Open Mic Night Tips
Hello. Welcome to a new column about the local music scene. Within this format, I will be interviewing local musicians, past & present, review new CDs and special events, and give overviews on various musical goings on.
This first outing will encompass the Open Mic.
There are several things that every musician needs - good equipment, good songs, inspiration, and a place to perform, among them. One way to utilize all of these is on Open Mic Night. The Open Mic can be considered the life's blood for many musicians. No matter what the skill level, the Open Mic is essential.
Beginning musicians can use it to work out their strengths & weaknesses, learn to perform in front of an audience, and learn from others. Intermediate performers can use the Open Mic format to interact with like-minded musicians, find jamming or permanent band members, and pick up new techniques. Advanced and professional players use the Open Mic to "road test" new material, promote upcoming gigs and gather new fans.
Performing for an audience can be nerve-wracking and scary for new performers. Open Mics help to overcome any fears. Most of the audience is there to listen to the acts. The musicians and audience members may lend encouragement to newer performers, as well as further advice & criticism.
If the venue books acts, an Open Mic is an excellent way to audition. The management gets to hear your music, see how you interact with an audience and observe how the audience responds to you. It's best to present your strongest material and perhaps some of your weakest to represent all you are, musically.
There are a few rules one should adhere to when performing at an Open Mic, whether it be your first or twenty-first time.
1) If possible, introduce yourself to the host. Find out how long your set will be and let him/her know what you require so they can make the proper preparations for a swift transition between performers.
2) Tune your instruments prior to hitting the stage. Tuning on stage is a time waster, unprofessional and brings a standstill to the evening's flow.
3) Be courteous to the act before you and the following act. Don't 'rush' the stage. Let the performers collect their gear to open the space for you. When you're done, quickly gather your stuff so the next performer gets his time.
4) Another courtesy tip is to keep chatter to a minimum. Treat all other performers as you would want to be treated. Be attentive, listen, applaude, and enjoy each performance. You may also learn a trick or two.
5) When the host signals one more song, don't launch into Freebird or an avant-garde jazz/blues space jam. A normal 3-4 minute song will suffice.
6) The most important rule is - Have Fun!!
Following these 'horse sense' rules will ensure an enjoyable musical experience for you, and your audience. It will also extend respect for future appearances.
There are many venues that offer an Open Mic within their schedule. With assist from Gentleman Jim, the following is a list of some of the places to present your musical self. I'm sure this list is not complete. I apologize if I have missed anyone, please contact me and I add it to a future column. Remember, some places require advance sign-up. Please call the venue prior to heading out to ensure a timeslot, and for event times. Also, call to make sure the event is still being held that night, as things do happen.
A native of Utica, New York, John Keller began playing guitar and writing songs as a teenager. Since that time, he has honed his skills to become a well-received performer/songwriter, as well as a sideman with several musical projects.
He hosts a Songwriter's Circle at The Tramontane Cafe, as well as the weekly Open Mic in Rome, NY. When not performing, John owns & runs a vintage record shop on Utica, Off-Center Records. Music runs through the heart and soul of John Keller, and he wouldn't want it any other way.
John Keller/Off-Center Records
116 Bleecker St.
Utica, NY 13501
The Music Never Stops
by John Keller
La Vie Boheme Bistro, 109-111 Madison St., Oneida
Host: Woody, 315- 264-4820
1st Friday/Mo., The Barge Canal Coffee Co.
315-824-4331, 37 Lebanon St., Hamilton
1st Friday/Mo., Rez Village Venue
207 N. Center St., Syracuse
John Gilman, 315-572-5646
1st Friday/Mo., Rez Village Venue
207 N. Center St., Syracuse
John Gilman, 315-572-5646
1st Friday/Mo., Roxbury Arts Lounge
70 Main St. Stamford
Kevin Prior/Mike Herman, 607-326-7908
1st Saturday of month, Acoustic Coffee House
518-853-4964, Montgomery St. Fultonville
January 8, 2012
January is the birth of a new year. It also marks the anniversary of Elvis' birthday on January 8th. The King of Rock and Roll gave the world tremendous love and music. August 16th 1977, Elvis died. His passing affected a great many lives. In the wake of his death, dozens of Tribute songs were released by all ranks of artists.
In 1978, a local musician recorded one of the finest Elvis Tribute songs, "Lisa." Sung from the viewpoint of Elvis singing to his daughter, from Heaven, it is very heartfelt and tender & with a memorable melody. This was the only recording by Doug DeMarche Sr., but it is a great contribution to local music and to Elvis' memory. I recently spoke with Doug about his career and "Lisa."
Are you originally from Central NY?
I was born in Utica and have lived in this area all of my life.
What are your musical beginnings?
As a youngster, I sang country music, as that's all that was available, except the big bands, Glenn Miller etc. Then, Elvis came along.
Did you perform regularly in the area?
With raising a family, it was impossible to pursue a career in show business which was my dream. It still is. I would pray "Jesus, if I can't do this, then please take away the desire, give it to someone else that can use it. But he never made it go away!
I understand that Elvis was a big influence in your music. What was it specifically that attracted you to his music?
The first time I saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show. I knew that I wanted to make people feel with my music the way I felt when I watched him perform. He was so natural. He felt every note he sang. So natural, yet naive! Just like many aspiring performers, I spent many hours in front of the mirror. It had to be perfect!
Where were you when you heard of Elvis' death?
When I first heard the news that Elvis died, I guess I was in shock. I was visiting my mom in the hospital when the news came on. " Elvis has Passed away!' the announcer said. I heard it, but it just couldn't sink in. It can't be true, but it was! Suddenly there was a big void inside. I felt like I lost my brother, or best friend. Helpless, but there was nothing I could I do!
What did you think about some of the tribute songs (Ronnie McDowell/The King Is Gone, John Fogerty/Big Train from Memphis, etc.) that arose in the time following his death?
I was pleased with some of the tribute songs that were recorded in his memory, if they were from the heart and not for some financial gain.
How did your song "Lisa" come about?
It is all very strange how our the song came about. My wife of 48 years, Mimi, who I would not have traded for any music career, wrote it for me. She was not comfortable with me pursuing a career in show business; she was most content with our nice little country home and soon, our large family with 6 children. She knew how helpless I was feeling about Elvis' passing. While I was away on business, she wrote "Lisa" for me. Here is where it gets strange. She said "I sat down to write it, and if was as if someone was telling me what to say!" It took her about 25 minutes to write. Finally, I could help to fill the void. I could now do something for Elvis that he could no longer do himself. The message to his daughter, Lisa, is just what we feel Elvis would say if he could.
Where was it recorded?
Bob Yaeger's UCA Studio on Lenox Ave Utica. It was recorded 2/25/78.
Among the musicians on the recording were Carmen Caramanica & Rick Montalbano. How did they get involved in the project?
I did not know Carmen Caramanica. I had heard of him, but we never met. When we did meet, he was exactly what I was looking for.When he listened to the cassette I had recorded, he replied, "Man, that's a heavy tune. I don't know if I can do anything with it." I responded "Why is that?" He said "The cat is dead; if we are going to do it, it must be done in reverence!" That is exactly what I needed to hear. Carm took control, brought in some of his key people, Rick Montabano, Sam Maggio, Pat Basile, and Cos Cosamonto, and into the studio we went.
The B-side was an Elvis number. Why did you choose that song?
I recorded "I Was the One" on the B-side as I felt this was how things were between Elvis and Pricilla. She was so young when they met, and he was deeply hurt when he lost her.
There are 2 pressings of the single - a blue label & a gold label plus a picture sleeve. Why 2 versions?
The original master went to Nashville (Gold Label), this is by far the best quality. The second pressing came about as we wanted to have additional copies available when we went to Memphis. The same master was used on both.
Tell us the story about trying to promote the single. I believe you went down South to push it. right?
We decided to take a trip to Memphis because we were receiving many inquiries, which was the result of airplay, especially from local radio personality, Hank Brown, who is the best! While in Memphis, we, Mimi and I, were interviewed by the BBC who was on location shooting a film, "Elvis Lived." We are proud to say that "Lisa" was used in the production of that film. I actually received some fan mail from England Fan Clubs.We also met with a record producer. He was very impressed. He said, "If you had this song available immediately after his passing, you would have had a Gold Record." His rationale was, all we needed was national air play. The DJs were playing all the Elvis tribute songs and most of them were terrible. He said, "You have something special there!" But, timing is everything!
Are there still copies of "Lisa" available?
I do have copies available. There may be some at Off-Center Records in Utica.
Have you recorded anything else?
As far as other recordings, I could never produce anything to top "Lisa"! For me that says it all. The lyrics, arrangement and production are as good as it gets from me. I have recorded 4 CDs, mainly covers from Morrison to Mraz, just for personal friends and family, not to release.
Do you still perform?
Now that I am retired and have the time to devote to my music, so much has changed. If I had dedicated musicians with the same desire as I have, I would definitely be out there performing now. Fortunately, I do have some great memories of some of the shows I did do during the late 70s and 80s. Trinkaus Manor Dinner Shows, Hanna Park, Utica / Rome Speed Way, Trade Wind, plus many Special Corporate performances in various hotels in the Syracuse area. Even a few field days.
What do you do now?
I do not actively pursue performing, however, I will upon request. My sons are also musicians; we have done some shows together, but not on a regular basis. I still love show business and still ask Jesus to take the desire away and give it to someone else that can use it. Unless he still has something in mind for me, the feeling is still there!
Your sons are also musicians. What words of wisdom or philosophies have you instilled in them towards the field of music?
My advice to my sons and other aspiring musicians is as follows:
1. Put yourself into the lyrics, feel them!
2.Make every performance better than your last.
3.Always leave them wanting more.
4.Love what you are doing.
5.Never lose the butterflies,just get them to fly in formation.
6. Never give up on your dream.
Doug, thank you for talking with us about your wonderful contribution to our local music scene. Is there anything you would like to add?
I honestly feel that if Elvis could have heard "Lisa", it would have made him happy. There will never be another Elvis! He changed our lives and the world!
"Lisa," an Elvis tribute song by Doug DeMarche, Sr.
Note: There are a few copies of Doug DeMarche's single "Lisa" available at Off-Center Records on Bleecker Street in Utica.
Interview with Doug DeMarche Sr.,
By John Keller
Mohawk Valley Living
posted January 8, 2012