This is part of a series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a bus full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
“Back in the sixties, marketing yourself was quite different than today. There was a company out of Missouri I used to order these rainbow posters. It was my trademark. They would look exactly like this, only, of course, would say, “Rick Sikes and the Rhythm Rebels” and advertise where and when we were playing. I’d give anything to find one of these posters.
I’d usually give my bass player, Red, a stack and I’d take a stack and we’d canvas the area where we were going to be playing. We’d tack them up on telephone poles, tape them to windows and anywhere folks would let us put one.
I recorded several little 45 rpm records back then and as soon as I’d have a new one in hand, would start hitting every little radio station across the state. That was a time when you’d walk in, meet the DJ, hand him a couple of records and visit with him. Nowadays, you have to have a record promoter to even get in the door of a radio station, but we did it all in those days.
I recorded a song, “Hundred Miles of River,” that was a true story about a Confederate gunboat that was purposefully sunk in the Sabine River during the civil war. I pushed that song hard. I had these cards printed up and got some newspaper coverage on it.
Then when the DJ’s played my songs, I always thanked them.
I had business cards that I left with every club owner across the five-state area.
I booked my band through Wilson Talent Agency out of Fort Worth, Texas for a while and they wrote up this nice little promo for us.
But, sometimes publicity attempts backfired on me.
I had this crazy idea to do some promo pictures at the train tracks outside Brownwood, Texas and make us all look like outlaws about to rob a train. Little did I know that these two pictures would be used against me in the trials for bank robbery. They were submitted as evidence. So, what seemed like fun at the time, turned into a bad deal.
It was a very hands-on time for marketing and promoting yourself and your art. Without internet, social media or even faxes, it required leg-work and one-on-one connections. And, I was pretty good at it, if I do say so. I kept us booked solid and for the times, drew good pay. So, maybe there is something to be said for old-fashioned communication…”
What do you think would be the best way to market yourself and your books without all the instant internet avenues we have today?