When I received “Babysitting a Band on the Rocks” by G.D. Praetorius in the mail I was excited to start reading it immediately. As the front cover has names such as Aerosmith, Twisted Sister, and my personal favorite, Motley Crue.
From the first page, I was immediately drawn in how he paints his past so the reader is able to understand his future. An avid music lover from a young age, he goes into how his sister inspired some of his music taste which we can all think back to someone who turned us onto our music scene in some way. He leads in to tell stories of how he became the production manager for a Long Island concert promotion organization in the early 1980s. The book is a great read as you get to read his experiences of him starting out, him being in the business, his encounters with different bands, and how even when you think a night will run smoothly don’t be so sure. He will take you through a total stage production from loading to unloading and setting up lighting. It really lets the reader grow an appreciation for the interlocking parts that are involved in putting on the best show possible for us viewers. If you’re into gigs and were always curious about how stressful the stage production can be this book is definitely worth the read for you.
We were given the opportunity to interview G.D. Praetorius about “Babysitting A Band On The Rocks”. So check out the interview below and be sure to check out the book Here.
Q & A with G.D. Praetorius
Q: How long did it take for you to write this book?
I ask myself that question a lot and the answer varies widely, depending upon how I look at it…
I’ve been a writer all of my life, but never an author until I published “Babysitting A Band On The Rocks”. I take that back. I wrote a fantasy at age five about having a dog (my Mom was adamantly anti-pooch) and then a short-story in 1st Grade entitled “Dibs”. It was quite the serious tale of a Vietnam infantryman who was always first to claim what was worth keeping from the possessions of his fallen comrades. Ultimately, he gets his, and a new “Dibs” is christened. They almost took me to the psychologist over that one.
After leaving the concert business in my early twenties, I began a thirty-year stint in advertising. While I wasn’t what the industry terms a “creative” – a career copywriter, artist, art director or creative director – I was nonetheless always writing as part of my positions in account service. Ad headlines and body, brochures, direct mail, newsletters, radio commercials, TV spots, etc. Call me arrogant or simply possessive, but I never trusted anyone to write as well as I felt that I could. I still don’t. It was also the most enjoyable part of my job, so I held onto it for myself.
The “author” part really began the day after my wife and I spent our serendipitous evening with Keith Richards on Parrot Cay, in 2008. In the morning I was so in shock that as I sat poolside I simply had to write down every detail that I could recall, despite my hangover from trying to go drink for drink with Keith. I venture to guess that there were plenty of nuggets I totally forgot.
When I got back to the States I carved out the time to put the whole experience into an essay, which I then distributed to friends – particularly the Stones fans within my circle. It was a hit, so I started to write more, starting with an Aerosmith piece, then a Van Halen piece and other bits. That led to a more wide-ranging memoir that I again circulated to friends. A college buddy of mine, an author by trade, true crime his specialty (he was recently a talking head on ABC’s 20/20), had mentioned me to his agent who in turn suggested that I expand all my rock and roll stuff into its own book. By the time I completed it in 2017, the agent had become a full-on alcoholic and he got fired, so I ended up being a self-publisher.
But back to your original question of how long did it take: Sometimes I think all of my life. Other times I count from the day of the Keith encounter, or nine years. From the day the literary agent suggested it, though, probably about two and a half. But by then I already had a good chunk of it in the can.
Q: How many hours a day did you devote to your writing? Did you write every day?
You know, it was actually catch-as-catch-can, stealing whatever free moments I could find, and I got very good at starting and stopping without losing too much momentum. I’ve always had a full-time day job, and I’m married to a crazy Greek woman with a hugely extended family and a social life that always seems to entail an obligation. Plus, I have two kids, both starting their own families. I commute on the railroad though, over an hour each way, so I try to use that time productively. I’d also write late at night instead of sleeping, which is what I’m doing right now.
Q: Did you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard?
I write on my MacBook Air, which is light enough for me to carry when I commute. But I endlessly scribble ideas, phrases, even particular words on scraps throughout the day to use later when I actually write.
I edit strictly on paper. I print the entire manuscript on 8-1/2 x 11 from an office-style printer, bind it, and lug that around with me until I’ve read the entire thing. I hand annotate in pencil whatever I need to correct or want to revise. I then scan the pages with changes and email them to my designer, who lives in Toronto. Georgina is a joy to work with – she’s super talented, original, and she gets me. I went through that cycle about a half dozen times before I finally printed the book. I’m on my third printing now, and I did the same drill after printing the 1st and 2nd editions.
Editing on paper is important to me for a few reasons. I linger longer on each page than I will on a screen. If I need to refer to a passage earlier or later in the book it is far easier to find by thumbing than it is by scrolling. (It is for this same reason that I do not read eBooks.) Seeing it all on paper, even if it’s not the finished product, also just makes it all feel so much more real. Holding a pound-plus chunk of your words in your hands gives you a way bigger sense of accomplishment than seeing a file title sitting within a sub-folder that’s residing in a half-inch square on the desktop screen of your computer.
Q: Any specific thing you needed to do before getting into the zone to write?
Not really. I don’t have any have rituals or anything like that. I rarely smoke weed, but if I do I’m not really capable of any intense focus. A little alcohol can get the creative juices flowing, but it quickly becomes subject to the law of diminishing returns. I do need quiet, though, and a good dose of caffeine. On the weekend, I’ll sometimes sneak off to the library for a few hours if there are no commitments or major honey-dos. Silence is the rule at the library, and they have fully-stocked soda and candy machines.
Q: Were your parents supportive of your career decisions in wanting to be in music?
Good question, I never really thought about that. I actually don’t think that they had any idea what I was up to. They sent me to college, I got decent grades, I graduated, I moved out and I didn’t ask them for money, so they figured that I was doing alright. I think that they had a basic idea about what I was doing, but really no concept of either what was going on around me or the extent of my responsibility. It also helped that I’d have weeks where I could report to them that I made almost $1,000, which was a boatload of cash in the late 70s and early 80s. Believe it or not, my 90-year-old Mom is reading the book right now, after asking my permission. We both agreed that I, and she, survived it all, so whatever I did couldn’t have been that bad.
Q: Is there a band you wish you would have been able to work with for longer?
I can’t say that there is anyone that I really wish that I worked with longer, but there were many shows that I wished I had paid more attention to, acts just starting out, Dire Straits Talking Heads and Blondie in particular.
The corollary question is “What artists did you never have an opportunity to work with that you wish you had?” That would be some of the biggest names of the era: Led Zeppelin, Springsteen, Bowie, The Who, Queen, Neil Young, and of course The Rolling Stones.
Q: What was your favorite chapter of your book? Why?
Hands down my favorite chapter is the one titled “A Day in the Life.” It’s a walk-through of everything that happens during the typical day of an arena rock show, from 6 a.m. when the tractor trailers pull in to about 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. the next morning when they’re all packed up and roll out on the road again. You’ll never go to a rock concert again without considering all of the details that go into giving you your money’s worth.
It was also the easiest to write. Though it’s about three-and-a-half decades since I produced my last concert, after almost 200 of them the drill is ingrained in you. I sat on my front porch in the sun one day and it just poured out, every moment, the sights, sounds, smells and emotions as fresh as if it were yesterday.
At one point, I toyed with titling every chapter after a song, but only a few stuck, and a few got reworked. The Beatles and Stones ones in particular had to stay. After all, they really started it all for me, and I thank God every day that Mick and Keith are still at it.
Q: What are some things you would want people to know about your book?
It was a lot of work. Some days I just thought that I would never actually finish it. Some days I thought it sucked. But I stayed with it, day after day, and it slowly took shape to the point when I finally had to say “I’m done” and I was honestly proud of it. Reader reaction seems to be proving me right, and to know that my ideas and words are – forgive the pun – striking a chord with so many people is immensely gratifying. Online sales are great, but it’s even more pleasing when people purchase it at a bookstore or other retail location. Those people just happen to spot it among the thousands of books on display. The pick it up, thumb through it, maybe read a page or two, and then they decide to buy it. That’s a pretty cool feeling.
The other thing is that although I wrote it, it really does take a village to do something like this. In addition to a few old friends that were indispensable, I made great new ones all along the way, many that ended up contributing as well. Ron Pownall, who dug up the 1979 Aerosmith images out of his archives. The young women at The Autry Museum in LA, who found me Theo Westenberger’s portfolio from the three nights that I spent with Van Halen in Detroit and which she shot for Life Magazine. Rob van der Pol (aka Robert Lee Jordan) a young man from Holland who rekindled his huge talent as an illustrator to draw me the close up of Keith Richards’ hands that introduces the chapter. Steve Kane, of 3D Cases in Great Britain, who told me his story of creating the road case for AC/DC’s Hells Bell. Kevin Parrish, another Brit and another artist that lent me his portrait of Yes’ Jon Anderson. And many more.
Q: Any final thoughts?
Well, I have a lot of thoughts on a lot of different topics, but I’m not sure that your readers would want to hear them right now. I’ll just save them for my next book.