Ego run amuck?... It had to be the easiest $1,000 Houston's Ezra Charles ever made. Hired by oldies station KLDE/94.5 FM to open for creaky classic-rockers Three Dog Night at the Children's Festival in Hermann Park March 21, the insufferable leader of the soul- and blues-tinged revue the Works threatened to walk off the job just hours before his scheduled performance. In the end, Charles and the Works never played, yet they still got paid.

Evidently, Ezra was steamed over the prospect of playing second fiddle to KLDE DJ Barry Kay's oldies outfit. Originally, says the singer/pianist, he was slated to appear after Kay's act. But when he and the Works arrived, they were told otherwise. Charles alleges those booking the show had told him they wanted a "real opening act, not the band of a DJ."

"I got out of a club date at very short notice to play this," he adds. "Then we found out that the station had pulled rank and bumped us up to the opening slot, and I told them that that was not what I was hired to do."

So Charles, perhaps still a little keyed up after his South by Southwest showcase that week, let everyone involved know he was ticked. And he did so in typical Ezra fashion.

"Unfortunately, he took it as a personal insult," says KLDE marketing director Tim Johnson, who was present at the tiff.

But strangely, the Works' not performing had nothing to do with Ezra's being miffed. "When we got to the show at five o'clock, Three Dog Night were still [sound] checking," says Charles. And by 6 p.m. -- the time Charles and his band were first scheduled to take the stage -- Three Dog were still fooling with their equipment. With time running out, KLDE organizers, in essence, paid the Works not to work.

"I let the people at the station know that I didn't appreciate getting bumped around on a deal," Charles says. "Although I don't have a reputation for being workable, I am very workable in concert situations. But it had reached the point where I felt like [they were thinking that] if there's going to be somebody being bumped around, let it be old Ezra, because he won't care.

"I let them know that I wasn't happy about it."
Apparently, word of Ezra's beef with KLDE has carried fast in Houston: An anonymous, mean-spirited fax sent to the Press last week characterized the situation as just another case in which Charles "brazenly displayed his buttocks."

Still, if anyone can handle the flak, it's Charles. "We got a quick thousand bucks for doing absolutely nothing," he says. And he apologizes for not sending a photo to illustrate the issue: "Sorry I couldn't get you a back view."

It sure beats the garage... Owners of Houston's new Sound Check Music Complex are undoubtedly hoping that their rehearsal facility will go the way of the ARC in Austin and other semi-renowned Texas live-music laboratories. At the very least, the spiffy West 34th Street facility -- which celebrated its grand opening March 29 -- definitely addresses a need, offering not only practice space and a place for local artists to convene, but marketing assistance, publicity and career-consulting services, and access to a musicians' database. Finally, a place to go deaf in style.

Etc.... The Hollisters have finally settled on an itinerary for their first-ever road swing outside of Texas. The tour, which is expected to last until June, will take them to various stops throughout the West and Midwest. Guitarist Eric Danheim says the group will be "toning down the local stuff" for a while, but that doesn't mean that the popular honky-tonkers will be MIA in Houston for the entire period. Rumor has it the band will make an appearance May 24 at the yet-to-be-confirmed Robert Earl Keen's Texas Uprising. A virtual Texas music extravaganza, the event is slated to be held at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and will also feature Keen, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Ian Moore and Trish Murphy, among others. Still, the Hollisters ought to be more in their element Friday at Ale House, a bon voyage gig of sorts.

Is jazz really dead at Rudyard's? As far as Necessary Tension's riotous take on the form is concerned, the answer is a disappointing yes. The group played its final Thursday gig at Rudz! March 26. According to bandleader/flautist Bob Chadwick, live jazz will continue to be an intermittent part of the club's entertainment calendar. But, after six wild years, the weekly bouts of Tension will cease. The passing of an era, I'd say.

-- Hobart Rowland

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Hobart Rowland