Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A really good night

Compared to some people, I really haven't been to that many concerts. As I've mentioned before, when I was younger, the opportunities to see any touring rock shows were few and far between. But over the years, I have had the good fortune to be present for a few really amazing concert experiences. And one of the coolest of those came on June 19th, 1985. I was backstage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, for a stellar evening of blues with Albert King, BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

In the mid '80s when we were living in Colorado Springs, our band had a road manager named Jerry Pope. We met Jerry several years earlier while playing at the Sheraton in Bossier City, Louisiana, and became friends. Jerry was a good guy... a big, laid back, former pro football player, who cultivated friendships with a number musicians and managers and support personnel in the music business, mainly in the South. One of those friendships was with a lady who was "dating" the legendary blues guitarist BB King. I don't know all of the details of their relationship, but from what I can recall, BB King leased his tour busses from her, and she and BB were "very close". She knew that Jerry Pope was living in Colorado at the time, and let him know that she could get backstage passes for him, for the upcoming show at Red Rocks. He asked if the guys in our band could go also. She said no problem.
On the afternoon of the show, Ron Wesley & I, along with our good friend Jon Kennedy and his buddy Kelly Winters, piled into Jon's car and headed for Denver. We followed Jerry in his car to the hotel where BB King was staying. A few minutes after pulling into the hotel parking lot, Jerry appeared with the passes and said... "BB is just about to leave for the show... we have to follow his limo to the venue so we can park backstage. If you lose him, you're on your own". As soon as the limo pulled out, it was like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride... trying to keep up with BB's car in 75 MPH traffic across south Denver, to Morrison, about 30 miles to the west. When we arrived at Red Rocks we were directed to the backstage parking area where the tour busses park. Albert King was almost to the end of his set when we made our way to the backstage area, stage right. Being in the midst of all that was like a dream come true. I loved every minute of it! The only thing that would have made it better, is if we had been there to play. Looking out at that huge crowd from the edge of the stage was absolutely thrilling. BB King put on a great show that night, and afterwards, I got to meet the man. I shook his hand and told him how honored I was to meet him. He was just as he had always appeared to be... patient and gracious, and larger than life.

And then came Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble...

I stood in the wings of the stage and watched as he ripped through two hours of blistering rocked-up blues. Texas Flood... Love Struck Baby... Pride and Joy... Look At Little Sister... Change It... and stunning versions of Hendrix' Little Wing and Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). You have to be kind of a musical equipment geek to appreciate this part, but his guitar tech was set up right next to where we were, stage right, and I can remember looking at him at one point in the show and he was tuning one of Stevie's guitars. Not just any guitar... this was #1, The First Wife, Stevie's famous, beat up old sunburst Strat. And I thought to myself, this can't be real, here I am standing less than 4 feet from this legendary guitar, and I look to the stage, and Stevie turns around to his Marshall stacks and kicks the plexiglass sound screens to one side so he could hear himself better, I'm guessing. And it is loud. Yup, this is real. The whole night was just amazing. When the show was over, and the crowd was filtering out of the stands, and the roadies had begun to pack everything away, I walked cautionsly out onto the stage, behind Chris Layton's drumset and stood there for a moment taking in the sight. That was a good night. A very good night.

1 comment:

saramaria said...

WOW!!!! I'm so grateful to have grown up in a family that appreciates the good stuff. How have I never heard that story before?