Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Adventures With Rockabilly

Long time ago I was playing in a band, doing drums and vocals. It was a Rockabilly band and it was kind of fun. The success of the Stray Cats had made this stuff marketable again. I sang Little Sister by Elvis and a few other things and it was easy money. We never rehearsed. It was show up and play. We had a guitarist from New York who would have fascinated Mr. Spock, and a bass player who could have been in the Stray Cats.

Then there was the leader of the band. He was a nice guy, in his way, but he was a drunk. And I think it was all due to depression. He thought he was going to be a rock star, like so many other people, and it didn’t work out, which made him sad. You can crush my heart, baby, but don’t you crush my dreams.

One day this guy asked me if I would drive him around to take care of some business. He didn’t just book our band, he was also a booking agent, but he’d lost his driver’s license. So I said “yes,” thinking I could learn a little bit about the business side of music. And let me just say, I don’t recommend you go out of your way to do that. It is a dark and fearful place.

Anyway. We hit the road and, as we moved through the day, he drank more and more, becoming increasingly incoherent. Still, I was able to see him make deals, not only for our band, but for several pretty big name acts. He was trying to work something out for David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, but it wasn’t floating. He did set up a gig for Mitch Ryder at a large club. Weeks later, I drove him to that gig and met Mitch Ryder and his band. The drummer was called “Johnny.” He was on most of the early Mitch Ryder stuff. He said he also played drums on Edgar Winter’s Free Ride, which I thought was Chuck Ruff, and he played on Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare, which makes sense since Alice is a Michigan guy like Mitch Ryder. Johnny was (is?) a very good drummer.

But, I digress. Back to the road trip.

This guy I was driving with progressively anesthetized himself with whiskey while I began to pity him and be angry with him at the same time. He was the kind of drunk/addict who would constantly take advantage of you in whatever ways he could get away with. But it didn’t bother me much. I’d been around a lot of people like that.

This guy had a minor brush with the big time. He’d been in a band that was famous in the late 60's, early 70's, but he wasn’t with them until the early 80's, doing a reunion tour thing, taking the place of someone who didn’t want to do it. He idolized Paul McCartney, and these guys knew Paul McCartney. They’d had a hit with a McCartney song in the early 70's. They were “friends” with Paul and the guy I was riding with had been in a band with them for a tour. It was almost like having met Paul himself, right?

Yes. I know it’s confusing, but that’s how it goes. And that was his brush with fame, which left him craving, like the addict he was, for . . . more. He wanted more.

I wonder about this guy sometimes. I wonder what happened to him. We talked a lot that day. We talked about life and spiritual things, but he made it clear he wasn’t really interested. He already knew what he wanted.

He was practically unconscious by the time I got him home. He mumbled something I couldn’t understand as he climbed out of the car and stumbled across his lawn, into his front door to an unfortunate wife and kids. And he still crosses my mind. I’d have no idea how to get hold of him, and he probably wouldn’t even know who I was if I did, but I wonder if he ever came out of that sadness. I wonder if he ever learned to be happy with who he was. Did he find peace, or did he die with his eyes on the wrong things?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do for people.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

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