The good, the bad, and the ugly.

To be in business you have to be open to customer feedback—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I first learned this lesson almost four decades ago when I was performing at an outdoor venue at Santa Monica High School, just outside Los Angeles, with Uncle Crusty & the Venice Canaligators.

S.M. High (no jokes please) frequently had lunch concerts in their Greek amphitheater and hired the Canaligators for some local color. But it didn’t occur to us that our usual repertoire of country-blues-and-boogie, which went over so well with our street audiences of bikers and winos, might not go over so well with a middle-class teenage audience.

The first indication that something was amiss came during our second song ("Nasty Boogie Woogie") when we noticed projectiles headed towards the stage. First it was apples. Then baloney sandwiches. Soon an assortment of garden vegetables. But the best was saved for last: ripe avocadoes!

I tried to assure the band that the kids in the audience may have assumed, based on our funky garb, that we were starving artists and that they just wanted to share their lunch with us. But my band mates didn’t buy it, and we beat a hasty retreat. The good news: we went back to Venice with enough salad material for a week!

The business lesson? Be open to customer feedback. And don’t forget to duck.

Read more about Uncle Crusty and the Venice Canaligators here.

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  1. Ever notice that most online businesses make it nearly impossible to complain about their services? They'll give you a dozen categories to choose from to communicate to them, but none include 'customer feedback' or 'complaint.'

    Speaking of which, how do we complain to YOU? :-)

  2. If you ever have a complaint about this blog and you happen to be in the Chestnut Hill Massachusetts area, you can always drop by and throw vegetables at me. Otherwise just mail them in. (It's a classic win-win. You'll feel better and I'll eat better.)

  3. Wow!! I wish there was a video of this!! Wish I stayed in L.A. now!! At least they tossed fruit and veggies before they were bodily processed!! He, he!!

  4. Nick, you have a way of always looking at the bright side of things. There's another lesson here I forgot: don't perform lunchtime concerts at theaters "in the round" where the stage is lower than the audience.

  5. Ah, to have lived in CA in the good old days!

    Thanks for all the adjectives, I almost feel like I was there, I have the taste of guacamole in my mouth.

    Keep 'em comin...

  6. Southern California has its advantages, especially if you're going to get pelted with fruits and vegetables. Much better selection there.

  7. Used to watch you guys at the Blue Lagoon Saloon in the late "70's.
    Great time!! I'm trying to locate some of the tunes that you played. Found Nasty Boogie Woogie. There was a tune that went "I know the reason I love you so...'cuz you don't love me anymore".... Any chance you could send me a play list?? thanks

    1. Jack, Bob Liepman—who played mandocello with the Canaligators—wrote "I Know the Reason" but I don't think he recorded it. Sorry, I don't have a play list. From time to time Bob fantasizes about getting the old band back together in California, but Hook and Little Mike have passed to their reward, while Butch Mudbone is in Memphis and I live outside Boston. But hope springs eternal. The three of us are all active musicians.

  8. To John of the canaligators
    This is Dennis and bonnie that owned the sweet pea cabaret in venice
    The canaligators, Barron Stewart, ,gypsy and others played there often
    Are any of them still playing and living in venice?

    1. Dennis, I remember the Sweet Pea Cabaret well. Lots of great entertainers played that room. I recall Lindsay Buckingham singing there just before he joined Fleetwood Mac. (I once bumped into Tom Brokaw having a brew there in the mid 70s!)

      I've only stayed in touch with the Canaligator alumni, and none them live in Venice. I think Steve, the keyboard player (when I switched to drums), lives in the general area. Bob lives in San Luis Obispo. (See my comment above for the rest of us.) Long live the Sweet Pea!

  9. I was on the staff of The Midnight Special when my roomate hooked up with The Canalagators & briefly managed them. I remember that appearance & was there when they performed in the NBC parking lot...where they caught the attention of Dr Hook & the Medicine Show (hosting the show that day) while a bogus bomb scare was being investigated...the rest was history..albeit brief. Always enjoyed hearing them play. Sorry to hear two of them have passed.

    1. Great to hear from you, Jim. After that parking lot concert they called me in Boston and told me to get my butt on a plane. The four of us performed two songs on The Midnight Special a few weeks later. I've always wondered if there's a tape of that somewhere, but I've never seen in. Do you have any knowledge of that?

      Anyway, the spirit of the Canaligators lives on. I'm still in contact with Butch and Bob, who are two of the three original members.

    2. Hi Jim,

      Bob Liepman here (Bobby Mandocello Liepman) who Hook would introduce as "the musician of the group." Playing and travelling with Hook permanently changed my outlook on life. I am married with adult boys, run a business, and pay taxes, but still play music and tell Hook's timeless jokes (the clean PC ones that is...there are at least a couple of those). I left a band that recorded for Fantasy Records and had high hopes to join the Canaligators. I thought they should be exposed to professional bands and hopefully realize that we could become part of that scene. The Midnight Special taping was on an off night gigwise and admission was free. We always had our instruments in the van so when we were evacuated to the parking lot, we jumped at the chance to play for the crowd. I remember Burt Sugarman's assistant handing me a card and inviting us to be on the show. Unfortunately that episode aired during the Watergate hearings and got pushed back into the wee hours. I think I slept through it!

      1. Welcome, Bob! Hey, I seem to remember that I was back on the East Coast when that finally show aired. (Is that possible?) I had my 10 seconds of fame doing a piano break on "Where'd My Money Go?" Yeah, the Canaligators were a singularity, as they say.

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