SURVIVING TEN YEARS IN THE MUSIC BIZ while building a nationwide audience might have seemed a lofty accomplishment, but the grand adventure had devolved into routine as The Klezmorim slogged across America. To help reduce exhaustion and costly travel, manager Rick Foster booked us extended theatrical runs in major cities. But in these lean Reagan years, performance art subsidies evaporated and subscription audience bases dwindled. Our New York agent, who once upon a time courageously helped us storm the concert hall circuit, now seemed content to lob us endlessly hither and yon on unprofitable one-nighters.
Reading the writing on the wall, we tried to evolve into something more than a U.S. touring band. Our collectively-written treatment for a klezmer musical attracted off-Broadway interest but no green; sadly, larger-than-life theatrical producer Joseph Papp — our fan and mentor — had passed on. Suntory Whiskey reportedly saw us as potential hooch-mascot media-giant spokesklezmers, but concert engagements in Kyoto and Yokohama — with the kind of stratospheric fame that can only happen in Japan — remained just out of reach, like tall bamboo.
The prospect of another Ant Farm tour of Midwestern motels stressed our psyches. One casualty was matinee-idol drummer Tom Stamper, who needed to quit touring before stresses and temptations ruined his life. We replaced irreplaceable Stamper with percussionist Ken Bergmann, a gent of admirable professionalism and grooming whose spot-on impression of a Holy Roller preacher made him — hot damn! — the perfect huckster for our notorious onstage record commercials.
Between tours I found time, finally, to tie the knot with Joan. We wrote home-made vows, catered our own reception, and invited the band — sans horns. Klezmer music may be the best possible soundtrack for a wedding, but enough already!
Good news followed: Manager Rick had snagged us a Continental agent, a flamboyant cat named Olivier Gluzman who ponied up high-profile gigs in Paris and Germany. Europe was great from the start; the people dug us the most. Like thousands of American musicians before us, we found steady work at a consistently high level of credibility. Paris was paradise: between gigs we'd visit the world's best museums, sample fine wine and cheese, pay homage at Jim Morrison's grave... The inside story continues in 1986... >>