Presidio Sentinel, San Diego, December 2007
LIFEâ€™S A GOOD GIG DOT COM
By Laura Walcher
John Cainâ€™s enjoyable book about making it - or not - in music might be called the
â€œanti-Ron Woodsâ€ story. That is, itâ€™s drugless. Cainâ€™s story, and info for his cdâ€™s
and book is on his website. The unofficial John Cain - is right here:
LW: For any hip-less reader living under a rock, tell us: whatâ€™s a â€œgigâ€ - ?
JC: A gig is a musicianâ€™s paid performance. Many younger cats trying to make it
are too ready to perform for free. Theyâ€™re hobbyists. A professional plays for
free only for charitable causes - and knows: if you donâ€™t value your talent, no
one else will.
The â€œmusic businessâ€ is the bar/hotel/restaurant business! Live music is the
incentive to make sales. Thatâ€™s what the gig is all about.
LW: And ... what makes a â€œgood oneâ€ -?
JC: At a good gig, you get to do what you want! The venueâ€™s good, the audience
appreciative; you play music you like, and of course, you get paid. (Gee, hereâ€™s
where artist-turns-mercenary!) And, youâ€™re respected for what you do.
LW: OK. Do you get any?
JC: (Once in a while, but â€¦â€¦â€¦oh, you mean gigs!) I was at the Hotel Del for seven
years, Elarioâ€™s (now Clayâ€™s) for two, at Avanti (now Rippongi) for eight.
Iâ€™ve gigged steadily at Humphreyâ€™s, the Town and Country Hotel and more.
But you rarely get it all. The pay might be good, but ... you could be stuck in a
corner by the kitchen where waiters parade in front of you all night. You have to
wear a uniform - or play music - that you donâ€™t like? But - thatâ€™s the deal. To
work steady, you accept the circumstances! A jazz musician in a country western
bar just sucks it up without whining. For bad gigs the proâ€™s attitude is,â€ ...close
your eyes until itâ€™s over and collect the cash.â€
LW: Youâ€™re at the Sheraton (off La Jolla Village Drive), Tuesday nights. A good
JC: The Sheraton is a good gig. Itâ€™s run by the same folks who own Humphreyâ€™s. They
have decades of experience; itâ€™s a joy to work for them. Iâ€™m at the Bahia Resort
Hotel on Wednesdays - another good one. Besides locals, hotel guests and tourists
from all over the world drop in.
LW: Youâ€™re a musician, singer, song- and- book- writer, and maybe you have other
talents we donâ€™t know about. Order them up for us:
JC: I just published a childrenâ€™s book and CD that I illustrated. So maybe Iâ€™m
also a cartoonist of
Performing live music: instant rewards! The performance and the audience are
present in the moment. (And, you can also bomb in the moment!) Writing is more of a
vicarious marathon. (Hmmâ€¦ good name for a bandâ€¦? â€œVicarious Marathon.â€) You hope
people like it, but it takes a while before you know.
I didnâ€™t think of getting rich or famous in the music biz. (And thatâ€™s exactly how
itâ€™s worked out!) But, I kid. I love performing and entertaining. Iâ€™m a big ham, so
being a musician/entertainer is a good profession for me.
Being an author seems to give one status that a â€œmereâ€ musician doesnâ€™t have. As an
author, I get treated with more deference. Yet I express my ideas and feelings in
the language of music more easily, so writing a book is hard work. Writing lets
you get your say, tho, without being interrupted - even if itâ€™s a challenge to put
down your ideas and opinions in words and have them clearly understood.
Now Iâ€™m creating a new career as an â€œauthor/musician.â€ From Seattle to San Diego, I
perform in art centers, college campuses, libraries, book stores and sometimes music
LW. Your book cheerfully resonates with anyone in music, around musicians, and
JC: Since I was 15. Iâ€™ve watched the world go by from a bandstand. I wanted to share
this unique view, and dispel myths and stereotypes about musicians. History books
are always about famous leaders, but never about the grunts on the front lines.
Same with books about musicians - little about the everyday, non-famous, working
pros. Many musicians have helped and inspired me - older cats who shared their
gifts and renewed my spirit, but they never made the â€œbig time.â€ Iâ€™m telling their
LW. It takes a weird and wild imagination to create a rap version of â€œBeowulfâ€ (in
your book.) What got INTO you?
JC: In my seminars in schools, I shock kids when I say that rap is not new. In fact
itâ€™s one of the oldest forms of music. Beowulf is probably the earliest rap song in
the English language that is still extant. When it was written, before the advent
of modern musical instruments (even before Hanna Montana), what we call rap was a
popular form of musical entertainment. It goes way back before then, even to ancient
Africa. Itâ€™s simply telling a story in rhythm and rhyme- with minimal musical
LW: Youâ€™ve been gigging â€˜round for ... umm, several decades - and still going
strong. Want to change anything?
JC: Iâ€™ve been a musician so long I realize that my entire life is the gig - and I
want it to continue. Any time someone wants to pay me to play the piano and sing,
Iâ€™m grateful for letting me be who I am.
LW. Youâ€™re a very tolerant guy - you let me & my flute sit in with you at the
Sheraton, before you even KNEW I could provide this amazing column. Tell me the
truth, tho ... should I hang it up?
JC: Itâ€™s your life - so make it a good gig. Never, ever, ever, give up! You may not
have the fame and wealth of your dreams but at least youâ€™ll go down swinging.
(LW: hmm. WHAT is he trying to tell me?) ###
By Laura Walcher - Presidio Sentinel, San Diego, December 2007 (Dec 3, 2007)
The South Bay Beat
GRINGO SALSA: THE MUSIC OF JOHN CAIN
North Americaâ€™s illicit love affair with Latin music is exquisitely consummated in the music of John Cain. Itâ€™s a marriage of breezy Brazilian jazz, Mexican boleros, Salsa, Spanish favorites and enchanting original songs and instrumentals.
Cainâ€™s infatuation with Latin musical genres began where he grew up in Southern California, right across the border from Mexico. ( In this part of the country, youâ€™re seduced early on by the romantic Spanish language, the balmy climate, and captivating Latin rhythms. )
His travels to Spain and Latin America have infused his music with the scirocco winds of Spain, the torrid rains of Yucatan, and the sultry beaches of the Mexican Riviera. For souvenirs, he brought back spicy Bossa Novas, Sambas, and Mambos for everyone to savor, which he blends into his own brand of â€œGringo Salsa.â€
Listen. You, too, may find yourself seduced. Let Cain guide you expertly through this love triangle in Spanish, Portuguese, English, Italian and French. Once youâ€™re an â€œaficionado youâ€™ll want to dip into his tasty gringo salsa again and again!
Candis Burkhardt - The South Bay Beat (Mar 7, 2000)
May I Have This Dance?
Another petite spot for 'touch' dancing is the Avanti Restaurant in La Jolla, where the excellent northern Italian cuisine competes with the dance floor for the attention of the patrons. But, John Cain who leads a three piece combo doesn't worry about that. Performing from 6:30 to 11 p.m., he knows the dancers will eventually find their way to the adequatly sized 900 square-foot floor. The emphasis is on leisurely paced romantic Latin music. And the 30-odd couples seemed quite content to sway for more than six minutes to Cain's soft bossa nova arrangement of "Girl From Ipenema," which concluded his fifth set of the evening.
Julio Martinez - Westways Magazine (Auto Club of Southern Ca.) (Aug 9, 1996)