Ed Bia, Southwestern College financial counselor, listens quietly to the concerns of an anxious student. He speaks, softly, with a voice smooth and low, dispensing advice and reassurance. At 5 p.m., his work done, the counselor heads for his Bonita home. Less than an hour later, in a Hawaiian print shirt and baseball cap, Bia leans forward in his glass booth, grabs the microphone and screams, "Goooood Morning, Vietnam!" The crowd at the Corvette Diner goes wild, whooping, hollering and fists waving in the air. Bia chuckles. He turns away from the microphone and, in his counselor's voice, says: "They go for that every time. I love it!" Bia was interviewed last week by Times staff writer Leslie Wolf and photographed by Stan Honda.
I was always a musician. I was in a band called the Marauders here in the mid-'60s and it was quite a good group. But the Vietnam War was going on and many of the band members were drafted, so the band broke up. I didn't go to Vietnam, because right around that time a drunk driver came around a curve on the wrong side of the road and drastically changed my life. I broke every bone on the left side of my body.
It set me back for a while. When I recovered, I finally decided to go back to college. In 1971, I graduated with a degree in business. . . . Later I earned my teaching credential and taught business law, typing and social living, and coached football at El Cajon High School. Eventually, I took the job at Southwestern.
But there was music in my blood, and once it's in there I don't think it ever leaves. A friend of mine opened up a club in Bonita called the Wild Turkey and for about two years I played records there, until the club went to live music. What happened next was really strange. I was out of the business for about a year, and all of a sudden I started getting phone calls out of the blue, people asking me to play for their wedding receptions and such. I started by renting a sound system from a friend, then finally bought my own equipment and started a company, Jukebox Saturday Night Mobile Music Service. That was four years ago. My business has come primarily through word of mouth, and now I'm booked as far ahead as January.
Prior to all my parties, I hand out a rather detailed questionnaire so I get a really good idea of my clients' personalities, of the mood they want set. They get to choose the music. In fact, I'll go out and buy the records they want if I don't have them already.
One time, I went to meet a couple, and when I walked into the restaurant I saw a gentleman sitting there with long hair past his shoulders and a full beard, a real biker type. I thought to myself, here's a man who wants to hear the Scorpions at his wedding reception.
I asked the fellow what he liked to listen to and he asked if I had any Care Bears music. I almost fell off my chair when he said that. On the flip side, I once did a wedding that was rather formal, and the bride and groom wanted the first song to be "Dead Man's Party" by Oingo Boingo.
One of my favorite jobs was being asked to play on the beach at sunset for an awards ceremony for some company. There I was, 50 feet from the waves breaking on the beach, a soft breeze blowing, playing jazz, and then they brought a steak dinner to me. And I was getting paid for all this!
Last January, I took a lady to lunch at the Corvette Diner to thank her for sending me some business. After the meal, they give you a comment sheet, and on it I wrote that I really enjoyed the diner, the atmosphere, and the food and service was excellent. I also said the music was far too loud to conduct business. I just signed it Jukebox Saturday Night, with my phone number.
So one afternoon the phone rang and it was the owner. He was extremely nice and stated he was very sorry that the music was too loud, but to remember that was the atmosphere they wanted. He said he wanted to keep me as a customer, then asked me about my business. We talked, and I mentioned that I had a band in the '60s and was really familiar with the music of the time.
One or two weeks later he called and asked if I wanted to work that night. It just so happened that I didn't have anything to do that evening, so I said I'd love to. Now, I'm there Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, and it's by far the best job I have ever worked, bar none.
The staff there is so supportive and they just really enjoy life. When you walk into the place, all of a sudden you're on a high. And the audience is amazing. I found when I keep the music upbeat, people seem to really dance in their chairs, if not actually get out of their chairs and dance in the aisles.
Being in that glass cage is sort of like being in an aquarium, only I really don't know who's the show, because sometimes the people in the audience are really characters.
It's interesting to get paid to party, and that's exactly what I do. At the Corvette, people often come up and say, "Are you getting paid to do this?" And they usually end up by saying, "You're enjoying yourself far too much."