Sunday evening, January 11, 2004, found Justin Cody and Huey Guinness twelfth row center in the Hollywood Palladium. Anxiously awaiting their names called for Album of the Year, Cody and Huey forced themselves to sit through the usual sub-par performances by third-rate pop artists slated to entertain between awards.
“So what’ll it be, Code?”, Huey asked in his trademark passive-antagonist tone. “You wanna ditch this crap?”
“I dunno. We might miss something really important”, replied Cody.
Their band, Dutch Oven, was slated to win Album of the Year for their latest release, “Don’t Mind Paying for It.” Cody, and his ever-present side-kick and Dutch Oven lead guitarist, Huey, thought it would be the honorable thing to accept the award in person, but as they watched yet another one-hit hip-hop wonder, Gin-ocyde, lip-synch through the fashionable drivel that attracts these types of award ceremonies, Cody could not help but be disgusted.
“I mean, just look at this idiot”, mumbled Cody. “He looks like every other idiot in the industry doing the same song; the same dance; the same strut and pose. This is my contemporary? This is my professional equal? I wouldn’t let this guy haul my gear around.”
“Maybe not, but I am pretty sure he has the same signature on his paychecks as you.” Huey shifted in his seat, scratched his head, and tugged at his jacket to straighten it.
It should have been Adrian, Cody thought. It should be the Manatee getting all the praise. I don’t even know how I got here.
“These things are a joke.” Cody was just as uncomfortable as Huey, and forever unsure of himself.
Cody’s first band, Colonel Manatee, was an underground success. Rich in concert ticket sales while poor in album sales, they made two music videos for MTV before abandoning the gimmicks in favor of showcasing their true strength—live shows. The Manatee’s lead guitarist and songwriter, Adrian Valero, was a true talent. A prodigy on guitar with a degree in music composition and an innate ability to entertain, Cody always believed that Adrian deserved all the awards and accolades, but he never got them. Other members of The Manatee were almost as talented, and shared with Cody an unhealthy hero-worship and devotion toward Adrian and blindly followed his vision for the band. Cody never minced words about which band he preferred.
Dutch Oven was a joke…a mistake. I had no idea it would turn into this. Just some friends making noise. Nothing real.
For all the talent and underground success that The Manatee attained, it was Dutch Oven who gained immediate commercial success after the release of their first album, “Me & Whoever”, and its ensuing single, “Blue Moon Baby.” In five short years, Dutch Oven sold over ten million records and played concerts in over twenty-five different countries. If they won Album of the Year tonight, it would be their third such award.
Cody and Huey passed a flask of good tequila back and forth and were transitioning beyond the relaxed stage of drinking into the surly stage. In expensive suits that were once pressed and neat, they now looked like they had recently woken up on the floor of a strange hotel. Their complaints became louder and disruptive.
“Hey! Play Freebird!”, yelled Huey after the announcement for the Single of the Year nominees.
“Hey! This isn’t Cats”, shouted Cody. The crowd murmured an uneasy laugh that acknowledged that the heckling was both funny, and disrespectful. Huey and Cody were asked to quietly leave the audience.
“No, no…it’s okay”, snickered Cody. “We’ll be good.” Their half-hearted attempts to stop laughing only caused more uproar, and Huey made a signal suggesting that they should, in fact, leave.
“No, we should stay”, Cody finally conceded.
This was an honor that should be recognized, he thought. I have no right to be bitter. In fact, I should be proud. And Huey should be proud, as well.
Without Cody, Huey would never have succeeded as a musician. Hell, he would never have even tried. The whole of Dutch Oven rode on Cody’s success from the Manatee. They were misfits, cast outs. They might have had some marginal success in the local music scene in Sacramento, but it was Cody who brought Dutch Oven to its great heights.
And all because Adrian never wanted to play Cody’s songs.
So, the cast out member of Colonel Manatee formed a new band comprised of cast outs of the Sacramento music scene, to play songs that Cody’s hero never liked. And now they are being honored again…for the third time.
“Come on, Cody”, pushed Huey. “Are we really going to play nice and sit through all of this crap?”
But too much has changed in these past five years. Of Cody’s two bands, one was now defunct, on permanent hiatus. Cody’s marriage was dissolved. His son was old enough now to need his father around on a regular basis. Dutch Oven kept cranking out the hits, despite alcohol and drug addiction, and no real work ethic. It was as if everything that Cody truly cared about was fading away while the one capricious effort he ever made kept growing in stature.
It should be The Manatee here tonight. Why has The Manatee always been ignored?
The announcer steps to the podium and awkwardly recites the list of nominees for Album of the Year from the television monitor.
“And now, the nominees are…”
Cody barely registers the action on the stage, or the pestering voice in his ear.
“You know, Cody, we don’t actually need to be here. They can just mail the damned thing to our offices.”
“And the winner for Album of the Year is…”
“So, Code, what’s it gonna be?”