their first albums, Genie in a Bottle and Faire Maiden back in the late part of ’90 – one was pop/blues, the other was renaissance faire music. Ordering a thousand copies of each seemed like a huge risk with their limited funds, since they were basically only selling the albums themselves at show dates. But it had turned out to be a good deal; the albums cost them about $3.00 a copy to make and they usually sold them for $15.00. The albums moved slowly at first, mostly because it was winter and they weren’t playing much, but to their amazement they were running low by the middle of the summer with their best renfaire dates still ahead of them, so, when they reordered, they upped the quantity. The existence of an order of over five thousand CDs had been the main driving force for Dayna to keep the act alive when Sandy had been forced into her disastrous marriage.
With the exception of 1994, when they’d been split up, they’d done an album a year since 1990, publishing it themselves. While they were signed up with a small distributor, most of the sales were right at shows, or increasingly, sales to their fans as a result of the mailings they sent out usually twice a year. These days, the direct costs of the first run of a new album could be covered within a month by the returns from these mailings, and sales from their website were starting to pick up, too.
For something that had started almost as a casual afterthought, the CDs were now a core of their actual income, and they kept pressings of everything in stock. Dayna’s mother Angie handled most of the orders and shipping; she’d started out just to help out her daughter, and it had taken maybe an hour a week, but for the last several years it took much more than that, and they’d been paying her.
While much of their music was renaissance faire stuff, deep down inside their main love was pop, but of the bluesier persuasion. Their best known song out of this genre was Pick Me Please, which was on their early 1996 album, Together Forever, the first after their reunion. It was a cute if plaintive little song that sounded like a girl at a high school dance, hoping a boy would come and dance with her. Both Dayna and Sandy thought the song was nothing particularly special, but a highly promoted teenybopper singer by the name of Ashley Montague had obviously thought differently. She recorded it the following year, and didn’t bother to clear copyright on it.
Dayna and Sandy first heard Ashley Montague’s version of Pick Me Please while driving down the road between renfaires one day. They thought that her bubblegummer voice did a better job with it than Dayna’s husky, more-adult-sounding blues voice. It both pleased them that someone had picked it up and upset them that no one had asked them about it. “Upset” turned to pure pissed off when they got back to Bradford a couple of months later to find a letter from Montague’s attorneys demanding royalties on their recording of Pick Me Please. Within minutes they were on the phone to an old friend in Nashville who had gotten them started doing their own recordings in the first place, and within minutes more they were talking to one of the best copyright attorneys in town.
It took over a year for the smoke to clear, but even after the lawyer’s cut, the check for punitive damages was more than enough to pay off the house they’d bought the year before. They were still getting royalties on it to the point where it was a significant part of their total income.
Then, at the Halloween Party up at the Heisler’s the previous October, Dayna revealed the story behind Pick Me Please. It wasn’t about a girl at a high school dance at all! Dayna told the amazed group the reason she’d been able to give Jennlynn’s address to Emily before the reunion was she and Sandy had played at the Nevada bordello where Jennlynn occasionally worked. They’d been inspired to write it after watching the girls in the lineup, hoping to be taken out back to do some horizontal dancing. “There are a couple phrases in there that are a little odd for a school dance but are likely to be used in a Nevada cathouse,” Dayna had explained with a huge grin. “I mean, who would use, ‘Come on and break my luck’ at a school dance? Whenever we’ve done this song at the Redlite, the people there pick them up immediately, but I don’t think anyone outside has ever caught it. What I’m saying is Sandy’s and my most famous song is about a prostitute on the job.”
In spite of Sandy taking off in Dean Sallows’ eighteen wheeler on occasion, when they were in Bradford, they really didn’t do much lying around contemplating their navels – or whatever else it was they supposedly did while they were lying around. Whatever else they may have been, they were musicians to the core, and their winter break was as much to hone and prepare new material for recording as it was for anything else. Though they normally did their recordings in a historic studio in Memphis – the same one where Elvis did his first few cuts – they liked to go into a studio pretty well ready to record, and getting that way was done in their front room in Bradford. So, as Emily, Kevin, Vicky, and Jason sat in the front room, it was not surprising the room was in its usual clutter of musical instruments, which included several guitars and keyboards, drums, some recording equipment, microphones, and amps. It was no surprise that music was an early topic of discussion. “So,” Emily asked, “When is it you’re going to be recording?”
“We’ve got a week scheduled toward the end of March,” Dayna explained. “It’s taking a lot more to get ready than it usually does. We’ve got one day when we’re going to have the place just packed with session musicians, and we’ll have a pretty full crew most of the week. This is going to be our most expensive album to produce ever.”
“It’s going to be a long way from the two of us and Mr. Tom,” Sandy shook her head. “Those were the days.”
Jason didn’t know the two musicians as well as the rest of the people present, and didn’t know some of the stories. “Mr. Tom?” he asked quizzically.
“He was an old black session drummer who worked with us on Genie and Faire Maiden, our first two CDs,” Sandy explained. “He was old as the hills, and had worked with Memphis blues singers clear back into the twenties, and God, was he good! We’ve never worked with a drummer since who had half his soul.”
“He died only a few days after we finished those cuts,” Dayna added. “We were the last of God knows how many recordings he had to have worked on over the years. We’ve always had the feeling since then that his spirit is helping carry us on. Out of all the experiences we’ve had, working with Mr. Tom was one of the best.”
“Why do you need all those musicians?” Vicky asked.
“We’ve got a new direction we’re taking with this album,” Dayna explained. “Right after we got back together we started working on a song, Experience of Survival. It’s sort of about how much more richly we see life after we’d almost lost ours. We’ve performed early versions of it in clubs and even recorded a version of it, but it keeps crying for more intricacy and power than we can give it with just a guitar and keyboard, and we’ve kept working on it. It’s gotten to the point where we’re going to do a revised, spiffed-up version with a group from the Memphis Symphony in to lay down some tracks and release it.”
“I am looking forward to hearing it already,” Kevin smiled. “This sounds pretty wild.”
“It should be good,” Sandy said. “Unfortunately, it won’t sound the same with just the two of us doing it alone. We’re going to have a backup tape when we do this one on stage.”
“It’s just as well we decided to do a renaissance album last year,” Dayna said. “We needed to do a period piece anyway. Even though Faire Maiden has been out there a while it’s still our best seller, but Thorns of the Rose moved real well last summer.”
“I get the impression you’re backing off from renaissance faires a little,” Jason commented.
“We’ve cut way back,” Sandy explained. “We still stay through the run of some faires, but now we just go to some faires to headline for a weekend. Sometimes we make as much in a weekend as we would have in a month of weekends in the old days, but that gives us more time to do some conventional concerts. Renfaires can be fun and have been our bread and butter since the beginning, but we’re limited in what we can do at them, too.”
“Gosh, you’ve been doing those forever,” Emily smiled. “I remember seeing you at one up in Kalamazoo before Kevin and I were married. That was before you met up with Sandy. You were with some older guy.”
“Yeah, Tim Willoughby, from over in Hawthorne,” Dayna smiled. “He got me started in this crazy business. We still get together and jam now and then.”
“Jeez,” Vicky shook her head. “I remember the two of you coming back to the dorm on our orientation weekend at Central. You’d just been at some renfaire somewhere, and were dressed in long skirts and corsets, playing your guitars, and singing some dirty song.”
“The Chastity Belt Song,” Sandy laughed. “I remember it like it was yesterday. That was the first weekend the two of us played together.”
“That performance pretty well sealed your reputation for being one of the crazier pair of roommates on campus,” Vicky smiled.
“We lucked out and hit it off real good, right from the beginning,” Dayna grinned. “I know we only stayed there two years, but we had a few good times there, Vicky.”
“I know you snookered me into a couple of the wilder situations I’ve ever been in,” Vicky shook her head. “A couple of those parties were the wildest I’ve ever been to, and the wildest I hope I ever get to, too.”
“I heard you had some good times up there,” Emily snickered.
“There was a time or two,” Dayna laughed. “Vicky, do you remember our bondage-challenge party?”
“Someday, if I get old enough, I may be lucky and get Alzheimer’s and forget it,” Vicky shook her head. “Good God, what a night. I’m still embarrassed to think I could get that messed up.”
“You used to really enjoy teasing me about all the fun I missed at college,” Emily snickered again. “But I’m not sure I heard about this one.”
“I probably told you about parts of it,” Vicky said, her face getting a little red. “There’s parts I wouldn’t tell my reflection in the mirror.”
“Bondage-challenge party?” Kevin smiled. “This sounds weird enough for you two, all right.”
“It got a little out of hand, even by our rules in those days,” Dayna laughed. “Of course, it was Vicky who started the getting-out-of-hand part, and then it was just hang on until everyone was wasted.”
“Hey, come on, I was just trying to be fair,” Vicky said. “The two of you couldn’t make up your minds either.”
“This sounds better and better,” Jason laughed. “’Fess up, what happened, anyway?”
“Long story,” Dayna grinned. “This was back in our second year at Central. Sandy and I had already decided we weren’t coming back another year, so we were going to take some courses that might be useful to us, and they were. But we also decided we might as well have all the college fun for our last three years packed into that one.”
“You pretty much did, too,” Vicky nodded ruefully. “A couple times I was surprised you weren’t thrown off campus, especially the time you did the performance-art thing in the nude.”
“I remember Vicky telling me about that,” Emily grinned. “That’s when you cut your way out of a duct tape cocoon and danced around some stage?”
“That was it,” Dayna grinned. “It was kind of cool. There was no chance we’d have got thrown out over that. We had permission of the administration ahead of time, and Vicky helped wrap me in the cocoon. It was a class project, not screwing around for fun like the bondage-challenge party.”
“It was supposed to be pretty mild,” Sandy explained. “We were shooting the shit coming back from the Flint Renfaire, I think it was, and we got to arguing over who could do the more diabolical job of tying the other up, and it turned to put up or shut up.”
“We decided it had to be done at the same time, so neither of us could see what the other one was up to and one-up the other,” Dayna grinned. “So it turned into a party stunt. Sandy got with our suitemates – what were their names, Sandy?”
“Barbara and Amanda,” Sandy said, picking up the story. “We worked out a really cool way for them to tie Dayna up while I was being tied up at the same time. Dayna got Vicky and her roomie, Melissa, to do the same thing to me. The deal was the loser had to let everyone at the party tickle her feet.”
“‘Let’ doesn’t quite cover it,” Dayna snorted. “There wasn’t any ‘let’ involved. ‘Endure’ is a better word. Anyway, Sandy had come up with a really cool rope tie; they had me tied up like a Christmas present. I thought I had the better one, I had Vicky and Melissa wrap Sandy up in duct tape from her neck to her ankles.”
“I still don’t think that was quite fair,” Sandy replied. “I mean, it was my impression we were both going to do rope. When you get right down to it, Dayna probably won on that technicality. She could still move some of her fingers, but mine were all taped down.”
“You didn’t say that at the time,” Dayna laughed.
“Hell no, it was hot in there, I was trying to talk my way out of it,” Sandy laughed. “So then, Vicky told everybody since it was a draw, we both ought to get our feet tickled. My God, I thought I was going to die before Dayna told them to let me out. Not from being tickled, from sweating to death.”
“After we got let loose,” Dayna laughed. “Sandy and I were both just a little upset with Vicky, so we thought we’d give her a dose of her own medicine.”
“About a dozen people grabbed me and tied me to the bed,” Vicky shook her head. “Talk about thinking you were going to die! For you two, it was only your feet getting tickled! If there was a ticklish spot on me someone was working on it! When you finally let me loose after a couple centuries, all I could do to recover was guzzle gin like it was iced tea.”
“Yeah, it had started getting a little out of hand by that point,” Dayna laughed. “There was a lot of booze floating around and some joints, so it turned into a tickle party. And then, someone got horny, I’m not sure who, and the next thing you know there was an orgy going on over in Barbara and Amanda’s suite. I was over there a couple times, it was pretty dark but one time I could see this daisy chain going on. The word was there was some girl, I don’t know who, taking on all comers, and she had a couple join her in that challenge.”
“I have no idea how that party ended,” Sandy shook her head. “All I remember is my head being severely messed up, and then the next thing I knew I woke up in my own bed with some guy passed out in bed with me.”
“I have no idea how it ended, either,” Vicky said. “All I remember was waking up hanging over the edge of my own bed with my head in a wastebasket. God, we did some stupid things in college.”
“Oh, we had some good times,” Dayna shook her head. “I’m not sorry we left college; it was time to go, but we had fun times once in a while.”
“More than once in a while,” Sandy smiled. “It seemed like we played a party most Saturday nights. We never made much money at it, but sometimes they got sort of wild. Nothing like that night, though. We settled down some after we got back together, I think because we realized what we almost lost. We changed how we operated a lot, too. I mean, like we always used to do the Maple Leaf up in Kalamazoo, but we haven’t been there since. We’re going back this year, but it’ll be as a headline act, not as a side stage like we always used to do, so it can’t help but be different.”
“Yeah, you can’t be quite as wild when you’re a headline act,” Dayna admitted. “It’s going to make the Maple Leaf seem strange. From what I’ve heard, it’s grown quite a bit.”
“Maybe I’ll have to go up and check it out,” Jason said. “You think there’d be much of a market for knives?”
“More swords than knives,” Dayna said, “Although I’ve seen displays of the sort of highly decorated stuff you do, so you might do pretty well.”
“I’m getting quite a backlog,” Jason said. “Kevin and Vicky and I are planning on doing some gun and knife shows this winter and spring, but I’ve always thought it would be fun to hang around a renfaire and some of those crazy people. It’s a different crowd than you get at a gun and knife show.”
“Could be done,” Dayna said. “I suspect it would still be possible to get a booth at the Maple Leaf, and that’s not all that far from here. The only thing is that you’d be pretty much committing yourself for all four weekends.”
“Not a big deal, and it’s only eight days,” Jason shrugged. “Really, you know more about the market than I do. You think it would work?”
“I think you’d more than cover your expenses,” Sandy said. “I’ve seen people pay big money for the damndest things, and you’d be right down the alley.”
“In fact,” Dayna said, “Here’s an idea. Sandy and I have often thought it would be nice to have a booth near the main stage where we could sell CDs. The booths are pretty expensive, but I think we could work out a deal to go halfsies and cover each other a little.”
“It might be an idea,” Jason nodded.
“Hell,” Sandy said. “I can’t believe you haven’t done it before.”
“Oh, I’ve been to a couple,” Jason said. “But most of the knives and swords I’ve seen at ’em are pretty cheesy.”
“They’re pretty pricey for being so damned cheesy, too,” Sandy said. “That means you could charge some really big numbers.”
“You’d have to be in costume, though,” Vicky snickered.
“Yeah, but so what?” Dayna laughed. “Jason, you pull on a kilt and a peasant shirt and that fake Scots accent of yours, and you’re going to be one of the more authentic vendors running around the whole faire. I’ll flat guarantee you’d have one of the most fun times of your life even if you don’t sell one blade.”
“You’ll sell more than one,” Sandy grinned.
“Aye, lassie,” Jason grinned, “’Tis somethin’ I might hae’ tae’ think on. Kevin, ma mon, ye think ye might be up for it, nae?”
“If I can get off,” Kevin shrugged. “If it’s like most summers I’ll be working overtime on Saturdays. I suppose I can wear a kilt, but I’ll be damned if I can manage that fake Scottish accent of yours.”
“All you have to do is to pick up a few words and say ‘M’Lord’ a lot,” Dayna laughed. “Seriously, you guys, renfaires are a lot of fun, and both Emily and Vicky can tell you it’s even more fun to be part of the show.”
Vicky got a big grin on her face. “Aye, lassie,” she grinned in an approximation of Jason’s fake accent. “I mind the time ya had me with ya, an’ methinks ’twould be more fun with the both’a ya.”