Since I came up with the Stanley Hammer vocal harmony method in Moose Dooley’s garage, I have expanded the concept to other venues. For example, when we were in the studio, I fixated on a set of blinds that covered a window on the far side of the room. I picked out several of the dividers as reference points and cut my baritone part by the intervals between the blinds.
Whenever we play a show I will focus on something in the distance, such as a set of bleachers, and concentrate on predetermined focal points to find my pitch. I guess it is an obsessive doctor way of doing things, but it works, though I am no great singer by any stretch.
However, as I mentioned in my last post, the method can have its pitfalls, and it did let me down once. One time we played the Galax Old Time Fiddler’s Convention competition. It was the year after we cut our record, so we were on top of our game. After the first round, the rumor mill was we were in the top five. The buzz around the campsites was that Neuse River might just win the thing.
We picked a gospel number for our second selection. It was Doyle Lawson’s ‘Sea of Life.’ If you have ever been to the Galax Fiddler’s convention you know there is big concrete grandstand where folks sit and watch the bands on the stage. It was an excellent set up for the Stanley Hammer method. All I had to do was focus on the steps. In particular a handrail that divided the concrete stairway was perfect, and I set my notes all up and down the handrail.
All that went fine until the second chorus. Moose looked over and knew I was in a panic. He leaned away from his mic. “What’s wrong, Doc?”
“Look at row twelve. That’s my Stanley Hammer note. Those kids have gotta move.” Moose looked up in the stands. Two kids had been walking holding hands and stopped at at my B natural note, leaned on the rail right at the spot that served as my focal point, and began to make out.
“Oh, no. Man, I can’t find my note. Dang it kids, move for heaven’s sake.”
Well, they didn’t take their clothes off or anything, but it still was a distraction. Sure enough I was flat on my opening note when we came back in. We finished 12th.
I was dejected, but Moose was philosophical. “Don’t worry Doc. We weren’t gonna give up our days jobs. It’s just a thing.”
Of course Moose was right. I’m still a Doc, and I got over the loss pretty quick. I don’t know what happened to those two teenagers. They wrecked my gig, but I forgave ’em, and hope they lived happily ever after. It was the only time the Stanley Hammer method has failed me, so it still has a good track record.