“I was expecting to set up and audition for the part. Instead, he informed me that we were about to go catfishing’ down at the river, and wouldn’t be coming back any time soon. The video featured, and the song was written by me in remembrance of this trip. It was written some twenty years later, under a bush at Donny’s house, while thinking about the trip we had just taken, and how it all started”
My first trip out with a rock-n-roll band was a real learning experience. I was fifteen. Tragedy struck the band on the very first show. Toy Caldwell, lead singer and founder of the Marshall Tucker Band was dead, the cousin, that got me the gig, was on life support, and I was back on my own. I joined another southern rock band in my home town with some great guys. They needed a drummer, and as fate would play out again, they wanted to “test” my ability to hold up under pressure. Translated, that means “can’t walk, can’t talk, but can still play and sing”. Then there’s the added chore of “train wreck rescue” of other members, if and when they had “too much of a good thing”.
A train wreck is the term for what happens on stage when everything that can go wrong, does, Right in the middle of a song, “something” happens to cause the song, and the show, to grind to a halt. Ahhh, the dreaded train wreck. Most feared of all calamities. The cause of many band break-ups, divorces, brawls, and an occasional shooting or two if memory serves me.
The leader of this merry band of noisy misfits was Donny Nease. When I arrived at his house, I was expecting to set up and audition for the part. Instead, he informed me that we were about to go catfishing down at the river, and wouldn’t be coming back any time soon. The video featured, and the song was written by me in remembrance of this trip. It was written some twenty years later, under a bush at Donny’s house, while thinking about the trip we had just taken, and how it all started. We had just gotten back from a trip to Florida. The band had evolved into The Steele Breeze Band by then. I had returned to them after several tours of duty with other bands.
Meanwhile, down at the river, (and a couple of joints and a few beers later), we were stretched out on the riverbank, and working on a good excuse for falling in the river. Later, I asked if and when we were going to do the audition. That’s when Donny said, “Well it really doesn’t matter if you can play or not, if we can’t party together. We have to click as a group of people first, before we can ever click as a band”. I didn’t know then just how true that would prove to be. However, for this ride, Crossroads would forever be one the of the best experiences I have ever had in a band, as far as the people in it. We’re not only still friends, we’re family.
It’s funny how money and a little bit of popularity can change things. As I mentioned in my first “me” blog post, drawing pictures was a lot more fun when it was a “doodle-for-fun” thing, instead of “have-to-do” thing. The same holds true for music. The Crossroads band grew in popularity pretty quick up in Virginia. Pretty soon everybody wanted to come to a show. We were known as the “goodtime party band’, and were known for partying with our fans, The music was brand new…the band was brand new…and it was literally like heaven on earth back then. Little did we know, that what we all dreamed of… “fame and fortune”, and the pursuit of it, is a one way trip to hell on earth. But for now, this was, the good ol’ daze.
Did I mention the dreaded train wreck? Let me tell you about one of the other potential deathblows to bands. The “band-or-me-speech” This is when one of the band members girlfriends, or wife, becomes jealous of the attention you receive. I guess the women that jump up on stage and jerk their tops up don’t help much, but, “baby, it’s just part of the show” doesn’t always work. Then you get it. “It’s the band or me!” I have lost count of the bands I’ve been in that literally cold have been the next big thing, that were shot down with this one. On one particular trip, Allen, our bassist, was unusually spunky. We didn’t know it then, but he had just heard this speech the night before…
I hadn’t been with Crossroads very long, and I was told we were going to “a little get-together”, with “just a few friends”. On the way, our frontman handed me a hit of LSD. I had never done this before, right before a show. Since this was no big deal, and just a small get together with a few friends…what the hell, why not. The LSD kicked in about the time we topped the hill, and about the time I noticed the hundreds of cars and people. Instant panic set in, and fate??? Well, fate left, and I was stuck like Chuck; with half a brain, hundreds of people, and a front man that wouldn’t stop laughing at the look on my face.
Did I mention train wrecks? Oh, and the band-or-me-speech? Isn’t it funny how fate leaves when you need it, and shows up when you don’t? Fate decided to show back up, and both of the calamities I mentioned were about to happen at this “small get together”. You know the acid is good when you start to think,” I wish I hadn’t took the acid”…
On the opening song, Wayne, (the frontman with the pocket full of LSD), had by now lost his funnybone. He kept turning around, and looking at me as if somehow I was supposed to rescue him from the situation. He would stoop down behind a stack of speakers, both hands on both temples, handful of hair in each hand; and pull as hard as he cold, trying to get his mind to stay in his head. It was my turn to laugh. “Hell, don’t look at me”, I thought, as my drum stool started slooooowwwllyy sinking in what felt like mud. This I could deal with, if my drums hadn’t started vibrating into different angles (it seems I forgot to tighten the wingnuts) and they were just about beyond reach from where I was sitting. Did I mention where I was sitting was sinking?
It was just about then that I noticed the crowd was absolutely lovin’ all this. What? I looked over at the bass player who had received the “band or me speech” from his wife the night before, and noticed he was really, really drunk. Seems he forgot to mention the speech, so we didn’t have a plan for that. He was putting on quite the show. This was highly unusual for him, because we were constantly getting on him to “pick it up” a little. Usually, he wouldn’t move very much. But now??? Just when I think I have the LSD, and sinking drum set under control, he does his first ever power-slide across a stage on his knees…catching all the microphone cables with his toes; and with the weirdest noise I’ve ever heard… all nine drum mikes, complete with mike stands, went flying through the air, and out into the crowd. Train wreck. =)
Despite this, and as things like this usually go, instead of the crowd reaction one would think one would get, we get a standing ovation. We decided to take a break, and regroup. I was relieved, and walked over to where the menfolk were cooking the pig. I was asked to help turn it over. This was the first turn of the pig, and the chef was going over the finer points of the art of cooking pigs; explaining how they must be slow cooked…”this takes time”, he said. About that time people started stripping off pieces of half cooked pig, blood dripping off their chins…(it’s a biker thing), and I don’t have to tell you that this didn’t help my LSD experience at all. I left the scene in search of orientation and what sanity I could find… ran into the bass player (who was now crying drunk), and heard the “whooop!” of the half gallon liquor bottle as it connected with the head of one of the guest. Donny was on the scene, lickedy-split, and picked both guys up by the seat of their breeches, and made them kiss and make up.
This was the start of a beautiful relationship with my musical career. I would go on to play with other bands, and as this was almost fourty years ago now, you can imagine there are a few more stories. Some of the things I wouldn’t post here, but hey, this is blogging. Why not? Until next time, may the Lord bless you as He has me, for I know now that even the worst of times were part of His plan for me. Rom 8:28
Never pass up a chance to tell someone you love how you feel. You might not get another chance in this life.
Carolina Boy Recorded Live From Stage Monitor Mix. Remixed @ Jacknut Creek