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So You Want to Be a Bilge Pump?
Posted by Jack the Rum Runner
Oct. 04, 2017 01:40 PM  

What to Expect From a Band Member' Point of View

Weekly practice
2½ hrs a week for most of the year... We rarely miss a practice session. You would think this would be plenty of time to practice all of the 130 plus songs that we perform, but this is not always the case. There have been a few songs that they "blow the dust off" and want to perform at one of our shows. I typically find this out while Craig is making the set list (usually less than 10 min before the show). I then mention that I have never practiced or performed the song with them. He smiles (and chuckles) and turn to me and says "it will be OK", and if it isn't, it is Bilge Pump funny

Learning new songs
Yearly, there are new songs that are introduced to the band to be considered for performing. Most of the time there is a resistance because it's going to require work as a considerable amount of time goes into having the outcome we desire. Vocals, harmony, drums, guitar, bass and song filking are carefully chosen. There have been a few times that Dave has sent me a message a couple of weeks before a gig on a song he would like to "try" during the gig. No pressure, huh? During one particular show, a fan kept shouting out "Freebird". So, during the break, Dave filked the lyrics as I worked on how to play it. The next show, we gave them our version of "Freebird".

Long drive to gigs
We seem to be pretty centrally located to most of the gigs we play at. That can sometimes be a bad thing as most of the gigs we perform at are not local. This is typical when we go to the Louisiana Renaissance Festival in Hammond, LA. We meet up late afternoon, all the gear is packed (crammed is more like it) into the urban assault vehicle, then we start out 8 hr journey to show up at the hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Craig is just amazing on these as I have never seen him sleep on a road trip and he keeps us entertained with story after story (and he never repeats). Dave and Nathan, however, are asleep before we are out of Dallas. After a full weekend of performing we head back after our last show on Sunday and are dragging at work on Monday

Practice on your own
I am often asked "how long do you practice?" My answer: "as much as it takes". I still am learning, so I practice anywhere from 5 hrs to 12 hrs a week. I have an equal amount of non Bilge Pump songs (yes, get over it) in my library that I play. I've also been learning bass, electric guitar, and learning how to use the effect pedals.

Recording in hot conditions
I'm sure most of you have a perception of what it's like in a recording studio. We call ours "Sweatbox Studio" for a good reason. Our studio consists of a 6x6 room with foam sound absorbing insulation and 1 window. On the recording day, Craig arrives and starts going to work setting up the equipment. The next step is for him to lay down either a drum or bass track. Each of the members take a turn in the studio as the temperature slowly rises. As the day rolls on, you hope that you are not one of the last members to record a track. At the last recording session, I entered the room about 3p.m. and the heat, humidity, and stench of everyone's perspiration nearly caused me to black out. My guitar gets plugged in and the levels are all set. As I'm playing a song, the sweat is dripping off my forehead, stinging my eyes, and dripping down my back and into the unknown. The guitar pick starts to slip as you're doing everything humanly possible to keep a beat and not make a mistake so as not to prolong the torture.

Fashion, new clothing to keep up
When I first became a Bilge Pump, I had a very short time before my first gig (Dickens). I had decided on a "look" that suited me. The outfit I ordered was back-ordered 4 days before the gig. I went thru my closet and put together something suitable. The Steampunk hat was the topper. The compliments I received from the first outing suggested that an entire Pirate/Steampunk was the correct look for me, so I've gone with it ever since.

Performing in adverse conditions
If it's a Bilge Pump event, you can expect rain. We do not always perform indoors or under large stages with canopies. Most of our shows are outdoors, and that comes with the challenges of playing in wind, cold, pouring rain, heat and any other conditions known to man. I remember one very wet weekend that we were all huddled under a small tarp (trying to keep the guitar dry) and Craig was pounding away on his steel drum (from which he had to poor out the water after a song)

My hand at filking a songs
Dave is one of the best song filkers I know. He and Craig are very talented at coming up new lyrics on the fly. So, imagine my concern when I showed them 3 songs that I had filked. Craig and Dave were both impressed and we'll be recording on of those as a new Christmas song this month.

Why Do I do It?
Is it the tremendous amount of money we get? LOL (usually it's enough to pay the expenses). Is it that I have nothing better to do with my time? (not hardly).
The truth is that I have the pleasure of working with some very talented people (and they will deny this at all costs) that took me under their wing and gave me a change to enjoy what they do. I consider us part of a big family and each of the members brings his own unique element to the band.
Ted is the comic relief. I never know what he will do. The crowd enjoys his antics.
Nathan: great singer, part time drummer, and his wife is and excellent baker that brings us goodies to shows.
Dave: the most colorful one. Needs no microphone unless he is singing; our song filker. Christopher: the cheeriest one of the bunch (not). Great guitar player, bass, electric and acoustic. Great at vocals and figuring out where a song needs to be improved
Craig (or Greg as we like to call him): the most talented of the group. Singer, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, steel drums, didjeridu, and anything else you can throw at him (which we do)
And most importantly, we do it for you, our beloved fans.

- Jack the Rum Runner
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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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So You Want to Be a Bilge Pump?
Posted by Jack the Rum Runner
Oct. 04, 2017 01:40 PM1 comment
Buffalo Soldiers
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
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Nov. 19, 2015 11:09 AM1 comment
The Fun of Music-making
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For booking information contact Craig Lutke at:
214-415-9563 or by e-mail at

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