DIARY OF A LEXINGTON ROCK VET
BY JOHN (JT) TURNER, 10 Foot Pole
Honestly, I could write a book about this whole crazy adventure of mine (but what crazy fool would want to read that?) Hopefully I will write the book someday with proper entertainment/ anecdotal genius in display. Some part of me sez I’m waiting til I go deaf for that.
1990: Met and briefly jammed with 10 Foot Pole shortly before graduating from UK School of Music with a lucrative music performance degree. Disillusioned by the idea of any career path associated with my degree, I decided to quit music and trumpet. Left Lexington for Nantucket MA. By August I was going insane without music in my life and singing strange things loudly as I walked the cobblestone streets—disturbing the tourists basically. One day my boss said, “that’s a cool song. What is it? I wasn’t sure but after thinking for a minute I realized it was a 10 Foot Pole riff.
I called one of them (who?—I’m not sure) and he said, “JT, we’ve been looking for you. Do you want to be on our record? We’re recording it in two weeks.” I hitched a free ride to Lexington “temporarily” to check it out. Recorded two songs for the first 10 Foot album. One thing led to another and I never returned to Nantucket.
[Also in 1990] Became a founding member of Lily Pons (long story there—basically it was an attempt at the ultimate side-project, i.e., everyone was always in other bands.) Made many guest appearances with 10 Foot Pole, eventually becoming a full band member. Much wacky mayhem and good times ensued… also a bunch of really good music and sweat soaked gigs. early 90s: more of the same.Totally cool scene going in Lex then—I’d say there were maybe 20 good bands going at any given time back then—an amazing percentage per capita for a town the size of Lex. For years, I stored a mental list of them in my head in case anyone ever cared to ask.
For me, the defining feature of Lexington music at that time was good folks respecting and enjoying each other even if the music styles differed. Too much cross pollination for me to properly sort out right now.
Other than gigs, I had a nice, interesting part time job with the Lexington Public Library.
Mid 90s: Lily Pons breaks up and reforms several times. Chaos was part of the point of the band anyway, so it kind of made sense. Did a few national tours and eventually a movie with Love Jones from Louisville (transplanted to LA and signed to BMG). This was based on a mutual respect bond between LJ, TFP and LP.
Eventually TFP broke up in a mutually respectful manner. Recorded a ridiculous 4-track rock and roll solo album, released on cassette—a completely different direction from TFP or LP— even sold a few at Cut Corner and Bear’s Wax. Was awarded a KY Arts Council Al Smith fellowship for music composition. The grant was for more experimental music, not Rock and Roll. 1997 and on: Moved to NYC. Worked a variety of silly jobs.
Eventually won an audition to play trumpet and keyboards with a minor league major label pop act (Atlantic Records, then they switched to Sony.) Had the same management team as Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, and Madonna. We were the “baby band” on the roster. Played the exact same 35 minute show for 18 months, but was well paid. Disillusioned, decided that any future musical activities would be for love of music above all else.
1999-2001-ish: Joined the dot com revolution— internet radio. Worked very hard trying to become a fake stock option kazillionaire. Was eventually laid off with no severance pay, benefits, nothing, approx one week before the company died. Around the same time became a founding member of Baraka Orchestra, house band for Baraka Foundation Records (an indie label). Performed with Umar Bin Hassan of Last Poets. Band and JT Solo albums both released in 2001. Solo album was titled Horn Resounding. With blessings from the label, turned down a recoupable studio budget and began recording a follow up solo album in my home studio.
2002-ish: approx two weeks before turning in final mixes for new solo album, Baraka Foundation went out of business. Rescued close to 1000 copies of Horn Resounding from a dumpster in Brooklyn. I mostly use the CD boxes as furniture, but I still sell a few here and there. Solo Album #2 is still languishing in the vaults.
2003-ish: Became a street musician in NYC, playing 20s-40s swing jazz material including several forgotten Fats Waller tunes I’ve rescued from obscurity thanks to the NY Public Library Performing Arts
branch at Lincoln Center. Great fun (www.johntrumpet.com)
2004-present: I split my time between a totally rewarding job as retail buyer for an Indie yet chic Soho bookshop (http://www.mcnallyrobinsonnyc.com) and as a musician with AfroBeat vs. Jazz vs. Punk Attitude band, Kokolo (http://www.myspace.com/kokoloafrobeat).
It’s a perfect situation for me. Granted, there’s not much money to be had playing with Kokolo, but it’s a great source of fun and free plane tickets (the UK a bunch of times and also Sweden, Lithuania, Holland, Belgium, Spain and Italy…wait, I forgot Canada). In summer 2007, we’ll be repeating many of these places and adding France, Poland and Russia to the list. Good Times!
At this point I’ve been in New York almost as long as I was in Lexington (ten years.) I love NYC and intend to stay here as long as I can continue to con my way into pretending I can afford it—or until it becomes too annoying.
I have personal experience with musicians from all around the world and in my opinion, Lex has an unprecedented stock of world class musicians who have consciously or unconsciously chosen to enjoy the ride and do what they do regardless of where they happen to reside and play.
In my experience, I think Lexington has witnessed more secretly great local music than most places can dream of boasting about. Above all—and regardless of any perceived outcomes, I think that the sheer joy and talent involved should be celebrated. It’s a rare, wonderful thing.
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