The Big Weekend

By Bob Bahr

The Louisville music scene gets a double boost next weekend with Hit Makers '92 and MERF, two events created to help local musicians survive the choppy waters of the music industry. Hit Makers '92 will have its showcase at Jim Porter's Good Time Emporium on Friday night, November 6. The following day brings seminars and an awards banquet, both held at the Quality Inn at First and Jefferson Streets. MERF holds its annual fundraising night on Sunday, November 8, with 78 musical acts playing on 13 different stages.

Hit Makers '92

The Louisville Area Songwriters' Co-operative is producing the Hit Makers showcase and seminar program for the fifth year. LASC President Paul Moffett said this year's Hit Makers program is different because songwriters' songs will be performed by local bands instead of the songwriters themselves.

"The goal of the seminar is to get our songwriters in touch with people who can cut the records, and also to get bands a record deal," Moffett said. "It's a chance to give the songwriters an edge by having experienced performers do them," he said, adding that some of the professionals on the panel complained about the quality of last year's performances. A&R representatives from at least four record labels will be on hand to see the shows.

Fourteen acts will perform on the three stages at Jim Porter's, starting at 9:30 p.m. and running until at least 12:30 a.m. The bands were chosen by the LASC board, with the general stipulation that the bands predominantly play and predominantly live in Louisville. The nine-member board also looked closely at the stability of the prospective bands. "We picked the bands in March, so we chose the ones we thought would stay together," Moffett explained.

The public is invited to join record label representatives, reps from several publishing companies and a handful of successful songwriters at the showcase; admission is $4 and the proceeds go to the LASC. Scheduled to perform at the showcase are: John Allen Band, Sharon Beavers, J.D. Black, Rusty Bladen, Melissa Combs, Londa Crenshaw, da Mudcats, Doc & Mary Dockery, Jackie Johnson, Karen Kraft & the Kicks, LMNOP, R.U.O.K?, Uncle Pecos and Walker & Kays.

Songs from the blues, rock, jazz, country, acoustic and pop genres were matched with bands by the LASC board. All song submissions were circulated, and the bands chose which songs to perform from the board's selection. Representatives from MCA, Arista, Polygram and Warner/Chappell are expected to attend.

Saturday's seminars start at 9 a.m. and end around 4 p.m. The seminar portion of Hit Makers '92 will be loose enough for any attending LASC member to ask the questions foremost in his or her mind. After running the show for four years, Moffett says the LASC has a good handle on what those questions are.

"The number one question is 'How do we copyright our songs?,'" he said. "That will be addressed in the opening session." Other topics discussed include how to get a song published, how to arrange a demo, and how the music industry works. After the general session, the group will split into two discussion groups, one focusing on songwriting and the other on the music business.

Song critiques and pitch sessions will follow. Songwriters will have a chance to pitch their songs directly to publishers. "Once it's to that point, it's up to the writer to follow up on the deal," Moffett said.

The day will end with an awards banquet, during which the winners of the LASC songwriting contest will be announced. Tickets for the seminar and banquet are $55, $45 for LASC members. Membership in LASC costs $25. In order to participate in the banquet portion of Hit Makers '92, a ticket must be purchased at least three days in advance.

MERF

Last year's giddy, 108-act extravaganza is making way for a more sensible, quality-oriented MERF night this year. It's been eleven years since Marvin Maxwell and company turned a section of Main Street into a musical block party and called it a Musician's Emergency Relief Fund benefit. The annual, city-wide fundraiser has grown up, not just in size but in savvy. And it's gotten the attention of some of the biggest names in music.

Memphis, Tenn., has started a MERF chapter with luminaries such as Steve Cropper, B.B. King and Duck Dunn. The Memphis chapter took their inspiration and charter from Louisville MERF, and it has already conducted a piano-athon in a Memphis mall that raised $3,000 in pledges.

While MERF President Wayne Young said he doesn't think some of Memphis MERF's more famous folks will make it up for November 8, Young said the two chapters are in contact. "We're not as close as we'd like it, but we're sharing information. It's pretty far away from here," said Young.

Young said the $7 pass MERF-goers will purchase next Sunday will provide quite a lot of bang per buck, although most people will settle in at the venue that plays their favorite music. A new band will play at every venue at the top of every hour from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., with 78 total acts performing.

"Pick out your style of music, go to that bar and get knocked out," Young said. "We have some really great acts here. If you like different types of music, hop around."

Country, rock, college, alternative, pop, jazz, and acoustic music will be represented at clubs such as the the Cherokee Blues Pub, the Phoenix Hill Tavern, Jim Porter's Good Time Emporium, the Rudyard Kipling, the Sahara Club, the Toy Tiger, Uncle Pleasant's and Yogi's. A preliminary fundraiser is usually held on Labor Day to fund the November event. This year's preliminary fundraiser was at the Toy Tiger, with Crazy Train, Gibraltar, Bankok, Drunk Monkey, Impact and Baby D'Vine helping to raise $2,000 to pay the operating costs of the city-wide event. Young said the money raised each year is never enough.

"Generally we make about $20,000 and spend about $23,000," he said half-jokingly. The money goes to musicians in trouble, whether they be someone in danger of losing their house or a national act who is sick and stranded somewhere on the road. Presently, a local musician with a blood clot on the brain is waiting for help from MERF. The organization helps only members, but Young said that any musician in trouble can get help from MERF. A musician automatically becomes a member of MERF if they play at one of MERF's benefits.

Musicians interested in playing at MERF's November 8 event should contact the organization at its headquarters in the Musicians' Union Hall on Bardstown Road at 451-7509. You do not have to be a member of the union to participate.