JACKSON — Nothing gets a party started like music. Whether it’s a piano player tickling the ivories with a little background music, or a full band playing dance favorites, live entertainment is the easiest way to establish an event as fun or different. And with holiday parties in full swing, there’s no better way to create a festive atmosphere than with a band.
“People aren’t going to be talking about the food they ate, the decorations or the flowers a week after the event, but they will talk about how much fun they had dancing to a great band,” said Tommy Couch Jr. of Couch and Associates Inc., the umbrella company for Book the Band. “Entertainment is really a great value when you consider the impact it has on an event. It’s just a great way to enhance a party.”
Couch and Associates Inc. (CAI) began as Campus Attractions in 1962. “My dad, Tommy Couch Sr., started a booking agency when he was a student at Ole Miss in the early 1960s. When he graduated, he moved to Jackson and started booking concerts. From there, he started Malaco Records, and the booking agency closed.
In 1983, Campus Attractions was resurrected when Couch, Jr. went to school at Ole Miss. As Campus Attractions, the company represented the majority of the acts playing on SEC campuses. “Naturally, I did a lot of college bookings when I was in college, but after I finished school and continued to book bands, I realized that booking for college kids was really tough. There were times I had several bands booked, then a fraternity would be put on probation, and they’d have to cancel at the last minute,” Couch said.
After returning to Jackson, Couch began to focus more on blues and society bookings. CAI has nurtured its position in the blues community, managing Dorothy Moore and working closely with blues festivals and events throughout the country. With industry links to Malaco Records, Waldoxy Records and international touring blues acts, CAI has a strong music industry presence. “While blues is a strong segment of our business, we also stay very busy on the social side, booking entertainment for weddings, corporate events, fundraisers and more,” Couch said.
Couch explained that booking through an agency doesn’t cost any more than booking directly with the band. “It can actually save you money because we can sometimes get a better deal because we give the bands so much work.” According to Couch, booking agencies are paid by the bands. “They give us a small commission for finding and setting up the event for them. You will not pay more for a band by booking them through us. As a matter of fact, the client benefits from our expertise, as we’ve been involved in the party/event business for a long time. For example, sometimes brides will insist on having a large band in a venue that just won’t work. The ceilings may be too low, or the electrical requirements may not be there. We’ll work with her to suggest something that will work well in the space she has.”
There are other advantages to booking through an agency, says Couch. “We book only the very best and most professional musicians. We will help you find the right band for the right situation; we work to be sure that your band gets there on time, ready to play exactly what you want, how you want it.”
While the company stays busy booking bands year-round, Couch said that things definitely pick up during the holidays.
“We’ll have many of our bands booked two, three, even four nights a week for company Christmas parties. That’s why we encourage people to book as far ahead as possible so that they can be sure to get the band they want.”
Couch said that after so many years in the business, Book the Band has a broad general knowledge of the local music scene and an exhaustive list of contacts. “Because of the experience that comes with time, literally decades, and business associations that have come through our affiliation with Malaco Records and Malaco Recording Studios, we have an extensive list of contacts.” That list comes in handy from time to time when unforeseen events occur. “We had a band from the Delta booked at a country club last September, and right before the band was supposed to leave to drive down here, a tornado hit the home of one of the band members. Needless to say, they couldn’t come. But we were able to get another band at the last minute and the party went off without a hitch.”
While Couch books bands from all over, it bothers him that people tend to think that an out-of-town act is better. “We are so blessed in Mississippi to have such incredible talent. It doesn’t get any better than what we’ve got right here, and that certainly works to our advantage.” Couch said that the talent here is partly due to Malaco being located here, as well as the strong music program at Jackson State University. “The cultural aspect of music runs deep, from jazz to blues, but it’s something that can be appreciated and enjoyed by both black and white. That’s what makes this a great breeding ground for some of the best talent anywhere.”
Couch said that his company can provide a wide range of entertainment to fit different events and budgets. “You may want a piano player for a sing-along, or a jazz trio as background music. Or you may want a full dance band. We can provide just about anything you’re looking for.”<