I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Part 16
It became obvious pretty quickly that life on the road, like club life, could get mighty boring. It was mostly endless driving in the van of farts. There was music and lots of jokes but also lots of gas. However, when possible, we did exactly as we did in the clubs: chased girls, looked for inebriants and occasionally found interesting music. When not playing or driving, we also searched for clothes.
With each band member sporting a hair dryer, we tested the electrical capacity of many a roadside motel. We may have been the only band to blow hotel fuses from coast to coast until the arrival of Motley Crue and Poison a few years later, a badge of honor we all wore with pride. As the crew wanted to partake in the fruits of the road, they also spiffed up their hair. This could make the mirrors awfully crowded. Like the New York Dolls’ said: “Your mirror’s getting jammed up with all your friends!”
You learn pretty quickly that certain towns have a flavor all their own. Like New Orleans. I really looked forward to New Orleans. It had a great rock and roll history, being the home of Fats Domino, Little Richard, and their great drummer Earl Palmer who went on to play on so many of Phil Spector’s hits. Plus Louis Armstrong…and Mardi Gras of course. At the hotel, the desk clerk strongly recommended we not walk around after dark though. Hmm…no fun until we get to the club I guess.
At the club we were booked in (Jeds? Jimmy’s? Ole Man Rivers?), we ventured out into the house before the show to get a sense of the crowd, see if there were any people we knew or perhaps make new friends (pick up girls). I soon found myself surrounded by a group of pimply young fellows. One of them had the obligatory rockabilly bandana around his neck. His hair was incredibly greasy, and combed into some sort of unsophisticated quiff. He also seemed to have a deformed hand and may have been missing a few fingers. As he and his oily cohorts closed ranks, it was somehow communicated to me that the last time the band was in New Orleans, the drummer had ripped one of them off for drugs. As I was the drummer, they came to me to collect, not knowing that it was Jerry they were looking for, not me.
As a New Yorker, I immediately responded with my mouth. I told them I had nothing to do with it and that it was Jerry who ripped them off. It was behavior like that which got him exited from the band. At that point the wall parted and I just went on my way as they stood there disappointed. What could have turned into some sort of a “Drug Store Cowboy” moment, evaporated into nothingness. These guys were just kids, out of their league. My New York, “Who the f*ck are you?” attitude, seemed to stop them in their tracks. If they only knew what a momma’s boy I really was, they could have had me peeling off twenties pronto…assuming I had any.
I saw the finger challenged guy several more times over the next day or so, as well as future trips to New Orleans. He was known to us as “George the Max,” and while he was friendly, he seemed like a character out of a Tom Waits’ song. We were told he was a junkie, ergo why he ended up in that situation with Jerry. Maybe he was a just a dabbler trying to make a few extra dollars. Who knows what the real story was. Goodness knows what his life must have been like, so I’m in no position to judge him. People can be quite cruel to those who are different and don’t quite fit in. Little did I know that he was actually quite an accomplished guitarist and in time would play with bands I have a lot of respect for. Punk Rock was a good place for misfits, junkies, sleazeballs, oddballs and greaseballs. It’s a way for the uncool to be cool.
I don’t remember if it was raining though.
© Curt Weiss 2015