I have transcribed the following journal entries from their original, handwritten forms in the Fat Riker notebook. There were many more, both before and after, but I felt these particular entries told a concise enough story to warrant being released grouped together.
March 11, 1998
I don’t even know what’s happening with this band anymore. Stuggy’s gone, we lost him around Bovina back on Highway 60. Not that Stuggy could keep a beat to save his life but he was usually good for splitting a bag of frozen crinkle fries with.
Hartford’s got us all running scared. When I joined up it was just him, Stuggy, Jakey P and me. A real four piece rock group. Sure we didn’t have a bassist and I only played tambourine and acoustic chimes but I thought it was a pretty good group considering. Now Hart seems to be replacing us one by one.
Jakey P was the only guy left from the previous incarnation of Fat Riker, and Hartford got rid of him first. Poor guy didn’t even know what was happening. Hart called for a vote on the toppings we were gonna order on our pizza that night. He said “Raise your hand if you want pepperoni,” and them mumbled something else under his breath. Of course we all voted for pepperoni but then Hartford laughed and said he had also said that the vote was to kick JP out of the band. He said we hadn’t paid close enough attention to what we were voting for.
I felt ashamed.
We left him standing in that Super 8 motel parking lot in Oklahoma City, mouth open, cradling his guitar like a baby. It was a terrible sight to behold, but we had voted I guess. What were we supposed to say?
Hartford said he knew some guys just down the road we could pick up to replace him with.
These guys turned out to be a trio of brass players; a trumpet guy named Keith, a trombonist named Eddie and a sax man that wouldn’t tell me his name no matter how many times I asked him. He’d just push his sunglasses up further on his face and smile.
I’ll write more later.
March 13, 1998
Yeah so anyway I didn’t really see what these brass guys had to do with being a rock outfit. They dressed like they were from the twenties or something and kept calling people “Daddio.” Hartford said it was all the rage to replace lead guitarists with brass instruments but I don’t know. We practiced a little while we were driving, but they didn’t know the songs and kept doing “freestyle” things. I already had a pretty tough time trying to play bass tambourine, but now things sounded particularly offbeat.
Stuggy sort of made up for it by playing extra hard but I could tell he wasn’t happy. He kept shooting Hartford looks from the backseat of the Fat Riker van where he had his drums wedged in, but Hartford just kept screaming along with the songs at the top of his lungs. By that point, Hart was already starting to talk like those other guys. I think they had gotten in his head with their fedoras and piano neckties.
That night, Hartford sat all of us down and told us the band was going in a new direction and was going to take advantage of the recent surge of interest in swing dancing. Stuggy and I were welcome to stay, but we’d have to learn a bunch of new songs that the three brass guys had brought along. Considering we were right in the middle of the empty vastness of northern Texas, I didn’t see we had much choice. I just kept thinking about Jakey P, hundreds of miles from anywhere he knew and totally abandoned.
March 15, 1998
We were filling up on gas around Bovina when Stuggy started unloading his gear. The swing trio were busy using spray paint to modify the band name on the side of the van. By the time they were done, it read, “Fat Riker’s Swing Extravaganza”.
I saw Stuggs dragging his drums toward the gas station and rolled down my window to ask him what he was doing. As soon as Hartford noticed he was out of the van, however, he yelled at the swing guys to jump in and cranked the engine. We sped off, throwing up a mess of dust and gravel. Stuggy didn’t look back. I think he knew it was coming.
The other guys couldn’t contain their smiles. I slunk down in the backseat. I had a feeling I was next.
March 16, 1998
We made a bee line for Albuquerque, pushing the van hard. I overheard Hartford and the others talking about a swing group that had just broken up near there. I think they were hoping to pick up some stragglers to bolster the ranks. The only times they talked to me were when we would stop for gas or whatever, they would ask if I’d jump out and grab some drinks or something.
I knew they just wanted to leave me behind, so I said no. I dug into the backseat, pulling my luggage around me. I took to urinating out of the window whenever I needed to and scrounging in the cracks of the seat for stale cheese puffs to eat. Things were going to get worse before they got better, but at least Jakey P had left me the notebook to write in.
March 17, 1998
We picked up five of the disbanded swing group members and stuffed them into the van. We found a used pull-behind trailer to store the gear in, but it was obvious we weren’t all going to fit into seats even with that. I figured the less they thought about me, the less likely they were to leave me behind, so I opted to ride in the trailer with the gear.
It was dark and hot and I got powerfully thirsty, but I was worried that if I got out of the trailer that would be it for me. So I stayed inside and took to licking the walls for the moisture that would condense at night. Occasionally some member of the band would open the door to get an instrument or something and I would hiss at them until they closed it. Eventually they stopped opening the door.
I’ll show them! I’ll stay in Fat Riker until things got right again!
March 22, 1998
Big Daddy Hartford jawing at you mugs now. I noticed that palooka Franky had been writing in here and thought it would rate to finish up the story for the future posterities and whatnots. Yesterday, after driving around for two days without opening the trailer, we heard him go dormy and the fellas felt we should investigate.
Inside, we found him collapsed on the floor in a state of severe dehydration. I thought he might be grifting us, but he seemed to be delirious and kept yelling about crinkle fries. The shmuck didn’t move much.
We dropped him off at the nearest hospital and high-tailed it out of there. It was a real clean sneak! When we had time, we took stock of the trailer and found two interesting discoveries. One was this notebook. The other was that Franky had apparently been defecating in Tom’s saxophone.
We’ll have to replace it real swift like. We’ve got a gig in Flagstaff and there’s swinging to be done!