Anyone who was born in the 60s or was a kid in the 70s knows about The Brady Bunch. It was a sitcom about a mixed family, which was controversial at the time. Divorce was an ugly thing to attempt to put on television at that time. This might be why it was so popular and influential on American pop culture.
There was one episode in particular titled, Adios, Johnny Bravo. In this episode, the six Brady kids have their music group. I don’t recall any of the playing a musical instrument, which was a problem for me.
The oldest brother, Greg, is singled out by an agent or other type of player in the music industry. At first, he’s concerned that his siblings are being left out, because they only want him. They massage his ego and encourage him.
He brings them some of his music at one point, and there was no possible way that they could have cared less about his creation.
In the end, they play a track that he sang on, and he doesn’t recognize his own voice because they’ve done “a little electronic sleight of hand.” Then they break it to him that the only reason he got the gig was because he had the physique to fit into the outfit they had. They told him that his name would be “Johnny Bravo.”
Of course, Greg does the right thing, as you can see in this clip.
Yes, Greg Brady walks out on what might have been a lucrative gig for himself, because it wasn’t authentic and Greg valued his creativity enough that he wanted to keep it.
MY JOHNNY BRAVO MOMENT
Well, I once found myself in a somewhat similar situation. I’m leaving out names and other specifics, even though the record company in question no longer exists, just to keep myself out of any potential legal trouble.
I had formed a band in 1987, shortly after The Robin Baxter Band broke up. Things came together quickly, because the players I found were serious about their industry pursuit, and worked really hard to build their talents and creativity.
One night, we were playing at The Whisky a Go-Go on the Sunset Strip, when a guy handed me a business card and told me that he was scouting for new talent for the record label where he worked.
He handed me his card and asked me to call him within the next few days, because he wanted to meet with the band and talk about our future. I told the guys about it, and they were really pumped up to go in and find out what would happen.
I called him and we scheduled a meeting a few days out.
THE BIG MEETING
We go to his office and are treated with imported bottled water, beer, and finger foods. He had a spacious and luxurious office that appeared very expensive, so he must have been a big deal.
After some general greetings for a few minutes, we have a seat and he starts talking to us. He tells us that “his nephew really loves the band.” We all thought that was cool at first.
Throughout his talk, he keeps referencing his nephew, to the point that it’s starting to get a little weird. My mental state is at full attention and I am wondering where all of this is going.
He makes sure that we’re clear on where he is going.
“You see, guys, my nephew really loves the band. He’s the one who told me that you guys even exist. Without him, you might not be sitting here.”
I’m starting to get a bit nervous about this. He continues.
“My nephew is a drummer…”
Oh shit. I can tell where we are going.
“…and he is so much of a fan of what you do, in fact, that he would love to be your drummer.”
It seems like he’s cutting me out of the picture, mainly because that’s what he is doing.
“I’d love to sign you guys, and I’ve got contracts right here, and I’m ready to do it. But I want just ONE little change. My nephew has to be your drummer if you want to be signed.”
I KNEW IT! I just knew it. Here we go.
He ended his little speech by telling us that we had a few minutes to discuss it. He left the room momentarily, so we started talking. He wasn’t gone very long, however, and returned while we were in a heated debate.
The problem was that the rest of the band seemed to be okay with having me thrown out of my own band, if it meant getting signed. They were eager.
I told them that changing the drummer would change the sound, and besides, he might not be all that good. They said that the kid MUST be good, otherwise his uncle wouldn’t want him to play. Why would he sabotage a project that was supposed to make everyone money?
By this point, my entire band had turned against me, all for the promise of money and potential fame. So I came up with a speech of my own.
“Look, I know that you guys really want to sign. I think it’s a bad idea and you’re messing up. You don’t know how good this nephew might be. But the bottom line is that this was my band, and my style was an integral part of this project.”
“If nothing else, then know this: He is screwing me over RIGHT NOW, before your eyes. He’s kicking me out of my own band and screwing me.”
“I’m going to turn around and walk out of this office right now. If you can see that he’s going to screw you over, then you can walk out with me. But if you somehow believe that he’ll be good with you, for some reason, then you can stay.”
I walked out of the office. The door closed behind me. I turned around.
Nobody followed me out.
I could hear them celebrating in the room. I did have an ace up my sleeve, in that I held all of the copyright paperwork, as well as the publishing, so they’d have to either talk to me or pay me if they recorded and released any of the songs.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. And really, we’d not get that far.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BAND
I would later learn what happened with the band. This agent immediately scheduled a meeting and jam session between the band and the nephew. Their opinion of him was that he seemed to be an asshole, but they wrote it off as confidence.
As one of the guys put it, “He couldn’t play. He just couldn’t fucking do it. It was like a kid who had never played before sitting down for the first time. He couldn’t play a rhythm or keep time. But he was good at posing like a rock star.”
The band struggled for a few weeks to get anything productive out of him. It was going nowhere quickly, and they were starting to regret their decision.
My three former bandmates went to this agent and told them that the nephew wasn’t working out. He told them that “they had to make it work, because they have a contract.”
They protested, declaring the nephew to be unfit as a player. The three of them banded together in solidarity against him. But he had the legally-binding contract.
So he told them to have a seat. He went to a clause in the contract, which indicated they had to make this work. However, in the event that it would not work, they would remain under contract for five years.
During these five years, they were prohibited from writing, recording, or performing with any other bands, as well as solo.
In other words, they would have to sit on their asses and do NOTHING with music for five years.
One of the guys packed up and flew back home to his family.
I would like to say that the others had a similar ending like this, but they did not. The remaining two got deeply engrossed in alcohol and drugs. One of them got really wasted one night and decided to go on a bicycle ride. He ended up getting hit and killed by a truck.
The other one, without getting into too much detail, took his own life. He and I actually talked the night that he died. He told me, “I’m 23 years old. By the time I get out of this contract, I’ll be cold, irrelevant, and 28 years old. I’ll be ancient by industry standards.”
I did my best to talk him down, but he was right. These days, 23 is old in our culture that worships youth in a very unreasonable and unhealthy way. There was talk about how Avril Lavigne was “long-in-the-tooth” when she turned 17.
IN THE END
The band got destroyed. Two of my friends were dead. And there I was, still having some weird feelings about it all. It was the only “chance” that I was being given, and that chance was a pile of rubbish.
I would encounter a handful of slime balls like him in the future. Maybe I’ll write about more of them one day.
Obviously, since the contract was all about cutting me out of the picture, I dodged a bullet. Sometimes I wonder, however, how it would have been if the nephew had played another instrument. It is easy for me to say that I’d be walking out no matter what, since I have the benefit of hindsight.
But what would have happened to me if I had signed?
I worked, struggled, pushed, and kept on from 1986 to 1988. When things finally fell apart for me, I ended up moving from LA back with family in Bakersfield.
I would later go back to LA to make music, just for the fun of it, and with the possibility of a few bucks here and there. My initial goal of getting signed by a record label [which is all there really was at the time] got thrown out and replaced by a new attitude, where I’d just make music because I love to do it, and nothing more.
This was the attitude that I took with future acts, like Noodle Muffin. I’ll write more about that in a separate entry.
If I had to offer any advice for the kids of today, it would be to get your own lawyer and have them review any contracts that are presented to you. And if it’s a “360 deal,” save your time and money and RUN as fast as you can away from that. NEVER sign a 360 deal, because they take everything.
Make music and stay chill.