|by David McIntyre|
Until my wife gave me a computer last Christmas, I didn't even know how to turn one of the damned things on. Now it feels like an appendage. I often have days and nights that I want to do what Mr. Duck is getting ready to, but I haven't -- yet. Skill in the use of one of these blasted machines is essential in the brave new world of blues societies.
A couple books I highly recommend for novices like myself are PCs for Dummies, Macintosh for Dummies and Desktop Publishing for Dummies, all by IDG books and bright yellow so we dummies can't miss them.
Already at our society we do so much on computer, and these books can get you started -- even with no previous experience. As with most things, the best way to learn is to leap right in. I keep our mailing and membership lists, which also keep track of renewal dates, on the computer. We produce everything from simple fliers to our sophisticated newsletter and keep a library file of all compact discs received along with where and from whom they came.
I'm lucky enough to have a CD-ROM (so I can listen to the blues as I work) and a modem for e-mail and such. We run our calendar of blues shows through it, do art work (I found Mr. Duck one night in Pagemaker's clip art), and write reviews, articles and interviews on it. A good spell-checker is truly a boon to mankind.
The computer gives you the ability to do many things, but don't be misled. It also requires much of your time and input, especially at the beginning. Remember that old adage: "Garbage in, garbage out." (And after I wound up typing this column three times before I could get it over to the editors, I was as dangerously close today to joining Mr. Duck as ever before.)
Many thanks to the organizations that have responded to our request for information and useful stuff in the last column. But I need more useful stuff; I can never get enough tasty blues news.
Our most frequent response has been, "Let us know what we can do." Personally I'd like the column to become a sounding board for blues societies across the country, a place where you can speak your mind and inform the rest of us about things particularly noteworthy -- like an event you pulled off on a shoestring that turned into a gigantic success.
You might even list a contact person other beginners could call or write for further information and help to duplicate your successes in our areas. Maybe just a wildly funny or touching story regarding a blues society. It should be something that other societies could easily relate to.
While you think about what you're going to send us, I'll tell you what we've been doing at the Colorado Blues Society. We doubled the size of the Holler from the first to the second issue. About that time our most essential volunteer, Mari Ann Shake -- she who designs, lays out and edits the newsletter -- was ready to kill me, but I survived with only slight scars.
Mari Ann has helped make our society one to be proud of already. I cannot stress the importance of such a person to young societies. Do not attempt this at home (or anywhere else) without someone experienced, especially someone not prone to violent acts. Deadlines will make you crazy.
But it's somehow all worthwhile on that morning when you pick up the phone and there is Mr. Sonny Payne (of KFFA's legendary King Biscuit Time radio show) on the line: He had just read your publication and had a few minor corrections to inform you about, but especially he wanted to call and tell you he enjoyed the articles and what a great job he thought you were doing. Oh, and by the way, if Paul was ever down his way again, have him look him up and he would take him right to Robert Nighthawk's grave site that he couldn't find last time he traveled the Delta.
Two 1995 W.C. Handy Keeping the Blues Alive winners, Blues Organization (Music City) and Networking the Blues (Shirley Mae Owens), sent really nice letters of encouragement. They continue to show why they deserved their awards by offering their help and support.
I talked recently with someone starting a blues society in East Lansing, Michigan, about the many trials and tribulations and the unexpected hats one must begin to wear -- politician, psychologist, arbitrator, promoter, writer, critic, emcee, photographer, editor, advertiser, accountant, historian -- always with a plan for the future while keeping the past alive.
We talked about the importance of quality volunteers and how the wealth of new found responsibilities must be shared, and about the tendency of the founder and originator to hold on to the tasks, something that will make you crazy and old before your time.
We discussed some of the things that all societies deal with -- how to best approach reviews in the newsletter, how to get national record companies interested in young societies and the need for interesting articles for publication.
And those are some of the things I want this column to be about.
Happy Blues to ya.
Send blues society news, views, advice, opinion, suggestions, newsletters, tips, gossip to David McIntyre, Colorado Blues Society, Box 130, Lyons, CO 80540 or call (303) 823-9272.