Opening Act for the Eagles’ Randy Meisner

   We lived in Madison, Wisconsin. I was a full-time guitarist in a 5-piece country rock/western band. One morning I’m hanging out with my friend Scott, the other guitarist, when we get a call from our agent.
   “Oh good, you picked up! We’ve got an offer, and we need to respond RIGHT NOW. They asked if I had an act that could open TONIGHT at Headliners for The Eagles’ Randy Meisner!”
   “Whoa! Yes!”
   “—there’s a catch: the gig is for not for the band, it’s for a Duo.”
   “…well, we’re not a ‘duo'”
   “Can you do a duo? We need a duo, and we need to let them know right now.”
  Stared into space. Pressed the phone against my chest. Turned to my friend Scott. “What?” he asked.
   “They’re offering us an opening act slot tonight for Randy Meisner, but it has to be a duo.”
   “But we’re not a duo. We have no material worked up as a duo!”
   “I know we don’t, but…can we do it?”
  We stared, calculating. I only played guitar, but Scott played guitar, fiddle, and banjo. And he could sing.
  One beat. Two beats. Put the phone to my ear.
   “We’ll do it.”
   “Alriiight. You are BOOKED for tonight at Headliners, opening act for Randy Meisner.”
  Oh crap. oh boy. Oh jeepers. Scott grabbed a piece of paper. “What do we play?”
  For the next four hours, we scrambled to build a set of duo material. 14 songs very loosely put together. A big list written with a magic marker. Instruments packed—no food, no hunger—off we went to the club.
  We loitered backstage. Raw fear. The shallowest breathing ever. Each breath was maybe two shots of oxygen. Someone made a joke, I could not laugh. Nothing was funny. This was NOT funny.
  Headliners seated around 1,000 people. The place was packed. The front stage had a curtain that rose up.
   “Ok, boys, time to go.”
  On the stage, in twilight darkness, the audience buzzing beyond the curtain, we laid down our setlist, Scott his array of instruments, my two guitars, electric and acoustic. We stood ready. Ready. Standing there ready. Scared witless ready.
   “Ready?” asked the stagehand.
  Nodded yes.
  House lights went down. The spotlight came on, we could see it through the curtain—and the audience erupted in cheers as the curtain went up—…to unveil two boys, an opening act. “Ohhhhh….” the audience moaned in droning unison.
  I said something stupid—”We’re gonna play some songs for you before we bring up Randy.” Oh, they’re going to play some songs. That explains why they’re standing there with instruments in their hands. People stood up to mingle, get drinks, and converse.
  Our goal was to NOT BOMB. Please let us just ‘get by.’ If we can just Not Fail—that would be a win.
  And guess what? We won. We performed 14 songs with enthusiasm and mediocrity. Scott’s a good musician; he carried the day. I am sincere, but sincerity doesn’t qualify as good. We slammed through our set, people applauded heartily (when we ended), and with the curtain back down, we walked off-stage drenched in sweat.
  Stagehand told us, “Get your instruments off the stage.” No roadies, no compliment, no help.
   Randy came out, we crossed paths in the hall, and he ignored us. Not. One. Word. Stone cold nuthin. No acknowledgment. He didn’t seem happy to be there, playing at Headliners in Madison, Wisconsin.
  So what. Who cares? We won. We got away with it. We were even referenced in the next day’s newspaper review, the closing paragraph:
   “Southbound, a local, electric country-folk blues duo, opened the show with a surpriseless array of songs. Although they played in an affable, unpretentious manner, their inability to add anything of their own to already worn-thin material made their welcome seem quickly overstayed.”
  True. But still: We took it. To the limit. One more time.

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