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Buffalo Soldiers
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Mar. 02, 2016 02:13 PM  

Way back in the halcyon days of Hawkwood in 1997, a merchant set up a tent booth not too far from the arena where the Scottish Caledonian Gamers (a highland games troop I was part of) performed. His name was Steffon and his shop was Earthwalkers and it turns out he was just working his way through the area heading back to Idaho, where he was based. I'd seen some of the prices for Bald Mountain Boots and their competitors at Scarborough and, though they were nice enough boots, the price was too much for me to stomach to have boots that looked much like everyone else's. I struck up a conversation with Steffon and found out he was going to be at the West Texas Ren Faire right after Hawkwood, just as the Caledonians were, so I made a deal with him where I would come up with a rough design of what I wanted my boots to look like over the festival and I'd meet him in Abilene where he'd get my foot/calf measurements for my custom boots. A couple of weeks later in Abilene, I dropped $500 on the table to him and he took my money and drove off to Idaho... never to be seen again.

OK, that last part is misleading as, although I never saw him face-to-face again, I did have a great pair of buffalo hide boots arrive in the mail a couple of months later that I immediately tried on, ditching the moccasin boots I'd been wearing since I'd started character acting in faires. They fit like a glove and I've been wearing them as part of my faire costumes ever since.

That's 19 years of the same boots for those that are arithmetically challenged. 19 years of the same... pair... of... boots. These things are as much a part of the Maroon character as I am. Sure, I've worn the soles down to nubs four times and had them replaced. Sure, these boots are made in such a way that every time the sole is replaced, the leather stretches tighter and I lose a boot size until they're stretched out again. Sure, there are only so many times I can do that before the laws of physics catch up and the damned things just rip open. Sure, there are cracks in the buffalo hide so deep you can stand dimes up in them. Does it matter to me? Nuh-uh. These boots have been through massive floods (see TRF last year, KC in 2003, TRF in 2002) and searing heat (see Wichita in 2006 and Ft Worth in 2005) and they keep on ticking. These are my lucky boots.

I've only had to perform twice as a Bilge Pump without these boots since the band's been in existence. Once in 2001 in Louisiana where I flat out forgot to bring them and was forced to wear some $20 zipper boots found at the Hammond Wal-Mart, and then again this year at Pirates on the Prairie V as I hadn't received them back yet in from the latest sole replacement and overall repair. I wore my old Black Bart cowboy boots instead and never did feel quite right on stage. They may not be at the level of Linus' security blanket, but they're definitely a creature comfort for me.

This last sole replacement ended up getting a heavy-duty break in as the new (size smaller) boots arrive in time for Mardi Gras where I proceeded to walk many, many miles in two parades to get them re-stretched to my size again. They did really well, one blister notwithstanding. This time they even got some TLC from Steffon in the form of new stitching to replace blown out ones, new lining upgrades, and a solid coat of waterproofing. Though he did mention that he was torn between repairing them or just putting them up in some kind of boot hall of fame.

All-in-all, I'm proud of these boots that are way older then both my kids put together. Here's to the next 19 years, boys.

P.S. If anyone's interested in Earthwalkers Boots, you can check out their site at Earthwalkers.biz. They still do the custom boots, but they also have sized boots available for those wanting cheaper alternatives.

Because it's all for me blog. Me jolly jolly blog.
....Maroon

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The New Guy Is Now an Old Guy
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Nov. 19, 2015 11:09 AM  

Well, about this time last year, the Bilge Pumps welcomed aboard our newest member and guitar player, Jack the Rum Runner (a.k.a. Captain Fred Sparrow, a.k.a. Carlos Santana, a.k.a. Fred Flores). The Fezziwig Friday Night opening of Dickens on the Strand in 2014 was his first official gig with us, but we were pounding him relentlessly with our library of songs long before then and we've been pounding him relentlessly (with songs) ever since.

We first approached Fred with the concept of joining the band as a guitar player last summer because he'd dared mention the fact that he used to play guitar. Our beloved Sharkbait Simon had been coming to fewer gigs because his personal and professional life kept intruding, so we were a bit desperate for a guitar player. That was especially true after witnessing my lame attempt at playing emergency guitar last summer at a couple of shows. Fred mulled the offer over for a while and secretly pulled his guitar back out of retirement and started rebuilding his skills and left finger calluses to determine privately if he would be able to do himself justice on the songs. After a couple of months of psyching himself up into believing he could do it, he agreed to start joining us in rehearsals to see how things would go.

First thing we did was figure out what gig he wanted to start on and then we'd begin tailoring the songs in rehearsals to that. Problem was, Dickens was the first gig and that meant not only would he get the blast of 60+ guitar songs (at the time), but hit with our bevy of pirate Christmas carols as well. He managed to weather the deluge of information and keys by devoting hours upon hours of his spare time each week practicing with the sheets and our recordings so that we would be ahead of the game when he got to rehearsal with us.

He made a successful debut that Friday night at Dickens (in fact, he did better than I did since I damn near completely screwed up singing "The Night Pat Murphy Died ", covering for Sharkbait). So, how best to reward him for a job well done? Hit him with a pack of completely different songs for Pirates on the Prairie and Mardi Gras Galveston! He had to cover the 2-hour Mardi Gras set without Sharkbait's help as well. Who says pirates can't swim? We threw this guy in the deep end and tossed a piano on top of him and he still managed to show up on the foredeck, smiling, with a mermaid on each hip.

His dedication to taking on our catalog of 120+ songs on his own has been awesome. He's even taken it upon himself to learn bass on some of the songs we do that I can't play bass on myself due to me playing other instruments. That means he has to learn two instruments and sometimes vocals for a song. He's worked hard on pounding our old stuff on his own to allow us to focus on our new songs during rehearsal. He's also been a quality guy both in and out of shows, always willing to help out where he can and simply show support where he can't. In other words, why is this guy in our band again? Doesn't sound like he fits at all!

My hat is off to Jack as he has managed a minor miracle in getting caught up and comfortable with not only our music, but with our crazy-ass personalities as well. Now if only we can get him to sing and play guitar at the same time... No rest for the wicked.

Because it's all for me blog. Me jolly jolly blog.
....Maroon

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The Fun of Music-making
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Oct. 02, 2015 10:03 AM  

So, things have been a bit different in my life within the world of the Bilge Pumps for the past couple of years. I took it upon myself a while back to learn the bass. Well, technically, I challenged the entire band to learn a new instrument, but I was the only one to follow through with it. I always thought the group could use a bass to make our music sound "fuller", so I bought myself a relatively cheap 4-string and got to work... letting it sit in my home office for a while.

Finally, I got tired of staring at it all the time and feeling guilty about the whole thing (not to mention the shame of Sharkbait playing it on a track on "The Idiodyssey" because I wasn't good enough) , so I started noodling around and looking to get better. Then there was the matter of putting in the amount of time necessary to actually learn a new instrument, which, if anyone has tried, is not a simple matter... unless you're just a natural... which, of course, I'm not. I needed to figure out a way to make myself presentable on the damned thing, so I had the idea of hooking up with a friend of mine from my office, Rich Eberlen, who is not only a guitar virtuoso, but is also a fan of free lunches! He was willing to sit down with me every week or two for some free Raising Cane's and an hour of music lessons/riffing. He still is, luckily for me.

Now, it didn't end up being the usual style of lessons of learning notes and scales and whatnot. I tend to be pretty task oriented, so I picked out a couple of songs I thought I could play bass on in shows and we started working on getting me to acceptably play those. This didn't take too long as there were not many songs I'd identified as being bass friendly as I played drum on most songs already. However, two or three songs is not enough to justify taking the bass to a gig. It's a big instrument and takes up a lot of space, so if I wasn't going to play it on more than a couple songs, it wouldn't be worth taking along.

So I started working on ideas I'd had in my head for a long while that had been recorded by me singing a melody and some lyric snippets into my phone whenever the inspiration struck. Some of these Rich would help me get out of my head and into the form of a decent chord progression on guitar and some of them I would work out on the bass and present to everyone later. We, the band, also started taking lyrics that Dave/Harvey had written and started putting some melodies to those and resurrecting them from the grave of my notebook. Gradually, these started taking shape in the form of new Bilge Pumps songs or rapidly re-worked old songs.

One extra thing that helped me get more into the musical mindset was the summer of 2014 when I had to learn how to play a dozen or so songs on guitar in about two months for our trip to California. Sharkbait was unavailable and Jack the Rum Runner hadn't joined the band yet, so it was all up to me. I managed to fake my way through the shows enough that most non-musicians hopefully didn't notice my mediocre guitar skills. However, having that extra knowledge of chord progression and a bit more immersion into musical theory helped some of these new songs percolate in my brain.

One thing the Bilge Pumps have missed for a while is a dose of inspiration for new music. We would get it in fits and bursts over the years, but it never really felt organic, it felt forced. Recently, though, it's been a fun time as we each contribute our own ways to getting new melodies, lyrics, arrangements, and rhythms into cohesive songs. The inspiration bug that bit me has spread to the rest of the group and more and more songs are starting to pop out of the woodwork. Even John Crow has chimed in and he was solidly in the "I'm just here for the performance" camp!

We're in the middle of making a new album now and we have seven original songs already recorded or scheduled to be recorded on it with more to come. The thing I like about these is that they are solid songs, not just songs to include because we wrote them, but fun ones we think the audience will dig.

I look forward to sharing the new stuff with our audiences as we tweak the performances to get them down and to share a bit more of ourselves with everyone. It's a fun time to be a Bilge Pump.

Because it's all for me blog. Me jolly jolly blog.
....Maroon

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Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, Ya Lugs!
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Sep. 16, 2015 04:36 PM  

Well, we´re rapidly approaching that most fabulous of holidays for those that ply the sweet trade... Halloween! No... wait... I´m pretty sure that´s for more than people that dress like pirates. It must be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

If you´re reading this blog, then you´re the type of person that is well aware that it's the one day you can fire off piratical-speak curses at your bosses and co-workers and they´ll not only be amused, but be none the wiser at the real meaning of the phrase "Yer good for pounding oakum and nary a licks´ more sea foam, ya dolphin-huggin bilge rat!"

However, for the Bilge Pumps, the holiday thought up by Cap´n Slappy and Ole´ Chumbucket is more than just an excuse to wear our "other work clothes" or scour the town for free donuts and free fish. Talk Like a Pirate Day (TLAPD) has become a money-maker! There is always a business out there looking for that little extra something to push their pirate party over the top on Sept 19th each year (or the nearest weekend to it).

We´ve made many such appearances over the years as the holiday has gained in notoriety and popularity... sometimes even multiple ones on the same day. For instance, last year we were hired to play a college library (while students were trying to study) for their celebration before we scuttled ourselves off to our own CD Release Party. We´ve also done many years of parties at a marina at Lake Ray Hubbard in a thank you to their clients and a generous tax write-off as well. We even did a Hot Sauce Festival in Houston that had a pirate theme due to the holiday. John Crow´s tongue has still not forgiven him for that one.

We´ve also been interviewed for various news agencies that want to do puff pieces about TLAPD and love to hear people do their best Robert Newton impersonation. For those that do not know, Robert Newton´s iconic portrayal of Long John Silver in 1950´s Treasure Island is what created the now stereotypical pirate voice. He used an exaggerated version of his West County English accent using the hard R´s and I´s that we know and love. His accent was kept alive by Geoffrey Rush´s performance as Hector Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. We raise a toast to these fellows on the forefront of pirate linguistics!

All-in-all, we´ve enjoyed the extra attention and money we get from this recently-fabricated holiday. I know I certainly like it better than Valentine´s Day or St. Patrick´s Day which both seem designed to take your money via candy/cards/flowers or lots and lots of beer. At least with TLAPD, we can make some money to offset the cost of all the rum! So thanks to Slappy and Chumbucket for the fun they´re brought to the world. We promise not to bugger it up too much.

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day to ye lubbers and sealeggers alike. May yer rooms at the locker be filled with crans o' treasure for the spendin´ at the bordello on the bottom o' the sea and may ye deliver a blow to Davey Jones' gob so that he nay forgets yer name.

Because it's all for me blog. Me jolly jolly blog.
....Maroon

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Taylor Swift vs Spotify and Support of Musicians (Independent or Not)
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Nov. 25, 2014 02:55 PM  

This whole thing happening of Taylor Swift taking her catalog of music from Spotify in order to support a model that is more conducive to supporting the artists and songwriters got me to thinking. I can definitely applaud her efforts to try and keep making money from the fruits of her creativity/labor and her stand against Spotify and its subscription-based model is a very high profile way to get a problem noticed. Though some in the bologsphere claim other reasons for this spat between music super powers, there is some definite logic behind her argument.

For those that don´t know, subscription-based music services like Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Rdio, Beats Music, etc. go on the model of the user listening to a song on their app or website and either listening for free and getting commercials or paying a monthly subscription fee. The companies manage to make money on the process by charging for ads and subscriptions and only paying a small amount to the artist/label for the song play. What the artist gains is very easy accessibility online to listeners that might otherwise not hear their stuff at all. What the artist loses is that the amount paid to them by the subscription-based company is very, very small compared to what they would gain by someone doing a paid download of the same song.

There are arguments on both sides about Taylor Swift´s stand against Spotify (and by proxy, all of the other subscription-based modeled companies) and they all have merit. There are many people that think that the artists are just being greedy and there are those that think the artists are getting ripped off. While I´m on the artist side of things, although on a much, much smaller scale, I tend to agree and disagree with both sides of the fight. I feel that the subscription-based model has its good points and its bad points. True, it pays very little compared to a paid download, but it still pays more than someone just pirating the song. I know, I know. I´m fully aware of the irony in that statement.

Downloading a song or buying an album via mp3 or CD, on the other hand, pays much more to the artist, but requires the listener to continually disseminate the music to the various devices they want to listen on, smart phone, portable mp3 player, radio, cloud, etc. That can be a pain if you´re not into taking the time to do that sort of grunt work.

So Swift is making her stand by sticking it to Spotify and drawing the line in the cyber-sand. She´s also stirred the music industry pot, from what I read, as artists and companies are falling to one side or the other of the pay/play argument. There are some insiders that think that she might be delivering the first punch that takes out the subscription-based model completely. I hope not. I think that the music industry has long had a throttle on how music is played and distributed and they´ve rigged the system since the 50´s to benefit them and not the artist. Just ask TLC. I think that the smaller companies like Spotify have a place in the world as they help get independent music out to the listening audience that previously would have been funneled into the record company grindhouse that shuns the vast majority of musicians and seems to exploit the ones it does bring in. While I´m glad that Taylor Swift is making a stand due to the dialogue it´s creating, I don´t think a battle between herself (and her massive catalog) and Spotify is going to solve anything. It´s just going to make a pissing contest as both sides of the argument vie for public opinion in order to sway everyone´s sweet, sweet dollars. That reeks too much of politics to me.

It seems to me the better way is to appeal to the listeners themselves. Basically it comes down to this. You hear a song on Spotify or Rhapsody or Amazon Prime Music. If you didn´t really care for the song, then no biggie, as you didn´t pay very much (if anything) for the couple of minutes of listening to it, and you move on to the next one. However, if you like the song, maybe you " favorite" that artist as someone you want to listen to more of. Then, if you dig more of their music, you go and buy their music! It doesn´t have to be entire albums or back discographies, it might just be your favorite song of theirs, but you´ll have done something then to support the artist that gave you a moment´s pleasure in an otherwise stressful world. It might seem like you´re double-paying by doing that, but when the various popular cloud-based radio stations you listen to shut down or get bought out or whatever, you will have the music. It might be on your hard drive or on your shelf, but you have it. You can listen to it however you want and don´t have to ask permission or log in to do it.

I know this comes down the whole relying upon human decency thing, but here me out. If someone is the type of person who copies or torrents songs all the time, odds are they´re not paying for a cloud radio subscription. They´re going to keep pirating the songs, regardless of whether or not Spotify and the like still exist. As Apple proved with the iPod and iTunes, though, people are generally willing to pay for their music as long as it´s not difficult for them to do. I think that Spotify and its ilk need to team up with a music download vendor and include easy links for the listener to buy a song or album if they like what they hear. Some of them do it already. Or, and here´s a novel idea, they could team up with independent artists themselves to include links to their sites for purchasing albums or just more info about the artist.

Here´s what it really is about: money. As usual. In Taylor Swift´s world, that´s a big chunka change she´s fighting for. In The Bilge Pumps´ world, let me give you a sample breakdown of what a poor old pirate band sees when you listen to or download a song of ours.

Action Listener Cost Artist Paid
Pirated the song$0$0
YouTube listen$0$0.0002 (that´s 2/100 of a cent)
Spotify song listen$0-$10/month$0.0008 (that´s 8/100 of a cent)
Rdio song listen$0-$14.99/month$0.005 (that´s 1/2 of a cent)
Beats Music song listen$9.99/month$0.02
Google Cloud song listen$9.99/month$0.01
Amazon song download$0.99$0.63
iTunes song download$0.99$0.63
CDBaby song download$0.99$0.90
thebilgepumps.com song download$0.99$0.99
Amazon album download$9.99$5.91
iTunes album download$9.99$6.37
CDBaby album download$9.99$9.00
thebilgepumps.com album download$9.99$9.99

Out of all these, you can imagine which one we prefer, as we would like you to buy from our Pirate Music Box page so we can bring in the most money from the sale (though CDBaby is close) and form a relationship with you and make sure you have the best available product. In fact, our mp3s are 256kbps, which is about double CD quality and more than double the other vendors´ quality of our music and they are fully tagged with album art, song lyrics, and song information. We also include digital booklets with our mp3 albums with all of the album art and liner notes included. Worth the price if you ask me, especially compared to the compressed format of internet radio.

But this is turning into a commercial now, so I´ll get back to the point. I encourage all of you out there, whether or not you´re listening to subscription-based radio, free radio, YouTube, or your friend´s music library, take the time and support your favorite artists by purchasing their music from whatever your favorite store is. Only you can determine if it´s worth the money and effort necessary to get it done, but if you do, you´ll have a better product in the end and will have accomplished what is very hard to do in independent or mainstream music, validate the artists´ work.

Operators are standing by.

Because it's all for me blog. Me jolly jolly blog.
....Maroon

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Buffalo Soldiers
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Mar. 02, 2016 02:13 PM0 comments
The New Guy Is Now an Old Guy
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Nov. 19, 2015 11:09 AM1 comment
The Fun of Music-making
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Oct. 02, 2015 10:03 AM1 comment
Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, Ya Lugs!
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Sep. 16, 2015 04:36 PM0 comments
Taylor Swift vs Spotify and Support of Musicians (Independent or Not)
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Nov. 25, 2014 02:55 PM1 comment
Book review: Journey to Jazzland
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Oct. 22, 2014 01:46 PM1 comment
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Oct. 07, 2014 11:50 AM0 comments
The Ups and Downs and Downs of Recording an Album
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Jun. 20, 2014 10:29 AM0 comments
You Got Your Islands in My Highlands!
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Oct. 15, 2013 01:33 PM0 comments
More For Moore... for Sure
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Jul. 18, 2013 05:42 PM1 comment
The Bilge Pumps be.. on an Idi-odys-sey
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Dec. 12, 2012 09:18 AM1 comment
Tales from the Road - OKC
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
May. 30, 2012 06:02 PM1 comment
Are CD's Dead?
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Feb. 22, 2012 09:58 AM1 comment
Small Business, Big Deal
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Nov. 30, 2011 10:04 AM2 comments
Tales from the Road - Florida
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Jun. 17, 2011 10:05 AM0 comments
CD or not CD?
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Apr. 21, 2011 12:27 PM0 comments
It's Beginning to Reek a Lot Like Christmas
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A Tale of Tails
Posted by Harvey the Corpsman
Apr. 08, 2010 11:37 AM6 comments
Tales from the Road - Norman
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Mar. 17, 2010 08:08 AM4 comments
Tales from the Road - Louisiana
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Dec. 17, 2009 03:02 PM4 comments
The Bilge Pumps and TRF
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Nov. 09, 2009 11:33 AM7 comments
A New Pirate Festival
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Aug. 10, 2009 03:57 PM8 comments
A Cyber-Wake for Kailyn Dammit
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May. 05, 2009 10:29 AM40 comments
The Renaissance Economy
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Mar. 11, 2009 04:17 PM7 comments
Making a DVD
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Dec. 02, 2008 05:11 PM3 comments
Jousting with Umbrellas
Posted by Harvey the Corpsman
Oct. 09, 2008 05:39 PM26 comments
There's Nothing Like a Good Claw Game
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Jun. 16, 2008 06:09 PM3 comments
My Life as a Bilge Pump (or I hate Squeegy)
Posted by Sharkbait Simon the Scapegoat
Jun. 11, 2008 09:09 AM10 comments
A Tradition Comes to an End (for now)
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Jun. 06, 2008 09:47 AM2 comments
Gas and the Price of Being a Rennie
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
May. 05, 2008 02:28 PM3 comments
OU Medieval Fair
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Apr. 14, 2008 10:43 AM7 comments
New Renaissance Festivals
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Mar. 26, 2008 02:05 PM1 comment
Best Movie Fights
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Mar. 04, 2008 10:37 AM9 comments
Why don't the Bilge Pumps perform in Muskogee any more?
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Feb. 04, 2008 04:13 PM14 comments
Mardi Gras Downer
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Jan. 22, 2008 09:58 AM2 comments
The Beginning of the Bilge Pumps
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Jan. 11, 2008 11:35 AM3 comments
What happened to Celtic Music Pubs in Dallas?
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Dec. 27, 2007 11:27 AM2 comments
Stage Act vs Musicians
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Dec. 18, 2007 07:54 AM9 comments
A Pirate No More
Posted by Galleon O'Galleon the Pilot
Dec. 11, 2007 09:26 AM14 comments
The Pub Sing
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Dec. 03, 2007 03:56 PM1 comment
This year at TRF and the "No Request Show"
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Nov. 27, 2007 10:11 AM9 comments
The First Blog
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Nov. 14, 2007 11:49 AM0 comments

For booking information contact Craig Lutke at:
214-415-9563 or by e-mail at

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