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Losing My Religion

I didn't want to be a musician when I was a kid. I wanted to be behind the scenes, a manager, a producer, roadie, who cared. I wanted to be part of the machine. Over the years I have worked as a sound man, a roadie, a stage manager, a lighting director, a production manager, and a promoter. From stadium shows with Paul McCartney to bar gigs with Nirvana, I've seen all there is to see of the dark underbelly of rock and roll. And I loved every second of it.

But there was something wrong with it all. Mainly that deep down inside I knew that I was having too much fun. Respectable people do not live this sort of life. I saw my future during a string of shows for John Hiatt. John's road manager was a soft spoken guy of about fifty who would call his wife and kids on the phone at every stop on the tour. It seemed so pathetic.

I kept picturing myself as a fat, bald fifty-year-old man, babysitting a bunch of spoiled rock stars one hundred days out of year, calling my wife and kids, and asking how their day was, while the lead singer's having sex in the next room. I decided to go back to school.

Over the years I have seen some pretty interesting things, and I've met some great and not-so-great people and musicians. While I cannot tell all the stories there are to tell, mainly to avoid criminal charges and lawsuits, here are some of my tales from the road:

  • Working for Paul McCartney was like working in a police state. A half-hour before showtime, the entire backstage area is sealed off and no one is allowed within a hundred yards of the stage. When Paul and Linda walk from their bunker to the stage they cannot see a soul. Even the stage crew has to hide when they walk by.
  • Ministry required fifteen cases of beer each night. By the end of every show all the beer would be gone.
  • Doc Watson, who is blind, once yelled at me for trying to help him on stage. But he would let me carry his guitar and lead him off stage.
  • Paula Abdul said hello to me and touched me on the leg. I still haven't washed that spot.
  • The Revolting Cocks wanted me to hire two fat strippers to dance on-stage as The Revolting Pussies.
  • Phish required one six pack of beer per show.
  • One of my jobs for Bob Weir was to procure girls for the after show party. Bob liked young, cute blondes, which resulted in strange parties where it would be just Bob and thirty young, cute blondes.
  • Bette Midler ran over my foot with a wheelchair.
  • At a Blues Traveler show in Telluride, I gave the fire marshal a tab at the bar to keep him from shutting the show down due to gross overcrowding.
  • I knocked over Neil Pert from Rush as he ran on-stage for an encore. I was running offstage with a giant hat and a deflated rabbit (you had to be there).
  • Steve Miller ate a turkey dinner after each show.
  • M.C. Hammer had an entourage of at least fifty people. We had to call the police back-stage after one of them threatened to kill our stage manager.
  • I let Cher, Don Henley, and Bill Graham into a Blues Traveler show in Aspen. I also made a small fortune letting kids in the back door at fifty bucks a pop.
  • Bette Midler looks a hundred years old in real life.
  • Siouxie and the Banshees brought their own prostitute on tour. She would set up shop in the back of one of the tour busses.
  • Patty Larkin yelled at me while she was on-stage. I never liked her.
  • Since Paul and Linda McCartney were strict vegetarians, even the crew was not allowed meat. The caterers would serve us fake bacon for breakfast, fake hot dogs for lunch and fake burgers for dinner.
  • Every member of Sonic Youth yelled at me (while off-stage). I still like them.
  • The Pixies were the nicest band in the business.

I thought I was done with the life, but just like heroin, once you are hooked it's in your blood forever. I now promote the odd show in Casper under the (blank) Productions umbrella. And at the end of every show, just like back in the old days, I swear I'll never do it again.

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Tom South

Feature Articles by Tom South


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