Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hotels/Motels: King of the Road

King of the Road

It is standard lore that musicians on the road used to tend to excesses. It cannot be a great life: days/months on the road. Grueling hours. Consider this: you start “work” at 10PM.  Yes, back stage, they “accommodated”  groupies. Their contractual  “riders” included requirements that would make the average Joe blanche – more bottles than even a hard-drinking band could put away between 10 and 12 midnight. Moreover, when the show was over and they retired to their accommodations, the show went on. There are legends about their use/abuse of the lodgings/the hotel.

I recall – 30 or so years ago – a night in Zagreb (Yugoslavia). The hotel staff was complaining about a Middle Eastern customer who had elected to grill their dinner – en-suite. Burning a hole in the center of the room rug in the process. And the staff said this was just standard form for a family from Arabia. Certainly plausible in light of what we think we know about rock bands and hotel rooms. 

It's more than likely that today's rock star on tour  gets charged for damage to the room: that appears to not have been the case in the 70s - or maybe the damages were just billed as part of the collateral damage. Not being a hotelier, in today’s atmosphere of airport security normality, I naively assume that even hard core rockers toe the line a bit more.

There are a number of stories about my choice this time around: King of the Road.
Roger Miller sang and played the guitar back in the 50s and 60s (OK .. and beyond).
As such, he hit the road.
Legend has it that on one such trip, he saw a sign advertising “trailers for sale or rent”, and the phrase stuck with him. Apparently, more than once, while on the road, he managed with rooming that we probably wouldn’t put up with in this day and age. At a later date, he worked this phrase into the lyrics of what would eventually become King of the Road.

Specific references to hotels/motels in the song are limited: the early 60s was a different time and place. The lyrics include the lines:  “8 x 12 4-bit rooms” and “Rooms to let, fifty cents/ No phone, no pool, no pets” – much of it still recognizable to travelers 50 years later. The culture of the American roadside motel is essentially the same today.

The Internet has it that Roger Miller went on in later years to purchase and operate more than one hotel/motel himself.

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