Tuesday, August 18, 2009





You may be familiar with Cheech & Chong's hit record "Basketball Jones." In that context, the basketball player is addicted to the game; basketball is his "jones." The term has evolved, in the vernacular of our popular culture, to describe one's particular addiction. In the realm of music, there is a prevailing acceptance of various forms of drug use. Prescription drug use, authorized by licensed physicians, can be one of the most dangerous sources of drug abuse. Often unscrupulous doctors have contributed to their patients demise by providing them with excessive amounts of controlled substances. Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson both died under such circumstances.

Many musicians use, or tolerate the presence of cannabis in their environment. The presence of this "gateway" drug can create an atmosphere of acceptance for cocaine, amphetamines, psychedelics and heroin. Holding and travelling with these hard drugs creates the potential for encounters with the legal system. Personal managers are often placed in the position of accepting, or even enabling, serious violations of the drug laws. They are responsible for all activities that occur on their tours, and circumstances beyond their control can force them to manage the jones.

Managers must know who in the band, crew and entourage may be carrying drugs. He might not be able to preclude drug use, but he should insist that legal drugs are properly prescribed and the holder is carrying the appropriate documentation. Illegal drugs present a different set of problems that could lead to anything from unfavorable publicity, to the loss of his client's personal liberty.

Failure to manage the jones can result in the cancellation of shows, which will wreak havoc on the economics of the tour. Budgets are calculated based on off days, travel days and play dates. Regardless of the reason, every lost date eats heavily into the profit margin. Shows cannot be immediately replaced, and last minute cancellations often incur unexpected costs and financial penalties. Managers must watch for the signs of addiction and always manage the jones.


I have personally experienced numerous situations where clients have placed their gigs and careers in jeapardy through drug abuse. Some resulted in temporary incarceration, and a couple even led to court room trials. However, careful attention to the handling of each one precluded any play dates ever being cancelled; and no client of mine was ever convicted on my watch. A manager is not just responsible for the prevention of problems, he must handle the aftermath as well. When the jig is up and the act is in custody, its the manager who must provide the solution.

The greatest story of jones management, that I ever heard, happened to former clients of mine, and their new manager. The names have been changed ot protect the guilty. Back in the early seventies a young band had scheduled a break in their tour. The itinerary called for a few days of rest and recuperation in The Bahamas. In those days every musician carried a jones that was part of his personal identity. Drug use was considered an acceptable, if not honorable, form of rebellion. Band and crew not only accepted drug use, it was more often than not, expected.

A quick flight from Miami to Nassau put the raggedy, long-haired entoruage in the hands of the Bahamian customs officals. One look at this scruffy bunch and they were immediately ushered into a holding room for further questioning. The young manager jumped forward and, in a humble and courtreous voice, asked why they were being isolated. "Because we are going to search you for drugs," was the Captain's reply. The manager immediately imagined the worst of the possibilities and asked if they could speak in private. The Captain invited him into the hall.

"I know these guys don't look like much, but they are a new band, with a hit single and an album rising in the charts," he told the Captain. "Why are you telling me this?" he said. "Because, if you search them you will find they are all carrying small amounts of drugs for their personal use," he said. "You will have to arrest us and the story will be all over the news by sundown; the record company will drop them, and their careers will be over. Is there any way we can avoid a search?"

The Captain was impressed with the manager's audacity and offered a potential solution. "I'll tell you what, you go in there and collect every illegal substance in their possession, and hold it on your person. My men will then conduct a full body search of everyone in your party, except you." The manager had to trust him and accepted the terms. He quickly gathered the goods. One by one, each member of the band and crew stood for inspection and none was found to be holding.

When it came time to examine the manager, the Captain solemnly declared that he had already searched him. "Enjoy your stay in The Bahamas." He smiled, turned and left the room. The courage the manager demonstrated; and the calm cool manner in which he negotiated the resolution, earned him the undying gratiutude of the band. They went on to become superstars with have a long series of hit albums and singles. The manager still represents the act and none of them will ever forget the day he had to manage the jones.

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