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Life Story of a Guitar Player | 1
Living Through the 80s & 90s as a rock Guitarist
Living Through the 80s & 90s as a rock Guitarist
disclaimer This is a truthful record of my experiences and life. But I have strived to keep this as accurate as possible. and I deserve my $4. With any memoir-type work of literature. there may be small gaps in accuracy inherent within the creation. going back to my numerous journals and records that I have managed to keep.99 for it. I wish that I would have to make this stuff up. but the facts are the facts. Thank you! . it took me years to write. A few names have been changed. it would have been easier than living it. PLEASE DO NOT GIVE THIS AWAY FREELY.
despite the fact that I primarily play bass. so I sat down expecting a mildly amusing. Of course bass players are always infinitely cooler than guitar players. I also enjoy a quick and easy read. And reality with a pinch of fantasy thrown in for good measure usually insures success. a small voice in my head got louder and louder until I could no longer ignore the question. After all. as our current reality is growing ever stranger and more fascinating. and I would consider myself a “rock guitarist” of sorts. Why in the world would anyone want to read a story about Bobby Devito? . as evidenced by the ever-growing stack of books and Sweetwater music catalogs that constantly adorn my private meditation chamber (the john. As I pressed onward.Foreword It was the title of this book that first caught my eye. I’ve lived through the 80’s and 90’s. Nonfiction is always preferred. if not somewhat drab tale. for those not in the know). so my curiosity was piqued when I saw that a “rock guitarist” had written an entire book about his experience. Most of the “rock guitarists” that I have known in my lifetime would have a difficult time filling out a job application much less writing a short story. A quick scan of the pages herein revealed that the contents of this book lie somewhere between a Bukowski novel and the lyrics of Prince’s Little Red Corvette.
Each colorful episode in Devito’s book fits perfectly within this mental scheme. complete with the caption of artist. Unfortunately. But to concentrate on being the top dog is to miss the point of this book completely which is the enjoyment of the ride itself. Endearing terminology like “pity blowjob” (where can I get one of those!) and “strawberry shortcake on acid” leads me to believe that although Devito was discharged from the navy. if you wanted to be the best. which leads to my next question: If this book is true. Back then. Bobby Devito has paid his fair share of dues. The dichotomy of senor Devito is what separates him from the mainstream. Forget about cookie-cutter American Idols. album and producer in the lower left-hand corner. Not everyone who survived those days has remained as unscathed as Devito. title. but my memories of the 70’s and 80’s always seem to appear juxtaposed as if in a string of music videos. Devito has managed to recollect (or is it resurrect?) a series of personal events that flow together like a collage of bandanas on the mike stand of Steven Tyler. how in the HELL does he remember all of this shit? Maybe its because I grew up in the first “MTV” generation.6 | Life Story of a Guitar Player Sexual conquests and drug-a-logues notwithstanding. he was rapidly advancing ranks within the KISS army. . in this economy there is only enough room at the top for a few. For whatever reason. The only way to “get there” was to EARN it. and evokes dusty footage of big-haired icon Riki Rachtman hosting Headbangers Ball whilst channel surfing for Madonna videos to provide a much needed sexual outlet in the restricted cable access youth of the desolate American south. this is the tale of an atypical wannabe rockstar in the 80’s. you had to LIVE THE DREAM. I say atypical because typical “rock guitarists” do not generally write books nor attend colleges and have ‘A’ averages. But I digress.
Not a bad concept for a “rock guitarist”. and perhaps neither is Devito. Recovery from what I’m not exactly sure. There is a current trend in polarization of religious and anti-religious zealots world-wide. Perhaps the ghostly.Foreword | 7 Lastly. grandfatherly intervention that spared his life from a near-fatal car wreck simply reminds us that there is something out there beyond ourselves worth investigating. this book is about recovery. and that things do happen for a divine purpose after all. Richard Vega . But at least he has the generosity to share his tale with the rest of us who may or may not be interested.
introduction “You’re a fucking drug addict” The words reverberated throughout the small room where we were all gathered in a circle for yet another morning group. playing in a blues band that toured Italy all summer long. Not to mention a passive aggressive. Multitudes? I contain the whole damn gumball machine! . I had begun to arrive at the conclusion that Bob may be right. This was my second time around in the world of rehab. I am a mix of Cherokee & Blackfoot American Indian. Two years ago I was on tour. Looking back. And ethnically. after having graduated to this facility in sunny and plastic Ft. I contain multitudes” wrote Walt Whitman. reveling in the sights and sounds of my father’s homeland while partying every night and staying in four-star hotels. Lauderdale. “I am large. New World and Old World. hard living country guitar player who had been “blackballed” in the Nashville music world for being an alcoholic. My maternal grandfather had been a hard drinking. I have always been able to relate to that poem more than I would have liked. Now it has all come to this. I had officially become a fucking cliché as well as a fucking drug addict. Irish. Florida. narcissistic control freak with borderline personality issues. the question and the answer. And an alcoholic. It was part of what our leader Bob Uzzo called “reality therapy”. it seemed like I had always been headed for a similar end. my own personal VH1 “Behind the Music” story. and Italian…quite a potent mix of the oppressor and oppressed. And I had ended up on the hot seat that morning.
At least I can understand what he means when he lapses angrily into Italian curses. with the uniform seen on so many other northeastern “snowbird” type transplant residents in South Florida. and a button up cotton shirt topped off with just a couple of nods to his heritage – a Gucci link chunky gold bracelet. But back to what? My life was a complete shambles. and have not yet “pulled my head out of my ass”.10 | Life Story of a Guitar Player Bob Uzzo is a proud Sicilian man nearing 60. trying to sink this message into my drug addled brain. briefly taking my attention away from the fact that I am on the hot seat. piece of shit. being grilled once again by “The Godfather’. unwanted. a sensible Seiko watch. derelict. “You’re a fucking drug addict. Khaki cargo shorts. and I can see many elements of my own angry Italian father from my childhood in this man. Such an ugly word from the outside. The rumor around our rehab facility. I realize that it’s taken a long time to get here and it’s going to take some time to get back. I had been set to the island of broken toys. He is trying to get me to realize the truth. is that a famous Hollywood actress gave this pendant to Bob. As I sit there in the hot seat with all my fellow inmates surrounding me. I had no job and had sold my broken down car as scrap. I am still in my first few weeks. and a beautiful gold and onyx pendant studded with diamonds in the Narcotics Anonymous logo. as we have all nicknamed Bob. a word infused with concepts like “failure. homeless. that’s why you’re here!” Bob exclaims again. . And here I was in REHAB. as The Godfather is fond of saying. and was being systematically broken down for parts like my poor old car that I had sent to the junkyard. His face is red with frustration. called “Sobrenity”. I was married to a complete bitch with whom I had run away on a drunken weekend to Savannah…and she was pregnant with my child. broken”. promptly taking the money and buying more drugs to get high. But thirty-six years of denial and avoidance can be strong foes to realization. useless. The pendant glints in the morning sunlight.
I am trying to tell the truth completely here. . there does seem to be a need for the “truthfulness clause” on the front page. Bob would say that the concept of hope is lame. that we have to have faith. Hope implies that you expect something for nothing.Introduction | 11 This is my story. and I have faith that I am going to write it as best I can. I write it for several reasons. even when it is ugly. Unfortunately. I don’t have to make up anything for this book. With all the recent publicity trained on writers like James Frey. and faith requires you to do some of the work. I hope this book doesn’t suck. as I can best recollect it after all these crazy years. partially as therapy and also to illustrate that there’s always hope.
My descendants were goat farmers and olive growers. they had already forged a bond before the marriage. but was an early feminist and relatively free-thinker compared to the rest of her siblings. My father was the youngest of the family. Our family hails from the southern part of Italy in Calabria. what we Americans would consider the “red-neck” part of the country. and I was born in September. and began to build houses. with a few standouts that include a professor of music who became a textbook writer and respected music theorist in the old country. and grew up with a hammer in his hands. but thankfully since our family name was fairly short it remained “DeVito”. They were married in April. doing carpentry work along with the rest of his brothers for my grandfather. My mother was from rural North Carolina. and was the only member of her family to get the hell out of small town North Carolina when she was young. but my mother was the oldest among her siblings. Both of my parents came from large families. Obviously. New Jersey.Chapter 1 Beginnings I was born in the early 1960s in a small town on the Jersey Shore called Long Branch in Monmouth County. and they have remained together ever since. My father’s family settled there in Long Branch. My father’s father had come through Ellis Island like millions of other Italian immigrants. My mother met my father in a bowling alley in Jersey. Notice I said “attempted” – she immediately took a frying pan to this guy’s head. Mom was a registered nurse. She had married once before she had met my dad to some guy who had attempted to initiate a lifestyle of domestic violence upon her. to put it delicately. and promptly got a .
we packed up and moved to Virginia. as he had encouraged EAI to start focusing on digital computers. and I remember one event in particular. and electronics in the sixties was about as hot as it got for careers. I always respected my father and his work with computers and electronics and found it all fascinating. tell me the stove is hot and I immediately place my hand on the stove. my parents remained in Long Branch for a couple of years. Virginia is still in a bit of a haze for me. after the deckhands on Navy ships.14 | Life Story of a Guitar Player “quickie” divorce in Alabama. The other vivid memory I have of that time was going to work with my father. other than our family dog which my father had named “Boats”. the forerunner to our modern RAM memory. but they were still just making analog computers and could not see the change taking place. Of course. She would still take a frying pan to you today if she felt threatened. Boats was a cute little collie-shepherd mix they had found at the dog pound. and it . My father ended up getting a job with Control Data at this time. After I came into the world. My father had been an aviation electronics guy in the US Navy for four years before he met my mom. and my mom told me there were giant snakes and monsters living in that pipe. My father worked for Electronics Associates Incorporated (EAI). I remember being there. plastics”…I remember little about this era of my life. I never did find any giant snakes or monsters in that pipe. Well. There was a huge drain pipe there that seemed to be 12 feet tall. No restraining order needed for my mom. Control Data was on the cutting edge in the late 60s. So. That seems to be a recurrent theme in my life. I had to find out for myself. and left Boats behind. and I remember eating and sharing my meat bones from the spaghetti sauce with him. that and “plastics young man. a company that manufactured analog computers and had helped develop “core memory”. but it wasn’t for lack of investigation. marveling at the rooms filled with computers.
significant others. VIP. “Old School” Alcoholics Anonymous members speak of a concept they call “King Baby”. where it is a gang ridden urban ghetto. right now – my parents truly did they best they could with the tools they had when raising me. and were situated on the edge of the Pawtucketville National Forest. It seems to me that parents are such an easy target for blame when it comes to addiction and recovery. I have one.Beginnings | 15 was an incredible sight to walk by rooms with huge tape drives whirring. I had watched the Apollo moon missions with great interest and excitement. Perhaps in some ways these were very formative years for me. insistent little bastard that lives inside of me and wants what it wants. I am living proof that a person can be raised just fine. yet enormous in power. and the smell of cleanliness and feeling of order. Unlike today. Growing up in Lowell was very Beaver Cleaver-like at that time. the Merrimack river. My parental units were not perfect. The feeling of belonging. but compared to the horror stories I have heard over the years from my friends. yet being elevated and above the masses. and helped to develop their technical schools to train a much needed skilled work force in electronics. lights flashing. We lived in Lowell Mass. yet turn out as a complete disaster. . right fucking now. King Baby is that demanding. To say these years were idyllic would be a real understatement. all access backstage. It is infantile. I was on “the inside”. And yes. We lived on 25 Luz Drive in Lowell. which goes back to Freud. I will state one thing right here. next to one of the most polluted waterways in the entire country. which during the early 70s was a clean little suburban life. Although for years I have always addressed cards to my mother as “Mommy Dearest”. the punch card machines clicking and clacking away. I must have been a pretty strange kid. fellow rehab inmates. and just general conversation – my parents were saints. or life skills in general. in character and expectation of the world around me. My father ended up going to work for GTE Sylvania.
lighting them up and burning them. . I believe I set the whole book on fire and watched it burn out in one of my mom’s many huge ceramic 60’s ashtrays. I remember going out into the large forest. My mother promptly informed me that this guy was the culprit. and she completely freaked out.16 | Life Story of a Guitar Player My mother was very attentive to me. the woods. and the ashtrays were a lot more interesting to look at. and with his magic antennae he was able to SEE WHAT I WAS DOING inside of our house. amphibians. and that was why she had come home suddenly – he had called and informed her that I was up to no good and was burning down the house. a scanner enthusiast. as he had all sorts of these aluminum creatures emanating from his house like some sort of signal-gathering octopus. I caught lot of snakes. I also had a bit of a dark side. like blowing up toads with firecrackers. or simply someone with a fetish for antennas. and that he could even read my thoughts. and the outdoors. as I remember killing some of these creatures in various ways. huge asymmetrical creations in usually one of those classic colors like harvest gold or burnt orange. There was a neighbor across the street from us who must have been a HAM radio operator. I had a real interest in nature. She taught me to read herself. as well as the lunar lander toys. and like many young boys had a slight streak of pyromania. reptiles. I had found a book of matches. Childhood traumas? My memories from this era are golden and beautiful. seeking out leopard frogs and various brightly colored salamanders. Smoking used to be a whole lot more glamorous and accepted back then. and brought them home to scare my mom. I was playing with them. buying me the 8x10 color photos from the moon mission. She had basically decided to stay home with me and raise me full time until I was old enough for grade school. One experience that has stayed with me was when I caught my mother lying to me. and I remember being able to read “Reader’s Digest” before I entered kindergarten. My mother arrived home and saw the smoking carnage I had created in this huge ashtray.
I could completely identify with the concept of “Big Brother”.Beginnings | 17 Even at the age of five. During class I had written a note for one of my female classmates. I seemed to have an early fascination for women. My father liked cheesy Italian music by the Mantovani Orchestra. and got caught in my new obsession by my second-grade teacher. we had family time in front of our Zenith console TV. or listened to our gorgeous sounding all tube Zenith console stereo. go into the woods. He came home. I used to turn it on when no one was around. I intuitively knew this was bullshit. and that we would then get off the bus at her stop. who had been called “The Little Kitty Wells” at age 14 on the Grand Ol Opry. My parents had the typical middle-class early 70s life. my mom made dinner. When I read “1984” a few years later. And I suppose it partly explains why I always had a fascination with HAM radio and electronic warfare to this day. My dad went to work Monday through Friday. An early song from Steely Dan used to really catch my ear called “Do It Again” “ You go back. or “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”. detailing how I was going to ride on her bus instead of my own. preferred to listen to hardcore female country singers like Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. But it scared me deeply that there was the Orwellian possibility that someone was secretly watching me and my thoughts. and tune it in to the local rock station. My dad was right about a few things. Things were rapidly changing in society in the early 70s. Do it again Wheel turning round and round” The sound of this song was unlike anything my parents listened to. and so was I. Jack. The note was intercepted by my teacher. Come to think of it. Neil Diamond ended up being cooler than I initially thought. 9-5. and she would pull her pants down and show me her stuff. My mother. her of .
We had welcomed the addition of both my younger sister and my younger brother. North Carolina. I still want to go home with strange women on the bus and get them to take off their pants. for those of y’all who ain’t lived in the country. Stanley NC is one of those towns that if you are from there. which is an even closer town. We ended up moving to the outskirts of Stanley. and stern looks. being in a suburb of a non-existent town. She read the note and I could see her face sink. and she looked at me like I was the lowest form of life on Earth. “In the dark about your future?” my dad would say as a single light bulb would illuminate him in the commercial. And don’t even get me started with Alexis. something happened with my parents. My parents decided to move to my mother’s hometown of Stanley. But you pretty much need to be from Stanley to know where Stanley is. That’s “Rural Fire District”. Heck. We had truly made it to nowheresville. I’ll never forget the utter disdain in her eyes that day. puffy cotton dresses. my parents had a somewhat skewed view of me. and then my dad would pop up. At this point in my life. only 11 months apart. Things seemed to be going good with my dad’s job at GTE Sylvania. Yee-fucking-haw. During my third-grade year.18 | Life Story of a Guitar Player the horn-rimmed glasses. Most people seem to know where Charlotte is. but it didn’t curb my prurient interest in the opposite sex. you describe it in relation to some bigger town. Stanley cannot be simply said. RFD. It is simply a town that doesn’t exist on its own two feet. I even got to see him regularly on TV as the spokesman for the GTE Sylvania Technical Schools. it has to be explained. Some even know where Gastonia is. Slightly surreal. I would be watching “Speed Racer”. They didn’t understand yet that while I am exceptionally good at taking tests. I “don’t have the common sense that God gave a . but soon to end. They had me IQ tested at age 9. and I was off to the far right side of the bell curve. thankfully. I typically say I’m from a town “20 miles outside Charlotte”.
as I had attempted in second grade. It seems like we always remember the bad stuff in Technicolor. I look funny. it had a stark beauty that was austere yet brilliant. Looking at many of the adults that I came in contact with. a perfect little house in a perfect little suburb. And once I was dropped into rural North Carolina. and summers on Cape Cod. everything was uniformly “blah”. In true redneck fashion. and rednecks. cornbread. While the northeast was cold. I talk funny. I have a Boston Mass accent. boring lives that were dictated by jobs. one who spent a great deal of time alone. forced to enter class at O. the angle of the sun. and am at least 2 grades ahead of what they are teaching here in Stanley for 3rd grade. Dad bringing home fresh lobster on Fridays – to pinto beans. My mother’s family just looked at me like many people stare at caged animals in the zoo. I had gone from a fine elementary school outside of Boston. these tendencies became even more prominent and exaggerated. I was sort of a curiosity to them. Kiser Elementary. My initial impressions of North Carolina were very dark. and had a colorful variety of wildlife and fauna that never ceased to fascinate me. and I haven’t taken martial arts yet. however. they were first cousins…welcome to North Carolina. Lots of red mud. but it was just really difficult getting used to this new environment. especially those with gross deformities. All was not lost. I knew that I didn’t want to be most of them. I can recall the weather that day. I can remember the name of this school so vividly. So here I am in Stanley.Beginnings | 19 Billy goat” (classic mom-speak). grits. or went to school with. the red mud that seemed to be everywhere. either in the woods or curled up with music and a good book. family life. I had always been a somewhat introverted child. and duties. lots of pine trees.L. Early on in my childhood. I knew I was somehow different than many of the other children I lived close to. I finally did manage to convince some girls to get naked for me. They seemed to live passionless. How do you spell target? I got my ass kicked for a while. red mud. being raised “up north” and having a fair amount of intelligence and a rapidly skew- .
just like I have. but had suffered in a horrible explosion that covered him in third degree burns. but lives alone in a trailer in Jersey and doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the DeVito clan. Thankfully. for many reasons. He was a musician. he came to visit us. a rounder on the railways. Uncle Joe had been in the Navy too. and still do to this day. I was a weird kid. I don’t judge him. I thought he has the coolest guy ever. and they both took me on part of their honeymoon with them. Uncle Joe is still around. The other adult figure that really impacted me immediately upon my arrival to North Carolina was my grandfather. playing music and drinking with the boys all over the country. My father’s oldest brother was “Uncle Joe” DeVito. just like my dad. My grandfather is a legendary man. My mother was the eldest child in that family. There were a few adults other than my parents who made vivid impressions on me when I was young. Although I managed to freak out the librarian Mrs. Weaver more than once by filling out inter-library loan forms for archaic and occult textbooks. Slim ended up getting blacklisted in the country music biz for getting drunk on the air and adding some choice obscenities to . a ne’er do well. an amazing alcoholic. I read Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” at age 11. By all accounts.20 | Life Story of a Guitar Player ing view of the world I lived in. a songwriter. When he got married to this totally hot young Thai woman named Mu. swinging 60s kind of guy and I loved when he came to visit. and I completely loved him. and he was left alone in San Diego for a year to recover with no family visits. He and my grandmother Mabel lived in a JP Stevens mill house on 3rd Street in Stanley. He was a total bachelor. He was very close to me. and it’s always made me wonder if he somehow intuitively knew I was going to go through the hell he himself had endured. because I know he’s been through a lot of shit. and she told me that Slim would sell everything of value in the house and just take off. there were lots of woods to explore and a very small public library in Stanley that kept me occupied. Warren G. “Slim” Henderson.
I noticed it tasted kind of funny and . and I had to go check it out.Beginnings | 21 the song “Frankie and Johnny” on live radio in the 1940s. I found a nearly full frozen concoction called a “grasshopper”. One night my parents had a fairly large holiday party. He liked to hang out on the front porch and play guitar. Maybe I’m wrong. The truth was. bring a bunch back. I am literally drooling while typing this. In an interview I did in the 90s. My first drink had occurred even before we left Lowell and had landed in Hicktown. She was the sort of woman who would make you go get your own “switch” or “hickory” that she would then spank you with. I cannot say enough about how amazing this woman is. and I always knew and felt that from the age of 9. I watched him a lot. The beautiful house we lived in on Luz Drive had a basement that had been converted into a large family room. My grandmother Mabel is a living Buddha. My grandmother could stripe your legs if she wanted to. I never actually got “lessons” from my grandfather. and that’s one of the early ways that I learned how to play. He had a nice couple acres out in back of the house and grew plenty of vegetables and peppers for stringing. and it looked good to me. with the typical wood paneled walls and avocado green couches. He drank Schlitz 16 oz “tall boys” in the old tin cans. like some Pavlovian rural creature remembering the good old days. Slim during the 70s was pretty much on the porch by that time. But then you would go pick blackberries. with a little salt around the rim. when I began to have constant contact with her. The noise kept me awake. and he showed me things here and there. and she’d make blackberry cobbler. a music journalist asked me if I was my “grandfather’s favorite”. but I see a lot of kids today that could use a few swats with a nice limber switch. My parents were always very social people. Some of them actually were. I was just the grandkid that he disliked the least. As I crept down the steps. and had lots of regular card games and such with other suburban middle class couples in the neighborhood. and it went well into the night.
I did everything I could to finally get that Gibson SG guitar that was going to make my life worth living. it was as escapist as it can be. it’s the Italian way! Plus. He still recalls this with a laugh to this day sometimes. After downing the entire drink. one glass of wine. I can’t even have one friggin Entenmanns’s doughnut. and he said “Yeah. but that it felt good and warm going down. did prep and cleanup work to make money. Showing my infinite patience and understanding. or lasagna. I have never seen either of them drunk. My parents have almost always been moderate with everything. I sold 200 boxes of personalized Christmas cards in July in a town of only 2500 people. and I knew I had to pay for my next guitar. my parents had gotten me an acoustic instead. For some unknown reason. So I folded pizza boxes. Of course I worked for my dad. although I had begged and pleaded for an electric guitar. a DENTED Fender”. my father decided upon opening an Italian restaurant in Stanley. We ended up having multiple locations for a while. My dad can drink one beer. Looking back. My time in North Carolina had some bright points. Even though it was obvious that the menu could not deviate from pizza.22 | Life Story of a Guitar Player mentholish. I went back to bed and slept through the rest of the party. next to the bank and Roberts Super Market. and there were months of mispronounced questions about that particular offering. But back then he was pretty pissed about it. cut onions and tomatoes. My father tried to add the obviously subversive manicotti to the menu. and promptly traded my shiny brand new acoustic for this $15 yard sale special electric guitar. my meditation cave away from the world. I tried to tell my father it was a “Fender”. Guitar had become my oasis. the whole box of eight is in imminent danger. me sitting around with a record . If they are the chocolate frosted kind. and then my father built the huge Log Cabin restaurant that still stands on Main Street in Stanley. spaghetti & meatballs. I spied a beat up electric guitar at a yard sale. one glass of scotch.
Another neighbor’s son tried to sexually molest me. this boring middle class existence. I had friends in Stanley. and I would agree. and ended up getting busted in 7th grade for wanting drugs. and he allegedly dealt drugs. plenty of odd stuff happened to me. asking him if I could buy “some speed and some joints”. immersed in the sounds and notes. And my parents actually thought this school was going to be better for me than going to Stanley Jr High. She hated me for some reason. A group of teenage boys from up the street tried to sexually abuse me. I ended up back in Stanley Jr High. and attending Holy Trinity Catholic School.. They represented ultimate freedom to me. the timbres and timings of people like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Not actually possessing drugs. probably the best two were Chip and Jeff Anderson. Goldman was busted. They lived with their mom Ruth in a house up the street.Beginnings | 23 player or tape deck. I knew that I wanted to be out of Stanley when I grew up. To try and chronicle all of my experience there almost seems futile.. As anyone can imagine. and had her hands full raising these two. and my bad hair. free to “wave your freak flag” and do what one wanted. Of course I signed my name to it. and later that day when there was a big undercover drug bust at our school. Ruth was a very uptight woman. I guess. I had written him a note in class. a week later I was on my way to live with my Uncle Augustino back in Long Branch New Jersey. and that guitar was my way out of this town. I was thrown out of that school for various offenses against fundamentalism. and didn’t like that we all hung out together. We had a 9th grade kid named Goldman Carver. with my note in his pocket. So. I could have gotten a lot more and a lot better drugs at Catholic . While I was there during these days. just simply wanting them.but North Carolina was Pearl Harbor in my youth. I went from public school to a private fundamentalist Baptist junior high. They say that childhood is a battlefield. I was the kid who showed up to Bible class with a copy of Thomas Paine’s “Age or Reason”.
My mother. When I arrived into this world. and found a tub that . I was born dead. yet I walked in as calmly as possible and tried to hide in my bedroom. they had made up a bag of model glue. was tending to Chip’s burns. Chip was a local football hero and athlete. I was in shock. Luckily. Jeff and Chip Anderson and I were all cozy around the fire. they had to do some serious work on me to bring me back. eventually reaching the campfire and lighting me up into one big flaming torch. and he chased me down and gave me a good football tackle that brought me down. I had been introduced to “huffing” chemicals by some of the older boys around my neighborhood. “Black as the Ace of Spades” my mother used to say.24 | Life Story of a Guitar Player School. My mother says she went to the bathroom first. He put me out. Sometimes it seems like I have had more than my share of these experiences over the years. When I was eleven. First time. heading towards a stream about a half mile south. ever the RN. I had tried it with gasoline as well. I had already attempted to get in the shower to see if I could “wash off ” the burns and escape undetected. I did not know what auditory hallucinations were yet. I think I must have passed out. One night we were all camping out a short distance in the woods behind my parent’s house. but I was already experiencing them. and then forced me to hold onto their bikes while I ran behind them breathing into the bag until I passed out from the fumes. and I had it between my legs. I immediately ran as fast as I could. burning his hands and arms in the process. I had 3rd degree burns on 40% of my body. as the jug spilled onto my pants and all over me. No such luck. We had all inhaled some fumes from a plastic milk jug of gas. and he kept insisting that she had to take care of me. and would sometimes go under our house in North Carolina and inhale the gas fumes until I could hear loud helicopter noises in my head. and managed to walk back to my parent’s house.
and one for myself. and got a lot of sympathy from the local people of Stanley. I would have died right there in my parent’s driveway. I was told that I’d probably never walk again. I enjoyed it all the same and felt like I was truly “the man”. lots of prayers from all the churches. trying to hide. The doctor was PISSED. about 20 minutes away. the only thing that topped the lobster was a certain young candy-striper who used to come listen to me play guitar in my room a lot during the end of my stay in the hospital. And as far as sympathy goes. It was my first sexual experience. and lots of chili cheeseburgers on demand. that I was lucky to be alive. I was huddled in my bed. slow process. They put me in the ambulance and rushed me to Lincolnton Memorial Hospital. and would as soon order Lobster Thermidore at age 5 as a cheeseburger. beginning at Lincolnton Memorial and then later I was transferred to Charlotte for all of the surgeries. and I’m sure it was a pity blowjob. burnt flesh and skin. One of the many small miracles of my life occurred this night. And occasionally a lobster dinner when I could guilt someone into hitting the local Red Lobster for me. Chip was placed in the other ambulance. and for some reason this ambulance died on the spot. I endured a lot of pain. There were two ambulances sent out that night – one for Chip. I had numerous skin graft operations. I still couldn’t . Recovery was a long. and it took them an hour to get it running again. If I had been in that ambulance.Beginnings | 25 was covered in charred. I also got two pints of chocolate milk and a nice yellow Valium 5mg tablet every time they came to change those bandages. I never had childish tastes. I drank so much chocolate milk that I burst out in hives and caused one of the skin graft operations to completely fail. It took them all a few days to figure out it was the chocolate milk. and endured bandage changes every 4 hours for months straight. Trying to escape from what would have been one tremendous ass-whipping had I not been so injured.
Coming to this place was always fraught with anxiety for me. but at a freakin WAFFLE HOUSE in Gastonia. She also gave me “The Joy of Sex” to read when I had questions about sexuality. kicked. I ended up running the mile in track at high school. sit in a lobby with brightly colored geometric 70s carpets and Naugahyde waiting room couches with scattered “Boys Life” magazines on them. a collector of antique milk glass. typically femalespecific tasks in those days. According to both them and the test results. In fact. bribed. and simply was not turning out quite like they had imagined. she was always very open with me about the facts of life. and dusty Naugahyde. laundry. would not accept the fundamentalist Baptist religion my parents had embraced (my father got converted. My mom was in charge of my physical therapy. my parents brought me to see a psychiatrist. housecleaning. magazines. The place smelled of too many people. Having been a nurse. and they sent me home to my family house. She is a no-nonsense southern woman. But I was a smart-assed young guitar player who had already by age 12 dodged death several times. I got a lot of solid stuff from my mother. I was supposed to be an “A” student bent on college and medical school or an advanced degree. What were we doing here and why was I being made to see a psychiatrist if I was not . so she impressed upon me that I needed to be able to do all the household stuff like dishes. She cajoled. with a hospital bed set up in the living room. screamed. NC). She felt there were already “enough useless men in this world”. and working in the medical field nearly all of her life. After my recovery from the burns. a hardcore thrift shopper and yard-saler. hour long sessions where I would have to go to this big facility in Gastonia. and literally motivated me any way necessary for me to do my physical rehab. I guess it was difficult for both her and my father to understand me as a child. but I did get up and walk again.26 | Life Story of a Guitar Player walk at that point. and slapped me silly at times. not like St Paul on the road to Damascus. This went on for what seems like a year.
sticking it furiously and exclaiming “I would give her a shot right here in the neck so she would finally SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!” I think that was about the end of my psychiatric “treatment”. My cousin Stephen and I played a lot of guitar. in his prescription Foster Grant eyeglasses and strong aroma of Hai Karate. “OK. He also handed me a hypodermic syringe to use on the doll. and . I got to hang out with my autistic cousin Chris. and listened to records all the time. So I spent about 9 months living with my aunt and uncle in Long Branch. and encouraged me greatly when it came to the guitar. This was a great time. I wonder how much that sage advice cost my poor parents. it was exciting to be so close to New York City and the music scene. now give your mommy a shot anywhere you want to”. She had me play for the Saturday night folk mass at the church. I immediately took the needle and plunged it into the doll’s neck. So after my little adventure in 7th grade being busted for merely wanting drugs. who has a photographic memory for music and still remembers nearly every song we listened to 30 years ago. I saw Twisted Sister when they were a cover band and played at the March of Dimes Walkathon. and I saw the US premiere of Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” at Madison Square Gardens. I am sure anyone in our town already figured I needed a few more good ass-whippings. All I ever got as a conclusion from those “treatments” is that the counselors told my parents that I needed to be beaten more and given a lot more discipline. I’ve spent my whole life trying to develop musical memory like that while being allegedly “normal”. he intimated softly. read some clinical literature. One episode I remember quite vividly was the counselor handing me a female doll to represent my mother. My aunt Marie was really into my musical talents. I got sent to New Jersey to live with my aunt and uncle and go to Catholic school. and I really started to play more and more during this time. and began to heavy-handedly feed the shrinks with stuff I had gleaned from perusing their literature. going to Holy Trinity Catholic.Beginnings | 27 crazy? I focused some of my reading on Freud and Jung.
I smoked pot with several of the older musicians that I hung around with.28 | Life Story of a Guitar Player playing guitar at mass. either with the guys after a day of baling hay or on a weekend night out. I’m sure I owed this poor guy at least a “thank you” for saving my life. He hauled me to shore. and did not want to add another near death experience to the rapidly growing list. and unbeknownst to me a healthy riptide was churning. I did miss my parents and headed home to North Carolina. thinking that it really sucked that I had just a year ago escaped death from the gasoline explosion and now was going to simply drown. I began to go under. leaving him far behind. I had already caused my immediate and extended family far too much grief already. and I remember looking up at the surface as I was sinking downwards. I had a fantastic chorus teacher at East Gaston named Catherine Painter. a good Italian boy. After recovering from the burns on my legs. and was drifting out to where the water was just over my head. I was out at the beach quite frequently. I got caught into the riptide and fought it as it dragged me further out and southwards down the beach. I managed to stay there long enough to make it into East Gaston High School in Mt Holly NC. Stanley was a dry town. but refrained from trying anything harder. I had to wear pants to shield my skin grafts from the sun when I was swimming. As soon as I came to. so one would have to drive nearly 15 miles to actually purchase any alcohol. After my time in New Jersey. a town that is next door to Stanley and is actually big enough to have a high school. I was able to get into some good surfing during that time in New Jersey. she was an ex-opera . I had started occasionally drinking at this point. He hauled me up on the beach and laid me flat on the sand. There were jetties to my north. trying to get me to breathe. I bolted upright and hit the ground running. I kept sinking and taking in water when I was suddenly grabbed and brought to the surface by a lifeguard. but I hit the road. where I was trying to get the water out of my lungs. I had just gotten out into the water that day.
Donny had a beautiful ’65 Ford Galaxie that his stepfather bought for him when he turned 16. Donna had a few yellow Valiums. Miraculously. but remembered how good the Valium had felt in the hospital. Donna was 17 and was a complete wild child. I ended up taking six of them that day. and don’t remember much of what happened. Donna and Donny told me that we had walked to a local pond to hang out. and walked away. I never really fit in with any particular social group in high school. and was always very attentive to me. even back then. She had an amazing body. A blackout episode before I had even turned 16! . I had absolutely no fear. She had beautiful golden hair. I liked the taste of Crown Royal and Coke from the very beginning. I had never experimented with pills previously to this summer. and there’s no telling how this poor woman ended up in a town like Stanley. I woke up in bed with the two of them. He was a smart. but I went one better – my mother had an entire bottle of the much stronger blue Valiums in her medicine cabinet. and that I had simply walked over to a huge hornet’s nest and began kicking it as the hornets swarmed around me. and I used to ride to school with him instead of riding the bus. He had one of those mothers who had that whole Joan Collins thing going on. and would sometimes fix me one as well if she was feeling good. and had no idea of what had happened the night before. I did not suffer a single sting from the creatures. but was accepted by most because I could play some pretty mean guitar. funny guy who everyone liked at school. and a body that distracted me to no end. and we had a lot of good times together. and she liked pills. a female cousin of his came to stay with his family for a few weeks. The next morning.Beginnings | 29 singer with taste and class. Donny and I partied with her frequently. During the summer. I had a good friend across the street who was one grade older than I was named Donny Martin. She would walk around the house in the afternoons wearing revealing nightgowns and drinking Crown Royal.
I ended up skipping nearly half of the days of my junior year and flunked 11th grade. New Orleans had a great effect on me musically. The high school I was enrolled in was nearly 3. and ran around with a group of somewhat noble hoods from the area. We never tried to hurt anybody. Old Man Rivers on the West bank. my father sold the business and off we went.30 | Life Story of a Guitar Player All during this era. My parents bought a house on the West Bank Harvey neighborhood on the other side of the river from the Big Easy. causing trouble to the construction guys by firing up the bulldozers and ruining a days’ work. I hung out at Tipitina’s. the guitarist/vocalist for the amazing Zebra used to let me sneak in with the band sometimes. We did a lot of typical stuff. New Orleans music was alive and vibrant. vandalism and theft. I lived in a subdivision called Woodmere. and I was getting into most nightclubs I wanted to visit. Our school had all sorts of racial problems. Taking that money and buying a quarter-pound of pot and enough beer to last for days was heaven to us. Jimmy’s. gangs. riots. and there was a cool little New Wave music scene happening. my parents were killing themselves running the restaurants. and the newly arrived Vietnamese boatpeople that had been settled by our government primarily in Louisiana. My sister Anna was totally getting into music at this point.000. weapons. equally split between whites. My family also really took to N’awlins culture like fish to water . Suddenly. blowing things up. I had a fake ID at 16 years old. going to see The Fixx and Flock of Seagulls on the Riverboat President. the works. I would sometimes take my electric guitar and battery powered amplifier and go jam in the French Quarter for tourist money. I was 15 years old and thrust into a much different world. even if it was worth $10.000 students. I managed to get an audition with a local bar band called “Cypress”. barbed wire fences. Randy Jackson. When my father got a job offer from his old employer Control Data to run their New Orleans technical school. and played a few gigs with them. the cops. just out to get something quick and simple for cash – like stealing a boat motor and selling it for a quick $500. blacks.
Beginnings | 31 – we ate crawfish and went to all manner of Mardi Gras parades. Less than 30 minutes wasted at the event. and headed back to the limo to go to the French Quarter. and she was really a great girl – Lucy went to a private Catholic girls school. had a baby cake at the house every day of Mardi Gras. we finally made it to the prom. Of course. leaving her stranded. and got dropped off at Pat O’Brien’s for a Hurricane – basically red kool-aid filled with more liquor than anyone really needs in one glass. and drank more champagne. Exiting the long black limo. The Olde Absinthe House. she was pretty much off-limits to the rest of us. and did weekend trips to Grand Isle. At the finest restaurant on the West bank. I don’t remember anything after that drink. I started drinking Black Russians at four in the afternoon as I got dressed. and Slidell to take in as much Louisiana as possible. two days before the prom her date suddenly cancelled on her. the works. So. we mad a beeline for the dance floor and danced one dance. I was asked to take Lucy to the prom. had good grades. and was a local volleyball star. we drank bad champagne. He and I had hung out for a year or so. and headed straight for the photo line. My good friend Billy Murry was a rock and roll singer. Billy was already taking one of Lucy’s friends. In the limo. We did our obligatory “we were there” Prom photos. with me being quite possibly one of the more harmless of Billy’s friends. Lucy and . After dinner. However. other than being kicked out of the limo onto my front lawn much later that night. New Orleans is also the site of the only Prom I ever attended. since she was Billy’s sister. and they were all supposed to do it together in a big limo. we dined on Trout Almandine. and orbited the same group of people from Woodmere. I remember heading to my favorite watering hole. we arrived in the City of Sin. had jammed music and smoked a LOT of pot together. so I got a rush rental tux and off we went. It’s too bad. and a damn fine one at that. for one more drink before we headed to the hotel we had arranged downtown. Baton Rouge. He had a sister that was a couple of years younger than I named Lucy. It sounded like fun to me.
It was punishment in a very passive-aggressive way. and although I am sure Billy would have kicked my ass. I was always the guy that girls loved to talk to and be friends with. I ended up scoring so highly that the various branches were calling me and making me offers. As it is.32 | Life Story of a Guitar Player I were certainly vibing that night. so they could complain to me about their asshole football player boyfriends. Nothing like the head-splitting sound of feedback through the public address system at Schwegmann’s “We need a porter with a mop to aisle 17…. Cheryl Edwards. because there wasn’t much to really speak of. She was just absolutely beautiful to me. and still have never found another quite like her.weeeeaaaahhhhh!!!!! Porter with a mop to aisle 17!!!” I haven’t really spoken much of my love life during these teenage years. I was sort of a late bloomer. and a fantastic body. and wanted to get out of class. as I had flunked 11th grade for non-attendance. long straight blonde hair. if I had been a bit more sober that night Lucy and I would have made some fond memories of that night. especially the preacher’s daughter. from what I heard I ended up painting the inside of the limo with purple and red puke. The Armed Forces came through. So on my 17th birthday. My attraction with her seems almost like a primal imprint or something. God bless her. she helped me get out of the vomit-ridden tux and get to bed. she woke me around noon and forced me to go shopping with her for hours. And hours. and offered us a 6 hour pass out of classes to take the ASVAB test. I was sitting in class during what was supposed to be my senior year. and thy just took me home and kicked me out onto my parents lawn. I have been seeking a woman like her the rest of my life. I had my share of crushes over those years. with bright blue eyes. I’m pretty good with tests. I entered the US Navy as an Electronics . but I was still a junior. so naturally I went for the ride. as it has remained with me as some flawed ideal in the physical sense. Then. My mom opened the door as I was fumbling with my keys. and it seemed like everyone was getting it on but me in the late 70s.
I really have a thing for cute blonde white women. and I went out on the town with a few other recruits. It sure beat doing laps around the base like the Marines were doing. we headed to downtown San Diego to find some trouble to get into. were segregated into what is known as a “drill company”. But all of the girls were black. but most of my time was on base. As a 17 year old. Afterwards. my compatriots found themselves a lady of the evening and wandered off to do their business. My first night of boot camp was classic intimidation and shenanigan. called “B double E” school in naval parlance. We went to one of the best restaurants in town and ate steak and lobster until we couldn’t walk. One by one. biding my time. and the company commanders were already breaking us down and tearing us apart. It was then that I learned the hard way . I was allowed to drink this horrible concoction called “near beer” that only had a 3. It didn’t let you get drunk. We new recruits had spilled out of the bus.2 alcohol content. and started Basic Electronics & Electricity school.and drums” said I. although I had been counseled not to volunteer for anything. I. and we focused on being the base marching band for most of our boot camp experience. and as I mentioned earlier. “What do you play?” queried the leader of the group.000. however. They asked us “are there any musicians among you?” Luckily. It would make rehearsals infinitely easier. I raised my hand. and spent Christmas 1981 in boot camp at NTSC San Diego. it just made you pee copious amounts of clear urine all night long while you basically pretended you were having a good time. But unlike high school. “Guitar…. Right after boot camp. I made it through boot camp relatively unscathed. when this nice-looking late thirties blonde came walking by. I sometimes wish I could do this with musicians today. San Diego was a great experience. So eventually I was left sitting alone on the steps of some building. remembering that I had played drums in marching band back at Stanley Jr High. if you made a mistake you had to do laps around the training ground WITH YOUR INSTRUMENT.Beginnings | 33 Warfare trainee. the Navy had given me a check for nearly $2. and the rest of my musical counterparts.
one of Pensacola’s best bands during that era. I had begun to work as the lighting guy for a local band called “Flame and the Heaters”. I drank regularly like the rest of the sailors. due to the fear of being caught. and also began to hang out at the local live music clubs off base. Pensacola had a really happening little music scene in the early 80s. Jeri’s. McGuigans. and I have been meaning to get back ever since. The Barrels. I began jamming with the local bands that came through our club. with clubs like Franco’s.34 | Life Story of a Guitar Player that you never want to have traveler’s checks when you are paying for illicit sexual activity. and were instructed how they would try to approach us and ferret information regarding our weapons systems. thanks to Eddie Van Halen. and more. with a Secret Clearance and working my way towards possessing knowledge of all the US and foreign weapons systems. Kevin’s. I was shipped off to Pensacola Florida to attend Electronic Warfare School at Corry Field. as I was finally on “the inside”. Trader Johns. as you can become them. and simply not having any most of the time. After B double E school. Be careful who your childhood idols are. I didn’t get to smoke pot too often during my time in the military. Corry is a very small high security base located a couple of miles from NAS Pensacola. and actually served us real beer. Still smoking those damn things today. and smoked my Marlboro Reds. That weekend was my first time ever smoking real California sinsemillia marijuana. It was by this time that I began to realize that I was not really cut out for military life. and it blew me away. and began to refocus on playing guitar. I loved being on this base. One standout weekend that remains from my time in San Diego would have to be my trip to Twenty-Nine Palms Military base. The desert blew me away up there. and is where all branches of the military train for Electronic Warfare and Cryptologic Technology. Their guitar player was the hottest young hotshot . We had periodic meetings regarding the local spies. We had a decent Enlisted Club on base that featured local bands.
and pay a steep cover charge. Vic Valmus. Since I had started playing so young. But it was obvious to me that Jon was an amazing talent. He just looked completely out of place with the rest of the band. with huge Miss Clairol blueblack #1 hair that was tall on top and really long in the back. The bartenders stash your beer in the cooler or your bottle on a rack. analog synthesizers . If you haven’t been to a bottle club. he had the cool guitars. let me enlighten you – you bring your own six-pack. Jon had racks of keyboards on either side of him. I guess you could have called it a mullet. His name was Jon Allmightey. and played a zebra-striped Flying V guitar. which was a smart early 80s new wave ensemble called The X-Statics. Geils band. I always managed to get onstage with people just as a novelty. and likewise drummer Scott Slusser and bassist Curt Robinette. Jon was an amazingly good looking guy. I worked with them for a few months. I sidled up to the lead singer/keyboardist and made friends. and I saw a band playing that was really. big fro and all. but it was a mullet of the Gods. and usually stay open until 7 or 8 am the next morning. when all of the legitimate bars are closing. The All Nite Affair would open at 2 am. the girls. One night. and they would always let me sit in and play a song. really good…except their guitar player sucked! The guy looked just like Magic Dick from the J. and the obligatory rock star custom van. It’s a beautiful concept – the place opened at 2 am. On their break. after a gig we all went to a “bottle club” called “Franco’s All Nite Affair”. or bottle of liquor. and then you order drinks and pay a set-up fee each time you get a drink. and he lived on The Bluffs. His parents were both college professors. an exclusive neighborhood in town. We got there. and he was a classically-trained keyboardist and vocalist from Pensacola. It was a momentous evening that would change my life. and then I would blow them away since I could actually play the guitar pretty damn well.Beginnings | 35 guitarist in town at that time. Someone from Flame and the Heaters remarked that Jon looked like a “new wave Eddie Munster”. We all wanted to be Vic.
I had a beautiful black mid-70s Fender Strat that I had gotten from Vic Valmus. Jon looked at me kind of seriously for a moment. a ’68 Corvette Stingray. and come audition with us Monday night”. and Jon is outside waiting. It had originally be- . I joked about the dimunitive vehicle. and were starting to get well-known around Pensacola as an upand-coming band. calling it his “poor man’s Corvette”. and said “Listen. “At least I have better hair and don’t have a zebra print Flying V guitar!” Jon laughed. folks. So I spent that weekend working on a few songs. Seven years later at the end of The X-Statics Jon would have a ’68 Camaro. Come Monday night. I saw my chance and took it. go learn a few of these. We go inside and I set up my gear. I’ll call a band rehearsal for Monday night at 8 pm. Especially if they have an animal print on them. I said. “So. and two Opel GT’s…and I had a Chevette. all he had was one car. I could have jumped onstage with them the night I met them. The joke would end up being on me. I arrive at the club a little early. paused a moment. but I really dislike odd-shaped guitars. You might as well join Winger or Warrant. and quipped “And I suppose you would be a better guitar player for us”? “Yep” I replied. THAT’S real rock and roll. At this time.36 | Life Story of a Guitar Player and a real Farfisa organ! They always did a real good version of “96 Tears”. To be honest. Here’s our song list. so I could make a good impression on the band. a beat-up Opel GT. a ’67 Camaro. I really dig your band”. “But your guitar player completely sucks and does not fit the band”.
it’s called Unauthorized Absence or “UA in the Navy. my military performance suffered greatly. You pray that the other players can listen. I was sent to Captain’s Mast. I started pursuing a discharge from the Navy with a vengeance.Beginnings | 37 longed to Flame and the Heaters front man Fritz. and you make the best of it. The Army calls it AWOL. Either way. and it was evident that we had something special. We launch into a few Cars songs. The bass player and drummer arrive. and get ready to play. and I grabbed it and ran with it a far as I could. as they play Wednesday-Sunday. and that I was crazy. I used every logical excuse I could. packs up his amplifier and assorted cables while glaring at me (I had brazenly just plugged into his amp to do the audition). but he had reneged on payments. I have come to accept it as a fact of life. as well as play. You pray that you yourself will be open to what they are trying to say musically. and I ended up buying it from Vic. packs his stuff and leaves in a hail of “fuck yous”. That’s not like being late in normal life. and everything “clicked”. He storms in cursing at Jon. there is never enough time to make things “right”. it’s more trouble than you really want to be in. You get together. given two weeks in restrictive custody. and fined $500! This was the last straw for me. The Navy kept . interested audience. Jon looks at me and says “Can you start playing Wednesday?” It’s usually like this in the music biz. For my casual little oversleeping episode. you make music. You all pray for a receptive. and it is Monday night. and do not hesitate to remind you of this fact. After I started playing in The X-Statics. I got busted back down to E-1. I sang harmonies with Jon. So here was my chance. and after my time being locked up. The band is speechless. exchange pleasantries. Right about that time the Magic Dick-looking guy arrives. Somehow he had been alerted that the band was practicing without him. Once you are in the military. they OWN you. I overslept one day and was 4 hours late to school. trying to convince them that my burn injuries had come back to haunt me.
on some property the store owned located out back.38 | Life Story of a Guitar Player threatening to make me a Boatswain’s Mate and have me chip paint for the rest of my enlistment. Anyhow. The day before I was finally going to be released from the Navy. with a bad seventies mustache that resided on his upper lip with a staunch sense of purpose. sea bag. Store . but I had refused to get it cut since my release from service was imminent. my Senior Chief at the barracks called me into his office. I was led to the gate of Corry Field. I took my uniforms. since I had hung around the local music store Zoellner’s Music. and he grabbed me and they both tied me to a chair. as I entered his office as requested. Somehow. I saw that his flunky PO First Class was behind the door. I met a sweet little Navy girl named Melissa. This went back and forth for a few months. She was a Yeoman and did most of my outprocessing paperwork. After securing me with rope. He was a mid forties lifer. My hair had been getting longer. until I was finally issued a General under Honorable Conditions discharge. I managed to convince her to go out with me. and all my Navy paraphernalia and threw it back at them. He looked like the kind of guy that would offer” mustache rides” to women. and they took away my ID and security passes. I managed to get a room behind the music store. and knew that I would never have any need for all those clothes. She was really cool person. with much less hair. The Senior Chief had other plans. I look pretty damn good in a Navy blue pea coat. I probably should have kept the pea coat though. As I walked out of there a free man. A day later. hung out at her house a lot. Luckily during my out-processing. I wanted nothing to do with them. had tons and tons of sex. Luckily. We listened to music. and kept my eye out for someplace to live by myself. I knew this was temporary. and looked after me during this time as I tried to re-enter the world and get my stuff together with The X-Statics. they proceeded to give me the “boot camp special” haircut. and she ended up letting me crash at her place for the first couple of months after my Navy stint.
He later went on to play with local Southeastern circuit favorites Bagdad. It wasn’t the first time I had been around it. and very rarely drank. and we would have jam sessions in the store after hours. We started branching out. We had tons of fun. some other bands around us during that time started to show us what was REALLY go- . He did not like drugs at all. we were building up into a regionally popular band. We did every major college in the Southeastern US multiple times over. I was finishing up a gig with The X-Statics at about 5 in the morning. and we hung out a lot after hours. We played all day long at the Fort. so it was quite a ride. and also helped me to get lots of free drugs and alcohol. I don’t think I paid for drinks for most of that time we were the house band at the All Nite Affair. I can vividly remember the first time I realized that my favorite all-time buzz consisted of 2 joints. However. running around like children jumping on the huge guns and smoking joints. It was one of the perks of the job. I had never tripped. In contrast. LSD. and 6 beers. got a few booking agents. Jon Allmightey was just about a teetotaler. and he had bait – pure cocaine. After the gig was over. 4 lines of coke. a state park on the tip of Pensacola Bay.Beginnings | 39 manager Mike Medlocke was my buddy back then. Lots of local musicians would come by. Being in the band really helped me to get around in the Pensacola scene. when someone dropped a small piece of paper on my toungue. and then went to Nashville to be Highway 101’s touring guitarist. Like it was some kind of scientific formula! One night during this era. but during my time there I developed a taste for it. and did not know what to expect. and The X-Statics were starting to play all over the South. and Mike and I used to hang out at the local bars and try to pick up women. He was better at it than I was. From the little house band at the All Nite Affair. It was blotter acid. all of the “trippers” decided to drive to Ft Pickens. Local guitar sensation Jerry Dawson was 16 when I met him back then. and he was quite a player even at that age.
I saw lots of things I shouldn’t have back then. She was a vegetarian. slap me on the back. and it was amazing. and we were pretty damn good back in our day. from the other bartenders and security guys and of course the customers. and it was literally the time of our lives. But I can still remember the fun. The other guys that worked there would rib me about it.40 | Life Story of a Guitar Player ing on. I raced towards sheer abandon. For some reason. At that time. and a gorgeous little brunette pixie of a girl. To be dancing at the 40 Watt Club in the early 80s was just a joyous experience. bands like REM and The Producers. she took an interest in me. and seeing their success really fueled my ambitions. fragile creature at heart – at home. Jon printed business cards for our band in 1982. I am sure that part of this was seen through my rosy 18 year old innocent glasses. Luckily. “Slow down just a little bit!” . my new found glory was getting me more female attention. We played Athens Georgia a lot back in the early 80s. Susie was an ethereal. On one of our first nights together. she was 31 years old. I still have one of them. and tell me I was “the man”. we were in bed and were making out heavily. I was 18. Susie was wanted by nearly every guy that worked at Franco’s. she would design and craft stained glass art while listening to The Police and smoking pot. One of the bartenders at Franco’s was a beautiful little woman named Susie Vickrey. He termed The X-Statics “Rock’s Alternative” – the first time I can remember seeing that term used in that fashion. Jon was perhaps one of the most talented and artistic individuals I’ve ever performed with. and we dated for nearly 6 months. and a dancer. the optimism. the excitement of that early new wave alternative music scene. but she suddenly stopped me. “Am I doing this wrong?” “Are you going to a FIRE????” she quickly asked. exclaiming “Hey!!!” “What”? I countered. and didn’t have a clue. We began to have sex.
and we began to have a hot and heavy relationship that would continue for most of the time I was in Pensacola. and the art of macramé plant hangers. I started to hear rumors about her infidelities.Beginnings | 41 Susie taught me a lot about the art of sex. she finally broke up with me. and immediately asked me about Franco’s. And I loved that she loved to smoke pot and screw my brains out. After six months. Tina was six months younger than me. Once on the road we were doing a show at Georgia Tech. me and the drummer here TAG TEAMED her when we were in Pensacola. eating lunch in bed. They found out that I was from Pensacola. She felt that I “needed to date women my own age”. I was having a great time being with her. I loved that she had the taste to buy the enhanced Mobile Fidelity Sound Laboratories versions of albums. Which I totally did not understand at that time. watching soap operas. a naturally dirty blonde about 5’6” with long hair and a great body. After this little episode. she was such a freak!”. I felt like a rockstar. As much fun as I had with Susie. I told the guys that we played there a lot when we were home off the road. She was unabashedly sexual and was completely insatiable. and bore a striking resemblance to Sheryl Crow. which I finished off by . They immediately high fived each other and asked me “Do you know that hot waitress Tina? Damn. Tina had sun-browned skin and the kind of streaked naturally dirty blonde hair that Madison Avenue matrons only wish they could buy at a salon. I have rarely seen another woman who could look so good in shorts and a cut-up t-shirt. however. She was a waitress at Franco’s. Since we both worked at night. and I was hanging around with one of the other “A” circuit bands from that era. my true first love was Tina. and I was once again on my own. we spent most of our days having sex. But she was adamant. However. I had to go back and play one more set with the band. as The X-Statics started traveling more. I loved that she cooked the most amazing vegetarian foods. and having more sex.
A little while later. I always tell people this is the saddest Christmas ever. with my bounty of frozen pizza and bad whiskey to the empty house. things are getting a little cloudy in the room. Settling on some Librium. in that Jaime Pressley sort of blonde white trash hottie way. Yes Fred Durst. I went out to do my gig with The X-Statics. It’s at the very least the lamest Christmas ever. Yes. And I am depressed beyond words. I notice that I am seeing clouds . I heat the oven. and basically became a screaming asshole and quit the band. But I always forgave her. I had quit the band. She was a gym rat. She was an athletic. But here it was. Here’s my Christmas story: I am stuck at Karen’s lake house. So I walk to the local grocery store and buy a Totino’s frozen pizza. Christmas time. I have ten dollars to my name. I normally quit that band about once every six months anyway. a house on the water.42 | Life Story of a Guitar Player smashing my guitar into a brick wall and basically breaking the neck. More and more as time went by. as she has fled town for the holidays to avoid her family. I started hearing various things that Tina was up to. tightly wound woman with an amazing hotrodded Z-28. and pour some whiskey and pop some Librium. and he wanted to know if that was a regular part of the show. and began to go through them all. She was very wild. I also stop at the liquor store and buy a fifth of Rich and Rare bourbon. and a father who owned one of the local banks in town. she was hot. and was always on the go. I grabbed a handful of them. took too many of the pills and drank on top of them. I trudge home. It’s OK. the kind that is encased in a little cardboard box ensconced in plastic wrap. During one of the numerous flare ups between Tina and I. Later that night. I did it all for the nookie. place the pizza inside. and took me in and put me up at her lake house in Pensacola. and we made up. Our agent from Atlanta was there. I noticed quite a bounty of pills in her medicine cabinet. and I had broken up with Tina. the 99 cent kind. it was the sex. completely did not give a fuck. Mmmmm. mmmm. I had hooked up with a local 32 year old woman named Karen. around Christmas 1984. Yes. good.
angels who have guided me away from trouble and kept me safe. “I’m Renee”. and how did we both get here” I asked as I awoke with the sun streaming in the lakefront window of the house. Guilt is a great way to get free alcohol and drugs. and many womens. Grabbing the pan with a bar towel. So. where The XStatics are playing with Jerry Dawson replacing me.Beginnings | 43 inside the little lake house. It’s always better mentally for a musician if they get replaced with someone not quite as good as they were. and that I have burnt the poor crappy pizza into a small flaming black ruin. Boy. a woman that I had never spoken to. I have a pocketful of pills. Renee was a very voluptuous and statuesque woman. It’s amazing to me how I have met true angels from time to time in my life. “Who the hell are you. I hurl the flaming black disk into the lake. though”. as she had an amazing body and natural 40DD boobs that could catch any mans. She had thick long hair that reminded me of a horse’s mane that . I end up at the All Nite Affair. I woke up to her in bed the next morning. eyes. it was hard getting directions out of you when you were passed out. Merry fucking Christmas. so it hurts even worse. and pour another glass of Rich & Rare. Suddenly I realize the clouds are smoke. as the bartenders knew I was in bad shape and felt bad for me. Somehow that night. Luckily. I end up in a stupor. And damnit. Jerry sounds really good with the band. yet another blackout in my young life. and do not remember the rest of the evening. someone had been watching me from the shadows for months. and carte blanche to drink as much as I want for free. she said “And I brought you back here last night. “built like a brick shithouse” as they say in the South. I don’t know how I could have missed her coming to see the band.
came close to death. “You passed out in the corner. “You just looked so sad and alone”. they tell you that you start to recover memories like these after you have been sober for some time. wrecked cars and lives. but all I can remember is seeing the red carpet of the All Nite Affair. Up close. and wrecked myself… it’s sobering. and Renee kicked me out. I re-joined The X-Statics after a few weeks. or a dollar – I lived with Renee for a few months. Luckily The X-Statics were leaving for a road trip that day. but I still held a flame for Tina. Arthur . I did. I tried to remember the events of the evening. cut in that typical late 70s feathered look parted down the middle. and when the opportunity arose to take Tina home with me one night. But alcohol was always there with me. since Karen was off doing her thing. I brought both Tina and her best friend April over to Renee’s apartment and had sex with Tina in Renee’s bed. when Jon had calmed down. Except we were in 1984. a job. Renee truly did like me. she said as we lay there in the bed. Renee’s next door neighbor heard to tell-tale “click clack” of Tina and April’s highheel shoes. I thought I only had a problem with drugs.44 | Life Story of a Guitar Player flowed down her shoulders. and I helped you to my car”. and witnessed me ushering them into the apartment. and the more I peel back the layers of the onion and realize how many times I blacked out. I was busted the next day. Our bass player at that time in the X-Statics was Arthur “Ferrari” Hall. I was on the loose. and I was alone at the time without a band. As we left for Ft Benning Georgia. Of course. and I simply grabbed my guitar and my clothes and headed out on the road. Naturally. When I initially went in for my first rehab. an affable Scotsman who had grown up in Gulf Breeze on Pensacola Beach. In the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Charley “Goathead” McGraw. and that’s just the ones I can remember 20 years later. had ratty 80 metal hair. Seeing Clapton and Hendrix play them inspired me. Vic used to find beautiful vintage 60s custom color Fender Strats for around $600. the year of my birth. not to mention Richie Blackmore and other icons who favored the sleek instrument. Brad from the “Cool Babies”…. Vic Valmus then turned me on in the early 80s about how much cooler the 50s and 60s era Stratocasters were. because that guitar is an obsession. My love for the Fender Stratocaster goes way back in my youth. I was playing at the All Nite Affair one night.Kurt Robinette. Over all the years we did it. I was renting his Marshall 50 watt combo guitar amp. Arthur Ferrari. and smelled like saddle soap. The modern Gibson and Fender guitars in the late 70s and early 80s truly did suck. We were traveling this trip with a temporary roadie named Dwight who was working for us as a fill-in. He wore a black leather bomber jacket. Tommy Gunn.Beginnings | 45 had played in some competing bands to us around town. and I was always secretly jealous of his ability to seemingly conjure up these rare guitars from within closets and under beds. We did this a lot. and The X-Statics went through bass players. James Bowie. and we rode in the back of the equipment truck with the door open all the way down the interstate highway. Arthur and I had secured ourselves a case of cheap beer. Dwight was a frustrated guitarist who played metal guitar in a vaguely Michael Schenker sort of style. it was a great way to see the sights traveling that way. God bless Jonathan Richman for writing a song about it. Let me see…. Spinal Tap went through drummers. This particular trip. we only got stopped by the cops a couple of times for riding in the back of the truck that way. and ended up playing bass with us like a lot of other bass players did. as I had made a quick deal the week before for a beautiful vintage 1964 Fender Stratocaster. when some scruffy looking dude comes up to the stage and says “I heard you like Fender Stratocast- .
So here we are on the road. For some reason. It only took me about 30 seconds to decide. So at the end of the night. So as I am wearing the jacket. they carted away my guitar and amp. But I simply HAD to have that Strat. “Whatcha got”? The band took a break. he said. about 4-5 each. and I knew I could get another amp somehow. I literally had a woman walk to my table. which is enough to “tranquilize a horse” as . Blue Valiums. covered in a wood cabinet and a real wicker grille. I feel a pill bottle in the pocket. it looked like something that would not be out of place in someone’s high-end Florida room. Dwight is a SERIOUS pill head. go to the band truck. So Arthur and I take a few. Unbeknownst to Arthur and I. I pull it out and put the contents into my hand. “Sure do!” I replied. drinking beer all the way to Ft Benning. and I took the Strat home. “The guitar player in my band don’t have no amp”. Military girls have always seemed to like me for some reason. blow me in the band truck. bring me back in and have a drink before the break was over. grab my hand. Yum. I hated my current guitar at that time. and the scruffy guy comes back in with a beautiful Olympic White 1964 Pre-CBS Stratocaster. with absolutely no conversation. I end up with Dwight’s smelly leather bomber jacket. “I’ll trade you the Strat for your guitar and your Legend amp”. My Legend amp was really cool though. We get to the club and set up.46 | Life Story of a Guitar Player ers”. a great guitar and amp tech in Pensacola. There is a local rock club just off base that we play a few times a year. Arthur and Dwight and I are in the back of the truck. It was BEAUTIFUL. I had that guitar completely rebuilt and refretted by Dick Boyden. pull me outside. I could tell the look in Dick’s eyes that he hated seeing me have that guitar. because he knew I would fuck it up somehow. And he was right. Brings back memories of my mom’s medicine chest back in the 70s.
“It’s just that we’re on the road. and I would three-piece the band. Jon tells us the next day that I told him he could sit down. I told him to fuck off. grabbing me off the bed. demanding to know where the rest of his pills are. I got the band truck. Arthur rises up and grabs Dwight. I NEED THEM” he wailed. I’m surprised we weren’t fired. We had no idea we were dealing with someone as addicted to those pills as he was. like a vintage unsold Minimoog synthesizer I found in a mom-n-pop shop in Sarasota for $200. it was no big deal. “What the fuck Dwight?” I scream back. and we pin him to the wall. To Arthur and I. and headed to a local Podunk Music Store. I didn’t need to play it that week. “And I’m gonna kick your ass if I don’t get them back!” he threatened. however. I don’t even remember the actual gig. Dwight comes STORMING into my hotel room. Alabama. and I NEED them. Occasionally I will find something amazing in these places. I had never really seen this level of addiction before. EBay has about killed that.Beginnings | 47 my mom would say. I am more than sure the results were atrocious. loaded Arthur in it. Very . “It’s just some fucking pills…do you want the money for them or something?” He just slid down the wall and almost started to cry. “Where are my fucking pills?” He screams. and I can’t get anymore of them until we get back. but it was a Tuesday night and it was a slow night anyway. You have to love some of the local little music stores in small towns. I love how items that cost me $5 in New York cost me $20 in Selma. and to take his amp with him. and I immediately looked at Dwight like he was pond scum lower than low trash.
I pick out a new Hondo guitar. We had a couple of neighbors. and some misplaced anger – I traded a guitar that today would be worth right around $30. for the price of some cheap beer. immediately calling his brother to come to the shop. as well as nothing greater than sheer stupidity. the Valium is still coursing through my veins and I am in some kind of post-pill popping bad dream. So. but I am nothing if not determined. but he cannot. a little suburb of Pensacola near the Navy base. however.000 for the cheapest piece of shit guitar I ever owned. Her grandparents owned a large farm outside of Pensacola near Cantonment. of course Tina and I had gotten back together. He had . I still have the little yellow receipt for that transaction. Arthur tries to stop me. We were living in a trailer in Warrington. This was great news. as I hated living in the trailer park. and his girlfriend Kristie. and the guitar’s serial number was #L. and cart in my pristine 1964 Strat. I show the shop owner the guitar. I pull into this music shop. a handful of Valiums. I see myself doing this as though outside my own body. Greg was a great guy. a cool local Pensacola guy named Greg. we always eventually did no matter what trouble she had gotten into.Anyone know where she is these days? After Renee. Lots of people since have tried to stop me as well. a cheap amp. a ten acre spread with a four bedroom house and a huge barn. These are consequences of my drug and alcohol abuse. His girlfriend. was a different story. There was much family discussion.24365 . and he literally salivates over it. and it was decided that Tina and I should live at the property and watch it.48 | Life Story of a Guitar Player few treasures left to find now that they are all online. just a local stoner who worked a day job and liked to hang out and play guitar. and a couple of cheap effects pedals.
Greg and Kristie got evicted from their trailer. and stupidly Tina offered them one of the extra bedrooms in our new house. and I always knew not to trust her. And then the night of blood. For one brief month. and Tina and I drove home and made it back to the farm around 5 am that morning. I could not believe it.Beginnings | 49 met her on the streets of Birmingham Alabama and had taken her in. seeing as how we had just escaped having to deal with the two of them on a daily basis. Tina and I were normal. and rolled over and tickled Tina awake. As we entered the dark house. I did my show that night. as they were getting settled. we had left the house around 11 pm. She was always a morning girl…and an afternoon girl…and an evening girl. and we were performing at a bottle club in Pensacola called “The Nite Owl”. I didn’t see either Greg or Kristie up and about. well-adjusted young homeowners in a beautiful house on ten acres of prime farmland. As we entered the kitchen. about a month after Tina and I had moved to the farm. but here we were moving in their stuff the very next day. I heard a soft moan coming from their bedroom. We fooled around a bit. She had that look in her eyes that reminded me of an abused animal. and figured they were either having sex or talking in their sleep. Naturally. one that is bent on revenge. and they spent a lot of time with us. I awoke around 2 pm that afternoon. to get to the club on time. The thought of the former gave me involuntary chills. the two of them seemed to have a happy life. sharing meals and smoking pot whenever one of us had some. Kristie called Tina and cried to her about their plight. then got sort of dressed and went to the kitchen to make coffee. we could see Kristie’s blood covered body lying in the kitchen floor. I was still playing in The X-Statics at this time. Tina was there with me. and figured they were asleep. We left Greg and Kristie at the house alone. However. and the floor was . Kristie was sketchy at best.
So there we were. As I forced the door. So. stunned that this could have happened. She . Greg was not conscious. Scott’s girlfriend at that time. I felt Greg’s limp body slumped against it fall to the floor. and I managed to force it open eventually. at 5:30 am. On this particular night. had gotten into a drunken fight with him. I told the band what had happened. although she had blown both Jon and the drummer Scott on two occasions. After what seemed like ages.50 | Life Story of a Guitar Player stained with blood as well. and the helicopter flew Greg to the Emergency Room. left alone. I never really got past that. the ambulances arrived and the helicopter touched down on our previously quiet little farm. Before we left the house. and disturbed. I raced through the house to find Greg. It was about an ounce. He had been badly beaten with a baseball bat. stoned and shaking Tina and I went back to the gig that night. It didn’t seem like either of them were going to be needing it anytime soon. Beth. although we had continued to play together. and I urged Tina to tell the 911 operator to send the Life Flight Helicopter. Tina and I looked around at the sheer carnage and blood. and I noticed the feathered flourishes of blood where it was obvious someone had been swinging a bloody implement repeatedly. as I knew Greg was in bad shape. As I reached their bedroom door. because Greg owed him $250 for a quarter-pound of pot. we managed to locate Greg’s stash of weed. The ambulances took Kristie away. and they just shook their heads. drunk. There was blood seeping out from under the door. I tried to open it but to no avail. Something about her story never rang true with me. and immediately had Tina call 911. but was only around an hour. but badly beaten. and we took it with us. Tina got really drunk and took off into the night with some of her friends and did not return. and he had left her at the Nite Owl alone. Kristie insisted that some biker had broken in and tried to kill them both. None of them had ever really liked Tina. and boy we needed it. I knew that bitch was crazy the first day I met her. She was conscious.
administered lie detector tests. as she lived in Gulf Breeze out on the water. So off we go to the Pensacola Police department headquarters. and we started driving toward her apartments. and basically did everything they could think of to break us down. Fuck you Scott and Tina. The only problem was. she gave me a kiss and a wink as I dropped her at her driveway. they came to visit me. and respectfully watched us play our last set. We were driving down Navy Blvd in Pensacola when Beth suddenly asked me to pull into an apartment complex. and drove away smiling into the morning sun. “Hey. No words were spoken. Robert DeVito right? We need you and your little girlfriend Tina to com with us and answer a few questions about your friends Greg and Kristie”. so I took the opportunity to experiment with my meditative practice and see if it could really influence the results of the lie detector tests. and of course Tina and I were suspects #1 and #2. I brought her home. The local Pensacola cops did not believe a word of Kristie’s story. Plus. After I had finished the last song and was putting my guitar in the case. The cops eventually figured that out. I had managed to piss them off by essentially going into a meditative state while they attempted to administer to me lie detector tests. busted Tina for having a joint in her purse. The detectives came to an X-Statics gig the very next night at the Nite Owl. I knew it was not where she lived. I pulled into a parking space. They stood out in their polyester suits and brown shoes in the dingy late-nite bottle club. I knew that I was not guilty and knew next to nothing about what had happened. They grilled us for 24 hours straight. threatening us severely if we had withheld any pertinent information. and let us go. Beth and I just reset the karmic balance. these detectives had quite possibly some of the worst fashion sense I had ever . we didn’t know anything.Beginnings | 51 got into my car. and Beth literally gave me one of the most amazing blowjobs I have ever had in my life.
mustaches. He didn’t remember that he had it anyway. preferably made with real Kahlua and at least Smirnoff vodka. Foster Grants. The evidence would eventually reveal that it was indeed Kristie.52 | Life Story of a Guitar Player seen. where you got your very own personalized beer mug that hung at the bar once you ran through the entire imported beer gauntlet. It was quite a moment of belonging.the glowing friendship of a beer-forged brotherhood. I favored Black Russians. At least I got to smoke all the rest of Greg’s pot. I never liked drinking “well-brand” alcohol. I say. and then had turned it upon herself to make it look like she was attacked. Beware of trying to fix anyone. due to the brain damage. An even more disconcerting part of the story is that she was several months pregnant with Greg’s kid at that time (as far as we knew). I joined a local beer club in Pensacola that featured a “drink your way around the world” program. always leaning towards the top shelf stuff. and polyester…it made me feel like I was in a surreal Village People video. if you please. I drank an average of 6-7 drinks a night. Why let it go to waste? Any respectable druggie would have done the same – clean the area of any drugs and paraphernalia so that no one got busted. Usually at my gigs. There’s nothing worse than a reformed whore – Oscar Wilde had it right. sometimes more. especially slutty women. In the early part of my drinking career. There were several times where we were on the road. something that I am sure many an alcoholic has felt -. Greg eventually somehow recovered. I drank a lot during these days. and my bar tab at . but with some lingering severe brain damage. The crazy bitch had taken a baseball bat and nearly beaten Greg to death with it. and to the survivor go the spoils.
and shouts “They got here while you were passed out.Beginnings | 53 the end of the week would exceed my pay for that week. I got really and properly pissed off. only to have her tell me that she was going off To Biloxi to date the keyboard player from the band The Heat. I turn over and look up at Jon. Within 45 minutes. She was the runner-up Miss Mississippi. where it had been empty an hour before. Paula the beautiful bartender saw the look in my eyes. and play pretty well. I am not sure of how much time has gone by. So THAT’S where all the water came from. and headed straight for the bar. downed it. and was working my way towards finishing another. and was the epitome of a beautiful southern belle. The entire parking lot is full of people. Somehow I summon the strength to play. and I simply ordered that she give me a fifth of Crown Royal and a rock glass. and downed it several times in rapid succession. I filled the rock glass with the sweet Canadian whiskey. Jon took care of all the band money and I paid little attention to the business end of what was going on. I had called home to talk to Tina. Mississippi on a regular basis. We used to play a club in Vicksburg. As I awoke. pissed off. I had emptied the bottle. It was just too much fun partying my life away during that era. Great. another blackout episode. who is standing there with an empty five gallon bucket. and one of the bartenders there was just one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. Strictly . I ask Jon “Where did all these people come from?” He looks at me. except I don’t do any guitar solos. refilled it. when everything went black. I am seeing myself perform from outside my body. On one of my trips to play this club. I was aware of being spread out soaking wet on the hood of a car. slammed the phone down. Once again. you drunk fucker! I just dumped an entire bucket of ice and water on you just to wake you up! Now let’s go play or we’re gonna get fired!” We rush into the club and hit the stage. and I would be “in the hole”.
there are what looks like a battalion of stuffed animals and pillows on the bed. big brown eyes. and her bed is covered in pink mosquito netting. and started drinking beer until they showed up later that afternoon. I am determined not to let my mouth ruin it by making snide comments about her décor and teenage fashion sensibilities. I completely pass out on the nasty stage carpet right in front of my guitar amp. everything is some shade of pink. We alcoholics do have an amazing capability to make things happen. but I remind myself that she’s a former beauty queen and blow it off. the band leaves me on the stage. Realizing the band had left me there on purpose. Don’t leave the fox in the henhouse. This bedroom looks like Strawberry Shortcake on acid. and even Jon is somewhat impressed at how well I pull it off. It is the most girly room I have ever seen. At the end of the night. I play the guitar like a possessed man. I cranked up our massive PA system. on of my last trips up there. My short time dating her is a testament to the power of persistence. I sent her flowers. I have met some of the most creative people in the world at bars and at AA meetings. . put in a tape. I was ecstatic. face down on this carpet at 2 in the afternoon. She had light brown chestnutty colored hair. she acquiesced and allowed me to come home with her one night after work. and wrote her letters from Pensacola. and kept asking her out every time we played there. to pull through in the nick of time. I awake the next day. I was not easily put off. I decided to say “fuck them”. And finally. to pull it all together for the big finale. After months of trying to sleep with Paula. We go to her house. My Vicksburg love affair was the former beauty queen Paula. as she is truly one of the most physically beautiful women I have ever been with. and a body that made me want to sob openly. and she brings me to her bedroom.54 | Life Story of a Guitar Player rhythm on this evening. you idiots. I swear to this day she slept with me simply so she could get rid of me.
I have nothing against fine lingerie. Regardless. Ok. We spent a couple of lovely hours in her pink mosquito-netted girly bed. “I’m going to go freshen up” she said in that lilting southern drawl of hers. Finally the bedroom door opened and she rushed inside and closed it immediately. Or mounted. that she had changed her mind about the evening. One child beauty pageant after another. hair dripping wet. yet somewhat creepy to look at all at once. in nothing but a towel. and I was just an aberration in her plan.Beginnings | 55 She begins this evening by pulling out what seems like endless photo albums. it’s true. but this was overload. It took me nearly 20 minutes to get all of that “wrapping” off the poor girl. It was interesting. By this point. Paula came back into the room looking like she was auditioning for the Fredericks of Hollywood Fall Catalog. Now I knew why she had taken what seemed like another hour to freshen up. I would have been more turned on if she had just re-entered the room fresh from the shower. This was a woman who had her life in order. after a long ritual of placing the stuffed animals “just so” on the floor. that she and her father were busy loading the shotguns. I saw Paula in her southern debutante upbringing. She plowed through these memory books. Men are simple. . One after the other. if you prefer. But I’m still glad I slept with her. she gathered them up and placed them on her Georgia pine desk in the corner of her room. maybe I’m a bad person. Being alone in my head is a dangerous place to be. my mind had already thought of many possible scenarios – that she had escaped out the bathroom window. “Be back in a minute” A minute turned into another half hour. Paula taught me that with persistence nearly anything can be surmounted. and I got to see her grow up in that strange netherworld of beauty pageant life. After what seemed like a couple of hours of photo overload.
The gigs with The X-Statics continued. and my mother ran an orthopedic surgeon’s clinic in Hyde Park. Hot Coffee. After seeing right in front of my eyes what happened with REM. I figured I would end up in Tampa once The X-Statics were through. Pascagoula. The Volley Club. Georgia and asked never to return. and I had just about had it with merely being a jukebox for alcoholics all over the South. Razzles Bottle Club. My songs seemed to never get into the songlist. Mississippi when we were supposed to be in Greenville. My parents by this time had landed in Tampa. My father ran a large technical school there called Tampa Tech. but she was finished with me evidently. and I was right. Greenville. Did you know there is a Greenville in nearly every state in the south? We once ended up in Greenville. The problem with the band was becoming evident to everyone – we were just not an original act. Jon had written a sum total of 5 songs.56 | Life Story of a Guitar Player I wrote her several times after our encounter. Opp. There was a really happening music scene. we had been arrested in a Burger King in Oxford. Florida. We had been thrown out of Albany. I knew that our band had no future. and I liked Tampa in the beginning. the Tampa Bay area had an assortment of live music venues like Mark Twains. On a break from the band. Georgia. Birmingham. After 6 years of being The X-Statics. much larger than that of Pensacola. Atlanta. The Rock-it Club. . we played all over the south regularly in towns like Biloxi. I still swear she slept with me just to get rid of me. I would come down and visit. and I began to plan on leaving the group I had spent years of my life touring with. and many more. We played 95% cover material. Alabama for unruly behavior. the 49th Street Mining Co. and we had nearly been arrested for breaking into a nightclub that owed us money and would not pay. In the mid-80s. Somehow by the grace of God we all managed to make it through those crazy years largely unscathed.
Beginnings | 57 Our last road trip in the band was straight from hell. cigarettes. I am quite happy not to talk to people. and then headed over to Vicksburg to play a week club engagement. South Carolina. I quit the band onstage one night. and it was located 45 miles away on Eagle Lake. The club had decided to cut costs. We had done a one-nighter in Atlanta. any experienced musician will experience great fear and well-deserved trepidation. Our trailer was a fishing trailer. and hit the road. and a small convenience store and bait shop. and RC Colas that week. The convenience store & bait shop will be forever etched in my mind. Marlboros. simply packed my stuff. mind-numbing experiences I have ever had. Most of the time. and instead of putting us up in a hotel. Eagle Lake was one of the most depressing. riding a bus for a trip that long sucks. We had to make it a week under these conditions. a desolate stop on the highway with nothing more than a dozen broken down fishing trailers. ac- . beer. One time we had all stayed at a band house in Greenville. and it didn’t seem likely we were going to find any. Basically they sold Lance crackers. got a bus ticket. When you hear the words “band house”. we were informed the alleged “band house” was actually a trailer. After what seemed to be a 2 hour drive. And we had absolutely no pot. we arrived at Eagle Lake. And I always tend to attract really talkative people who decided to corner me in the bus seats. Don’t ever be misled. they had a “band house” for us. I am an isolator. Somehow I managed to survive on Moon Pies. I took a Trailways bus from Vicksburg all the way to Tampa. boring. I had had it. By the end of the week. The bathtub did not even have a shower head. just a rusty blood covered spigot with scales and fish skin in the bottom of the tub. Once we arrived at the club. used by fishermen to drink beer and clean fish. It was somewhat humorous to see all my fellow bandmates scratching themselves furiously all week long. and had slept unknowingly in the very same sheets and bedding that the last band had used – and our entire band caught the crabs. and bait.
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cording to my therapists and recovery people. But sometimes a person NEEDS to isolate, especially when riding a public bus. I managed to make it down to Tampa with all my equipment unscathed, and on the way down we had a stopover in Tallahassee. I had managed to score a joint in the bus station, and had snuck out into downtown while the bus was stopped for an hour. I smoked that joint right on the steps of some huge official looking building. It was not until I left that I realized I had burnt that doobie right on the front steps of the Florida Dept of Law Enforcement building. Just my luck, I suppose. But I am one of the only people I know who could do something that brazen and actually get away with it.
the Tampa days
Tampa was a fresh start for me. It was sunny and bright, and I initially enrolled in my father’s Technical School and did a couple of semesters with great grades and attendance, but then rapidly got bored and missed the musician’s life. I was single most of this time in Tampa. Since I wasn’t playing in a band, I wasn’t really catching the ladies eyes like I normally did. I hated being a normal 9-5 schlub with a job. I worked at Circle K and did the dreaded 11 pm – 7 am shift for a while, then ended up stocking groceries at Kash and Karry. Until the grocery store figured out that I was definitely not the person that they wanted to be stocking their beer and wine. I would get completely toasted all night long, then go home and pass out after work. Most days, I hung around with my friend Mark, riding around in our eternal quest to find someone who had pot. He had a red Dodge Challenger, with the “Starsky & Hutch” paintjob, so we weren’t exactly stealth. Just two guys on the loose, looking for hot women and good marijuana. Our biggest thrill in these days was riding through the apartment complexes in north Tampa seeking out the pools, where the girls would be laying out getting tan and getting melanoma. Mark had installed a semi-truck airhorn in his car, and we would slowly idle by the pool, then hit the horn to scare the sunbathers, praying to find the ones that were lying face down with their tops untied. Many times we got lucky as these frightened women would immediately jump up topless to see what the heck all the noise was. And we got to see boobs. I played with a variety of rag-tag bands at first. Top 40 bands, Reggae
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bands, rock bands, country bands. Nothing ever really “clicked” for me at that time. Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins was living in Tampa during this time and he was frustrated too, as he couldn’t seem to put a band together either. He had auditioned and gone through the musician’s classifieds in the paper, but could not find anyone to play with in the Tampa scene. So he moved back to Chicago and recorded “Gish” in his father’s basement. We had some good bands in Tampa that did get signed during this time, bands like Stranger, Parade in Paris, Four in Legion, Savatage, Secret Service, Julliet, and others. I was just so far out from being in “the scene” that it was frustrating. So when The Heat called me from Biloxi, I hit the road with them – ironically replacing Donald the keyboard player who used to sleep with my first love Tina frequently when I was in The X-Statics. The guys in the band never let me forget this, but we all gelled musically and I was back to playing professionally. In Biloxi, we had a house gig at the Crazy Horse Saloon. This was a true rock n roll roadhouse kind of gig. A nice large stage, with a cavernous interior dotted with pool tables and the walls hung around with all sorts of Wild West memorabilia. I lived with the bass player Greg in a trailer that sat in the direct sunlight during a hot Mississippi summer. We would huddle in the afternoon next to the one window unit air conditioner that we had, praying for sundown. It was HOT that summer; we had almost no money, but somehow managed to have fun. One of the bartenders at the Crazy Horse was a beautiful brunette named Amanda, and I spent quite a bit of time with her, going down to the lake, parking and drinking cheap beer, floating around on inner tubes. That is, until SHE came into the club one night. Beth was a rock and roll queen. Long bleached blonde hair that was teased up so high it taunted the sky, supported by a fantastic body that was usually clothed in a tight little top and a black leather miniskirt. I was a rock and roll guitar god, and she was a rock and roll queen.
I was initially taken aback upon meeting Rob. Everyone knew it was the end. and would love to have them all come down and hang out. regaling me with stories of her supposed Scottish royal heritage. and started going downhill. Before the band split up. and did not seem to have a job. as one of the road crew had gotten married and the band took the week off. and I prepared to go back to Tampa and take Beth with me. we had a great experience that has always stayed with me. Judas Priest were playing at the Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi one week. We were an instant celebrity couple there in Biloxi. making out like teenagers. and each of them looked like little gothic siblings. that I played in the house band at The Crazy Horse. had a beautiful 1974 Corvette Stingray. both wearing little black bathing suits with “night-white” flesh and jet black hair. I simply told him how much I loved his music. but I managed to meet lead vocalist Rob Halford at the pool. I’m easily swayed by big tits and blonde hair. Beth was a very unique girl. She was a classic habitual liar. staying at the trailer from hell with Greg. changed their name. we were in the ladies room at the Crazy Horse. but that he had to save his voice for the tour and was not supposed to talk much during the day. and that she still owned the family castle in Scotland. and tits that turned heads everywhere she went. I guess I just sort of blew off all these indicators that screamed “RUN AWAY” because we were having sex on an hourly basis. got the ad- . Rob initially tried to ditch me. I didn’t question it at the time. We were basically living together from the first week we met. Like many men. until she ran out of checks and I found out she was wanted for fraudulent check writing. and they stayed in town for a week. Rob immediately got interested. Guitarists Glenn Tipton and KK Downing played golf all week. it was obvious that The Heat were winding down just like The X-Statics did. After about 6 months. The band hired a female vocalist. she built hot rods for a hobby.The Tampa Days | 61 Within 15 minutes of our introduction. saying he would love to chat. Beth seemed to have an endless supply of money. as he was flanked by both his boyfriend AND girlfriend.
while his drummer was busy trying to get Beth to go do coke with him in the bathroom. and the performance space looks dangerously like the place Spinal Tap plays. . albeit a few months stop in Key West. Beth and I drove the Corvette to New Orleans. he said. Typical rock and roll night. As I type this. Heart’s “Barracuda” and some others. It is 11:45 pm. My whole life has been hitting the road again. that was probably the most patriotic I have ever felt on a military base. Luckily we played some of the material that I could really shine one. I set aside a few tables with a reserved sign. stayed with my friends Billy and Lucy Murry for a few weeks. we played a few games of pool. Beth is wanted in Mississippi for fraudulent checks. and tell the band and the club owner what Rob plans to do. exactly at midnight. and we play the first two sets. a grey meeting hall with a dance floor. taking off the t-tops. Rob was a total gentleman. Still no sign of the band. along with various and sundry members of the crew. I had driven Beth’s ‘74 Corvette to the gig. of course. “I will be there at midnight”. He and the drummer from the band showed up. This is one huge military base. Rob took the time to compliment my playing. up comes the entourage with Rob in front. Lieutenant. No Rob. No one believes me. and he actually checked out my guitar playing when we did the next set. I salute you. and met a young and beautiful Lieutenant from the Air Force. and it is time to hit the road again. I would have killed the female vocalist right there onstage if she had called the cheesy stuff we did. and I ended up taking her out to the car. No Judas Priest. all very governmental looking and official. 11:55 and I am getting antsy. The band grinds to a halt. I am still on the road now. and told me to reserve 4 tables for Friday night. and having sex right there in the parking lot.62 | Life Story of a Guitar Player dress. We made out backstage. Of course I am beside myself. One of the last gigs I did with The Heat was at Keesler Airforce Base in Biloxi. Finally.
still waiting for Beth to return. I figured that she took a walk or was getting sodas for us to drink with dinner. I decided against calling an ambulance. When I arrived home. so I drove her directly to St Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. but sometimes it’s the only choice you have. I was barking orders like my mother would have – “Get me a gurney. has a weak pulse. no Beth. One thing Beth had neglected to inform me was that she was pregnant with someone else’s child when we met. She very nearly died right there . which was closed. For some unknown reason. I literally drove right up to the large double glass doors that are the entrance to the Trauma Center. Beth was not in the room. By this time I am both stoned and paranoid wondering where she is. let’s go NOW!!!” Luckily the intake nurses did not question my judgment. as I scrambled to get a job and find us a real place to live. bought a beat up Chevette and headed down to Tampa to an uncertain future. I smoke the joint. At that time. I always hate staying in those places. sitting there by myself. I glanced at the bathroom door. I waited a few minutes. they were one of the hottest bands in Tampa Bay. and then started rolling a joint. got an ounce of dirt weed. We lived off the Shanghai Express Fast Chinese Food Drive In. Once we finally made it to the Big Guava. and her lips and fingernails are almost white. As I carried her in. and Beth was instantly taken into the trauma center and stabilized. she is breathing very shallowly. picked her up over my shoulder and threw her into the Chevette. eating fried rice and egg rolls for weeks. We had been there a couple of weeks. However. and made extra money by dealing pot. we have a code blue patient here. I rush over to investigate. there was a river of red blood coming from underneath the door. One night. we settled into a “weekly rate” Motel 6 in North Tampa. and stopped through the Chinese drive-through. I kept waiting. I do a quick check of her vitals. I stopped by to see them. I made a trip to see my friends from a local band.The Tampa Days | 63 sold the Corvette to a dealer in New Orleans. I knew that she had to have immediate trauma care. flinging open the door to reveal an unconscious Beth lying in a pool of her own blood.
and this was just further evidence to them that she was plainly crazy. locked in the back. damn near killing herself. However. After the show. and when Scott stood up. mike stands. they both felt the truck sink in the water. At this point. sometimes stoned. and the band had recently suffered a major truck accident. and she nursed Beth back to health. this never happened as I was the one who drove the truck the most frequently. covered in speakers. During these trying weeks. and I nearly let her die by sitting there smoking a joint being clueless. They did not know what happened. I got a call from Jon Allmightey offering me some more gigs with The X-Statics. Jon had replaced me with some other local guitarist. but the new guitarist wanted to leave immediately and drive all the way back to Pensacola. and then fell asleep at the wheel. Over the next few weeks as she recovered. and other equipment. and the band played a one-nighter in Atlanta. He was still trying to keep the band alive. In all the years that I was in the band. and that the truck was now . she admitted that she had tried to give herself an abortion in the hotel bathroom.64 | Life Story of a Guitar Player in the hotel room. allowed Beth to come home to their house. My mother. I guess she has never quite been able to get the RN out of her system. driving the truck into the swamp. sometimes drunk. sometimes both – I feel truly grateful today that I avoided ever wrecking the truck and injuring my fellow band members or other innocent people. they both thought the idiot guitarist had driven off a bridge. Jon told me he and Scott woke up in the back of the truck. always there when someone is sick or dying. Of course my mother was one of the first people on the scene to help out. the rest of the band wanted to stay in Atlanta and sleep through the night. after touring and driving over a million miles with that band. ever the nurse. My family was leery of Beth from the very beginning. My mom is just like that. logging over a millions miles of driving in the 80s. What he managed to actually do was make it a couple of hours into South Georgia.
The rest of us basically left with nothing but our last paycheck. That’s rock and roll. expressing concern about Beth. he just didn’t want to state the obvious. I knew the dates with the band were temporary. Needless to say. we did mostly college shows and a few clubs. he owned the entire PA system and light show. or as my father referred to it. Beth managed to get a job as a night auditor for a hotel right next door to the one she nearly died in. only weeks from having been released from the hospital. During this time. My father and mother had called me. Jon was still just trying to pay off the last of the band debts and move on. and was doing quite well financially. “Well” my father tried to explain “She likes to go shopping at Albertsons a lot…around 1 am in the morning…with her miniskirt and makeup on…etc”. all was not well. Jon had amassed quite a little fortune. and they were only a block away from the notorious Nebraska Avenue in North Tampa. Yes. So I managed to come back to Tampa. This joint was called the “Interstate Motor Inn”. I could really pick them. Beth and I had already been through romantically for some time. Back in Tampa. We somehow managed to negotiate that gauntlet that the insurance company placed before us.000 house. I came home from a gig one night. and she was in the kitchen with some Cuban guy cooking up freebase cocaine.The Tampa Days | 65 floating out to sea. that guitarist had the shortest career of any X-Static ever. Which was that Beth was sleeping around on me. This was actually the kind of hotel that offered hourly rates.000 for a $150. and she left Beth her house in the will. and ended up with around $30. that the band was really over and had been so for the last year. My father is many things. So. At this point. had four hot rod cars. and while living in my parent’s house. but he is far from stupid. and sinking a little at a time. Beth’s mother died that summer from a brain tumor. At the end. but I . and got a small apartment near my parent’s house where Beth and I lived for a few months. I had no idea what they were doing. the “Intercourse Motor Inn”. I went back out on the road with the guys.
missile testing sites. rented a practice space. probably the size of an 8 ball. and more. They shared an apartment with a neurotic whippet named “Mick”. and were barely getting by at the time. Jimmy produced a sheet of blotter acid. We found a great local drummer named Jay Arce. Luckily. Not a great idea for a guitar player. and their Dad had been a country songwriter who had a day job at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. Lisa. and promptly put him out on his ass. I spent the whole weekend over there. having put out two albums and touring incessantly. The brothers had made a good name for themselves. Jimmy and Joey were the core of this band. The first time I met Jimmy. held her against the wall. “Hatterfox”.66 | Life Story of a Guitar Player knew I didn’t like it. and ended up going after this guy ready to beat him silly. and away we went. designers. Jimmy and I hit it off from the first day we met. And I did end up with about an eight of an ounce of incredibly high quality cocaine. and started sweating out the rehearsals. so we had worked for the same agents and played at the same clubs and colleges. I grabbed Beth. At least Beth always made good connections. I took the proffered gift. long curly hair and total rock attitude. There are a lot of military weapons specialists. A great deal of Alabama is pretty redneck. and I screamed at her as I broke the glass pipe and other freebasing implements the Cuban had left behind. Beth was cowered in the kitchen. It is the closest I have ever come to hitting a woman. and I nearly broke my damn hand. and was married to one of the most amazingly hot women I have ever known. He tossed me a rock of pure cocaine as a peace offering. I went to their apartment where we went over the song list and watched MTV. . but Huntsville was relatively cosmopolitan compared to most of the state. He was a good looking blonde guy. and literally put my fist through the sheetrock right next to her head. They had been an “A” circuit band right there along with The X-Statics. He could play good rhythm guitar and sing. I had started to audition with a new band that had relocated to Tampa from Huntsville Alabama.
Our rented practice space actually belonged to another Bay Area band. and four musicians in a hot room. because we played our gigs high and drunk. and started working with Jimmy during the day. It wasn’t until a couple of months later. It was a relief to see her tail lights fade away into the distance.The Tampa Days | 67 smoking joints and tripping. I don’t know how Lisa put up with us. and flyers for the band. going to rehearsals at night. While painting an apartment one day. after we were done rehearsing . I began to slowly pull down certain items on the wall. which is pretty hard to do. Jimmy and I had discovered a stash of Polaroid “swingers” photos. We sounded like a very drunk Aerosmith. really. Jimmy had secured a contract with the apartment complex where they lived. I managed to get Beth as far away from me as possible. a band that was mining the rockabilly vein of music and were as drunk as we were. articles. replacing them with the scary swinger’s photos. as we were high all the time. I immediately moved in with them to get away from Beth. Hatterfox rehearsals were pretty simple. They were completely hilarious to us. and I have not seen her since. he was amazed we could actually still play. we stupefied the engineer Doug at American Music Works by consuming so much beer and pot at our sessions. One night we were totally in the bag drunk and stoned at the practice room. We practiced high and drunk. The walls of the Blind Mice practice room was literally a shrine to the band. and he did all the interior painting for the complex. our rehearsal having degenerated into a drinking contest. the Three Blind Mice. by giving her my car and every penny I had to my name if she would promise to get in the car and drive it as far as she possibly could away from me. at least two cases of beer. and I kept them in my guitar case to scare other musicians. The stack of instant photos revealed a quite corpulent couple having sex and posing for nude photos. as the bandleader/bass player Barney had covered nearly every open area of wall space with photos. Take a quarter-ounce of pot. When we were in the studio at $100 an hour.
I wish I would have kept that answering machine message. We had a gig outside Huntsville. and was trying to just hold it all together.68 | Life Story of a Guitar Player at the space. You just never figure when you’re doing drugs that each time may be your last. what he had ingested. and played a club that can only be described as “surreal”. with a small hallway that had closed doors on either side. as his parents completely freaked out and grilled us . and we had to get him immediate medical help. Everything had become louder. and headed to a studio in Alabama to record. I was taking off like a rocket. that we got a call from Barney – his parents (who owned the building) had stopped by and were admiring the shrine to The Blind Mice. Neither of us was prepared for what we found. The ecstasy hit me like a freight train. brighter. it was almost too much to handle. and although it was $25 per pill. and we nearly got beat up down there for intruding. his eyes were closed and doing those sorts of rapid eye movements you see in sleep studies when people are dreaming. There was gambling of all sorts. musicians have carte blanche most of the time. It was an instant crisis situation. Joey came up to me. and I was back upstairs in the nightclub. we each bought one and immediately ate it. and we rapidly were spied by the local drug dealer. even though we still had two sets to do. and could see the terror in my eyes. But once again. as well as the doctors. There was a basement in this club. The ambulance came and carted Jimmy away to the Emergency Room. When we found him. Jimmy and I got nosy. Both Jimmy and I had heard of the new wonder drug. and started going downstairs and just walking into rooms. She came up and offered us ecstasy. Jimmy was curled up in a fetal position on the dance floor. Which also meant telling his parents. We had that band clicking along pretty well. a late 30s woman in leather pants. I had lost track of Jimmy. “Have you seen Jimmy?” he asked me. when they began to discover the photos.
especially when it comes to bootleg pharmaceuticals like ecstasy. with my notebook on my lap trying to come up with a song list where I would front the band as a trio for the remaining two sets. and I managed to hang out with a cute . which freaked out our soundman. because I always played loud. I could see the face of my soundman as he tried to figure out what the heck was wrong with me. I can remember very clearly that I was sitting on the toilet in the men’s room. it was a very weird experience. when in all honesty I was flying somewhere past Neptune at this point. I plugged in my guitar and strummed a few licks to warm up. I ended up alone in my hotel room. like I was in a huge Coliseum. I had to try and maintain and act like I was straight. drug “chemists” will add all sorts of extra ingredients to MDMA. I could see how fucked up we all were. experiencing some of the worst diarrhea I have ever had. Needless to say. I had my amp turned down to a whisper. I didn’t enjoy my ecstasy experience very much. or other fillers. and it sounded like my guitar was louder than it had ever been. both singing lead vocals and playing lead guitar. Forrest Gump was right. I was once again watching myself from outside of my own body. As I learned later. That little road trip spelled the end for Hatterfox temporarily.The Tampa Days | 69 all as to what happened. I could see how much damage and confusion we were causing. Isn’t rock and roll glamorous? As I got onstage for those last two sets. and made it back to the hotel. It was what we call in recovery “a moment of clarity”. Somehow I managed to play those two sets. and somehow I had to carry on. speed. such as heroin. Jimmy stayed in Huntsville to recover. you never know what you’re gonna get. And the club owner was pissed as well. I immediately turned it down a few notches. Jimmy’s pill could have easily had twice as much of a dose as mine. paranoid that someone was going to discover that I had done it too. yet it still sounded huge. How come Jimmy ended up in the emergency room. yet I managed to deal with it? You never know.
I slept with the ones I shouldn’t have. I loved the fact that I was only a short bus ride away from NYC.. By this point in my mid-late 20s. but she was stunning. and once again I packed up my guitar and headed north.70 | Life Story of a Guitar Player Ocean Pacific swimwear model for a few weeks. a magical society founded by Aleister Crowley. My father offered me a job painting the entire interior of the school. and commented about how beautiful she was. I told Jimmy’s dad that we were just friends. Jimmy’s father saw me with her one night at a club in Huntsville. and my parents had found a beautiful little house on 216 Main Street there in Emerson. In 1987.T. Emerson is a small Northern Jersey town.O. Greyhound and Trailways have been the curse of my adult existence. As it became obvious that Hatterfox was on extended hiatus. and I became friends with a gentleman named Herman . I checked in with my parents. I had seen and experienced a lot and was trying to make sense of it all in some small way. and the music scene there was really cool. of course. and he said “well son. and get a much nicer hotel room than the ones the band would be staying in. Hoboken was very close as well. Hindsight is a motherfucker. My dad ran a school in Paramus called “Computer Processing Institute”. New York had quite a plethora of books stores and occult shops. although she wanted to and we slept together nearly every night. my father suddenly expressed a desire to live in New Jersey again. so naturally I hung out with her. and my sister and I took countless trips into the city together. I became a student of the O. She would follow the band around. don’t get BEHIND…you’ll never be able to catch up”. It was during this time that I began to take spirituality a bit more seriously. and didn’t sleep with the ones I should have. situated in one of the richest counties in the state. I didn’t have sex with her. Sometimes I think he was right. I don’t even remember her name. and off my parents went to live in Bergen County in a very small town called Emerson. On a frigging bus again.
I had always felt that I was a very spiritual person. One thing Bob Uzzo. Obviously. go back and play that rock and roll”. I kind of figured that the religious idiots I saw in North Carolina that were speaking in tongues and handling snakes were not quite what I was looking for in spirituality. I went on some hilarious auditions. I somehow managed to convince them to allow me to work from 11 pm until 8 am on the late .but…. Since I had pretty much rejected mainstream fundamentalist Christianity early in my youth. A good lesson that was repeated to me during the height of my career as a “professional blues man” a few years later. the great Buddy Guy. Somehow. but it was not to be. my main arbiter during my teens and twenties was a little book called the Tao Te Ching. I got to see a very young Melissa Etheridge play. Working for my dad’s school was a cakewalk. told me succinctly “Bobby. One of my heroes. but had not been able to express it fully. a great lesbian singer/songwriter. she gave me the beautiful illustrated copy of the Tao by Jane Gio-feng. she did a lot better later in her career when she basically gave up pretending. the leader of Sobrenity. I tried to make some sort of dent in the NYC music scene. you play blues guitar as good as any black man I know…. and was just who she was. told me early on in my recovery has always stuck with me – “Spirituality is feeling comfortable in your own skin”.you’re WHITE son! You got to be what you are.The Tampa Days | 71 Slater who owned a great occult store in the city called “The Magickal Childe”. I had been given the text initially when I was 12 by my karate teacher in North Carolina. Taoism and Buddhism had always felt like the sanest religions I had ever come in contact with. During my time in Emerson. when the beautiful older Susie basically set me free after our six-month love affair. Then later at 18. and even jammed with a band of crazy women called “The Cycle Sluts from Hell”. back when she was still acting straight and was trying to be a rock and roll chick. I was far from that ideal.
if we could get the band back together. Nothing could be further from the truth. and realized I was bored to tears and drinking myself silly with no hope of getting out of that situation. and this was the start for me of doing it regu- . I argued with her. I flirted with her for weeks. I finished up a much of the paint job at the school as I could. worked hard. My mother had started to notice my drinking. paint as much as I could. drinking beer by myself. I had not done a gig in months. She was a quiet girl.72 | Life Story of a Guitar Player night shift. I got the call from Hatterfox to hit the road again. In the financial aid department of my dad’s school worked a cute little Catholic brunette named Anita. Hatterfox Mark II was very similar to the first incarnation. kept to herself. A few weeks after we had started seeing each other regularly. and we ended up dating regularly. And it also enabled me to paint while I drank and listened to cassettes on my boom box as loud as I wanted. Jimmy rang me. and we had the possibility of doing a tour. that I would sit alone for hours in my room and read Crowley. that I wasn’t driving drunk or hurting anyone. and explained that the 45 single we had released was getting some good airplay on southern indie radio stations. and unfortunately for her caught my eye. bid adieu once again to my parents. saying that I drank for fun and for relief. I looked at my situation in Emerson. so I could paint without any students or staff around. and once again felt like another poor working schlub. I would typically drink a couple of six packs every night. Anita was unhappy about my decision. and once again was on a Greyhound to Florida. but I was far from discovering that truth yet. It didn’t take much convincing to get me back out on the road. But Jimmy had discovered cocaine. then go home the next morning and pass out. We alcoholics never think we’re hurting anyone and that if we’re only hurting ourselves we are OK. but there was no stopping me.
Jimmy had started getting really good cocaine for very cheap prices. Luckily I knew how to fish. and all the major world religious texts. but merely rented it out. and I relished contact with her. However. and Jimmy and I would go fishing in Tampa Bay to catch redfish and speckled trout to eat. and had stolen lots of books from the various colleges The X-Statics had performed at to keep from being bored on the road. and I usually refused. It was during this time that I met my teacher in the occult arts. and we had one of the most financially trying summers I can remember.000 watt party on wheels. We continued to paint apartments. both Anita and my parents moved down to the Tampa Bay area that summer. All during my time in The X-Statics. Night Train. He had one of the most impressive libraries I had ever seen. I have always been a voracious reader.The Tampa Days | 73 larly. She and I had kept in touch. and my parents moved back into the same house they had lived in previously. In a strange case of synchronicity. people offered me hard drugs like cocaine and heroin all the time. and suddenly there we were at 5 am in the morning. Anita came down. with Anita’s parents close behind. and get high and drunk on a daily basis. and he worked me pretty hard. Luckily. over 100 classic works of fiction. The first task of a Probationer in Crowley’s order necessitates a HUGE reading list. and I think sometimes people showed up at our gigs to see if we would actually be able to finish the night. I became a student of his. as she was a link to a world of stability and normalcy that I rarely had. Our band was a 60. Ray was a computer genius at USF. Ray. We drank case after case of Miller. and was a direct living link to Aleister Crowley. and I developed a fondness for the wino special wine. literature. in his mid-life crisis state my father had had the sense not to sell the house. Ray insisted that I should go to college. so I . She and I moved in a couple of doors down from Jimmy and Lisa. science. and had weekly meetings with him for years and years. play music. polishing off an eightball with the other guys in the band.
The owner of this club was the epitome of all the bad stereotypes of rock club owners you see. I looked .74 | Life Story of a Guitar Player signed up for a summer course in Philosophy 101 at St Petersburg Junior College and started my academic education. Jimmy and I caroused with the strippers. Dr. Archie and Earl from Bleeding Hearts. and began to eliminate the unwanted people from the club – if you weren’t hot. Towards then end of our night. an ever-present vial of coke in his pocket. I had enrolled in college full-time by this point. and I had absolutely no objections to letting them do so. Members of another hot local band were there as well. Of course the guys in Warrant wanted to jam. As we watched this debacle unfold. going to college full-time. so I relinquished my guitar to Archie. and he asked me to join the honors program that fall. The night in question was a true rock and roll evening. you got the boot. Joe Fenley. Near the end of my Hatterfox days. So I was still doing gigs with the band. The club owner knew it was going to be an after-hours party. who were all wearing less and less clothing. I had already polished off one bottle of Night Train. and was usually surrounded by skanky stripper types. and watched as this bastardized version of Warrant tore through bad cover songs at disturbingly high volume. I was already tired from having played all night. and had my drinking and drugging career. some opting to simply walk around in nothing but stripper heels. He had a bad mullet haircut. and was working on my second one when everything started to really get going. which at times could be quite hectic. and had classes from 8 am -2 m five days a week in the honors IDS (interdisciplinary studies) program at SPJC – my performance in the summer philosophy class had impressed the teacher. Simple as that. in walked all the members of then super-popular metal band Warrant. we played a show in Clearwater at a club called ML Chasers. or didn’t have coke. They arrived in true rock star style with about a dozen strippers in their limousines.
revealing her naked behind to Janie and the band. which we normally did after a gig. which still retained the little metal ring on the top where the twist-off lid had been previously. and he proceeds to take my bottle of Night Train and penetrates the stripper with it while she is bent over the monitors. Tampa is very rainy during the summer season. My dad was traveling a lot for work these days. leaning on the vocal monitors in the front of the stage. As I took a goodly swig from my bottle of wine. I watched lead singer Janie Lane as he sang a bad version of ZZ Top’s “Tush” while one of the completely naked strippers gyrated and danced directly in front of him onstage. So. I would sometimes use one of my parent’s cars. like an old Loony Tunes Cartoon. As I turned onto state road 580 there in Oldsmar. and worried that I would not make it. At that moment. So off into the night I went. He motions me to come onstage with him. Jimmy followed me all the way to his turn-off. Jimmy said he knew something bad was about to happen. We both began to fuck this poor girl vigorously with the wine bottle. knowing that I needed to get ready for school. I refused. and tried to get me to come over and smoke a nightcap joint. a . I remember wondering that it must have felt bad. but Janie kept on singing “Tush” and fucking this poor woman with the wine bottle. After witnessing this event. She began to bend over. all of us in Hatterfox finally left the club about 5:30 am. and since my current car at that time (a 1974 Dodge Duster) was in horrible shape. I had had enough. and luckily I had stopped at my parent’s house earlier that night and had picked up my father’s brand new car because of the inclement weather. Janie looks at me and I can almost see the little light bulb light up in his head. but he could not convince me to stay. and knew I had to get back home and at least take a shower before school that morning. I felt pretty good.The Tampa Days | 75 at my watch and it was already 5 am. I knew I had to be at school at 8.
dark affair with six lanes cutting through one of the little country towns surrounding Tampa. turning an entire flip. being stuck inside a burning car. and passed out at the wheel. as the car’s passenger side immediately impacted with a 4 ft high cement culvert which pushed the front end of the car all the way to the dashboard. and exited the vehicle. The car went over 450 feet through the air. covering me with glass. I hurried down the street. I can’t express how it felt to realize the predicament I was in. to convince me otherwise. it woke me up. Let me preface this section by stating this is what actually happened. now!” The voice was a male voice. I tried. SR 580 is a long. I realized that both of my guitars were in the back seat. to get back on the pavement. After being burned so severely at age 11. As soon as I got away from the car. instantly without a seconds’ hesitation went back into the burning car to retrieve my guitars. being the crazy guitarist that I am. for some reason. I awoke in the car as it came to a rest against the telephone pole. I was doing a good 85-90 mph that night. As I turned away from the burning vehicle with my guitars in each hand. the car is on fire and is going to explode! Wake up! You have to get out of the car. and ash. and the police report. I tried to steer hard left. This simple maneuver saved my life. Someone was knocking rapidly and insistently upon the window of the car. the car exploded. fire. get out. urging me “get out. It took my mother. to block this all out. I managed to break free of the seatbelt. surrounded by flames. Me. As the car skidded off the road at nearly 90 miles per hour. and would not let me pass back out. I am not one of those “angel loving new age people” that you see with stupid bumper stickers like “My Co-Pilot is an Angel”. and miraculously landed on all four wheels and kept rolling…right into a huge telephone pole. praying that I . it seemed like I was back in that fiery hell again. and exceptionally tired. or any such nonsense.76 | Life Story of a Guitar Player bit drunk and high.
covered in blood and glass. is that your car back there?” I looked him dead in the eye and said “No sir officer. Which wasn’t a lie. Riding up to me slowly. where all sorts of local cops and state troopers had started arriving to view the carnage.The Tampa Days | 77 could reach a pay phone and call a cab – my drunken mind was going to simply tell my father that his car had been stolen from the parking lot of the nightclub while I was doing the gig! As I walked down the street with my guitars. he rolled down his passenger side window. “Oh. upon arriving. opened the trunk of his car. an HCSO Deputy drove up to the scene. He initially stopped at the accident scene. immediately asked what they had done with the body. trying to make it up the road a couple of miles to the nearest service station. that’s not my car”. “He’s still ALIVE?” responded the surprised state trooper. Here I stood. We drove back to the scene. it was my dad’s car. I placed the guitars in the trunk and took a seat in the back of his car. who. and said “Son. noticing the obvious – a car completely engulfed in flames. “He’s in the backseat of my car”. Before long. He . and asked “Son. he saw my silhouette in the distance. The Sheriff just laughed. looked at me. I forged ahead in shock. Behind me the flames raged at least 30 feet high as the car was completely demolished. My favorite comment came from one state trooper. him?” said the Sheriff. As he shot his high beam spotlight forward. I told the Sheriff my story. I took a quick inventory. I will never forget our interchange. wearing a leather vest and a pair of Lip Service lace up the side green velvet rock and roll pants. why don’t you just put those guitars in the trunk and get into the back seat?” I figured at this point it sounded like a good idea. and this guy was really quite good to me.
and then brought me over to the car. I could not argue with her. to add insult to injury. And this time. however. “You said someone stopped and banged on your window to wake you up. I .78 | Life Story of a Guitar Player took me outside. and said “well son. I wasn’t prepared for what he showed me next. “Yes”. “He must have stopped his car. and basically forced me to wake up and get out of the car. kept saying to the cops “But he smells like a brewery!” Thanks mom. please believe this last story. He shined his light next to the remains of my father’s brand new car. Months later. If you do not believe anything else in this book. There is no evidence that anyone stopped by your car whatsoever” This information managed to escape me completely. as my mother had arrived. my mother reminded me of this story. I spent years of my life following the teachings of Aleister Crowley. the Aim of Religion”. there’s only one set of footprints near your car. She went to the police station with me. and I had to take a look back on this experience. right?” asked the sheriff. but the Sheriff insisted that I had been through enough. I replied. whose aim was “The Method of Science. and showed me where I had taken the tops off the trees in my 450 foot automobile gymnastics expedition. My mom. and they are yours. and then I guess he just drove off ” The Sheriff studied me for a moment. There is no other explanation for what happened that night. and the Sheriff only charged me with careless driving. She was insistent that it was an angel that had stopped to make me wake up. The Sergeant on duty wanted to see more charges.
I don’t think he would have wanted me to cancel gigs to come back for his funeral. he’d probably enjoy my life the most. He died of a combination of alcohol and tobacco abuse. I know it was you that night. Months later. if you’re still out there. . during meditation. I can’t help believing it had something to do with my grandfather. thanks. Knowing my grandpa pretty well. I suppose out of any of his grandkids. I tried to really remember. Slim Henderson. on what the person looked like who banged on my window that night.The Tampa Days | 79 would be the first person to get up and walk away laughing at one of those new-agey Angels Conferences. Slim had died in 1986 when I was on the road with The X-Statics. a long hard life of drinking. with a deep voice. It was an older gentleman. Slim. Several “psychic” type people had told me for years that he was still following me around. To me this episode in my life recalls on of those formulaic Reader’s Digest articles my mother was so fond of. as I am still a regularly gigging musician hanging out in the bars.
We alcoholics simply keep doing the same things over and over again. and they will realize the error of their ways and make a correction in their behaviors. art. but it put me so behind in the honors program at school that I never quite got caught back up. Bob Uzzo calls these “consequences”. and we had started at the dawn of Western Civilization. “Normal” people will experience some sort of consequence. The true definition of insanity.CHAPTer THree Academia and Beyond Recovery from the accident was pretty tough. and ended up finishing the entire semester with a “C” average. I had a steady house gig in Tampa at the Spinnaker Lounge with The Impacs that paid the bills. losing your job. and that generous grade was a gift from the professors who felt bad for me. Things like blacking out. and intimate partners. If you want to know whether you qualify as an alcoholic or a drug addict. and worked our way in two years through the history. start with a list of consequences. philosophy. I had maintained pretty well up until this point in my life. ending up on the street…those are consequences. I had a great time in the IDS program. expecting different results. getting a DUI. Consequences start to really add up in the world of the alcoholic and addict. and I was selling and trading vintage . So is losing the respect of your friends. An honors student with an “A” average. crashing a car. I had managed an “A” average until the semester of the auto accident. family. literature. The program calls this a “functional alcoholic”. I stayed at home for a couple of weeks. and science of the span of Western culture.
intelligent. although she was a devout Christian. I felt something was inherently. where for weeks I had trudged to school and would have almost fainting spells. I sold celebrity-owned “rock star” guitars to the Hard Rock Café. where we ritually set them on fire and destroyed the whole lot. but truly felt I needed a LOT more education and wanted to pursue it as best I could . One day on my way to the library across campus. I had to make decisions about where next to pursue college. As the school year drew to a close. a very Joe Satriani/Eric Johnson sort of guitar instrumental album that managed to get me on mainstream rock radio in south Florida. and amplifiers. I was doing well with my music. and this was one of them. and a little rubenesque for my tastes at that time. My accident had taught me that things in this world may not be quite as I had imagined them and perhaps all those cheesy stories in Guidepost weren’t all lies and hackneyed writing. It was an enormous sense of relief to see those things floating away as ashes. all of the items related to that activity and took them to a remote area on Tampa Bay. and became one of their most trusted suppliers of instruments and memorabilia. We had a great friendship. Mary Ellen was a GOOD GIRL. synthesizers. my years of journals from my work and study. spiritually wrong. the kind parents love. I knew I had to make changes in my life. and a gig at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.Academia and Beyond | 81 guitars. and I gathered all of my occult books. She was in training to be a midwife. I self recorded and produced my first solo album “Guitar Salad”. and I spoke to my classmate Mary Ellen about it. I felt struck down by a bright light. It shook me up pretty good. She drove me home. was sweet. I thought of Paul on the road to Damascus as I hit the ground. But behind these things. The future was so bright I had to wear shades. and I enjoyed picking at the threads of her religious beliefs like a kitten with a ball of string. I had a crisis moment.
I was 10 years older than the average entering Novo Collegian. Janet Robinson. It sounded to me like I had found my school. and we partied an average amount. We were both immersed in our studies. and the highest suicide rate of any school in the nation. with no grades. My drinking had slowed down considerably since the accident. Kathy Killion. She was always one of my father’s favorites. During this time I had begun to live with my friend Mark’s sister. was in the Air Force as a “missile walker”. She must have seen something she liked in me. and we got along quite well most of the time. a completely impersonal college experience in my eyes. Ben Wiley suggested that I check out New College in Sarasota. but to no avail. and then went to engineering school at USF. as a couple of months later I got a simple postcard from her that said “You’re in!” I still have that card somewhere. and the others – my hat will always be off to them. and a very strict admittance policy. which is what the program people want me to call alcoholism. I was called to Sarasota that spring for an interview with the associate director of admissions. It was almost like my disease. At 28 years old. recommendations from professors. and I had started doing fewer gigs per week as I concentrated on school. a “write-your-own” education policy. Joe Fenley.000 students. was in remission during this time. The professors I worked with at SPJC were some of the finest teachers I have ever had. and had graduated from my father’s computer school Tampa Tech.82 | Life Story of a Guitar Player during this time in my life. becoming obsessed with entry to the school. New College is an incredibly progressive school. the state of Florida’s honors university. During my . Ben Wiley. I followed each instruction to the letter. so that I would be eligible to get my associate’s degree. only around 500 students attending at any given time. New College required a barrage of entrance essays. doing some remedial courses I had skipped in high school. The IDS program had previous students attempt to gain admission. a boring school with 35. and my only other opportunity was going to USF. She was a couple of years older than I was. So I spent most of the fall still enrolled in SPJC. Lynn.
I got a call a week later. I had landed on my feet. educated. gaining entrance into one of the most difficult to enter colleges in the country. Tool. I managed to get the interview somehow.Academia and Beyond | 83 first year at New College. I honestly felt like I had absolutely no chance at all to get the job. In the classifieds section was an employment ad for BMG Distribution. I was working with acts like Sarah McLachlan. and the corporate expense account to host listening parties and the like. and many others. BMG would bring us all to the CMJ conferences in NYC every fall. I acted like I didn’t want the job and we instead talked about some of the acts on the labels they worked with. Working for BMG opened up a lot of new doors for me. Once again. etc. Everyone there took a break when I came in. My job was immediately bountiful. and driven than I was. Dave Matthews. and also stood next to Clive Davis on the floor at Irving Plaza. Suddenly. I had been working on a paper in the computer lab and glanced at a USF newspaper. and concert promotion. Matthew Sweet. it was basically just chatting. so I was able to “spy” at all the other resumes on the table. and had the job. just sent them a cover letter and told them of my musical history and knowledge of the south Florida music scene. The BMG internship was fully paid and voted the best internship in the music industry. I didn’t follow directions. So when they all returned and interviewed me. As the local marketing rep. and what places would be good for them to check out in town. and I had one of the sweetest paid internships in the music biz. In my couple of years with BMG. I handled press. I had passes to all of our shows that came to town. while we both grooved to The Bogmen – everyone else at the label was upstairs in the VIP area . and showed up as the last person to be interviewed. radio. I had done everything from wash floors in a Bowery soup kitchen with the staff of Windham Hill Records. retail. an actual major record label job. They were all more qualified. a virtual truckload of schwag that would arrive weekly. and to huge BMG conferences all over the US.
In some ways. I apologize for selling that red polka-dot Strat you traded me to the Hard Rock – but that money paid for my last year of school.84 | Life Story of a Guitar Player eating the free food. if you or your people are reading this. I met people there like Curtis Hayes and Tony West. whether they knew who he was or not. My first day at school. I was in line to meet the director of the music department Dr. Jeff Buckley always has left a strong impression on me. I got to see a lot of young performers when they were at their best. We had some frat boys and sorority girls. I always respected Clive. Stephen Miles. but that sort of college experience was severely punished by the rest of the students. who have turned out to be lifelong friends. and traded Stratocasters with him. New College was voted “the reefer madness college of the south” by Rolling Stone Magazine. He was allegedly going to be a doctor. Between the two of them. if it was not for BMG. and they were right on the money. I’m going somewhere else after this” – a very Zen-like solution to saying no to the demo. and was sort of mystified how everyone in the crowd. And New College was an experience as well. gave him about a 3 ft personal space that was not infringed upon. I tried to give Clive a copy of the advance tape for my project LVX Nova. Our school was a motley crew of overachieving Merit Scholars fresh from high school. And Irving Plaza was sold out that night. Chris Whitley blew my mind. he had already begun to change his mind about . and changed my life. Being a part of the BMG family was great. And Buddy. my blues hero put me through my last year of college. they both constituted the majority of my college life. However. after seeing him at Sin-E in the old days. a very educated and cultured young guy who had descended from Peruvian royalty. alongside the kid that looks like Ally Sheedy from The Breakfast Club all dressed in black and looking sketchy. but he said “sorry. I would have never met Buddy Guy. Behind me in that line was Curtis Hayes. Curtis was a young premed student.
Bob was a couple of years older than me. but Bob and I took one look at each other and handed him a bass. as Curtis was an RA at the dorms. and knew most of the other students. like “Take Me To The River”. Curtis likes to remind me that he “told me that kind of stuff was gonna be popular!” I just could never see it. and with feel immediately. We hit it off as friends immediately. many of us were doing amazing academic work. We are playing “jam band” music a good 5 years before it started to become “hip”. At the same time.Academia and Beyond | 85 that. and had not spent much time on campus other than being in class. and I was the blues rock phenom that I had always been since I first learned Eric Clapton solos off the Cream albums in the early 70s. Dr. somehow eventually getting back to the song. Our band was a college favorite. That kind of music is more fun to play than it is to listen to in my opinion. and it was a big help to me socially. and then go off on wild tangents for 10 or 15 minutes. I could think of nothing more boring than just watching people jam like that. Curtis had started out by playing guitar. It’s all my fault. and just jamming and soloing and having a good time. it was the “Curtis Hayes Blues Experience”. amazing. and he influenced and . along with whatever creative pursuits we had. somewhat crazed guitarist who inhabited regions more akin to Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead. Miles was the other person I met that day. Bob was an inventive. Bob Phelps. And New College is ALL about being on campus. For Curtis and I. He’s never stopped playing bass since that moment. Curtis had met another guitar player much like myself. we would take an old blues classic or R&B classic. He picked it up and played it correctly. and after we met he decided to switch over as a music major. Our school is a beautiful. I was kind of an outsider. and had gone to the famed Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood in the late 70s. sometimes crazy place. I saw more rampant nakedness and sheer drug ingestion there than nearly anywhere else in my life. I don’t think his parents ever forgave me for that.
marveling at her. . and between her classes and Steve Mile’s music theory classes. She was one of the most brilliant minds I have ever known. she was Australian. A woman that can discuss the cultural importance of Bon Scott’s crotch to you in academic terms can make me wet in an instant.86 | Life Story of a Guitar Player inspired my entire academic career. Maureen was possibly one of the most unusual looking women I have known. and I slaved away week after week making her copies. The first would be the only teacher I have ever had the icky “student crush” for. He was a tall. always mild mannered and only occasionally annoyed. There can be up to a 40% attrition rate at New College due to the demands of graduation. I simply focused on taking all the courses I could in order to further my artistic vision – and leave me enough free time to party and jam. yet important. especially Tibetan Buddhism. labeling her slides. and ended up being her assistant for two semesters. and was a very knowledgeable professor in Buddhism. Her name was Maureen. Two teachers in particular made great impressions on me. John had ended up getting to spend a great deal of time in Tibet after high school. thing – we both have a love and understanding of why Bon Scott of AC/DC was one of the greatest rock vocalists ever. then write a Master’s thesis and defend it to graduate. I nearly always followed his advice. and he never let me down. She had this huge shock of asymmetrically cut hair that was short in back. He was so translucently white that his nickname on campus was “The Other White Meat”. New College is a tough school to graduate from – you must make it through every semester unscathed. The second instructor at New College that stood out in my education was a peculiar Buddhist professor named John Newman. We completely bonded over the most random. Her classes were some of the best at New College. with enormous bangs. thin athletic guy in his early 40s. and was the professor of Cultural Studies. like an ostrich at times. very gawky tall and skinny. I volunteered to be her TA. I was consistently challenged.
During our senior thesis year. nothing illustrates that better than the story of my good friend Patrick Denny. who was soon to be my first wife. it was usually pretty brief. He knew I was a seeker. he was dating and living with two amazingly hot twin sisters named Miriam and Meridith. One line and you’re reaching for your wallet. Pat left. Simple and direct. I basically wished I could have had that problem myself. and took the study seriously. He was a musician as well. and we shared a six pack. I figured why not. Through John. dramatically and concisely restructuring the entire work. I added about thirty pages of material. When I say getting through New College can be a real gauntlet. The last time I had really done any was back when I had busted Beth at my apartment with that Cuban guy. however. I took nearly every course he offered. and he thought for a moment and replied “Well. He then pulled out a nice fat baggie of cocaine. and away we went. One conversation still sticks with me. it had been years since I had done some coke. I was able to study Buddhism and Taoism. I play a lot of basketball”. At that time. Pat and I had gotten pretty close. John was a very principled teacher. She found me hunched over the . and was very careful not to let anyone put him in the guru position. and was complaining that all the two of them wanted to do was to get high and have sex with him. and explore their relationships to creativity and music. and I spent the next two days in a flurry of cocaine-fueled writing on my thesis.Academia and Beyond | 87 Naturally. but the cocaine kept me going until I passed out at the computer in my apartment. One day he stopped by when I was stuck on my thesis. I was awakened that evening by my then girlfriend Sara. Of course. before he left I bought the rest of the contents of that baggie. It was a Herculean task. Cocaine offered free is the ultimate sales pitch ever. one of the coolest guys on campus. Pat threw down a gram. and with Jimmy from Hatterfox. and offered me some. I asked him if he still meditated. While he did from time to time talk to me personally.
we were all rushing to finish our work so we could graduate. but instead I just dropped off the re-write in his mailbox. and I knew Helen very well from taking her classes. being the crazy guy that he was. Later the next day I got an email from Steve congratulating me for making a “quantum leap” in my thesis. but I begged her to let him pass. Partially this was due to heavy drug use. As the spring wound towards the summer. Sara was a beautiful young blonde woman from Ohio and her nickname around college was “The Angel of All That’s Good and Nice”. I don’t know how the two of us ended up together. he wrote an entire thesis on international relations between China and Singapore that was close to 200 pages long! His thesis sponsor was a lovely ethnomusicologist named Helen Rees. I was supposed to have a thesis meeting with Steve Miles. I felt that I he flunked his thesis year and had to come back to try again next year. having auditory hallucinations and hearing people talk to him that weren’t there. He had gotten progressively and progressively worse during the semester. completely passed out.88 | Life Story of a Guitar Player keyboard. and partially due to thesis stress. had elected not only to learn Mandarin Chinese for his thesis. Pat Denny. I talked with Pat as much as I could. and went home with Sara to recuperate. crazy drug using musician. I began to understand why New College has such a high suicide rate. and was still working at the school as the Student Activities Director. We finally went . She had done all of her graduate work in China and could speak and write fluent Mandarin. She had graduated from New College the year prior. and I was a wild. and begged Helen to allow Pat to graduate. so she ended up being Pat’s thesis sponsor almost by default. he would have killed himself. I knew she was planning on flunking him due to his erratic behavior and poor performance. On the morning that I had to defend my thesis before the baccalaureate committee. my girlfriend Sara broke up with me. Believe me. She was focused on getting her master’s and PhD in Public Health.
But on the morning of my baccalaureate exam. I had recorded a second album called “High Wire” which featured more vocal oriented rock songs with plenty of guitar. I knew a local friend named Mike “Sonic” Meengs. it was my good friend Curtis Hayes. going on Valentine’s Day together to the Tiki Hut in Sarasota. So the last summer before my thesis. but in the ambient techno music genre. tie it up with a bow. and few hundred dollars now and then.Academia and Beyond | 89 out in February of that year. It was time to do something completely different. until she finally threw them on the floor and threw me down on the bed. After the early success of “Guitar Salad”. I managed to get all the backing tracks done and did all of the guitar recording. But the album received a rather lukewarm reception from the music community. she decided to break up with me. mixing. however. major label quality work. some of the programming he had done for his band Sonic Erotica was simply stunning. During this time. We ended up back at my apartment that night. I had both of mine and half of Sara’s. who popped up with a doozy of a question right there in the free for all at the end. Naturally. boring her to tear. From then on. and I decided to do another guitar solo album like Guitar Salad. By basically bribing Mike with good weed. and it completely freaked me out. I was on stage. and I was sitting there showing her my photo albums. watching myself from outside my body as I once again gave another of the performances of my career. Once again. good coffee. we were a campus couple. Somehow I managed to bullshit an answer. and made mental notes to slice the tires on Curtis’s shiny new Nissan Sentra. albeit sans guitar. No. The only question that threw me for a loop was not from the faculty. I had pined to do something artistically great in the music world with another instrumental guitar album. I knew Mike was the master of sequencing and sampling. I had already answered every question just perfectly. where the legendary Mai Tais are so liquor-laden that the bar will only allow you two of them. . New College allowed me full access into the newly built Slavin Electronic Music Studios.
body painted or just plain buck naked. I learned an important thing from that unfortunate choice – never name your band or project something that needs to be explained. and loved by most everyone that I knew. New College usually has at least one naked graduate. but his was Herculean. That summer. He did manage to graduate and make it through New College. I named the project LVX Nova. But it wasn’t quite as ambitious as learning Mandarin Chinese for one’s thesis. I hoped that his thesis sponsor had understood my argument that he would probably die if he flunked. and we were followed by some Amazonian science major I had never met who was dressed like Wonder Woman. I simply wore black jeans and a black shirt. through modern composers such as John Cage and Brian Eno. Pat was a talented. He was well-known on campus. but to what end? It tormented me that I had interfered in his life at all. I just didn’t figure he’d die the week after graduation. and had integrated it into my thesis. and plenty of outlandish costumes. LVX Nova means “new light” in Latin. and I hope he managed to find some peace. But he died when he graduated any fucking way. as my thesis was focused upon the rise of ambient music from Satie through Eno. The written part of my thesis and the CD project LVX Nova combined my entire thesis project. I am honored that we got to do the graduation walk together. It was an ambitious project that had gone quite well. My thesis project was a pretty big undertaking. I had a really good album on my hands. and I was destined to be . I was at the peak of life – I had graduated from New College. I finally graduated New College.90 | Life Story of a Guitar Player and mastering there at New College. So in the summer of 96. A few weeks after graduation. My thesis was an extensive history of ambient music from early pioneers like Erik Satie. Pat Denny graduated right next to me. beautiful guy who just took on a bit more than he could handle both academically and with drug use. we all heard the news: Pat was found OD’ed in his parent’s closet in Gulf Breeze.
Miramar was distributed through BMG. and now I had a major label record deal. she tracked me down at a concert I was playing to thousands of bikers in Sarasota. it just didn’t sell too well. or so I thought. and many of my relatives came. My friend Eliot Rubison.Academia and Beyond | 91 married to the beautiful Sara. We had somehow made up. We ate friend peanut butter and banana sandwiches at Sun Studios. even on local television. I also had to let go of my job with BMG Distribution. had bought the historic location and made a music store out of it (it is currently occupied by Sam Ash Music). on the radio. My relationship with Sara had fallen apart quickly. I had a beautiful blonde wife that my family loved. and managed to get quite a bit of attention and 60 pages of press when we got signed by Miramar. I thought this was it. a swanky little area of downtown Tampa where most of the artists and yuppies lived. Success was just around the corner. and I have always been grateful to all of the friends that I had worked with over the years were promoting my record. We took a “white trash road trip” and managed to get ourselves kicked out of Graceland. and we even went to Seattle to do a music video. My partner Mike and I were a bit pissed off . and very happy that she had found me safely amidst thousands of drunk bikers. and when I came home one night and saw all my stuff on the porch. Sara and I got married at a nice outdoor ceremony at The Kapok Tree in Clearwater. Within a year. LVX Nova did indeed get signed. I managed to send out over 700 copies of LVX Nova out myself before the record got signed. NAV. As I was getting signed. packed taped and labeled. I had just graduated from New College. at least at first. the owner of Thoroughbred Music. Things were really looking up. It was marital bliss. Curtis was my best man. We charted in CMJ. I was impressed she made the effort to find me. I knew it was over. We went to Dollywood together. We lived in Hyde Park. but although the album was critically acclaimed. I was continually in the press. everything had gone completely to shit.
where Lisa and I basically drank ourselves silly at Middle East. She had short blonde hair and cute horn-rimmed glasses. and was the sort of chick who would go to a country concert one night and go see The Smiths the next. but I did get my share of bar tabs out of Miramar. and headed cross country with a cute little record company Goth office girl named Lisa. but I know we hit Boston. I was happy to have signed with them. There was no funny business between Lisa and I on this trip. I started to get the cold shoulder from the label. I was far too preoccupied with my destroyed marriage to Sara. We did a hilarious live gig at the local bar where “Singles” was filmed to an audience that was at times bemused and at times perplexed at our blending of guitar and ambient . the Grammy award-winning director and creator of the “Gate to the Mind’s Eye” series of videos. I might not have made a ton of royalties from that album. I buy them all the time for 99 cents…with $3. Jonn Serrie. Somewhere I still have that itinerary. New York City. and Jan Hammer. We ate sushi at the best places in Seattle. then over to the journalist’s loft to drink until 8 am. then headed to a late night Pub that was still open. they didn’t see Mike and I as tour-worthy. Alan Parsons Project. Somehow we managed to get a lot of work done. partly to promote the album and partially to get away from Sara. New Orleans and more in two weeks of blindingly drunk travel. and hung out and smoked pot at Jimi Hendrix’s grave and tried to film it. Upon my return. as we were signed with other artists like Tangerine Dream. Florida. then did an interview with a local indie magazine. Los Angeles. of course. Basically. Atlanta. It was a dream com true to make a video with Michael Boydstun. Lisa was my compatriot and drinking buddy for that two week whirlwind.92 | Life Story of a Guitar Player at each other. DC. I went. leave to catch plane by 9:30 am. and we weren’t…we were basically a studio project.99 shipping. Just try eBay if you want to find a copy of LVX Nova. and Miramar had sent me alone to do a two week press and promotional tour. We were far too drunk most of the time anyhow. Especially in Boston. Seattle. next city repeat.
poor me. given me so much success. night after night.Academia and Beyond | 93 techno music. drinking the free booze. LVX had been nominated as the “best electronic act” of the state in 1997. and we were up against a well known ten year veteran electronica DJ. Curtis Hayes and I went to the event. it was over. pour me another drink – which is exactly what I did. Trust me. and I’m driving a beat up mint green 82 Pontiac Grand Prix with bad brakes. I’m sure the bartenders got sick of me sitting there moping and drinking every night. I spent most of my time in Ybor City in Tampa at The Oak Barrel Tavern and the New World Brewery. and I had to go up on stage and accept. I really did start drinking a lot more heavily and regularly at this point. I felt like a complete failure. but they would never give us an advance to complete it. and I didn’t have the cash to do it myself. My life sucks at this point.is this thing on?” Curtis in his drunken state managed to secure the microphone from me and quickly spoke the proper litany of thank yous and hail marys that needed to be said. . and escorted me promptly offstage. Mike and I had gotten as far as rough mixes for the second album. as Mike and I were still not speaking due to the LVX Nova debacle. As soon as that happened. It so happened that we did win the award. the label was being bought out by a motion picture company. and I began to ramble in a somewhat drunken incoherent fashion “I’d like to thank the people. but at least I always tipped. Andy Hughes. you know. and taken it all away within a year? A noteworthy event was the 1997 Florida “Jammy” awards ceremony. THE PEOPLE…. Why had God brought me back from certain death.ahem…. But the thrill was gone. and unbeknownst to me. So here I sat a year later. newly single and soon to be divorced. not expecting to win anything but a free hangover from the cheap well liquor they were serving. turned my life around. according to poor me. Curtis and I stumbled to the stage. major label deal has fallen apart. I was in rare form. Curtis and I were completely drunk at the ceremony. Andy deserved the award much more than we did.
an actual work of art. So it wasn’t a Grammy. but at least I seemed to be on my way. The awards show interviewed us backstage. and I was doing it in rock star fashion.94 | Life Story of a Guitar Player and immediately headed to the backstage hospitality bar. but I have never seen that footage. The award itself was a work of art. thick 4” glass and stainless steel. hand signed by the artist. I’m sure that stuff ended up on the editing room floor. It was also fantastic as a coke mirror. which Curtis and I rapidly discovered later that weekend. .
but your guitar player sucks”. and that turned into two years of steady gigs with that crazy loveable old black man. In a scene from my life many years before. playing lots of traditional stuff like Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy Williamson type tunes. the record deal for LVX Nova had completely fallen apart.CHAPTer Four THe BLueS During this time I began to re-explore my youthful fascination with blues music. I felt like a total and complete failure in the rest of my life. a local blues venue in Ybor City Tampa. Junior Wells. He was my “blues daddy”. My guitar style had always been blues-rock based. It’s an occupational hazard. and playing with him there in Tampa Bay helped me to develop the skills I would rely on when touring Europe with the royalty of the blues a few years later. . and said the same thing to him I had said to Jon Allmightey years before in Tampa – “I love your band. Although I liked performing with Nitro. He ran a fairly tightly run ship. I was divorced from Sara. you think you’re better?” I replied that I was. Nitro invited me to a rehearsal. I was really beginning my descent into darkness. Nitro’s response was “well boy. Philip “Nitro” Bozeman was an old school harmonica player who had grown up on the south side of Chicago. and more. A local band was playing called “Nitro and the Tampa Bay Blues Machine”. I caught up with Nitro on his break. but I wanted to play more traditional music. indeed. I was out at The Blues Ship. and had been around all the old school guys like Muddy Waters. and I didn’t even have a place of my own to live. It also enabled me to drink as much as I wanted nearly every night of the week for free.
prayer wheels. and then completely WHACKED me on the head with his little bundle of accessories. we all had to line up one by one and file past the Lama. and eagerly awaited my moment with the Lama. Why did this monk smack me like a petulant child? I headed out onto Pearl Street and had a smoke. and it was difficult to avoid all the media people. trying to focus. I had wanted to attend the Shambala Center in Boulder. Damn bad spot for a Buddhist retreat. and as each student passed. I suddenly realized when interviewing at the school that I would emerge from there with a Masters in Engaged Buddhism – and another $70.000 in student loans. he looked at me with a smile and a sort of a laugh. Boulder at that time was in the throes of the Jon Benet Ramsey case. it’s very difficult to fix a broken mind with a broken mind. as the Shambala Center was directly downtown. One occurrence that still puzzles me to this day concerns an old Tibetan Lama who visited the center and taught a weekend course on Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy. As I approached him. you name it. It was a beau- . It was fairly expensive to be a proper Buddhist.96 | Life Story of a Guitar Player Luckily. and get to the root of my problems. At the end of this somewhat tedious course. and was looking into graduate school at Naropa. The saving grace for all Buddhists was located up the street. I was near the back of the line. dharma accessories. I spent most of my time at the Shambala Center. So. Bob Phelps had moved to Boulder Colorado. and was nicknamed “The Buddha Superstore” by Phelps. the red-robed monk would gently tap each participant on the head with his silk-rolled prayer items as he or she went by. as the noise reverberated throughout the meditation hall. and was running a group home for autistic adults. This store held every size of Buddha statue made. the only Buddhist university in the USA. The thing that killed me about Boulder is that they even had New Age music playing on the public buses. meditate. incense. But as I’ve been told since then. I didn’t have any major revelations in Boulder whatsoever. This was evident to everyone.
Another New College student had caught my eye. David and John. very proud of himself. yet cared little the about finished products. I ended up back in Sarasota. and mostly kept to himself. I was doing some gigs in Tampa fronting a power trio. so you can see yourself on video walking by. We could hear him in his bedroom as he pounded away on that thing at all hours of the day and night. and we were dating. I was very interested in how focused he was upon the process. Erika was finishing up her thesis. I could have gotten that guy work as a stunt cock in the porn industry. we heard a woman scream behind us. and was hung like a mule. Coming back from Boulder. At least David didn’t have the happy ending right on the window of the camera shop. We had two residents. A few seconds later. David was a very prolific artist. David had been walking by one of those gaudy camera/ electronics stores one sees in malls that always have a live video camera on in the front window. and had seen me at my worst after my divorce from Sara. and she was both an exceptionally intelligent and exceptionally sexy girl. I had known Erika since her first year. and was busy flogging it publicly in front of the video camera. I was in my mid-thirties and she was 21 at the time. and we made it through the entire picture with no problems.The Blues | 97 tiful place to be for a few months. and had some legendary drunken shows that she had attended. David had whipped out his huge monster unit. The guys enjoyed the movie. The cameras much have fascinated David. and one aspect of the trip that I enjoyed much more than I though I would was helping Bob work with the adult autistic men he cared for. I swear. and literally created so much art we had to carry it out weekly in garbage bags. whispering in my ear that I should come down to Sarasota to . He also masturbated 4-5 times a day. One day Bob had me accompany he and the guys to a movie at a local shopping mall. On the way back to the car however. as he lagged behind while we unwittingly forged ahead through the mall. David did not speak. Watching Bob Phelps trying to calm down the freaked out old ladies in the mall so we could escape unscathed was truly entertaining.
and managed to get an assistant manager job at a local music store. She urged me to come back to Florida. I wish I could remember some of those shows. The club was called The Horny Toad. regardless. and for a few months it was THE place to be in south Tampa. I moved in with Erika. Especially due to the heavy exposure I had been through writing my thesis. She and I had some classes together during her first two years at New College. Which sounded fine to me at the time. but wanted to do my own ambient music. because I loved the music that Mike and I had done in LVX Nova. I had become much more of a fan of the ambient genre. situated by the Port of Tampa in one of the roughest neighborhoods around. Some days I would literally lag behind in class just to see her bend down to get her book bag from under the desk. My friends Chris & Lisa owned it. Stargarden was born during this era. I basically became another $7 an hour working stiff. I had started making electronic music at this time. Erika was a former competitive gymnast. so Hyde Park was mine again. Erika and I moved to a gorgeous older second story loft apartment with a grand balcony. . as I was going nowhere fast at that moment. with long chestnut hair and big brown eyes. and Sara had already moved away. I just seem to stumble into them somehow. and had done a very impressive thesis on Russian Feminist Literature. It’s still mine now. She came from a high-end Chicago suburb upbringing. I have always been able to find great spaces to rent for some reason. and basically wanted to make the kind of music I wanted to listen to. and sat home and drank the rest of the time. and we became acquaintances. I missed living there. and to live in Sarasota. I know some of them were quite good. Erika finished her thesis. I thought she was hot.98 | Life Story of a Guitar Player see her. And like every other guy (and many girls) at New College. and we moved to Hyde Park in Tampa. I quit the CD Store when we moved. as she rarely if ever wore bras. We kept in touch during my time in Boulder after a brief summer fling of drunken dating and seriously wild sex.
and he got a lot more mileage out of that than he would have gotten out of stealing the gig from me with Sherman. and jumped at the chance. which is called Stargarden. I created a lot of fairly good music in this period. it seems. We never got an actual rehearsal with Sherman. Sherman was an old school Texas bluesman who had played with people like Paul Simon. but it was a good time and a stable time. In hindsight. the bass player Scott had other ideas. Bass players – you always have to keep . As Hunter S Thompson said. My skills in the blues music scene had gained me some notice. I borrowed the rhythm section from another local blues wunderkind in Tampa. and Sherman enjoyed playing with us. and taught gymnastics at a local gym for income. and the first two of those albums were recorded during this era. My life had become somewhat predictable. I managed to secure an audition to play with Sherman Robertson. things worked out exactly as they should. Nothing seems to anymore at this point. This was music created and recorded for the sheer joy of the process – and it’s been some of my most successful to date. Sean ended up getting a gig being Hubert Sumlins guitar player. then would come home and record ambient music all evening. No one ever listens to me. I worked at Border’s during the day. But it did not last for long. and called Sherman asking if they could just leave me out of the equation and bring Sean along as the guitar player. Sherman has an amazing soulful vocal style. but I attempted to teach the guys Robertson’s more complex than usual blues music. Clifton Chenier.The Blues | 99 and went to work for Border’s Bookstore. I have done 4 albums of Stargarden ambient music so far. drinking myself into a stupor and smoking a fair amount of weed. Rich and Scott were a powerful bass and drum team. We did manage to make it through the gig. coupled with a super spicy Texas blues guitar attack. and Bobby Blue Bland. Erika worked on her master’s at USF. “the music business is a hallway filled with snakes and whores…and there’s a negative side too”. Sean Chambers. like every other liberal arts major. and I knew they could cut the gig from hearing them play with Sean. However.
so I hired him over the phone. Al Kooper was there that night. was an amazing drummer who I completely clicked with – but he couldn’t go on tour. “Driving Miss Daisy???”). While Jason. Curtis Hayes. and now had to find a new rhythm section. and the tempest began. And you thought they were the “quiet ones”. and performed live all over the bay area as “Wallet Chain”. After most of the . we began to rehearse the Sherman songs. and after a well-placed comment by Curtis (“Drive the van? What is this. playing venues like the House of Blues in Cambridge. and a complete band disaster. She stuck all of us in this little teakettle. usually at Dave’s Aqua Lounge. Once Jason arrived in Tampa. and we gave a halfway decent performance. I managed to recruit young Jason on drums. but by the end of the week we were all headed home. we were having a hard time gelling with Sherman. Carlos of Cheap Trick. The drummer. From the beginning. And now we were gearing up to do first a USA. One funny thing happened during that week that stuck with us. and we all had to drive home to Tampa.100 | Life Story of a Guitar Player your eye on them. Little did we know that we were on our way to the “lake of hell”. Sherman and Curtis had never quite seen eye to eye. He had actually trained with Bun E. And I recruited my bass player from college. a fresh-faced 21 year old drummer from Rockport IL. this time in hell was planned so that we could rehearse for the second leg of the tour. a local blues bar in St Petersburg. Curtis. Ostensibly. and we processed for our passports and awaited Sherman’s arrival in Tampa. there was tension. he was immediately fired. I did manage to avoid getting snaked out of the gig by the bass player Scott. We ended up in Rochester. Rich Russo. We had some amazing gigs together. and I sounded pretty darn good as the trio. New York at a lake house on Lake Ontario owned by Sherman’s manager Catherine “Cat” Bauer. then a European tour! Things were moving forward. and remained behind playing with Sean Chambers. We did a tour of the northeast.
we proceeded to barrage these poor patrons of the bar with the loudest.The Blues | 101 week of failed rehearsals and building tension. we are lucky these people didn’t kick our ass and throw us out of town. Sherman had a knockdown. At this time. We made it home to Tampa. and I had to find another bass player immediately to go on tour to Europe with the band. We followed behind him like ducklings following their mother. and had decided to get married. We rehearsed and learned Sherman’s songs together. I thought of the local bass player Robert “Freight Train” Parker. but relieved to not do the tour. they were just an amazing. At the end of our set. fun to be around . Curtis always did know how to ask for the sale. I had managed to get a local music magazine at The House of Guitars. a very frustrated Curtis blurted out on the microphone “OK. I had become very close to her parents and grandparents. and off into the upstate New York night we went. drag-out argument with Cat. He played with another local Tampa Bay bluesman Rock Bottom. sloppiest set of music we had played in months. Erika and I had been living together for a while. Curtis was pissed. some guy stood right up in the middle of the club and replied “I DO!”. He intimated to me that he wanted me to take the guys and get out of the house. There were possibly a dozen people there. WHO has got the pot??” Amazingly. After enduring such an aural assault. We showed up with our van full of equipment. She continued to work at the Gymnastics gym and also worked on her Masters. and waited for Sherman to come back to Florida for more rehearsals. he was a 300 lb bluesman with a bad attitude. and is one of the most solid blues bassists around. and loaded in our entire backline. and I didn’t want to piss Rock off. then turned and walked out of the club. and they watched in amusement as we unloaded the entire van. and we found a local club that had an “open mic” night. witty. I loaded up Jason and Curtis into the van. After we set up. Robert is 100% Native American. and gave him a call.
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family. I miss them more than I have missed her over the years. But our relationship had begun to break down already before the wedding. I used to call home to say hello and touch base sometimes during my gigs. One night I called home to check in with her, and she informed me that she was busy watching a movie with her ex-boyfriend Jeremy. This was all well and good, except it was after midnight, and I knew the two of them were curled up in my bed. Erika was well known on the New College campus for being such a sexual dynamo, a beautiful bisexual creature that nearly everyone desired. And I “had” her, for a brief time. It’s tough to turn a Mustang into a plowhorse. I knew that marrying her was going to be a mistake, and so did Curtis. Erika’s best friend from her high school days came down to visit and spend a week with us, a beautiful ethereal girl named Vicki. I spent many hours with Vicki that week, and by the end of that time, she had heard to whole story and knew that Erika and I shouldn’t get married. But I felt completely trapped at that time, plans had been made, reservations and deposits had been placed, and I was once again getting married. Except Curtis had other plans… Curtis had never liked Erika. Where nearly everyone at New College had loved Sara, Erika was a different story. I think many people were simply jealous of how beautiful and how daring and open she was. I went from a relationship where I almost never had sex, to one where the sex was some of the best I have ever had in my life. But the cracks were starting to show, and by the time we finally made it to the wedding day, we were near our breaking point. I knew that I should stop this from happening, but the momentum of the event carried me along and I just couldn’t make it stop. It was a beautiful ceremony at the Unitarian Church in Clearwater, with tons of family attending. Erika’s parents had spent a ton of money on a very nice reception at a local country club. Unknown to me, Curtis had ingratiated himself with the pastor who married Erika and I, and had managed to filch the wedding license paperwork from him, assuring the pastor that he was on the way to the post office and would make sure it was mailed. Luckily for me, Curtis
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simply filed the document in his folders at home, while Erika and I headed off to the North Carolina mountains for a quick honeymoon before I left on a European Tour. We had an uneventful honeymoon, other than a couple of arguments along the way. Our car broke down outside Raleigh, and we had a devil of a time getting it repaired. Somehow we managed to make it back to Tampa intact. I already had my things packed, grabbed my guitar, and headed to the airport. Jason and I met up with Freight Train, the bass player, in the Orlando airport. We flew to JFK in New York, and awaited Sherman’s arrival…in the bar, of course. Sherman had already begun to give me the evil eye for my drinking habits, but none of us ever drank before or during a show, only afterwards. We flew from JFK to Gatwick, UK, and did a seven day tour of London, Brighton, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, and Chichester. Most of the guys did not acclimate well to the British way of life, but I did. I loved Brighton the most, as it was such a beautiful town with beaches covered in small, smooth rocks and plenty of tourists from all over Europe. Our daily routine was simple: wake up early and travel, set up for the gig, do the gig, go out and party all night, then wake up early and travel again. As the bandleader, it was my job to find somewhere for us all to drink and party after the shows, and I took that responsibility seriously. We managed to have a great time in the UK, and then headed over to Germany to play a large concert called the Gaildorfer Blues Festival. This particular show was a highlight of the entire tour. We had flown from the UK to Germany on Lufthansa, and upon exiting the plane we were all given these nicely made bag lunches. There was a very large tour bus awaiting our arrival, and it was already nearly full of all the other bands for the festival. Our plane was the last to arrive, so some of these guys had been sitting there in that bus for hours waiting for everyone to finally arrive.
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By the time I got on the bus, nearly every seat was taken. And the seats were taken by some of the most legendary bluesmen alive. Gatemouth Brown was sitting there, Billy Branch, Joe Louis Walker, Kenny Neal, and many more Chicago legends. The only seat I could find was next to a very imposing Matt “Guitar” Murphy. I have met many of my heros and influences over the years, but I was a bit hesitant to sit next to Matt. Plus, he was NOT in a good mood, having been forced to wait hours for everyone to arrive. And we were the last band. I could see it in his eyes. So I timidly asked him if I could sit next to him and he gruffly replied “Sure, why not?” I tried to settle in quickly and appear non-existent. Matt began to talk to me little by little. We exchanged musical pleasantries, and I complimented his guitar work on the Blues Brothers movies. He noticed my little brown paper bag, and mentioned that he had not had anything to eat in hours. I sensed an opportunity to make a friend, and opened up the bag to reveal a pretty nice sandwich. Matt’s eyes grew to great proportions as he eyed the Lufthansa sandwich. “Take it”, I said “they gave it to me on the plane, and I can wait until we get to the festival grounds to eat. So for the price of a sandwich, I made a friend for life. Matt never forgot me for giving him the sandwich, and when I would run into him later on tour, he would always greet me with a smile and a “thank you” for that sandwich. Gatemouth Brown from Texas was the headliner that night at Gaildorfer, but he had no idea that another Texas bluesman would steal the show that evening. Sherman’s slot was just before Gate, and we played possibly the best show of the entire tour that night. Jason’s drumming was top notch, Freight Train was as solid as a rock, I had everything together, and Sherman was truly giving one of the best shows I had seen him do. We literally blew Gatemouth off the stage, and had thousand of German blues fans going crazy. Our set ran late, as the people would not
This was a peak time in my life. By the time Gate finally played. but I opted to get silly drunk by myself instead. Normally. I raided the backstage area. I noticed this shapely young woman as she began to undress. I still remember Gatemouth cursing Sherman all the way to his backstage trailer.The Blues | 105 let us stop. eating at amazing restaurants. Once we were finished. staying in four-star hotels. and pulled her dress off in the moonlight. San Severino stands out to me. Afterwards. The only saving grace of that evening was a lovely young Italian woman who lived across the street from my hotel room. about ¾ of the people had already left. and I didn’t get back to my room until well after daybreak. We drank huge 22 oz beers that were allegedly local production. Finally I was playing shows to thousands of happy people. San Severino Marche. got an armful of beer. She looked up and saw me there. right there in her window. I was on top of the world. and many other Italian towns. as now I had become the target of Cat and Sherman’s criticism. and I had been an isolator since I was a child. instead of 20 drunks in a bar in Tampa. and playing some of the biggest blues concerts in the world. I would have been a lot more excited to hang out with one of my heroes. beautiful Italian . and the ones that were still there were in a daze after our show. She smiled. and played shows all over my father’s homeland in Termoli. I ended up hanging out with a beautiful blonde German girl named “Sabine”. Alcoholics tend to isolate. we walked through the audience and made friends. allowing me to see her entirely naked for a few moments before she waved and turned out the light. Thank you. What could possibly bring me down? We made it safely to Italy. We did a great show with the amazing blues and jazz guitarist Robben Ford. and headed back to my hotel room and drank by myself. I was up on the sixth floor. Just in time to catch the plane to Italy. wide-eyed with my beer in my hand. and basically sat in my window drinking beer all evening. I played that show pissed off and basically staring at the floor.
I came upon a very large. if you had known that cat. and is one of the most spiritual places in Italy. I could feel that I was in the presence of a power much greater than myself. I started to walk out of the row and headed towards the church door. you would have recognized his utter superiority to you and the people around you. they call this your “higher power”. I think I liked him more than his owner. The doors in front of this impressive building were at least 15 feet tall. I walked the stations of the cross almost automatically. many people get caught up in the “God Thing”. and something drove me inside of the structure. Tai-Chi. and began to marvel at the sheer beauty of the church. I ran my hands along the smooth. I was . San Severino Marche is very close to the famous religious town of Assisi.106 | Life Story of a Guitar Player girl. at least. For me initially. At least you took my attention away from focusing on my sad self for a few brief moments. Finishing the last station of the cross. The next morning I spent walking all around the town. But a “higher power” can be anything. it was my wife’s Siamese cat. I managed to crack one of the doors open enough to slip inside. Rising from the pew. where they can’t accept what the Program is trying to say to them because of a smattering of religious language in the text. In the program. casting iridescent shards of light onto the wood floors. I went to sit in one of the pews. The church appeared to be closed. He was my higher power for a year. I went around and walked the gauntlet of monk’s caves and other religious sites. I was transfixed by the beauty of all the art in this church. but I really wanted to see the inside. As I made it to the back of the church. Trust me. grooved wood prayer rails. and thought deeply about the fact that thousands of people for hundreds of years had knelt and prayed here. As I wandered through the town. I stopped for a moment and said a brief prayer myself. At first. very ancient church. Looking down. The sun was streaming into the stained-glass windows. As I made the stations of the cross running on some sort of power that was guiding me.
but the basic message was “I AM GOD AND YOU ARE NOT!”. and I was forced to my knees. I could feel them warmly tracing their way down my cheeks. this was an exclamation point. I was in this state for several minutes. and was immediately in tears. I focused on the bricks on the street. and made my way back to the hotel room. shaken AND stirred. and that there was a power much greater that was at work in my life and always has been. . The church was empty. but I could not move.The Blues | 107 suddenly once again struck with a VERY bright white light. Sherman was not your typical blues musician by a long shot. There was an iron gate near one of the prayer caves. One thing I had always admired about Sherman was his spirituality. the bright sunlight burned my eyes as I staggered into the brick street. that it was a fresh start. I was on my knees for a long while. and the world suddenly seemed to be infinitely more colorful and alive. The fainting spells and experiences I had undergone during junior college that had lead me to burn all of my occult journals and books. If the previous experiences were precursors. save for myself and the presence of something much greater. had completely obliterated me like an atomic bomb. As I left the church. There were some specific thoughts communicated to me during this time. I eventually was able to rise unsteadily to my feet and wobble to the door. It was the announcement to me that I was not the center of the universe. no philosophy study. I felt like fainting and I felt like running. and it was covered with a purple bougainvilla that was the most intensely colored flower I had ever seen. I felt like the slate was wiped clean. I looked around me as my eyes slowly adjusted. All of the clichés you may have read about “religious experiences” were here in some form or another. He would usually be found reading the Bible on our long van trips to the next gig. no spiritual debate. But this was no intellectual exercise.
I tried to put into words what had happened to me. I was not your typical card carrying fundamentalist Christian – I was the guy reading Nietschze and Crowley. I managed to get back to my hotel room and collapsed. From the first time I had played guitar. Sherman and I sat down in his room. weaving in and out in places that were hard to ignore. The thinkers always have a tough time with the Program.108 | Life Story of a Guitar Player and I never saw Sherman drink. The experience had drained me completely. God is trying to tell you something son. but I still wasn’t getting it. and I would urge you to pay attention” I knew that Sherman was right. and that I had been squandering my life away with drinking and drugs. overlooking the brick streets of San Severino. God was indeed trying to tell me something. Sherman was taken aback as I told him about being knocked to my knees by this power. Bob Uzzo says I’m a “problem case”. Especially so in my case. studying Yoga and meditation. And they tended to appear the more the fabric was worn down and getting threadbare. and most alcoholics are thinkers. and thinking of it today I can still feel the power. and had an inherent “feel” that people enjoyed listening to. But there had been an invisible thread that had sewn itself into the fabric of my life. Sherman was one up-tempo and happy guy. . My musical abilities were equal parts gift and practice. While over the years I had done some charitable activities for the Humane Society. and asked to talk to him privately for a little while. The problem with having a somewhat inordinate amount of IQ is that it’s probably more of a liability than an asset. it was obvious that I had a special gift for being able to play nearly anything I heard. He said to me “Bobby. and working with Tarot cards. I had lived in an existentialist “live and let die” sort of vague secular antihumanism. For someone who made a living playing the blues. The sheer power of even trying to relate this experience to Sherman again made me burst into tears. I managed to catch him alone at his hotel room.
I had only been gone a matter of weeks. Before our show that night. She informed me that she was already sick of my touring lifestyle. I decided to make a quick call home to check on Erika and say hello. and happened to catch her in a very pissed off mood. And. They were out on a sunbathing platform about 30 feet from shore. and here I was playing a major concert in my family’s hometown! We were performing a large outdoor show at a horse racing track. and made friends with a pair of beautiful German girls who were lazily sunbathing topless. she had recently begun to hang out with one of the gym teachers she worked with. and I remember how easy it was to simply float in the high-salinity seawater there as I swam out to chat them up. NEVER CALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TOUR!” But I never listen to reason and experience. I still can’t figure out why we Americans are so uptight about topless sunbathing. I was really excited. It should be legal in all fifty states. I also remember how amazing these girls looked. . and myself had hit the beach as soon as we unpacked and it was amazing. our road manager Emanuele. As I dressed in my blues finery. The water was impossibly blue. Jason. the “tip of the boot” in southern Italy. and Erika was already beginning to date other people…and we had only been married a couple of weeks. “Bobby. It was a beautiful day. and they were going out tonight. and one could see Mt Aetna smoking lightly in the background.The Blues | 109 The next day we headed to Calabria. I called Erika. and we got a hotel right on the water by the Straits of Messina. This phone call ended up costing me $250 American at the front desk. you call once when you arrive. All of the various DeVito family members are all from Calabria initially. as it left her at home lonely with no one to admire her. usually. Sherman says this is ALWAYS a mistake for a traveling musician. We were surrounded by beautiful European tourists. and once when you are leaving.
and came up from the back room with a huge green bottle of wine with no label and a cork stuck in the top. Emanuele looked at me with my homemade wine and challenged “You will never be able to drink that whole bottle”. The wine was deep. Of course. .110 | Life Story of a Guitar Player I ended up completely losing my mind over this incident. Sherman usually let me have one or two guitar solos per show. and asked them for wine or beer. Our road manager took one look at what was happening. and pulled me aside. An attractive young woman made her way down to the front of the stage. Sherman helpfully reminded me that he had told me not to call. “It is a very generous offering and a sign of respect”. One of the strangest things of the entire tour happened at the end of that show. a slow bluesy gospel number. we were basically herded into what was usually some sort of snackbar. “They are giving you a bottle of their own homemade family wine”. The kid behind the snack bar indicated that they didn’t have any alcohol. I laughed at him openly. said Emanuele. other than my bottle of wine being hidden behind my amplifier so Sherman wouldn’t see it. and attempted to get his attention. an older woman in the kitchen had heard our interchange. I thanked both the kid and the old woman profusely. and it felt good immediately. I pressed up to the counter. He just laughed at me knowingly. and told him “I’m a professional Emanuele. I never drank during a Sherman show. As Sherman played his last number. I could drink TWO bottles of this easily”. he “broke it down” in the middle and had the band at a whisper as he testified into the Calabrian night. The show went off pretty well. rich southern Italian red wine. As a backstage area. and I was furious. walked right up to Sherman. and I had already done one earlier in the night. It was a bittersweet show. as the phone call had essentially ruined what had been such a peak experience. but there was always a first time for everything in my life. and immediately pulled the cork and took a swig. I headed backstage in search of booze. any kind of booze. nearly at the end of my rope. Luckily for me. As we got to the concert venue.
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“Yes my dear?” Sherman said to her kindly. “Mr. Sherman, would you please let Bobby DeVito play another solo?” I could see the look in Sherman’s eye. He couldn’t believe this woman went through all that trouble to hear me play another solo. But Sherman is a professional, and professionals give the people what they want. “Sure, darling. Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Bobby DeVito on gui-tah!” Usually in Italy when my name was announced, I got a really great crowd reaction. I was an Italian boy made good, playing with the real American bluesmen. That night, I took that solo of mine and basically tried to play it as good as Sherman would. Let me make one thing clear – when it comes to electric blues guitar, Sherman could outplay me with one hand, I consider him the greatest living Texas electric blues guitar player on the planet. But that night, I caught up with him a little bit. On the van ride to the next city, we had fast forwarded the tape of that night to my solo, although we did not know where we were in the tape. Sherman heard the guitar solo, and said to Cat Bauer “Yeah man, I was PLAYING it last night”. About 30 seconds later on the tape we could hear Sherman say “Bobby DeVito on the guitar, ladies and gentleman, BOBBY DEVITO!”. The look on Sherman’s face was priceless, as I had copped his feel just well enough to fool even him. I knew my job was about over at that point, and I was right. We had a week where we had no shows scheduled at all, and settled into a small mountain town called Toricella Peligna in the Abruzzo region. Toricella was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life, a quiet town of perhaps 2,000 inhabitants situated in a small mountain range. The town jutted out from the mountainside almost in spite of the sky in places, with beautiful views all the way down into the valleys. We settled into the Hotel Cape for our weeklong stay. I was the
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first one out of the van when we finally arrived, and I stumbled into the hotel with my guitar. As I got to the desk, I locked eyes with one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in my life. Federica was her name, and she was working the front desk. We immediately connected in a significant way. However, the quite large and imposing Italian guy right behind her had a sudden cooling effect on my ardor. I fumbled with my keys, and tried to stare at the floor, the walls, the ceiling, anything but Federica. We were in Italy, and you don’t mess around in Italy, unless you’d like to get cut. I finally got assigned to my room, and went to unpack. It had been a long tour so far, and with the previous blowup with Erika, I had a lot on my mind. I was pretty much resigned to going home and getting a divorce after the tour. As I unpacked my guitar and changed my strings, I was feeling in need of some serious coffee. And for anyone who loves coffee, Italy is the promised land. I made my way downstairs to the coffee bar, and there was Federica again. I nervously made my way to the empty counter and ordered a cappuccino. “He’s my brother” she immediately said. Laughing and sighing a huge sigh of relief, I sat down at the counter and had coffee with this beautiful creature. Federica and her brother were the DiSangro family, and they owned the hotel and restaurant. She had attended boarding school in England, and was quite educated and cultured. Somehow we both discovered that our favorite author was Herman Hesse, and we looked at each other like giddy little children. I knew this was going to be trouble. As the week progressed, it was obvious to everyone that Federica and I were spending a lot of time together. Her brother called me one night and asked me out to drinks. I knew it was either going to be a talkingto, or an ass-whipping. He met me at my room, and we headed to the
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only local bar in town. Rico was the sort of man referred to as “swarthy”, he was stout and hairy, with jet black hair and brown eyes with a unibrow. And he was big enough to easily take me down, so I watched my step. However, despite our language barriers, we had a ton of fun out drinking that night, and we had to walk each other home at daylight. I stumbled home to bed, confident that I had passed the first family test. The next afternoon, I was hung over severely. After morning coffee at 3 p.m., I lazed most of the day away in my hotel room, attempting to write some music. It was not a productive afternoon, and I degenerated into merely looking out my window down into the beautiful valleys below. The peaceful town was seeping into my bones little by little. As I sat at the window, my peaceful afternoon was interrupted by the ringing telephone next to my bed. It was Federica’s brother again, thanking me for the previous evening. And, he mentioned that he was taking his girlfriend to a concert in the next town that evening, and Federica was coming along, and would I like to go along with them. He had my attention immediately. I showered and got dressed nicely, awaiting the two of them in my room. I knew that this was a natural progression, and that I actually was going to get a date with Federica. Although, the date would be chaperoned by her very large Italian brother, and I could have easily “accidentally” fallen off one of those cliffs. Federica did not look like most Italian women. She was a natural blonde, with lighter blonde highlights that had settled into her shoulder length hair during the hot Abruzzo summer. She had soft brown eyes, and a very curvy and shapely body that really made my blood simmer. Many women seem to be obsessed with being a size two, but trust me ladies – men love it when women have curves. She wore a simple gold Italian chain with a cross pendant hanging from it, and a pair of diamond stud earrings. The three of us loaded up into her brother’s little Fiat, and we headed to the next town over to pick up his date. After we had retrieved this woman, they sat in the front while Federica and I sat in the back
and in the most beautiful part of Italy I had ever seen. Both of her parents were still alive and working at the hotel. After being inspected and primped by her mother and father. Federica did not disappoint. Somehow we managed to discover we both loved Herman Hesse and had read all of his books. this was much better and worth waiting for. She had gotten a degree in education in London. but this date was making up for it. We both seemed to be voracious readers. and it was fun to be a “rock star” here. with sensible shoes and a white gold chain with a small diamond pendant. Riding with Federica was just amazing. Everywhere I went. and went to get ice cream. but it was no secret that they were grooming Federica and her brother to take over the business soon. and I could see the misty look in her mother’s eye…and the caution radiating from her father’s eye as well. Most of my friends who were big men on campus in high school are now living in trailers with fat wives and too many kids. It has always amazed me. this sense of familial duty that some cultures have. she came down the stairs in a beautiful white linen dress.114 | Life Story of a Guitar Player seat and held hands. Screw high school. the four of us all piled back into the Fiat. We went to see the concert. but knew that she had to return to Italy to take over the family business along with her brother. After the show. I . I was regarded as a celebrity. I may have been a late bloomer in high school. The next day. I was finally allowed to take Federica out on a date by myself. She looked positively radiant. We drove through the mountains and eventually got to our destination. Give me the slow gradual rise anytime. I was finally having the perfect high school date experience with one of the most beautiful women I had ever known. and had spent many an hour talking about our favorite writers and books. another local town about 15 miles away from Toricella. looking into her soft eyes and discussing literature. and it was quite good – a local Italian band that played mostly American rock and blues music. I awaited her entrance down in the lobby of the hotel. We headed onwards to our destination.
beaten. and off Federica and I went in her brother’s Fiat. for a brief moment. and I could see her parents checking in on us from time to time. or killed in Italy for messing around with the wrong woman. It was an amazing experience to be up there on that point with Federica. and every move has to be approved by the family. having a beautiful dinner with quite possibly . and other writers. The next evening. one that ranks up there with any peak experience I have ever had prior to that moment. blonde. college professors. beautiful. a “look out point” that reminded me of bad American 50s movies. This beautiful blonde girl was almost the diametrical opposite of Erika – she was sweet and caring. Federica and I sat together as a couple. Federica told me that the hotel would be hosting a literary conference that weekend. we drove to the highest point in the entire town. smiling at each other as they viewed the two of us. We had dinner at a local restaurant. After our dinner. Here I was among the literary and cultural elite. Toricella was the birthplace of the pre-Beat writer John Fante. We got out of the car. As we held hands. I felt like I actually belonged. sitting next to people like the Vice President of Coca Cola. it was also isolating as well. and basically just enjoyed the sheer pleasure of being in each other’s company. or since. and once a year there was a conference that discussed Fante’s work and literary relevance in the modern day.The Blues | 115 knew this was meant to be a date. She invited me to attend this event. looked down over the darkened valleys that were illuminated by little electric lights that looked like groups of stationary fireflies. There’s a very rigorous family labyrinth that any suitor must negotiate. everything had gone well that week. While touring with the band was a fantastic experience. You can easily get yourself stabbed. she kissed me and we made out like teenagers. and I gladly accepted. and chaste. The next day. much less Fante. and nothing more. Luckily for me. Nobody else in the band would have been interested in attending this conference – none of them would have even known who Kerouac was. there I was.
But we had a great time. The next night. He had the Harley cycle of course. So I called Freight Train and Jason. We finally played our show as part of the summer cultural events of a larger nearby city. I was surprised. “Sherman needs to let the dog out”. I like to ride . as all good things seem to. The bar we went to was a small but comfortable joint owned by a revolutionary biker type that looked like he was fresh from a Hell’s Angels party. and told me “Tonight I want you and the boys to take me out”. in one of the most amazing towns I have ever seen. The band loaded up into the van. and we all got together and walked into town. and I even roped our road manager into this party. and we made our plans. I was discussing pre-Beat literature with some of the greatest minds on the planet. a black sheer number that had been woven throughout with silver tinsel to give it a really good stage glitter under the lights. and the week had been a welcome rest from our busy touring schedule. Emanuele had been a great guy to hang out with during this tour. and making sure that my intentions were pure. and we went to do the show. I later ended up giving this guy any of my Harley-branded stage clothing. and it was parked on the sidewalk out front. but wearing a Che Guevara shirt. Our time in Toricella was coming to an end. Sherman had been ribbing me all week long about Federica. The night of our show. Federica’s mother loved my shirt.116 | Life Story of a Guitar Player the most amazing woman I had ever met. and I was with Federica. we were still In Toricella. I came downstairs dressed in my concert finery. as Sherman had never hung out with “the boys”. with perhaps only 500 people attending. as there was only one bar in town! They guys were pretty surprised as well that Sherman wanted to hang out. he usually went straight back to his room or hung out with the manager Cat Bauer. He called me in my room that evening. said the bluesman. Of course. it was easy to figure out where we were going. It was probably the smallest show of the entire tour.
and he tipped the musicians $20 American. we were doing shots of limoncello with Sherman. The musicians perked up immediately and began playing a high-tempo Italian jig of some sorts. It was a beautiful moment. He made his way back through the club to speak with the two musicians. and it was one night I was truly glad she brought it along. We drank a little of everything. But Shermn kept on them. A fever started to break out among the locals. challenging him to drink the sweet lemony shots. and a strange lemon concoction called “limoncello”. and started dancing together. Cat Bauer had shown up with her everpresent video camera. I could see the smiles on the old men’s faces as they played – Sherman had taken their previously ignored music. but I am anything but a biker. beer. let’s celebrate it!”. Back in the corner of the club sat two older Italian gentlemen. These two barflys were somewhat forlornly making traditional music back in the corner. The locals looked at Sherman with a mixture of awe and humor. telling them “This is YOUR music. from Cuba Libre (wth real Cuban Rum). Finally. while the much younger crowd at the bar largely ignored them. this is YOUR history. and he was going to get sloshed with us. he was still 100% in control of his faculties. and within 15 minutes or so they entire place was caught in up dancing with Sherman to the local indigenous music duo. As the night began to get more interesting. Sherman had made it known to us that this was “his night”. and started drinking. He danced wildly around the dance floor as the musicians continued to play. He shouted out to the crowd “Let’s all dance!”. We hitched up our spots at the bar. and did something that I have never forgotten. By this time. Sherman noticed the two musicians. Although Sherman was starting to get loaded. and suddenly had made it hip and contemporary again. one with an accordion and one with a strange sort of drum that had a long stick coming out of the top of it.The Blues | 117 motorcycles. initiated by a beautiful man who truly did love their . it was obvious that he didn’t know how to dance correctly to this music. some of the other people in attendance decided to show Sherman “how it’s done”.
and now it was his turn. After . Sherman took the battered guitar. Some of the locals were crying. we all assembled in the back room of the club and waited. you ain’t shit. saying “Mr. no big PA systems. Sherman hesitated to take the guitar. Sherman held these people in the palm of his hand with just his voice and guitar. It was a man. There was no microphones. It was truly standing room only. even though they didn’t know what Sherman was singing…but they felt it. and some blues chestnuts. and they all wanted to hear Sherman play. older Bobby Blue Bland songs. and an old guitar.118 | Life Story of a Guitar Player music. Sherman made a short speech about the universality of music. showing back up about 15 minutes later with a beat up older nylon string guitar. He pulled out Gospel Standards. Sherman gave us an hour set of some of the finest music I have ever heard him play. and handed the guitar to me for tuning. I felt the wet tracks of tears beginning to etch their way down my face. It took a black man from Breaux Bridge Louisiana to make these locals truly appreciate their own music! The dancing and drinking continued for well over an hour. As he played an old traditional Gospel song. and in broken English attempted to hand Sherman the guitar. I huddled in the back of the crowded room with Federica. And I was finally realizing he was right. his voice. and delivered one of the best sets of the entire tour right there in that little Italian club. with most people that could not get a chair sitting on the floor. As I tuned the guitar. boy”. and left the bar rapidly. Sherman…please?”. My grandfather had told me when I was 12 that if “You can’t do it with just an acoustic guitar and a good song. He approached Sherman. The old men motioned to Sherman that THEY had played. Sherman laughed. As I finished tuning the ancient guitar. sat down. One of the locals had an idea. It was fucking magic. I looked around and saw Cat Bauer in tears as well while she was filming. no effects units and reverbs. but the assembled crowd had grown larger in the last hour. holding her tight. and how we should all respect our own cultures.
and we basically informed him that we were adults. . and started to wander off into the night. I would have stayed. and my wife and I. Federica was beautiful. it was the only time I have ever seen Sherman drink. Gulp. he said “that was their family castle from the 1500s. and that it was none of his business what we did in our free time. Toricella was beautiful. we a like-a you too. My daughter likes you. we passed an ancient castle further down into the valley. that we never drank on stage. even if you are a Calabrese. My mind racing. We had two days left in Toricella and I was not looking forward to leaving. But I had to finish the tour. However. and get divorced once again. and we would like you to quit the band and stay”. the people were blown away. Leaving the small town in the van. After his set. I missed my chance to truly be royalty. and didn’t want me to go. and I sometimes think he did it that night to show me that drinking could be a hobby and not a full-time job. Federica knew I had to leave. go back to Tampa. “Yes”. I saw the amazing power of music to unite all of us into one happy throng of very different people. I noticed the sign out front that read “Castello DiSangro”.The Blues | 119 each song. My sister started referring to me as “Ross from ‘Friends’”. and it’s a historical monument now”. Her father stopped me in the hallway of the hotel the last day we were in town. Damnit. the entire place would erupt in shouts of “BRAVO!” and loud handclapping. I asked Emanuele about the castle and the sign. and said to me in jagged English “You’re a god Italian boy. If I could have. Sherman indeed got fully and happily drunk along with the rest of us. if only by association. he likes you. Sherman had talked to both Freight Train and I about our drinking during the tour. At least he tried. You know my son. and I could have dropped out of American society for good. We remained and drank until the wee hours of the morning.
however. Perhaps even like Key West. I was familiar with Sicily. I had quite possibly the best Indian food I have ever ingested in Brighton. Our promoter there was a very affable guy. The guys all hated the food in England. Plate after plate kept arriving. and although I didn’t understand every- . a wildly varying bean soup that nearly everyone seems to love. Once arriving. The waiter was not an idiot. It reminds me of being in Arizona. fish of all kinds. and more. we checked out the concert venue and prepared for dinner. Italy was a bit easier.120 | Life Story of a Guitar Player The rest of the tour was a let-down after Toricella. Sherman surveyed the plates with a look of someone who had just been exposed to an abnormal smell. The promoter’s brother owned one of the finest restaurants in town. As soon as we were seated. as we had performed a concert in the downtown square in Palermo. Sardegna is a smaller island off the coast of Italy. clams. and we were once again herded into the van for dinner. After checking in to our resort hotel. we were greeted by the owner. if Arizona was a small island bordered by some of the most beautiful ocean I have ever seen. It was gastronomical delight – GIANT prawns. enjoyed the food in England immediately. and he asked me rather loudly “Bobby…tell them I just want spaghetti and meatballs!” This had happened before in the UK. His nose wrinkled at the enormous plates of seafood. well dressed and good sunglasses. but with mountains. mussels. lobster. as I had learned that Sherman loved “pasta fagioli”. and were ushered as usual into a van to travel to the venue. a typical thin late 40s Italian guy. One last standout tour stop was our trip to Sardegna. I. and I was practically having an orgasm watching these plates arrive one by one. We arrived at the airport. and taken to a private room upstairs. out came around 11 antipasto appetizers that were the most amazing spread of Italian seafood I had ever witnessed. We played a few smaller shows at some pretty rustic locations.
I managed to distance myself from the band. Italians take food SERIOUSLY. I had selected a beautiful 50 watt vintage Marshall head with matching 4x12 cabinet. as we had been supplied backline amplifiers from a crazy vintage guitar and amp guy there on the island. horns. Once we arrived back at the resort. and were at the bar. as they completely filled the stage. Lots of these crazy old Italian guys have some amazing collections of the older guitars and amps. I actually had groupies at this show. They had three female backup singers. a group of about 5 girls hung out until well after the show to chase me down. so there was no time for shenanigans. and made friends with the restaurant owner. and more. I had a tone that was amazing that night. I was happy not to be their roadies. The show was decent. a rag-tag bunch of about 11 teenaged and early 20s Italian kids. and I wanted them to make it back safely. We joined them (sans Sherman of course). while Sherman got a black face Fender Twin. but the highlight was the opening act. and headed back to a town about an hour from Rome. far away from home. it basically translated as “dumb ass American wants pasta Bolognese”. just like at dinner earlier. 2 guitars bass drums keyboards. Cat had called me “to breakfast”. Until we got back to the hotel. Sherman had just opted for spaghetti and meat balls. It was completely depressing there. We were soon to leave Italy. but it didn’t matter. just another innercity hotel room in a dirty city town. Our show was somewhat perfunctory. We were in Sardegna. and ended up all drinking naked in the warm hotel pool that night reveling in the warm Sardegnian night.The Blues | 121 thing he rapidly said in Italian to his servers. Sherman didn’t let me do too many solos that night. that is. Same old choice as usual. it was soon discovered that the opening band was staying there as well. Faced with a bounty of foods that was merely the first course. her way of punishing me by making me get up early when I was hung . and it was evident. But our schedule was pretty tightly scripted. apologizing for the band’s disrespect.
back to Erika and divorce. My exploits on tour. We bribed the bartender to keep the place open with a fresh American $100 bill. back to playing to 20 drunks in a bar. As we sat there doing bong hits and drinking beer. She had tried to extract more money from me due to the size and weight of my guitar case. I had somehow managed to condense an entire relationship and marriage even denser. I was the bandleader. however. I figured I should simply meet a woman I couldn’t stand. were legendary. and wanted to enjoy the ride back. Cat liked to call me to breakfast to discuss whatever I had done wrong the night before. or to bitch about the other bandmembers or Sherman. and just give her all my stuff. and the possibility of a brand new life. I bemoaned my situation and the fact that I had to once again get a divorce. Now. We had made pretty good money on the tour. I immediately began to move my things out of the apartment that Erika and I shared. It was back to the Hyundai. tooling down the sunny Florida highway Alligator Alley in that nice new Dodge. This time. Arriving back in the USA. I was fired. I had to return my fly rental automobile. Once back in Tampa. however. and I had flatly refused. Jason and I rented a Dodge Viper and headed down the road. At this rate. and Jason and I spent the whole night in the hotel bar with him. We drank Stella and smoked Camels until we couldn’t see straight. and our show in Sardegna would be my last with Sherman.122 | Life Story of a Guitar Player over. in conjunction with Jason and Freight Train. I had one last night with Emanuele our faithful driver and road manager. and then tried to catch an hours’ sleep. and once again couch surfed at Curtis’s condo. and it wasn’t pretty. So back we went to the USA. this one even faster than the 9 months I had been married to Sara. she gave me my pink slip. I had been sitting in a literary conference in one of the most beautiful towns in the world. with a beautiful woman by my side. It . back to Tampa. Two weeks before. and I was ultimately responsible. I was back to reality. But I knew I was headed home to a shitstorm. It was enjoyable.
and um he was wondering…” “What’s YOUR name. . Her father. I went down to the Clerk of Courts office in downtown Tampa. Reaching an elderly clerk. it was determined that Erika and I were indeed not married. Curtis kept insisting that I did not have to get divorced. being a lawyer. insisted that we get a divorce anyway. the LICENSE was never filed. as I really did like Erika’s family a lot. in a twisted way. So. It was a huge relief. just as a matter of course. I had been divorced twice and only actually married once. I told him “You were there. and he um. The next day. man! You SAW me marry her! There’s no way we’re getting back together” “Yes. got married. but I have your ace in the hole”.The Blues | 123 would make it all so much easier. coughing his way through another bong hit. son?” she asked unblinkingly. he withdrew a manila envelope and threw it into my lap. he commanded. Such is the course of my life. he said. but also a huge sense of guilt and shame. Reaching over into his overstuffed filing cabinet. “Open it”. but um. After checking her files. “I knew that bitch was trouble” he said. I stumblingly asked her “I have this friend. Within the envelope was the marriage license that Curtis hat retrieved from the minister at the ceremony.
And Tampa had a vibrant drinking scene of which I partook in gratuitously. The Castle had Goth Mondays. Most of the redneck weekenders that visited Ybor from the surrounding towns like Lakeland and Ocala had no idea the James Joyce even existed. Tampa is a great town to be an alcoholic. And the Oak Barrel and New World Brewery were in full swing as well. and had the best jukebox. and I could drink nearly anywhere I wanted for literally no money. My local stature had risen quite a bit since all the press for LVX Nova and for all my international touring. And we liked it that way. that I was going to do the same thing. We were a favorite hangout for the US Guinness reps. I plunged into the Tampa nightlife with a renewed vigor. Although I still played in bands when I got calls for gigs. owned by a pixie-ish little Irish guy from Dublin named Richard. served the strongest drinks in town. and had one of the best selections of imported beer in town. He had imported much for the wood for the bar straight from the old country. and had his Guinness taps set up with the proper blender for the gases. which were always the best party in town. It was a perfect place for me to perfect my drinking lifestyle. after seeing Sherman play solo acoustic in that small Italian club. I began to play a little Irish Pub in Ybor City that would change my life – The James Joyce Irish Pub. .CHAPTer FiVe FroM 20.000 To 20 Once again single. I had decided. the pub was upstairs on the second floor above a horrible little fratboy bar called The Green Iguana. Most of the poor artist types used to hang out at The Hub in downtown Tampa. Situated directly on 7th Ave in Ybor. The Joyce was an exclusive little place. the kind of bar that had been there for 50 years.
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After having seen nearly everything in my life turn to crap in a couple of years was unsettling, to say the least. I had lost my gig with Sherman, lost two wives, lost my record deal, and lost a great deal of selfconfidence. I began to drink with an intensity that I had never known. In the past, I would have 4 or 5 beers in an evening over the course of a four hour gig. I did indeed get really drunk occasionally back then, but it was not a nightly occurrence. At the Joyce, I started really drinking to excess. I had carte blanche to drink as much as I wanted, and even began to bartend on my off nights to make extra money and drink more. Richard was very forgiving to me, and was concerned. He asked me one time “Bobby, are you OK, son? I have been doing the math, and you drink a keg of Guinness by yourself every ten days. It’s not the money I’m worried about, it’s your health” I shrugged him off, and didn’t mention the countless shots of Tullamore Dew and Jamesons that had accompanied many of those pints of Guinness. I was during this era that I started doing cocaine more regularly. I was depressed and drunk most of the time, and some stimulant action was highly welcomed. Both Curtis and my younger brother Joe were concerned about my state of mind. While Curtis and I would party together, he seemed to easily be able to put down whatever we were doing, and simply go to bed. For me, it wasn’t bedtime until everything had been smoked, drank, or snorted. I just can’t stop, and it started to become pretty evident. There was a local street guy that basically lived in Ybor City named Bongo. He was a 60-ish light-skinned black man who did shoeshines down on the street, and occasionally would sit in and play percussion when the musicians on the strip would let him. He was always “in the know” on where to find drugs, and we all did quite a bit of partying
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with the eccentric percussionist. When I was doing my gigs, all I had to do was give Bongo the nod as he passed by, and he would hook me up. I had rekindled a friendship with a hot young Irish girl I had known since she was 18 – Jen. Jen worked at the Irish pub across the street, and had been a waitress at the Oak Barrel. I had met her when I was still married to Sara, and had later flirted with her a bit over the years. Jen liked to show up after hours with her then-boyfriend Rob, who managed another nightclub down the street, The Masquerade. The Joyce was the place that most of the other bar staff liked to hang out at after hours, and we did a brisk business. Jen and Rob had come over one night, and it was my birthday party. Lots of local musicians had shown up, and they were all playing at my gig for my birthday. I loved it, as I was getting paid to sit there, drink, and listen to all of them play. It was a fun night, and most in attendance got pretty hammered. On their way out, Jen managed to stumble over to me as her boyfriend Rob headed towards the door. She grabbed me to hug me, then kissed and bit my ear, cooing “I’ve always regretted that I haven’t already fucked you silly”. Uh-huh… While I had expressed interest from several other more suitable women in the past few months, something about Jen excited me. She was brash, sexual, and creative. She was a writer and a spoken word artist, and knew everybody in the art and music scene. She was a tall, thin woman with lightly colored strawberry blonde hair and hazel eyes, and she could drink you under the table. She smoked Lucky Strikes, and lit them with an antique thrift store Zippo that she had filched from some previous boyfriend. She had the “heroin chic” look that so many fashion models desire, and had actually been approached by and agent from Ford Modeling in the past. I had been largely single after my latest debacle with Erika, save for a torrid two week fling with April, the lead singer of the band Death Rains Honey. So I lusted for Jen, but had other pressing concerns – like more drugs.
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So, I kept up with my partying, and soon it became much more frequent and a lot less social. As my addiction progressed, I preferred to go do my drugs alone. And worse, I had been introduced to the crack form of cocaine by a band in Jacksonville that I had done shows with a year earlier with Sherman. When one night I couldn’t manage to find regular powder cocaine, I just drove down to “the hood” in South Tampa. My problem was, I didn’t want to stop. One of the only reasons I am alive today is that I didn’t have enough money to kill myself. Curtis was largely unaware of how bad off I was at this time. His mother had been in the hospital for months with terminal cancer, and he had his plate pretty full. I wasn’t there to support him like a good friend should, but I couldn’t even get off the couch sometimes. I remember going to his mom’s funeral in a complete hangover, and barely being able to make it through the ceremony. It was tough times for us both, and we both suffered much of it in silence while living together. I thought I had things under control, but they were going off the rails. One morning, I awoke to realize that I had sold my endorsement guitars the night before to buy more drugs. I was stunned – this was a serious, serious consequence for me. Having grown up always desiring to be a guitar player and being in the guitar magazines, my first endorsements really meant a lot to me. And now I had sold my own legacy for a few small pieces of cocaine. I began to cry, and fumbled through my black book. I knew of a foundation that helped musicians, and I had called them previously to help another addicted musician I knew. They were called the Musician’s Assistance Program”, or “MAP” for short. Founded by a visionary ex jazz saxophonist named Buddy Arnold, MAP has been helping musicians for years. I placed a call to the office, and was immediately put through to Terry Kirkman. Terry had previously been in San Fran pop group The Association, and had weathered his own personals storms and was now working with MAP.
He looked at his schedule. so don’t let me catch you here AGAIN!” screamed one cop at me as he let me go. and that I had just sold my endorsement guitars for drugs. but knew I had to do something. I knew that I had to stop living the life that I had been dancing with. and said it would take two weeks before they would have an empty slot for treatment. Addicts are nothing but creative. Terry listened to my story. For two weeks. that I had gone off the deep end with cocaine and alcohol. and I didn’t want to suddenly cancel all of my gigs and draw unneeded attention. I continued to do my shows and get ready for rehab…fucking rehab. an hour later I was back at it. I had managed to stay clean and sober for the two weeks’ prior to my flight. I was depressed at this. I tried to figure out a way to do this with Terry. It indeed DID turn into a sort of songwriting retreat. “I know what you’re doing down here. which was a miracle at that point. but this time in North Tampa. being caught attempting to buy drugs by the Tampa PD down in South Tampa. Arriving at LAX. I had managed to escape jail more than once. as most people who knew me already knew I was in trouble. and concocted a story for my friends and the music press that I was going on a “songwriting retreat”.128 | Life Story of a Guitar Player “Hi. He listened to my story. I told him I felt like dying. Boarding the plane for Los Angeles was a surreal experience. And I was worried needlessly. and MAP was the only program I could qualify for. how ARE you?” he asked immediately. and related to me that there was a way out. I was greeted by a private car and ushered to the Daniel Freeman Hospital in Marina del . or else I would die. this is Terry. For the next two weeks. H said something that has stuck with me – “You can’t save your face and your ass at the same time”. and YOU know what you’re doing down here. Of course. I had begun playing solo acoustic gig regularly by this point. just not your typical one. and tried to give me a positive uplift to carry me through. I stayed away from drugs and alcohol as best I could.
she was a former exotic dancer who was just a stellar example of why Texas has some of the prettiest women in the world. I would watch people just go from their room to the nurse’s station. most unfamous person there. as long as the “watchers” weren’t looking. with a special lockdown wing for detox and rehab. and I have always had more than my share. As I began to get to know some of the other inmates.000 to 20 | 129 Rey. designed to keep one from experiencing delirium tremens or other sorts of physical withdrawal symptoms.From 20. Daniel Freeman is one of the top rehab facilities in southern California. Ego is perhaps one of the greatest barriers to recovery. I became friends with a beautiful blonde Texan named Ginger. The first few days were mostly a blur of activity and detox drugs. Ginger and I would cuddle together sometimes on the community room couch. This was the facility that Kurt Cobain had jumped the fence at. I immediately was thrust into the front office nursing station. and there was a photo of Stevie Nicks hanging in on of the community rooms. I had never felt so very alone. and she continually played with it nervously during group. and sat down on my bed to reflect. I was assigned to a double room. as I would drift off from the groupspeak and imagine pulling Ginger’s clothes off after group. doing the “thorazine shuffle”. She also had a body that was distracting to me. and anything at all that may have been related to drugs and alcohol. and now I was the weakest link. I soon realized that I was the poorest. Who had I become and what had I come to? I had fired musicians over the years for being drunks and drug addicts. including any clothing with alcohol company logos. and had all of my luggage confiscated and searched. Your first week in rehab is usually a barrage of pharmaceutical activity. and just kept my mouth shut and watched the madness around me. They threw away my aftershave. . my non-prescription medication. She had long blonde hair that nearly reached her elbows. The hospital was a bright and sunny affair.
and looked like a rock and roller. The yard was the only place we were allowed to smoke. They grew fond of hearing me play solo acoustic songs. It felt somewhat apropos that here I was right next to the mental ward. and they could see us as well. especially “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. silent as usual. There was a writer from Seinfeld. But many of the inmates had removed small sections of this nylon material. He had some serious long hair. Me and Stevie. a lead singer named Andrew. I had grown used to him being around. and he and I had chatted about “the biz” while the longhair looked on . There was another rocker there from a Texas band. a medical equipmet company heir.130 | Life Story of a Guitar Player We were a ragtag group that month in Daniel Freeman. he was required to attend activities with the rest of us. One of them was detoxing from heroin. I sat out there in the yard. After a week of detox. His name was Mike. I found it hilarious that I was playing that song for the inmates. avoiding the endless groups. when Stevie herself had been her for cocaine addiction. a couple of minor actors. It was “The Rooster”. One bright spot at the Daniel Freeman Hospital was the recreation yard. He of the long curly hair and silence sat a few feet away. so that we could see into the other yard. and I was basically learning the chords to the tune. It was more than likely my very next stop if this didn’t work. I used to sit out there and play guitar for my fellow inmates. and he spent most of the day in bed. and he was a deathly shade of white that could have only come from long-term avoidance of the sun. a well-known Hollywood physical trainer. and accepted his silence as a matter of course. and fumbled around with an old Alice in Chains song. we were JUST LIKE THIS now… One afternoon. and he was perhaps the least social of all the inmates. It was separated from the Mental Ward activity yard by a fence that had a nylon separator woven into it. and of course a couple of musicians. so it was the place that you would usually find everyone. and humming it to myself. He had long curly hair that was always in his face.
The only time I felt moved and interested in any of those damn meetings was a family and friends meeting. he said simply. bassist for the band. and the band was long over. Mike had amazing long brown hair that nearly reached his waist and almost always covered up most of his face. As I kept fumbling with the chords to the song. I asked him “So how the hell do you know?” “Because I helped write it”. It was pretty entertaining. and she was the daughter of the . and as he began to detox became a bit friendlier. I hated the AA and NA meetings.000 to 20 | 131 silently. where the hospital allowed family members and significant others into the meeting so they could talk to and about the inmates. obviously. Rehab is a great place for networking. The heroin stories from this particular band were legendary. Lead singer Layne Stayley had already progressed to the point that he did not leave his house. talking about the music business and all of his experiences with AIC. the longhair simply said “that’s not the right way to play it” I was stunned to hear him finally speak. and after getting over my surprise. I had lived a rock n roll life. crying.From 20. Mike liked to listen to me play as well. Over the course of the next few weeks. and I started to play him some of my original songs to get his feedback. and would be found dead in his apartment in about a year. And I wasn’t ready for rehab yet. and other drama. Mike and I spent hours together. with lots of screaming. There was a beautiful young lady there who was barely 20 years old. I had not put two and two together. Alice in Chains had been my favorite band from the Seattle grunge era. but it was nothing compared to some of his experiences. and it didn’t surprise me to learn that Mike was here. and here sat Mike Starr. He had already been to over a dozen rehabs by this point. I figured eventually he would talk when he wanted to.
and boy oh boy does that person sitting in group look good. She was an avid hot rod builder. The facility was a bit overcrowded after my first two weeks. and gave a speech to all of us. I made it a point to speak to her father personally and thanked him for speaking. I was not listening to reason. It’s good advice. and a sunny disposition that contrasted her heroin addiction. The Program suggests that people in their first year of recovery should not enter into a relationship with someone. OF COURSE people are going to hook up. So did I! So between Mike and her.132 | Life Story of a Guitar Player owner of leading hair product company. Rehab romance is a natural result of locking 30 strange people together during a crisis period in their lives. there’s no stopping it. blonde. and he meant it. then once you finally get detoxed and cleaned up. The X-Statics would search at beauty salons all over the south to find his “freeze spray”. She was bubbly. she dug Mike. And you realize that you have missed sex. and they were always checking up on us in our rooms. I told him how in the 80s. interesting people I have ever met. and he made a real impression on me. Of course. Naturally. I think rehab makes everyone horny. Her father actually came to the family group. You go for months. and since I was a wellbehaved inmate. This gave me a bit more privacy. we had a little foursome that hung around together. it was forbidden by the staff. God bless Texas and Ginger. and horny. He spoke about how we could all “get back up and fight to make something great out of our lives”. His beautiful daughter was one of the most attractive girls I had ever seen. He was one of the most caring. even years completely focused on alcohol and drugs. and Ginger and myself. After the group. and I figured out a way to sneak Ginger the Texas blonde down the hall to my room so we could fool around. gorgeous blue eyes. and I was impressed with her greatly. a type of hairspray that was even stronger than Aqua Net. with long straight brown hair. I was playing with Ginger’s amazing body. But at this point in my recovery. . you start seeing things fresh again. I was moved to a regular private hospital room several hallways down from the rehab section.
as I felt like I really had something in common with the people at these meetings. and it looked to me like she might go into anaphylactic shock. Nicole was being given some new experimental drug. Mike. I very much enjoyed these meetings. where we discussed what had been going on. I had to agree with them.000 to 20 | 133 Several times the MAP people brought me to private AA and NA meetings at their office. Of course. she had begun to hang out with me more and more. usually Vicodin. what you hear here. and one morning she came to my room literally covered in huge red splotches. But in my third week. Nicole and myself ended up having an impromptu meeting in the yard. which would include some of the most famous musicians you can imagine. “What you see hear. they have to remain anonymous. Both of them were fed up. if . had gotten strung out on pills. like many LA type high society people. As The Program dictates. AMEN!”. and that she was no better than the rest of us. Towards the end of my stay. Nicole. and I couldn’t help but see the daggers in Ginger’s eyes as Nicole and I were roasted in front of our peers for our transgression. and she had a hard time adjusting to the fact that she was there. Nicole was an ethereally beautiful blonde with light brown eyes. Heading to the nurses station. and was a huge crybaby at our meetings. Nothing at the facility was good enough for her. She was having a major reaction. another cute blonde girl named Nicole had started to get my attention. Rich people seem to think they are not using drugs if they are prescribed by a doctor. But the staff blew it off without a second look. I requested that she be brought to the ER for evaluation. and we got caught in the kitchen making out one night by the staff. She was the comic relief of our rehab group. let it stay here. and wanted to leave. I have something in common with everyone at recovery meetings – I’m a fucking addict and alcoholic. a total LA princess who had a very rich father. Half the people in the rehab at that time were strung out on pills. it was brought up to the group the next morning.From 20.
then fuck this place…let’s leave. and they couldn’t stop us. and caught a cab to Santa Monica. We busted out of rehab. . trying to get us to turn on each other. There was an emergency gathering of rehab staff. I had learned next to nothing from this experience. except how to use drugs better and more efficiently. at 3 pm we all gathered at the front door with our suitcases packed. and spoke to us all individually.134 | Life Story of a Guitar Player the rehab staff were going to simply let Nicole have an adverse reaction and die. They spoke to us as a group. But our minds were made up. as they tried to talk us out of leaving. We packed our stuff and got ready to leave. As we had planned. and got a couple of hotel rooms on Santa Monica beach.
but don’t screw everything up by leaving now”. I was beginning to feel things again. Feeling good can drive most of our thoughts and actions. and I realized what I liked: feeling good.CHAPTer SiX SAnTA MoniCA Terry at MAP was livid as he shouted at me into the phone. When you get to the root of it. as my good friend and mentor Bob G. and THIS is what you do to me? I promise I will make sure that Nicole is taken care of. We tried to help him for years. I could hear the frustration in his voice. says. we all like to “feel good”. I spent the first 48 hours in an intense relationship with Nicole that just ended suddenly like a car hitting a telephone pole. and thoughts aren’t actions”. . Once she was back to normal. I ended up writing a song about it. Obviously it was the opposite for me. He was right. of course. but HE DOESN’T WANT HELP! You still have a chance! I went out on a limb for you to get you here. It was my first time hanging out in Santa Monica. “Damnit! You KNOW Mike’s a fuckup. but I was still feeling the euphoric high of being “on the lam”. At least I didn’t have to get a divorce. I could see him in my minds eye in his office turning red screaming into the phone. and speak of it as my “LA relationship”. Having been clean and sober for 5 weeks now. I had called him to let him know my side of the story. she hopped in her sweet new Volvo 760 and hit the road. and we’ll review policy for future use. I had acted with very little thought. He also liked to remind me that “feelings aren’t facts.
Mike discussed getting various out of work LA rock guys like Steven Adler and noted singer Scott Wieland to jam with us. and Mike and I planned our next move. and I called a cab from the front desk. “We got to get a cab. he was managing to stay clean. I am sure that I would like heroin just as much as all my other addict friends. but I knew I was in trouble. tough looking man’s man who had the look of a retired Ranger or Spec Warfare guy. Mike’s dad was a thin. We wanted to start a band. and he went and did his business. It sounded like a good plan to me. We headed to Mike’s house in Burien. I am lucky that I have never done heroin. eating at all the restaurants. I knew the monkey was back.136 | Life Story of a Guitar Player Mike and I hung out constantly in Santa Monica. and he went inside to shoot up in the public bathroom. wiry. he showed me some riffs and ideas that he had since the AIC days. but that is a “yet”. As we sped away. we were greeted by Mike’s dad. shopping on the Third Street Promenade. right now!” he demanded. He seemed to maintain. an affable ex-Marine looking guy. I was beginning to be sketchy about remaining in LA. and watching TV at the hotel. To his credit. he shouted at the driver “Take me to 6th and Alvarado”. He just kept pacing. and I’m addicted to nicotine already. but I knew he was jonesing. Jamming together with Mike. Mike decided that we should head to Seattle and grab some gear and instruments and his custom 300zx. and get a house in Santa Monica and convert the garage into a rehearsal studio. So we packed our suitcases and headed to LAX. Arriving at SEATAC airport a few hours later. One night. Later Mike had the taxi driver stop at a Burger King. Santa Monica in late August was beautiful and temperate. a twisted little sub- . We arrived about 30 minutes later at some laudromat convenience store strip mall sort of joint. Everything you haven’t done is a “yet” if you’re an addict/alcoholic. he was pacing the hotel room madly. nice dark powerful riffs that appealed to my heavy guitar tendencies. “Where are we going?” I asked. and bring the stuff back down to Santa Monica.
they have basically had this sick focus upon getting high and drunk. It was the sticks of North Carolina. some elaborately carved monstrosity that ONLY Steve Vai could have pulled off. You can say what you want about Mike. but he never had that dark sound. but he can lay down some of the meanest bass on the planet. He was furious with me. and basically hung around his house all day. that missing element that had been there in the first few AIC albums. and did not like what I saw from the first entrance. at this point I was a bit star-struck. only Northwest style. I began to notice some sort of “delivery guy” that came by every day around noon.Santa Monica | 137 urb of Seattle. and I tried to defend myself and said that I would be OK. Mike gave me a guitar that had been given to him by Steve Vai. So when they clean up. and how he had nearly OD’ed before the performance. Mike would then take a long afternoon nap. and then go on to a residential program in Los Angeles. and went through a basement full of Alice in Chains memorabilia. TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!” Some people in recovery begin to focus intently upon other areas of their lives. Mike Inez was the obvious no-brainer choice to replace Starr. and marveled at his abilities – he still rocked pretty damn well. Mike had boxes of memorabilia. I have to admit. I saw a bootleg copy of this performance just last week. We visited Mike’s mom. He told me of their Rock in Rio appearance on MTV. so I was digging it. The first week in dark little Burien was uneventful. We picked out some gear. It played exceptionally well though. I was immediately verbally assaulted by one of the “clients” who said “You have to take off your shoes. and stories that went along with most of it. Terry had planned for me to finish my 30 days at Daniel Freeman. Up until then. sometimes with lit cigarettes still burning between the fingers. I had paid a visit to the house. they begin to obsess . As I walked in the front door. I had called Terry Kirkman one day on the way to the grocery store from a pay phone.
I had never had a DUI. Over the course of several more weeks. I would sit in the backyard. and I had pissed on his efforts. He had a right to be pissed off. He had worked long and hard at making my recovery work. and lined up to board the plane. I booked plane tickets. the interior of Mike’s house was like some weird out-take of “Goundhog Day”. It gets almost comical in rehab situations like halfway houses. I managed to get him to the airport. Terry had offered me essentially a year recovery program. Sometimes even more so. and Mike would zone out in his junkie reverie. Same guy came over around noon.138 | Life Story of a Guitar Player over anything and everything. All I could see was an action shot . After a while I noticed that the fidgeting had ceased. I had never used needles. carefully planned out to maximize what MAP could offer me. you were still an asshole. or in the door of the refrigerator. This tool of an inmate came up to me and got me to take my shoes off. fidgeting nervously. At this point in my recovery. I knew I had to get Mike back into treatment if we were ever going to do any music together. I began to broach the subject to him gradually. There will be outright wars and internal affairs committee investigations into whether yogurt containers should be on the shelf. that was obvious. Finally on the fourth day. and for three days straight he balked at leaving. I could feel him behind me. I was convinced I had a drug problem. I was ready to write an essay about how he could fuck off. but I was just not like the most of these people I met. as Bob Uzzo says. One thing is for sure – if you were a drunk asshole and had gotten sober. We checked our bags. and was not an abusive pillpopper. “If we break the rules of the house. and had never been in jail. we have to spend an hour writing an essay about our error” he said shakily. and we booked another detox clinic in LA for him to attend. But. As we waited in line. I did get hooked on cocaine though. and I turned to check on him. writing songs and polishing riffs. I had still not heard that distinctive “pop” sound that occurs when your head comes out of your ass. But at least he still took my calls.
I had noticed a plethora of street performers in Santa Monica. I finally managed to reach someone. The terminal experience was quite unusual. and waiting to board the plane to LA. and I could completely understand the plight of a man stuck in an airport for an extended period. as it was open 24 hours. He’s truly a great guy. and enough clothes to get through a week. I met some very interesting people from all over the world. Arriving in at LAX. The beautiful blonde Nicole. or have fun. instead of sitting around Burien watching Mike kill himself. I’ll play and sing to anyone anywhere. came to fetch me from LAX. I ended up hanging out in the International Flights section of the airport. What would you do? They say the definition of insanity is “repeating the same actions expecting different results”. The proprieter of this hotel was a little old Jewish guy named Sid. I had nowhere to go and few people to call. I visited Tru- . and I wish him well. and after 24 hours of trying. and kept an eye on my room for me when I was gone. But I had to do something. and one of the best rock bass players ever.Santa Monica | 139 of his rear end as he ran from the airport at a fast jog. My grandfather always said there were three reasons to take the guitar out of the case: to make money. I sat in my dingy hotel room surroundings and took stock of what I had. She could have at least given me a pity fuck. finally settling on a trashy little weekly rental joint on Pico Blvd. and off to LA I flew. I opted to head to LA to an unknown future. There I was. I recently saw the movie “The Terminal”. but there was no re-kindling of our rehab romance. both of our luggage checked. She took me into Santa Monica and I shopped around for a hotel. my 48 hour LA relationship girl. He seemed happy to have me there. Nicole was somewhat happy to see me. with only $500 in my pocket. I had $250 left after paying the weekly rent. and this ability has fed me for many years. learn something. and picked up a few dollars playing solo acoustic to bored terminal residents. and also noticed they were making a fair amount of money. My acoustic electric guitar was with me.
Sometimes I would eavesdrop into the varied conversational life dramas unfolding around me. Joe worked at an indie coffee house down by the Promenade. one that other cities like New Orleans should take a hard look at. . a slow morning at the coffeeshop with strong coffee and sweets. you can get arrested for simply breaking out a guitar and playing and singing for donations. The next morning. Arriving at my destination. After a few hours.140 | Life Story of a Guitar Player etone Music and bought a little battery-powered PA system. The city stipulated that we perform in 2 hour shifts at various locations on the Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier. he was an actor slash model looking for a break. I had bought a small luggage carrier. This was the one luxury I allowed myself. and I would stuff his tip jar with some of my ones from my shifts. Usually the paper was more interesting. The city has a very progressive stance towards street performers. and took my last $50 to Santa Monica City Hall and procured the required street performer’s permit. so I would typically do three 2 hour shifts per day. I had managed to make around $70. I set up my gear and somewhat timidly began to perform. and after my long morning I headed back to get my gear from the hotel room. so I could wheel my stuff onto the bus to get to the 3rd Street Promenade. and I was impressed. I sometimes began to think about having a beer or two. we can’t rely on all you “straight” people to take care of us. I managed to make friends in various places. Hospitality people have to take care of each other. and he was an absolutely gorgeous Italian guy from Brooklyn. but had still managed to stay 100% clean and sober. I woke early and headed to Starbucks. Like everyone else working in the hospitality industry in LA. and they demanded unfailing attention and thrift to make it. In many towns in this country. These were extreme times. I also began to be solicited by the managers of the various al fresco style restaurants on the Promenade. I would read the paper at the outside tables and watch life going by on Pico Blvd. Joe would hook me up with a free coffee and pack of cigarettes a few times a week.
I had booked the New Year’s Eve gig back at the James Joyce in Tampa for the most money I had ever made for a solo acoustic performance. player. If it’s raining. Arriving at Tampa International. But looking back. and headed back to Tampa Bay. It would be back to Hyde Park. I had never felt more alive and on the edge. The local street kids basically left me alone. I began to be pretty well known on the strip as one of the better performers. I spent nearly 3 months there in Santa Monica doing nothing but writing songs and street performing. and I tried to throw a few dollars at some of the other homeless people if I had a good day. and made really decent money for being essentially a homeless guy. Madonna. I booked my flight. and send me out beverages if I would perform by their restaurant in the afternoons. Getting back to his place was quite unsettling. back to my friend Curtis’s couch. And I was clean and sober for the first time in nearly 20 years. Like many of the best times in your life. I don’t recommend it to anyone. Santa Monica had started getting cold. Hope you saved enough money from yesterday. Star gazing was a fun occupation. weather conditions. Rande Gerber. offer me a free meal. back to all the places I used to use. Believe it or not. That’s one of the inherent dangers of street performing. I actually got solicited by several major label industry cogs who would hear me performing while they were dining al fresco eating their $19 salads. Shannon Tweed. and knew I needed to get back to Tampa. you basically fucked. it seemed to be hectic and unsettling and crazy at the time. however. Playing on the Promenade drew some quite unusual acquaintances. Towards the end of the fall. and more.Santa Monica | 141 Some managers would tip me $20. as only months before I had been sitting here on . and I garnered tips and praise from a lot of cool celebrities like Christian Slater. I was met by Curtis and we grabbed my ratty luggage and headed to Hyde Park. played the last few days on the Promenade saying goodbye to all my friends and fellow street performers.
It doesn’t stop many people from going back out and using. My first few weeks in Tampa were uneventful. and did it herself.which led to a shot of Tullamore Dew and a Guinness… you know this story. in my drunken state I felt like I could “reward” myself with a nice big handful of cocaine. but boy does it fuck up their buzz. No matter what you do. it leads to ten. Heroin addiction a few years prior had cancelled that. I can’t have just one. But she still had that heroin addict bravado. Addicts and Alcoholics get stuck into these “loops” that just keep repeating. if you have been exposed to the logic and rhetoric of the AA and NA program. she simply up and moved back to Ohio. it remains in your system for life. It’s Groundhog Day again. It’s a broken record. I always admired her for getting clean. I was off and running just like I was before. Jen had a brilliant intellect. And after making all that money on New Year’s Eve. afraid that I was going to have a heart attack from all the coke I had done. You can always tell the heroin addicts at . I was drinking with the best of them again. every time you use for the rest of your life gets colored through these new lenses of perception. but a chip on her shoulder because she hadn’t ever gotten around to finishing college. Once you are exposed to it.142 | Life Story of a Guitar Player that same couch. but you can bludgeon them pretty effectively with drugs. The Program says alcoholism is a “progressive” disease – that you will pick up exactly where you left off. And she had been clean ever since. The main problem with recovery is simple – recovery is like herpes. and found it to be sadly true. white-knuckling her way to sobriety. but with a renewed vengeance. I was doing my research and development on this. You can never entirely drink away the still small voices in your head. and get even worse every time you pick up again. By New Year’s Eve. It was during this time after I got back to Tampa that I renewed my relationship with Jen. and I managed to make it all the way until this Christmas Holiday weekend before I slipped and had a Guinness…which led to another Guinness….
At the end of that week on Sunday night. although she was still living with Rob. we had closed the bar as usual. the staff had become my family. I had gotten a room at the brand new Hilton in Ybor City. Jen and I continued our flirtation. and we made a lot of money.Santa Monica | 143 the NA meetings. and I lazed around the room until housekeeping kicked me out. money-wise. and cooked steaks out on the grille on the roof of the bar. and we had some of the most crowded nights I had ever seen at the James Joyce. It was better than the couch at Curtis’s place. We all at around and drank pints of Guinness and counted our money. having sex in my car parked on 8th Avenue in Ybor City in broad daylight. kicking out everyone that wasn’t part of our “inner circle”. That year. and I was feeling a bit crazy about her. we had the Super Bowl in Tampa. and we finally spent the night together. it would be hard to explain to Rob” . do some drinking and relax. played cards together. however. and look down on us poor cokeheads and crackheads. We’re both tired. She had to get home to Rob. Jen had come over from across the street. At that time. I looked at Jen with a glint in my eye and grasped her hand. until one night around the holidays when we finally called each other’s bluff. Savannah is beautiful and you’ll love it” She looked at me pensively and replied “I don’t know. We got along quite fabulously at first in bed. “Let’s get out of here for a few days. In the last week. Let’s go hit Savannah for a few nights. We all had an amazing week. Tons of alcohol crazed football fans had descended into Ybor City. basically anywhere we could meet for a quick interlude. and we ate together. we had done some crazy things. and was having a hard time thinking of how to break up with him. They “clique off ” together. Pillpoppers fall somewhere in the middle. but had to awake the next morning and depart all too soon. having sex in the office of the Joyce. She was still living with Rob.
Savannah was great. and Jen was hanging her head out of the window like a dog. A hug velvet Elvis portrait hangs behind the stage. we pulled into my parent’s driveway. and were man and wife within a matter of hours. The next morning. Georgia doesn’t have a mandatory waiting period. Mom. where we filled out the paperwork. we went to City Hall. and I said casually “Oh. and were obviously not too impressed. and the bar walls are practically plastered with band flyers. Not a very auspicious start to a marriage. and maybe they should. It was a spectacle. and stumbled in for cake and coffee. We drank most of that bottle. They asked how our little trip had been. and headed downtown. she made up some cover story for Rob. we got a room at a local Day’s Inn. always reminded me of a cleaner New Orleans. and gave us free Guinnness for the rest of that evening. we ate in some great places. And the “low country boil” is one of the best seafood dishes I have ever had anywhere in the world. we headed to a local club called “The Velvet Elvis”. He immediately placed a bottle of Tullamore Dew in front of us. did the proper blood tests. Savannah is a great town. can you pass the creamer?” . and told him as a joke we were there to get married. The place reminds me of a redneck CBGB’s with better beer selection.144 | Life Story of a Guitar Player Somehow I managed to convince her to go. and off we went to Savannah. After dinner. This place is a punk rock Irish pub. and got married. did some drinking. Arriving back in Tampa after our drunken whirlwind romance and quickie marriage. We met the owner. Arriving there after a 6 hour drive. still drunk and hung over. I drove us home drunkenly. and the owner married us right there in the bar. My parents had not met Jen previously. and the locals found it all hilarious. with lots of touring alternative and punk rock bands. We had a lovely dinner at one of the many riverside seafood places that have been there for over a century. puking all the way back to the hotel.
and I deserved it. Bob repeats over and over “is the feeling that I made a mistake”. Sympathy and Empathy are two completely different things. “is the feeling I AM a mistake”.Santa Monica | 145 My father stared blankly towards his coffee cup as my mother rose up from her seat. So when Bob Uzzo does the same thing with guilt and shame. It contrasted sharply to the whiskey drinking poet that I used to hang out with. Jen was the “Scarlet Woman”. It was an instant scandal in the small Ybor City community. From the very beginning. and my father has spent many years explaining them for some reason. German way that was slightly pathological. And that she was married to Bobby DeVito. waiting for Rob to move out of the house. I think at this point the only thing I could possibly do to shock my poor parents would be to come home as a gay man. When we finally re-entered the James Joyce as man and wife. neither Jen nor I were good partners to each other. it sounds like a familiar fatherly riff to me. We initially lived in a cheap weekly hotel on Nebraska Avenue. I should just go all the way and start dating a gay black man. The first few months with Jen were tumultuous. After this family debacle. Shame. I’m sure he wanted to kick my ass. explain to him that he would have to move out because she had suddenly married another man while she was away. and I was the cuckolding rock star. and didn’t hassle me. She was overly domestic in a stern. she hit the table with her hand and said “She’s a WHORE” and walked away from the table. I feel like both sides of the equation. And within those first couple of months. crazy days filled with all sorts of drama from all sides. Jen and I moved into the house. Jen still had to go home to Rob. it was already apparent to me that I had ONCE . and nearly immediately her sister Juliet moved in as a room mate. he counters. which was even worse. At this point. he made little fuss about it all. the staff and employees clapped…more than likely out of sympathy. Guilt. Shaking. To his credit. or marry a black woman.
As you pump the gas. and nearly stolen from all of them. as I didn’t want to be in the house with Jen. borrowed. I had already started to avoid coming home. By this point. pay for your gas. and of course the two 40s of malt liquor you picked up at the store. I would sneak out at all hours of the night. the young dudes on bikes approach and ask for your order. except for one guitar. and were basically co-existing together. I felt trapped there because she was pregnant with our child. getting high and drinking beer in my car. Getting drunk. You tell them “$50”. All of my equipment was gone. getting high. I would hang out in seedy bars to avoid seeing any of my friends. and you drive off with your little glass “rose”. and this one only lasted a matter of weeks! I had once again broken my record of the shortest marriage. Jen had started getting wise to my behavior. . and this time there was an added surprise – Jen was pregnant. nearly all of my family and friends had written me off. and I didn’t know what to do. They have it down to a science down there. some chore boy. a couple of rock. go into the convenience store and buy yourself a “rose”. and if I did I would sneak out again. I had begged.146 | Life Story of a Guitar Player AGAIN screwed up and married someone. I would do my gig. I had a moment of clarity that revealed exactly where I was heading. I rarely came home before daylight. but they sure make good crack pipes. get my money. and would spend entire evenings just parked down by the Hillsboro River. cruising the Tampa streets looking for drugs. It’s a little fake rose shoved in a long clear piece of glass piping. You stop at the Texaco and get some gas. You go to the shelf and buy some “Chore Boy” steel wool. This news came as a heavy blow. We had grown apart so incredibly quickly. anything but going home to reality. I have never actually known anyone who has given one of these to a paramour. head straight to the ‘hood in South Tampa. and driving miles and miles around Tampa seemed my only option. It truly is alcoholic/addict one stop shopping. and within seconds the deal is done. and you’re almost set.
I sat there looking at myself in amazement. I left the bar and headed west towards downtown Tampa. I sometimes slept with my Jackson guitars in the 80s. I take that as a compliment. I hate that fucking song. where white people fear to tread. After my gig that night. I walked all the way to the “hood”.Santa Monica | 147 My last gig in Ybor City was at a friend’s restaurant/bar. and had booked me to play at their place a few times in the past. because I ALWAYS had them with me. . I had pissed my pants. He said I was the only person he had ever heard who managed to make Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” sound sad. I would play half a song. light cigarettes. I have never had a guitar stolen or lost. actually. I could barely stand up. droning on and on for my set. and I was literally on the street. then stop. and reeked of cheap beer and the fake plastic burnt smell of crack. leaving behind my guitar. It sure has made me some tip money though – thanks Van! I owe you a pint. and had a 50s era diner theme joint right on 7th Avenue. and promptly left the club. I had smoked all of the crack. 40 oz Malt Liquor. Josh tells me that this last night. which was VERY odd behavior for me. In all my years of being a professional musician. or if I could manage to play. sitting there slumped against the Ybor City red brick wall of the destroyed structure. and headed to the local convenience store – you know the ritual – glass “rose”. start another song. I ended up behind a burned-out building on Nebraska Avenue. Josh and Christina were a joyful happy hippy couple who made the best pizza in Ybor City. My face was covered in ash. talk to the audience about how bad my life was. people would come to see if I could remember the lyrics. I spent nearly all the money I had made on some crack cocaine. I quickly got paid. but I guess they just had mercy on me. I loved those things. My performances at this point were becoming legendary – that is. I should have been robbed and beaten. The pair were a part of the inner circle at the James Joyce. from wiping my face with my fingers while smoking. Chore Boy. and had drank the beer. at 2 am in the morning.
and left Jen a note saying I was going to “band practice”. as I wanted to go back to LA to get as far away from Jen as possible. I was skeptical. This time. Curtis showed up in his little Honda. Living with Jen was intolerable. I had no DUI violations. I was dropped off unceremoniously at the bus station in downtown Tampa. Terry said he would talk to the other at MAP. But as usual. Maybe they were all right – I was indeed an alcoholic. He wasn’t surprised to get my call. etc. I explained to him that I really realized that I had screwed up. I realized that I had absolutely no money and no food. that I had a major drug problem. Something had to be done. things I saw my grandfather do like waking up with the shakes. and that he was right about Mike. and was actually receptive to talking with me. . Terry called me later that evening with the news – MAP would send me to a new facility they were using called “Sobrenity” in Ft Lauderdale. and see what he could do. after managing to trudge all the way home on foot. that I had pissed on all his work with me. it would be a three month band practice. we threw my guitar and suitcase into the back. I was really starting to white-knuckle it again. Sitting there alone in the bus station. I put a call back in to Terry at MAP. I had to find that out by myself. and had not ever been arrested. I never did ANY of the typical things that we commonly associate with alcoholic behavior. and I felt like I was going to either end up in jail or killing myself at the rate I was going. and I was really willing to listen this time. and agreed to go back into treatment. including me. including helping Trent Reznor get clean. My sister had paid for the ticket. it was evident to everyone. pissing in the corner. God bless her. I think many drug addicts initially reject the concept that they are alcoholics. I figured this was probably the guy I needed too. and mentioned that the leader of this facility had done some amazing work over the years. Unknown to her. But Terry insisted that this was my only option. and headed to the bus station. and everyone was rid of me for a while.148 | Life Story of a Guitar Player The next day. packed the bare essentials. I called my friend Curtis. drinking for weeks straight.
as various passengers tried to interact with me during the journey as I was going through withdrawals from alcohol and drugs. I tried to do some “dumpster diving” behind a Burger King. . No one trusted me enough to even give me pocket money for the journey on the bus.Santa Monica | 149 and only a half a pack of cigarettes left. but they had a locking dumpster and I couldn’t get in it. On one stop. Bastards. And I hate bus rides. This one was even worse.
I tried to reason with him. Here I was. and I thought I would be taken care of once I arrived. I realized the sheer irony of the moment as I walked by the Rolls Royce Dealership. with my stuff and a $2. like had happened in LA. “Well. So. I had enough change to make several phone calls. Chris Brekka was the South Florida contact for the MAP program. and after several angry voicemails to this Chris character. I had taken this journey on faith.CHAPTer SeVen ForT LiQuordALe Arriving in Ft Lauderdale. in the downtown bus station in Ft Lauderdale at 3 am. some guy named “Chris”. I was wrong. you’re just going to have to get there yourself ” growled an irate Brekka. and I tried to call my “handler” from MAP. It was SKETCHY. There was no one to pick me up when I arrived. still in detox. and was pissed off to be talking to me at 3 am. I slammed the phone down thanking Chris for nothing. I was there in the dingy bus station I had seen already in several episodes of “Cops”. getting the address for Sobrenity. heading for 15th Ave. and I had no money for a cab or even bus fare IF the buses were running. I finally got a call back on the pay phone.000 guitar. This . This place has a yellowed linoleum floor with that metal 60s floorboard trim you just don’t see anymore most places in sunny south Florida. but he wasn’t getting out of bed. I trudged up Sunrise Blvd. luckily. except the Ft Lauderdale Bus Station.
I laid there for a couple of hours. I had to laugh. or so I thought. and I managed to make it to the correct address. Sobrenity was located down the street from this area. Her name was Sharon. As I walked up the street. late 40s. smoking cigarette butts I had saved. but with beautiful hair and . a bit plump. I am sleeping in front of Sobrenity in a beach chair that I found leaned up against the front wall. and at the end of his life was actually living in Holiday Park behind the public library. finally reaching Holiday Park. The obviously surprised elderly man looked at me and said “Who the hell are you?” I told him my name. Jaco was a legendary alcoholic and drug addict. Welcome to Sobrenity. As the sun rises. and also luxury car dealers and huge yacht sales. Finally. I was one number off – Sobrenity was across the street. and I had had a brief encounter with his bass madness back in the early 80s at an X-Statics gig. Suddenly. and that I was coming to Sobrenity. Sharon was a beautiful woman. I laid down and rested my head on my suitcase. apologizing profusely. and asked me the address. and she was Bob’s partner at Sobrenity. the door behind me opened. the lawn sprinklers started spraying me with the most foul smelling sulfur water I have ever experienced. As I sat there soaked in sulfur-scented groundwater while lying outside on a beach chair. I had still kept my sense of humor if I had lost nearly everything else. I forged on. He didn’t know what that was. Jaco had been considered the “Jimi Hendrix” of the electric bass. while lying on the brick entranceway and waiting daybreak. She opened the gate and allowed me in. I gather my things and slink across the street. I was propositioned several times with drivers thinking I was a male prostitute. I knew of this area because of the great bass player Jaco Pastorious. and hookers. crackheads. shocking me awake and upright. So. Finally around 8 am a woman looked outside of the gate and saw me out there in the parking lot.Fort Liquordale | 151 part of Ft Lauderdale is a weird mix of ghetto housing. just as it seemed I had gotten off to sleep.
and was usually the “good cop’ to Bob Uzzo’s “bad cop”. no money. Bob finally entered my room about an hour later. And here I was back in another rehab. He advised me that I did not have to participate in group activities for the next few days until I was stabilized. this dog was half wolf. with lush foliage and other typical Florida accoutrements. and I was leery of being around him when Bob was not around. with bright blue eyes and big white teeth. I was a bit taken aback. I was completely exhausted at this point. Bob was a late 50s Sicilian guy. Bob and I sat outside and had a cigarette with Capo. and little hope. but it took me a while to get used to Capo. this place was more like a small luxury resort. and seemed to tolerate the inmates pretty well once he got to know them. and ex-drug smuggler who used to move kilos of cocaine from Miami to Brooklyn in the late 70s. And they don’t give out points for that distinction.152 | Life Story of a Guitar Player deep brown eyes. Bob was nearly always escorted by his best friend – a huge 140 lb wolf/ husky hybrid named “Capo”. fading in and out of light sleep. I was becoming a “frequent flier”. I tried to process just want had happened in the last few months. Unlike the drab surroundings at Daniel Freeman Hospital. She was an RN. and told me to wait for Bob. Capo guarded our little sanctuary at Sobrenity. with piercing eyes and a hearty “been there done that” laugh. Somehow. with no cigarettes. Besides. As I stumbled into the compound with my luggage and guitar case. This dog was an amazing beast. He had me fill out some initial paperwork as my stay at Sobrenity officially began. After I was finished with my entry paperwork. I had managed to fall off the wagon with both drugs and alcohol. and also had married and gotten pregnant a woman that I could barely stand to be around. He still had a bit of that gangster edge to him. I have been around more than my share of large dogs. Ten rooms surrounded a beautiful tropical gardens and pool. As I took a look around me. barely able to even stay awake. . I had curled up on the couch in my room. Sharon ushered me to my room.
it was the beginning of summer. Two days after I had arrived. much like other lifer Northeasterners who move to Florida in search of the endless summer. I knew that I was incredibly lucky to be here. Bob was a firm believer in going to the beach. I was staying in the “Darryl Strawberry Suite”. At first. it might as well be with a name brand. and brought me some food to eat and gave me a pack of his generic cigarettes. Why do people. I knew that I would not repeat the same behavior that had occurred in Los Angeles. The room was sparsely decorated. with a small kitchen and a 19” color hotel TV that was usually on. a large showing of all sorts of military might that draws hundreds of thousands of people to see the latest fighter planes and the typical hot dogs like the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds in action. especially people who can afford anything they want. and I basically relaxed and crashed out for a couple of days. but had luckily not driven myself over the edge where I would have required medical attention for my detox and withdrawals. Bob’s skin had already started to get that leathery . the room that the exbaseball hero and noted crackhead had resided in during his recent stay at the facility. and most clients that came there had already been to some sort of detox facility or hospital. Most of the clients at Sobrenity had to share their rooms with at least one other person. Tile floors and miniblinds rounded out the place. It was time in Ft Lauderdale for the annual Air & Sea Show. Bob was very concerned about me. and that Terry at MAP had gone out on a limb to get me to this point. I had merely come on a Greyhound bus. It was just another week of white-knuckling my way back to some sort of normalcy. At that time. and resigned myself to three months of being locked up at Sobrenity.Fort Liquordale | 153 Sobrenity was not a detox. smoke those generic cigarettes? If I’m going to kill myself with cancer. I was lucky in that I was alone in my room. Bob came to my room to let me know it was time for me to join “the group”. I had seen several people meander by my room trying to get a look at me since I had arrived.
000! Add in the aftercare of a residential program or reputable halfway house. and 100% Sicilian. I suppose. I’m sure that Sobrenity was profitable. and for 6 months you could tack on another $25. alongside his training and education from the groundbreaking recovery center Hazelden. but nice to me that day. There were three other women and four other guys at that time. And Bob had BEEN an addict for years and years. He didn’t charge nearly as much as he could have. Bob has his own flavor of recovery. .154 | Life Story of a Guitar Player look that only comes from prolonged exposure to the incendiary Florida sun. But I trusted Bob for many reasons. He was a real guy. I have known personally many families who have danced to the tune of over $100. and got suited up to go to the beach. And to do a complete year program (which many addiction experts say is the best chance for long term recovery). and he knows to keep that number as low as possible.000 or more. Like attracts like. and kept his client roster low so that each person could receive enough personal attention. so I got a healthy sunburn that day that tormented me for days afterward. and I noticed the same inclinations in most of the others around me. It was a brutally sunny day and I was sans sunscreen. There was good reason why his dog was named Capo. however. He called me to his office for a private meeting the day after the Air & Sea Show. Watching the Stealth Bomber fly overhead was almost worth the pain. So luckily I had managed to pack some shorts in my bag. There are surely some “assembly line” rehabs out there that are just going through the motions and raking in all that insurance company cash. The members of the group were cautious.000! Rehab is big business. which he calls “Reality Therapy”. the typical 30 day detox and rehab could potentially cost $50. but Bob wasn’t exactly driving a new Jaguar or anything. Seriously. Bob is a very smart guy when it comes to working with people. I know that I always related better to someone who had been there. a former drug runner. Bob is a stone-cold realist who took liberally from AA and NA literature.
I told Bob my family history. One item caught my attention.Fort Liquordale | 155 Bob kept a private office off-premises from the Sobrenity facility. to get away from us and from Sharon when he needed some alone time. There were quite a few of them. it reeks of failure and impotence. Sick things like that always sell well on eBay. I snickered at the paneled walls that reminded me of my parent’s basement in the early 70s. He made me sign an agreement stating that I would abide by the rules. We spent another hour or so discussing his treatment plan with me. and my recent stint in rehab and my subsequent relapse. but that’s typical with rehab. It was a typical “rent-a-office” in a building up on Sunrise Blvd near Galleria Mall. this trying to rein in addicts and make them all conform . There was a typical headshot photo of the industrial music singer from the notoriously heroin-ridden band Nine Inch Nails. I think he needed it for his sanity. I immediately looked at Bob and said “What the fuck is this?” Bob studied me for a moment. my progression into drugs and alcohol. He did such a good job on the assignment that I had it printed out like this to remind him” I silently wondered how much money the autographed article would bring on eBay. The headline read “Trent Reznor Dead of Drug Overdose”. As I entered the office. and Bob took my “personal addiction history”. On the tacky paneled wall hung a few celebrity photos of various people Bob had known over the years. I liken it to cat herding. a newspaper article that had been mounted and framed. while on tour in Germany. which was largely what you have read here up to this point. focusing on my grandfather and his struggle with alcoholism. had overdosed on heroin and had died in his hotel room before the show. Relapse…I hate that word. and said “I had him write that article as an exercise in showing him exactly where he was headed. We sat down. The article detailed how Reznor.
no boundaries. After our meeting. and spend a few lazy minutes hanging out under some old tree. The Peaches record store on the corner was legendary. Finally. and my parents to find out where I was. wondering if Jaco had done the same. Sobrenity was in a great neighborhood that reminded me of Hyde Park in Tampa. because they are usually much nicer places to live. I always seem to gravitate towards the gay neighborhoods. She badgered Curtis. once the Peaches record store closed (the final death knell for one of Florida’s best and largest indie record store chains). as the crazed bass player would often burst in there and grab copies of Weather Report records and walk out with them. and no tomorrow… and then you require them to suddenly start living within the numbers. I’m straight. my sister. Mysteriously. It’s like going from painting Jackson Pollock canvases to then being told to paint seascapes and landscapes in a completely realist fashion. the Jaco handprints disappeared…and have never been seen since. Behind our little rehab hotel was Holiday Park. You are dealing with a group of people who have mainly been living life with no rules. Situated in the Victoria Park suburb that bordered Wilton Manors. There was also a set of Jaco’s handprints in the cement outside the store on the sidewalk.156 | Life Story of a Guitar Player to a set of rules. Both of these places were the gay neighborhoods in those respective towns. Jen had obviously gone crazy since I had left. with his autograph etched within. but far from narrow. but it was a nice ride nonetheless. and he had given her the private . on my fourth day as an inmate. I often would hang out in the park on my way to the public library to use the Internet for free. as I had not called or tried to contact her. I would grow to hate the van greatly over the next few months. where Jaco had spent some of his last days. Bob’s office was only a couple of miles away from the rehab facility. she had managed to get Chris Brekka’s number. screaming at the staff “these are MY records!”. we headed back to Sobrenity in what the inmates called the “druggy buggy” – a nondescript white Dodge Astro Van.
started with morning group. I had drug her into my whole sick twisted drama at a time in my life when I would have better served everyone had I simply gone it alone. I was only here by the grace of God and the charity of both MAP and Musicares. and I am right behind her. and had a good right to be. New arrivals like me would usually tell a harrowing tale of all the misfortunes they had endured. Bob liked to be on time. real wealth. there were people at the facility that were from some very prominent families. Sharon came to my room to let me know I had a phone call. at 8 am. It was an early meeting. Every morning at Sobrenity. ending with Bob taking the receiver from my hands. She was royally pissed off. The phone call was a disaster. as I was most certainly the poorest person there. but the calls were ignored. We would gather in some sort of circle. with people on couches. Jen repeatedly called back a few times.Fort Liquordale | 157 number to Sobrenity. but we always quickly degenerated into loud arguments. and how they had been driven to a life of drug addiction and alcoholism. Jen can go from zero to bitch in about . and hanging it up. I was filled with instant dread. sitting on the floor. I tried to explain things to her. I had driven the car silly until the timing chain broke. Terry had convinced Musicares to help fund my stay at Sobrenity. which usually began with simple question: “how did you get here?”. and didn’t even have a car. another foundation set up by the Grammy Awards. On one of my long nights of drug using. shouting “goodbye Jennifer” into the phone. whatever you ended up with. and we had to be somewhat prepared with the reading for the day and other necessary materials. At that time.7 seconds. large manufacturing concerns. no one was supposed to be able to find me right now. I also had a foreboding feeling it would be Jen. Bob had a certain way of initiating someone to his treatment methods. Later . This was held in the larger room in the back of the complex where the girls lived. except Sundays. old Texas oil money. I had arrived penniless. A lot of it was comical to me. It was a very large two bedroom place with an adequate-sized living room. and of course it was. chairs.
I sold the car to the junkyard. we would have to attend a local Ft Lauderdale NA or AA meeting daily. as we spent most of the days and nights together. I didn’t feel all that comfortable at Sobrenity the first few weeks. In addition to our morning meetings with Bob that would usually last four hours. I literally smoked my damn car. and used the paltry sum the car fetched to go buy some more drugs. It was a demanding schedule. I got to know the various people there. and Bob gave us a lot of written work to help us discover why we had all actually ended up there. .158 | Life Story of a Guitar Player that morning.
Half of the time I was at Sobrenity. and they had left me completely hanging. we re- . and tortured musicians like me. but there was only so much I could do. Rehab is also for unwanted problem kids. disgraced sports stars. Eventually. Capo ate better than I did. and would often bring me half of a rotisserie chicken or a plate of food. who stood not to inherit millions of dollars if I got clean and sober. but had not made it. errant heirs to large family fortunes. Bob often grilled. that didn’t leave much money for food. Brekka had still not even shown up to see me. and made steaks for Capo as well. Musicares finally approved a $50 a week pocket money account for me. I did everything I could to stretch each dollar. How come someone like me. She obviously couldn’t do it. However. or so I felt at the time. There was a homeless woman who used to frequently be seen walking up and down Sunrise Blvd. She stood to inherit something like six million dollars that were held in trust for her. emaciated prostitutes that work the street around crackridden areas. The legend was that she had been a patient at Sobrenity. with a carton of cigarettes costing $30. but had to go face a life of debt actually make it if she could not? I was completely penniless for my first few weeks. Bob felt pity for me.CHAPTer eiGHt reHAB iS For QuiTTerS “Rehab is for Quitters” reads the somewhat witty t-shirts sold at those typical beach souvenir shops that litter nearly all beach communities. if she would only clean up. and fell back into a life of crack smoking and street prostitution. She had that “chicken-head” walk that one often sees on the thin. I felt really pissed off and abandoned by MAP and Musicares.
. and he was the lesser of two other evils that I would have had to room with. He had been a raging crack addict. I moved my stuff from the Strawberry suite a door down to Don’s room. As I have said before. Great. liking to listen to Nick Cave and other goth sorts of music. I cringed. my alma mater. but perhaps a bit slower than most. and we cohabitated as well as could reasonably be expected under the circumstances. He had fallen into a life of crack abuse. Everything in his room was “just so”. or some other meaningful transgression in his orderly world. Although at times it was kind of rough to be living on $50 a week while watching my roommate do all of his shopping at Saks and Bloomingdales. making different flavored and colored variations of crack rocks in some sort of sick druggie antipasto platter. Typical art student. just what I needed. and I was moved to a room with a guy named Don. Don had no limit really. He was a dark little boy. At least he would take me out for sushi every now and then. he was a quite intelligent guy. and we had sort of bonded over the past few weeks. Louis had come to Sobrenity some nine months before I arrived. and was a beautiful smaller guy with finely carved features. and use drugs in six months of rehab than I had in my previous 38 years of living. or my towel on the bed. and regaled us in group with stories about how he used to cook up his own crack. someone in my face ALL of the time now. find drugs. I learned more about how to do drugs. Don had come from Texas from the kind of wealth that writes paychecks to the merely rich.160 | Life Story of a Guitar Player ceived some new inmates. He had previously lived in Sarasota and had attended the Ringling School of Art and Design. which was down the street from New College. make drugs. rehab is truly the place to really learn how to do drugs. Luckily. in that Ikea catalog sort of way. to what he could spend during his time at rehab. knowing that he was going to hate seeing my socks on the floor. One of the other guys at rehab was a sweet kid named Louis.
Finally. and I would visit him in his room and listen to music. Bob came in a few minutes later. knowing that I really needed to change. that he had integrated back into normal life and was recovered. But to many of us. Louis had come to the end of a severe.Bob hesitated as he choked back the emotions surging through him “This young man had quite possibly the best prognosis I ever give for a graduate of Sobrenity – fair. with a needle in his . And now he’s FUCKING DEAD! DO YOU ALL HEAR ME? HE’S FUCKING DEAD! Lying in a pool of his own blood and shit. knew every one of Bob’s lines. dead for days. when they found out I was a professional. and would not answer the phone. and he was sitting there on the couch. before finally speaking. And I wanted to focus upon recovery. He was given a small part-time job at Borders. I get tired of talking about music. it’s like “dancing about architecture”. the ashen look on his face told me something was seriously wrong. visibly shaken. and made a quick phone call while we all gathered in the traditional circle in the girl’s apartment.Rehab Is For Quiters | 161 Louis liked to hang out with me. wanted to talk about music. He was the star of the place. and it was a fucking mess. Heroin and cocaine were evident. He looked hardly at all of us. it seemed like he was biding his time. one at a time. and came back to Sobrenity daily for the morning meetings at first. They got him a beautiful place and furnished it fully. Lots of people. “Louis is dead. It truly seemed like he was “fixed”. As John Cage said. Bob was called by his parents to go check on him. Two weeks later. it was decided that his parents would get him a little condo down the street from Sobrenity. with a god-damned needle in his arm. as he had not called in a couple of days. and could recite the AA and NA textbooks like a pro. only 22 years old”…. This young man. He immediately called all of us to an emergency group. year-long program of recovery at Sobrenity. with a modern entertainment center and computer. When Bob returned. I just got back from his place.
We mostly ridiculed the content of the meetings. You either get busy living or get busy dying in recovery. So do any of you think you can go back out and use drugs??? DO YOU? It only took this young man two weeks. and here he is FUCKING DEAD!” Bob sobbed a bit. an average of three people I know per year go back to using drugs and alcohol and die. Still. and the smell. But at least I’m still alive. and we have an express lane. his grief stricken yet probably relieved upper middle class parents arrived for the ceremonies and funeral. but secretly all wished we were more like the pretty people. Of course. Trying to get a dozen addicts to agree on anything is a struggle. One meeting most of us really liked to attend was nicknamed the “Gucci Meeting”. We went all over the place to attend various meetings. the smell…I can’t tell you what it smelled like to be the first person to enter that apartment. and getting their lives back. The incident certainly gave us plenty of fuel for our morning group sessions. in the last 7 years that I have been in recovery. I feel grateful that it’s not me. good-looking white people who would be dressed to the nines for the Saturday night “Ft Lauderdale by the Sea” meeting. then going to a company sponsored rehab. Louis’s death hung like a pallor over the facility for a few days. “You don’t have to go out like that”. as well as his inherent inability to help any addict fixed on death. the 101 club in Pompano Beach. feeling his age for a brief moment. You get to go to a lot more funerals in recovery. Meetings in local Ft Lauderdale ranged from tedious to moderately interesting. and added. The Gucci Meeting had some really good-looking people who told their stories of losing their job and their Lexus. It was one of the only places we got to go to simply people-watch. I am sure. it’s better to be seen at a funeral than viewed. On average. Selfish.162 | Life Story of a Guitar Player arm. Every time another one dies. These were mostly “high bottom” alcoholics. a real old school . We fit in better at one of the other meetings. And he rose slowly.
Other of the clients had gotten into some trouble for sexual shenanigans on the premises. When she arrived. I already knew from the moment I had left Tampa that I did not want to ever go back. People. I could not stand to be in the same room with her for any . I didn’t have any romantic interludes at Sobrenity like I had experienced earlier in my LA experience. plain and simple. but “the goods were odd”. That’s truly the meeting I started to hear the message at. and where I met my first sponsor in recovery. we spent a few hours drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. I had asked Bob what it was like to date someone that was in the program. which frequently degenerated into shouting matches between Jen and I. Then the next day claim they were raped. but the girl could certainly make a mean chocolate chip cookie. like screw someone silly on the washing machine in the back room on their first afternoon at the facility. I braced for her arrival. and it is indeed a tremendous liability risk. “the odds were good” that you could find a relationship. Despite her obvious physical attributes and intelligence. and will do crazy things they normally night not. Put a bunch of strangers together in a long-term extreme situation. Jen had been biding her time. Rehab romance is a well-known phenomenon. She nicely brought me some smokes and some homemade cookies. and some of them are going to fuck each other. Bob did not like any of that sort of thing going on. It has happened more than once. are usually in completely fucked up manic states of consciousness. Rich. He always said that relationships in AA or NA were simple. when they arrive. We had a special family counseling meeting with Bob.Rehab Is For Quiters | 163 AA meeting room that hosted a rowdy Sunday night NA meeting that was attended largely by halfway house residents and treatment center inmates like us. I wondered how “odd” she was. I hated her largely vegetarian cuisine in the kitchen. It’s human nature. and finally Bob deemed that she could come for a visit. who had been sober for over ten years. Bob was in a long term relationship with Sharon.
and she returned to Tampa the next day as I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Some internet research led me to the fact that this big green distraction is a Cuban Anole. but had been brought here from Cuba and South America in various ways over the years. He escorted me around to plenty of meetings. Steve Vai.164 | Life Story of a Guitar Player extended period of time. I always looked to see if my lizard friend was hanging out on the palm trees by the pool. I had one last meeting with Bob. Over the past three months. to beat the band. Lucky for me. had written a voluminous amount of recovery verbiage. more non-indigenous transplants. Eric Johnson. I had worked my way through the first three steps off AA. etc. I found a good sponsor named Rich. and just hearing someone talk about snorting coke or smoking crack would still cause an almost Pavlovian reaction in me physically. I spent many idle hours at Sobrenity doing little more than lounging in the pool or sitting outside smoking cigarettes. Bob had his final meeting with me in his room at the front of Sobren- . much larger than anything I had ever captured as a child. He was a pretty stern taskmaster. and we hung out at a lot of coffee shops discussing music and recovery. she was pregnant with my child. As I got to the end of my three month stay. but we stayed on our respective sides of the bed. and I had stopped attending NA meetings because it seemed that most of them focused on romanticizing drug use. and had me doing several writing assignments at once. a species of lizard that is not indigenous to South Florida. I had been to over 200 various meetings and group therapy sessions. Rich is an avid music fan and total guitar-head who loved artists like Joe Satriani. As time went by. and it fascinated me. It was obviously not an iguana or chameleon. I tried to keep up with all my written work for Bob and for Rich. And. Bob allowed me to spend the night with her at a local hotel. I had noticed a very large green lizard. and was preparing to go back to Tampa against my better judgment. Just what Florida needs. The concepts that were presented in AA seemed to start making sense to me.
Louis got fair. stolen from her. where I used to cop my drugs. Yeah. which was spent on yet more drugs. I was used to living in Hyde Park. he explained. and was about the worst possible husband I could be. as he prepared my exit paperwork. I could have walked there faster than I could have driven. and you get poor”. and provolone. and she had a right to. “So what’s your prognosis for me. which was longer than I had ever made it. I knew that she would immediately become all militant about everything I did. we ate the usual. Today. Jen came back across the state in her sister’s bright red new pickup truck to bring me back. “No one ever gets a ‘good’ prognosis here. I had lied to her. All of my friends knew I was fucked up this time. without skipping a beat. Arriving back in the “big Guava”. Bob?” I asked hesitantly. “Less than 5% of you will go on to lead clean and sober lives without relapse”. as I had decided it would be best to not work full . I went back to live in Jen’s house in Seminole Heights. but at least I’m still alive. Her house was less than a mile from the infamous North Tampa ‘hood on Florida Avenue by the Hillsboro River. I began to search the classified ads for a job. and I was determined to succeed. “Poor” he said. I think to myself. and the run-down drug infested neighborhood that she had chosen to live in that bordered the infamous Nebraska Avenue really tested my patience.Rehab Is For Quiters | 165 ity. We were already arguing on the way home. We had often shared the typical “guinea” lunch of fresh hard Italian bread. ‘Fair’ is about as good as it gets. But I had reached 90 days of clean and sober time. despite Bob’s prognosis. ignored her. I had to go back and face my parents after lying to them about money that I had ostensibly borrowed to “pay my rent”. good salami.
I would rather be at work than be home with Jen. The two of us had reached some sort of unspoken understanding. and the money was quite welcome as she was in the late stages of pregnancy and could not work. went to a meeting. and were screwing up the ones they did get produced quite frequently. so the music stores loved them. We had so many orders that spring that the overseas Chinese factory couldn’t produce them fast enough. ate. I never quite connected with any meetings in Tampa. and in a fit of frustration gave them my two weeks’ notice. through an online service my resume had caught the eye of a music instrument case company that had just formed in Tampa. I worked long ten hour days. My boss. as I had already put her through so much hell earlier in the pregnancy. I just didn’t have the faith that the factory would ever get it together. and managed to convinced many of my friends to place large orders for cases. after having been managing a network of 50 sales reps. I was happy to be able to provide for her during this time. and trying to grow the company as fast as possible.166 | Life Story of a Guitar Player time in bars playing music for the immediate future. just basically two room mates sharing a place. I interviewed with the owner. with an hour commute each way. The case company had a great product that was priced at half the competition. and somehow managed to talk my way into a really great job with god pay and a percentage of the company profit. When our production did not meet the demand. and I immediately set to work building a network of dealers for these cases all over the USA. conversely. Somehow I managed to become pretty successful with my new career. wanted me to focus on more new dealers and more new orders. so I basically worked. I knew music store owners from all around the country. It was truly a gift to be in this position. there was little intimacy. I had day after day of frustrating phone calls from my soon-to-be former friends. and it was welcome to me. Luckily. and eventually stopped going. Having had been a professional musician for over 20 years. Work had become my new focus. and slept. It was a great learning . I was completely sales-burnt.
and Sarasota. We expected her to come out on New Year’s Eve. and had a good solid . assisting the midwife and taking the freshly-born little thing into the NICU for washing and clearing the eyes. It was a beautiful time. I immediately closed the office and headed immediately home to sit in a state of shock and awe for hours. I was already at the office when I got the call from my younger brother. We were going to be at war again. and made my problems and struggles seem quite insignificant. and started working 4-5 nights a week in bars. The band played gigs all over Tampa. It was also nice to have some attentive female attention. we were doing OK financially. I immediately began to play with a friend’s swing-style blues band. Due to my mother’s medical background and all of my own time in hospitals over the years. and enjoyed playing music again. but she decided to keep us waiting until the afternoon on New Year’s Day. and I am grateful to have worked with them. as I had absolutely none of that at home. I still managed to stay sober. St Petersburg. It was a peak experience.Rehab Is For Quiters | 167 experience. wondering what was next. Women all around seem to lose their minds when one of their own is giving birth. I named her Grace in memory of Jeff Buckley’s first album. and as I saw the carnage happen. and I was there for all of it. and I started calling my musical contacts around town looking for gigs. September 11th happened to me like it did to all of us one morning. so I packed my stuff and went back to the house. It affected me deeply. My daughter Celia Grace was born that Jan 1st. only slightly marred by some typical bickering by Jen’s family. Jeff had made quite an impression on me years ago and his untimely death haunted me. but I was done. I was uncommonly comfortable during the delivery. Clearwater. They didn’t let me work my two weeks. At that point. I had several NYC friends of mine that worked in the World Trade Center for various financial companies.
the bandleader had given me a talking-to regarding my stage clothes. and they wanted to see a bunch of us up their in baggy suits banging out the classics. I felt pretty damn sorry for myself at this point – I was Bobby DeVito. after getting paid in cash from the bandleader. an she . but a gig’s a gig. Fuck it. Later that night. I wasn’t overly thrilled with playing strictly one kind of music. but the clients had paid good money for that. and had played to crowds of 20. She took Celia and ran to my parents house. I bellied up to the bar and ordered a beer.168 | Life Story of a Guitar Player local following. ill-fitting suit playing bad swing music to drunk convention attendees. and now that Celia had been born and was 100% healthy and beautiful. We were playing a private corporate event at the Stouffer Vinoy Hotel in St Pete. When I didn’t arrive home that night.000 people in Europe. According to the program. I hated dressing the part to be in a “swing band”. Jen figured out what was happening pretty quickly. Jen had always said that if I ever used again. I didn’t get to walk up at the meeting and get the shiny metal year AA medallion. she would divorce me. I wanted out. a swanky upscale place that was situated on the bay close to the famous St Pete Pier and the Dali Museum. I had already made about six by the point I came to the end of my first year. I was an off-the-rails drug addict. I headed straight to the “one stop shopping” district in South Tampa and bought as much coke as I could afford. Once again. the guitar player who had recorded LVX Nova and had scored a record deal by sheer force of will. pleading her case. because one night at a gig. or the next day. I knew that I didn’t want to live with Jen anymore. I had just had it. Yet here I was in some borrowed. I had toured and performed with some leading blues musicians. one is not supposed to make “any major changes” during the first year of recovery.
And then predictably. When I finally arrived to the empty house and Jen’s brief angry note. I called Terry at MAP and told him what had happened. Jen sold my guitars. and I packed up my car and drove to Ft Lauderdale. and even a couple of guitars that had been loaned to me by a lifelong friend. Bob was not surprised to see me back. I had made it through a year of some severe stressors. I just snapped and started drinking again. The huge wolfbeast had become fond of me during my last stay. But deep down I knew he was right. even one lousy beer. It was finally decided that Jen and I would legally separate. I was starting to see my “pattern”. He arranged for me to go back to Sobrenity for another month. Great. Uzzo” I said back. I would turn into a raving blow monkey. and that I would go get the rest of my things from Tampa and live in Ft Lauderdale. and had done pretty well. at a gig. and would swim in the pool with me when Bob let him out.Rehab Is For Quiters | 169 was concerned for Celia’s welfare. “I told you – prognosis poor” said Bob as he helped me get my luggage. And that led immediately to harder drug use as soon as I could find some to buy. I had done nearly everything he had told me not to. now she has a hostage. when our whole country gasped in unison. As soon as I started drinking. I had gone back to Tampa against his wishes. As soon as I left. “Fuck you. making good money at my job. and it was glaringly obvious. and then later working with the band. I had weathered the momentous morning and week afterward on September 11th. I had not kept up my regimen of meetings. Typical addict behavior. My month at Sobrenity as a now remedial student went by quickly. I knew I had to take action. where I had a pretty strong recovery community that I was . and even Capo still remembered me.
and he was helping me to get my recovery life back together. We both had some serious interest in Hinduism and Buddhism. they were all as fucked up as I was. Some local music store had offered him $200 for it. Rich introduced me at this little social event to his friend and sponsor Bob G. a small 50 something man with cool round metal frame glasses and a little rat tail ponytail on the back of his head. I did not do this too often. to ensure that you will have someone to talk to in the event that you are reaching for a drink. or more. and he wanted me to come over to his place in Hollywood Florida and check out his vintage Gibson acoustic guitar. and they had really good coffee and cookies after the services. . and had seen all the classic bands and musicians of that time like Dylan and Hendrix play some of their most legendary shows. He had grown up in the East Village in NYC during the sixties. I did most of my drug using and serious alcoholic activities all by myself.170 | Life Story of a Guitar Player attached to. In recovery. And secondly. I had never found a sponsor in Tampa. he took me to the Science of Mind Church. and hit it off immediately. much different than many of the recovering people I had met. and had lost interest in meetings there quickly. I had re-connected with my previous sponsor Rich. I did not fit in very well at this place. but the services were very positive and uplifting. It was a guitar that he had purchased new in Greenwich Village in 1967. and he felt that was a bit low – and he was right. and I hated to see him sell it…but was able to get him $1500 for it from a local vintage dealer I knew. One weekend. a largely harmless new-agey sort of vague Christianity with a touch of Mary Baker Eddy thrown in. and I simply didn’t want to be friends with most of them. But Bob was different. Bob and I just seemed to have an instant rapport. It was one of those types of Churches where your salvation was measured in large part by how much prosperity God had allowed into your life. one is always urged to gather as many phone numbers of other alcoholics and addicts as possible. I didn’t hang out with any drunks and addicts when I was using. Firstly. Bob was another Italian guy. Naturally.
and had even pawned my amplifier. “You can’t get this stuff here in the USA” I said. . MAP was done with me.Rehab Is For Quiters | 171 I had started to play some solo acoustic gigs in Ft Lauderdale and Hollywood. but after having been in rehab there for over four months. that bridge was smoldering and beyond repair. Once again. They are tried to convince me to stay. “I noticed you hadn’t had a drink all night. I called Terry at MAP from a payphone on Sunrise Avenue in the harsh unforgiving midday sun. I had never copped drugs in Ft Lauderdale. and hesitated for a moment. I was in a crisis moment. where one will move from place to place not realizing that no matter where you go. we had a “meeting after the meeting” with my sponsor Rich and two of the women from that meeting group. It only took me 15 minutes to find the stuff. and headed to the 101 Club in Pompano for a meeting. including rare copies of my own albums. so I brought you some of my own” he said with a smile. as I had now “soiled” it by using drugs there. I had picked up some local information as a matter of course. I have been in towns that I have never visited. I wanted to be closer to my daughter. and that one swig turned into another night of pints of Guinness and endless shots of Irish whiskey. Here I went again. to some CD store on the street there to get gas and cigarette money. and been able to find whatever drugs I wanted within an hour or less. I sold some of my CDs. Recovery professionals call this a “geographic”. and had absolutely no more help or funds for me. and one night played a beautiful little Irish pub in Oakland Park. One of the owners popped out of the back after my set with a bottle of Powers Whiskey. After finally packing my stuff and getting paid. After the meeting. and effects pedals. guitar. “Go to a fucking meeting” is the only help he offered me. I was destitute and had no way of making any more cash. Guaranteed. and handed it to me. I headed straight down Sunrise Blvd. and he didn’t want to hear it. but I had decided to run from Broward back to Tampa. there YOU are. and wanted to be away from Ft Lauderdale. After I had gone through all of my money.
I drove across Alligator Alley and made my way to Tampa under the cover of night. we had gone out to a strip club to play some pool. He knew exactly what was missing. Jen was the least of my . and no amount of logical thinking or common sense would convince me otherwise. and had to make a scene about it. All of my family knew I was really out of it. and she and I had been pretty close over the years. Of course. and return it somehow without him knowing it. Not that he needed to. but at this point he would have simply beat me into the ground. go back to the apartment and “borrow” $200 from my brother’s safe. Once I was drunk. The night before my sister was to get married. I had to spend that entire beautiful day in a post hangover massive depression. My brother was already happily loaded. appearing only periodically to get a fresh double shot of Jack Daniels. with my brother sitting there looking at the obviously opened and pilfered safe. a plan began to immediately form in my mind on how I was going to leave there. Once again. which led to doing some shots with the dancers. I have had many an ass-whipping in my life. My brother allowed me the opportunity to crash at his place. Later in the evening. I made a mess of things. The wedding was held on a boat in St Petersburg. and was doing pretty well. Jen figured out that Kim was up there with me. but I am really glad that particular one I could have gotten that night didn’t happen. and I took him up on it. and was not happy. My sister’s good friend Kim was there.172 | Life Story of a Guitar Player Even after all of their entreaties. I spent a few weeks hanging out with my brother. and pleasantly tried to avoid me. however. and I simply found a place to hide on the upper deck for most of the event. I had made up my mind. but was concerned that I would be OK. not coming back to the apartment until 7 am. She hung out with me up on the upper deck. I was heading back to Tampa. I might have a small chance against my brother if I was sober and in good shape. and fetched me a few more drinks when the bar had been instructed to “cut me off ”. I relaxed and had a beer.
I had hung out with this beautiful young girl who worked at USF named April. it was pretty simple. Once I got there. And that was that. Where the hell would I go now? I once again had no money. So. which had just become available in the USA. Until Jen arrived. but this had stretched our relationship to the breaking point. he said “pack your shit”. We had stuck together through thick and thin. She immediately ran over to where I was at the bar and poured a pint of beer on me. She had hung around with a lot of the inner crowd at the James Joyce. preferring that I simply perform as a roving solo acoustic performer. and began to immediately relax with that golden rush of alcoholic bliss and ignorance. and somehow I managed to drive myself back to the apartment. and he was happy to see me and immediately booked me to play that night. She and I had gotten completely drunk together. Jen was legendary. and was a bubbly young woman with some serious curves. and as soon as she entered the bar there was a murmur from the customers and staff. and headed into the unknown. of course. Nearly all of the bar staff in the various clubs know each other. That week was grand opening week. and seemingly no future. He would not speak to me at the wedding. April backed away as Jen began to . I drank continuously for free that whole night from beginning to end. I said “OK”. and had opened a much larger pub in Hyde Park. When I walked in.Rehab Is For Quiters | 173 problems – I had pissed off my brother. and were basically all over each other most of that night at the bar. I immediately began drinking pints of Stella. no place to live. I explained that I didn’t have any sound equipment but he didn’t mind. the one and only brother I have. My friend who had owned the James Joyce had sold that bar. I loaded up the car again for what seemed like the 15th time that month. That night was a blur. no job. I headed to a bar.
Making a split second deci- . April and I somehow managed to make it back to her apartment that she shared with some of the other Joyce regulars. I made the drunken decision to drive back to Hollywood. keeping me safe and ensconced in her large feather bed until I finally had decided to return. and he wore it lightly.174 | Life Story of a Guitar Player verbally assault me. He seemed like someone that really cared. and I got another pint of beer as I attempted to wipe the other two off. I simply had nowhere to go. After leaving April’s place. All of my possessions were already in the car. once again. but knew I had to leave Tampa. as she slapped me hardly across the face and dumped yet another pint of beer on me before walking out. I ended up back at the pub in Hyde Park. I did not have to go home with her. April was a beautiful angel to me that weekend. as I was drunk. because I had absolutely no money left. We spent the night together. and when I awoke the next day. and drank until well after midnight. I drove us back to North Tampa safely somehow. and take Bob up on his offer. and we had an instant connection from the start. I guess I can’t accuse her of being passive aggressive like me. to Ft Lauderdale. and yet had somehow done the gig. and no matter what. He had 20 years of clean and sober time. I was driving seriously impaired. and nowhere to go. I began to taunt her. I had played absolutely no songs. This didn’t work too well. April came back over and we finished off the night drinking and playing darts until they threw us out of the bar. she bought me a pack of cigarettes and filled my tank completely with gas. hurling invectives with an almost unearthly anger. After witnessing this debacle. the crowd went back to what they were doing. unlike many of the hard core recovery people I had been around. It was a gift. and I headed across I-4 towards the eastern side of the state. we were separated.
Somehow I managed to make it to the major highway that leads to Ft Lauderdale. I managed to stay awake and spent my last $2 in change at a Taco Bell for the first bit of food I had eaten in several days. Miraculously. .Rehab Is For Quiters | 175 sion. especially when one is drunk. It’s a dangerous road to drive at night. I fell asleep at the wheel several times on the final stretch of Hwy 27 that leads to Alligator Alley. I decided to take the small scenic road down Hwy 27 that cuts through the center of the state. It’s a miracle that I didn’t wreck the car or get a DUI on the cop-infested speed trap ridden expanse of Hwy 27.
serenity. do iT AGAin. and tried to sleep for a couple of hours. I walked down to the pool area.CHAPTer nine you Go BACK. On the whole.. and I had just about given up on myself. My marriage was completely over. I managed to find my way back to Bob’s apartment. and between the chilly temperature and the bright morning sun. One of the big things you hear at program meetings is “I wanted what they had”. As I arrived in Ft Lauderdale. and I had been running constantly for what seemed like the last three years. He was always able to laugh and view things from a larger perspective. JACK. meaning peace. But Bob had a lot of things that I wanted – a certain calm and confident peace of mind. but felt it was too early to wake him. even in dire circumstances. Taoist. “Take what you need. Something about Bob G led me to believe that I could stand to have what he had. The first day . it was 5 am on a cold autumn morning. Coming from that true idealism of the late 60s Greenwich Village scene. My body felt completely destroyed. Bob lived in a simply appointed one bedroom apartment in Hollywood. Naturally the sun started to rise. I didn’t get much sleep. many of the people that I had met within the program had plenty of things I did not want. and happiness. and leave the rest” my sponsor Rich often reminded me. joy. my friends and family had largely given up on me. and Hindu. sobriety. close to the beach. Bob still had that vibe of optimism that you hear in the music of that era.. got myself a lounge chair. And we also had matching interests into all things Buddhist.
I arrived with no money. Hollywood has a very diverse population. Do It Again. That was easy for him to say. with many people from Eastern Europe. I had sold his vintage Gibson guitar for him. Jack. Bob knew I had sold a lot of things online. and that became my bedroom during my time there. coffee shops. | 177 that Bob and I had met. and I knew that I would not last long there under those circumstances. with notice that I would “burn in hell forever” if I spent that money on drugs. I thought.. New York City items. and he was right. Hollywood is more like a small European town and I liked the way the place felt. he had made it a point to bring me over to downtown Hollywood.You Go Back. And my decision was made a lot easier by the fact that no one else in the world really wanted much to do with me anymore by this point. and produced his “treasure box” of old hippy memorabilia and items from the late 60s. I had come there with absolutely no money. I awoke to find a simple note on the kitchen table. with pertinent pages marked. Rich felt I had not truly hit my “bottom”. The downtown area is full of restaurants from around the world. The initial plan.. and I immediately fell in love with the town. and Bob knew it. Central America. He had rare autographed R. There was a fresh juiced glass of vegetable juices in the refrigerator. Bob had a futon in his living room. and very little hope. Europe. And he commanded me to relax. musical trinkets. but that money had already been spent. all . This place was truly an end-of-the-line solution for indigent drug addicts and street people. no job. and nightclubs. As opposed to the trendy glitterati-ridden South Beach scene 15 miles south. Crumb comics. It was a highly strict fundamentalist Christian type place. Bob had left a $20 bill. and Bob was also in really dire financial straights. There were several program books open. and Canada. The first day at his place. Except Bob G. is that I needed to go to the Lamb of God halfway house and enter their program. laid out by my sponsor Rich. that everything would be OK. But I was not looking forward to being an inmate at the Lamb of God. no place to live.
as we literally just scraped by. I knew that I would not be able to deal with being an inmate at the Lamb of God. even when it came to recovery. I really liked the fact that all the men would take openly and honestly at these meetings. The guys in our group were fantastic. After discussing it with Rich. and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. and it really seemed to connect with me for the first time. I tend to overdo it. instead of posturing and attempting to look good for the ladies. completing my steps as fully a possible as well as doing all of Rich’s additional written work. real. I had a friend from a few years back who used to cruise AA meetings just to meet drunk sluts. Besides. I managed to get a day job in a local music store selling synthesizers and . This group was hard. Bob had decided that I should stay with him instead of going to the halfway house. I joined a local AA group that was a men’s group. which is ninety meetings in ninety days. Some of his rare R. This is not heroic. I managed to cram in over 200 meetings. During my three months at Bob’s apartment. Bob’s only requirements were that I stayed clean and sober. and began to sell the items online with eBay. and he knew it as well. and attended at least one meeting a day. it is typical alcoholic behavior. Most programs recommend that a new comer do “90 and 90”. Crumb comics were worth as much as $600! As we made the money. I had sometimes been distracted by my hormones at AA meetings where the opposite sex were present. We had a real cross-section of the population. Whatever I do.178 | Life Story of a Guitar Player sorts of tchotkes that he had managed to save over the years. and politicians. and had remembered well Bob Uzzo’s advice about the odds of finding a relationship in recovery. We set to work borrowing a digital camera. it was official. with many members having sobriety in excess of 15 years. lawyers. there was complete rejoicing – it meant that we could actually go food shopping. I began to really focus on my stepwork in AA. and effective. We both had a lot of fun during this time. with street people and inmates of halfway houses to doctors.
and just focused on life day by day. with instructions to slide the money under the door if you wanted one. they even had a rack of books that was left outside in the foyer 24 hours a day. and was rapidly promoted to manager at work. | 179 pro audio/recording gear. Do It Again.You Go Back. We spent countless hours at a local used book store in Hollywood called “Trader Johns”. I worked hard. Things seemed to be going better and better. some people understand recovery right away. and it had become available to me. Allegedly. In my spare time. I had finally saved enough money to get my own apartment. I suppose it is very Zen-like in a way. and did a lot of meetings. and within three months. During my life. and the “gradual” method. One of the other managers at the music store had a garage apartment that he would rent out. and yet I was still making the same mistakes. as it was the first money I had made in nearly 2 months. God bless Manny. My recovery path to bliss seemed to be of a very gradual character... where sudden enlightenment may occur…after 20 years of study and koans. This place was one of the funkiest booktores either of us had ever seen and frequently got in large collections of amazing books. Alcoholics seem to be overwhelmingly good salespeople – we have certainly sold ourselves a bill of damaged goods over the years. Hollywood at that time was still getting over the fact that Sep 11th terrorist Mohammed Atta lived in town with several of the other hijackers prior to that tragedy. We sat and ate at least several times a week at our friend Manny’s middle eastern restaurant that perched right on Young Circle downtown. My first paycheck was a real celebration. he always fed us even if we were a little short on money. Jack. recommended. and have some sort of life-changing experience that forever alters their perspective. I had already had plenty of life-changing and neardeath moments. We were always good on Thursday for a good plate of falafel today. There is the “sudden” variety of enlightenment. I . I spent a lot of time reading other recovery-oriented books that Bob G. I went to meetings and hung out with Bob in downtown Hollywood.
But I have continued to get back up and keep trying. and objectively at my actions and consequences during my research and development phase of drug and alcohol abuse.. of course the first half of this little “mind movie” is a total thriller…I am high. although was getting more stressful due to poor upper management. So I have to play that little “mind movie” all the way through. I really got into my meetings. I was able to look back clearly. car. Maybe it should include the phone numbers to the local AA and NA hotlines. and Bob helped me move my stuff over to the new place. Bill – see you in San Miguel de Allende someday. Work went well. which for me would be the next day after I had gone out drinking and drugging and had been up all night. and that’s what we have to do – or its jails-institutions-death.m. one very powerful tool I have used is the “play the tape all the way through” concept. drunk. I had reached some sort of stasis or balance. When I think about going out to get high. I had finally once again gotten back on track. And it worked the same way in reverse as you headed back down. loving life. By the way – it’s true that they should just have a special screen that appears on ATM transactions between midnight and 6 a. then frantically dialing any of my dealer friends while wondering if I could take out any more money at the ATM. enjoying it. It very much comes down to learning new behaviors to deal with the desires to drink and use. Things were decent for a while. My friend Mexico Bill from Sobrenity had it down to a formula – job. By the way. For me. Let’s be frank – if you’re . It wasn’t particularly attractive to look at. girl. Then later in the movie come the consequences. crawling around on the floor the next morning to see if I had accidentally dropped any small pieces of cocaine. especially the men’s group I attended regularly. the still point of what had been a rapidly moving world for several years. Any one or a combination of the three is on the menu for me if I head back out into the drinking and drugging life.180 | Life Story of a Guitar Player packed what few things I had. and is not something I’m proud of. Vaya con Dios. consciously.
Jack. the very man who had sang “Freebird” naked onstage with the Curtis Hayes Blues Experience back in the day. as it took months for the state of Florida to send me any worker’s comp money. especially with hard-headed problem cases like me. All along the road have been signposts and fellow travelers all seeking their flavor of the same thing. At various points. I was doing well at work. and during our travels the driver of the truck wrecked it. you are probably up to no good. and heard that we were delivering some gear to a local studio. support from fellow addicts and alcoholics. and what I did end up getting was only 2/3 of what I was mak- . and was being considered for a promotion to the regional level of the company. sometimes for a minute and sometimes for months. and then to Ben Harper at a concert in Pompano Beach. Mitchell Silverman Esq. I volunteered to help deliver the equipment. My manager was waiting for me.. Sometimes it takes quite a while for it all to sink in fully. and the indefinable grace that seems to occur with great frequency in my life. but I had seen it coming and had braced myself for the impact.m. man!”. people have shown up that have guided me. This summer was pretty extreme for me.You Go Back. and he refused to let me go to the company authorized medical clinic. Mitch immediately got me set up with medical care. I was doing pretty well. working a normal job. and staying out of trouble. and reported for work that Monday intending to see the doctor for X-rays. on Saturday morning. | 181 withdrawing $200 at 3 a. I immediately called one of my good friends from the New College days. He ended up going to the emergency room. One day I was at work. and before I knew it I had ended up injured. and broke again. I spent that weekend in agonizing pain. So the process for me has included learning some new strategies. I was enduring a LOT of stress. in a long-running worker’s comp case. and ambushed me before I had even come through the door. “You’re not going to screw us.. Do It Again. going to regular meetings. had passed my certification exams.
could not work. and I told them “to get away from all the drugs in Tampa”. I had slowed down on going to my meetings. Between the three of us. constant stress. wrote our own songs. someone from the audience asked me why I had moved to Hollywood. Naturally. Luckily. and the uncertainty of the workers comp case. and was nearly starving. and was the kind of place that Tom Waits would have loved. “This place is SWIMMING in cocaine” said one customer. physical therapists. with several people breaking out baggies of coke and little “bullet” one hitters and waving them at me. and hung out at each other’s gigs for support and heck- . and knew I would pay him the back rent as soon as the state had started sending me money. Nearly the entire audience busted out into laughter and guffaws. this would be the place I would end up having a house gig. we all did gigs in Hollywood. and others to find out I had a herniated two discs in my neck during the accident. I lived on cheap snack foods from the convenience store for weeks and weeks. and was finally reaching a year of sobriety. had pointed out to me on my very first tour of Hollywood. Sneakers was open until 4 am 7 days a week. and they were causing a great deal of pain and headaches. referring to Hollywood. but I largely isolated in my apartment and tried to wait out the court case without going crazy. would take me out to dinner to make sure I had a decent meal from time to time. yet still been a bit sketchy about. One week when I was playing a show. and I literally just did not have any money. due to my extremely poor nutrition. I visited doctors. it’s bad news”. I played every Thursday night at a dive bar in Hollywood called “Sneakers” – it was the one place Bob G. But I didn’t really feel like I had anything to celebrate. My body was beginning to wear out and run down. saying “don’t EVER go in that place. One of my only bright spots during this period was my friendship with two other local singer/songwriter/ne’er do wells that were just like me: Paul and Rob. The money I earned from this gig was the only food money I had to survive on. my landlord at that time was very cool to me. Good friends like Bob G. I was completely broke.182 | Life Story of a Guitar Player ing at work.
Of course I could! I had come a long way.. shots of Jaegermeister and beers began to appear on the bandstand. He offered me some cocaine. It wasn’t a lot of money. Little did I know that soon Paul would be headed to rehab as well. That night. but to me at the time it seemed like a million dollars. give me an 8-ball”. The three of us had some real fun at those gigs. I was having a great time and really playing some loud. A week later. As I was driving and holding the steering wheel. and I crumbled. I wanted that ice cold beer in a frosty mug. I didn’t ask for just one line. I began to notice a funny feeling in my right arm. Do It Again. It was a great way to help let some of the stress of the past few months out. Jack. I went grocery shopping. and kept drinking and doing cocaine far into the night. and paid my patient landlord some of the back rent.You Go Back. and I would be close to death. As I drove home. no sir. I left the bar and went with some other people to another all-nite joint in the seedy adjoining town of Hallandale Beach. Go ahead and supersize me. and had done a lot of work on myself. my right arm was having a hard time staying up there and holding the wheel. I finally got a substantial check from the state. the two beers I initially had were only the start. and of course I wanted some. and they wanted me to play electric guitar with them that night. playing each other’s songs and having a blast. | 183 ling. I ended up playing until 2 am with the band. and I deserved to have one good night out. Eventually. with my back pay to date. I went to Sneakers to see a local band. I must have built up some more self-control by now with all my hard work in recovery! But as you can imagine. I didn’t drive home until around 8 am that morning. then ended up in the bathroom with one of the locals. and burned my eyes considerably as I tried to adjust my sunshades to escape its evil wrath. I was sure I could hold it down to only two beers. I thought maybe my arm . and bought it from him. I had been through so much that year. crazy rock guitar. “Hell. I said.. drinking beer and Jaegermeister shots until the music was over. The sun was rising brightly.
In my completely irrational state of shock. Hollywood . and was immediately ushered into the ER. scared to death state.184 | Life Story of a Guitar Player was going to sleep. I called my handler from MAP. but it simply wasn’t waking back up. already paranoid from the cocaine use. When I finally arrived at my small apartment after what seemed like an eternity driving back from the bar. I went out drinking. I fumbled with my keys and managed to open up my apartment. My right arm. Chris Brekka. and I could feel an associated weakness with my entire right side. to do anything I could to get it to wake up. my arm had gone completely dead and lifeless. Luckily for me. and smoke a cigarette on the way in. we had grown pretty close and he kept in touch with me to keep up with my progress. and I told her “I did a whole bunch of cocaine and alcohol last night. All of a sudden. Finally he screamed at me “Why don’t you go to the fucking Emergency Room you fucking idiot!” I quickly realized he was right. my arm continued to get worse. and I snorted it before I left to drive to the ER. and when I got home my arm went dead. I could feel my life draining from me. She asked me what was wrong with me. and flung myself inside in my sweaty. ended up doing an entire 8-ball. Brekka didn’t seem to be surprised to receive my call. and now the right side of my body isn’t working”. as did the entire right side of my body. paranoid. Somehow I managed to drive myself to the ER. “Chris. As I approached the triage desk. But it was dead. As I continued to drive and grow more nervous by the second. park my car. And I did what probably many other addicts would do in this situation – I still had a little cocaine left. What should I do?”. There was silence on the line for a long indeterminable amount of time. After my initial distrust of him when he left me stranded at the bus station. Is this completely insane behavior? Yes. I am sure the nurse could see the look in my eyes. and was becoming worse and worse. I was at the top of the list for treatment. and I explained my predicament to him pretty simply. I tried to massage my arm.
My right arm continued to be completely paralyzed and useless. The doctor told me that my potassium levels were so low that I should technically already be dead. I thought. If I knew the meaning of that word. Ativan. and the nurses . and death. and I strained my eyes to try and see the two of them. And now. one needed to enjoy it in moderation. and I had some fantastic immediate care. As the days passed. All this from one night of “research and development”. I was a dumbass. and now look where I had ended up – in the hospital paralyzed and near death.. I was facing a life of not being able to play guitar ever again. He casually mentioned that while cocaine was an enjoyable drug. I had it down pat. Just like everyone always says at the beginning of those fucking AA meetings. Jack. A male RN was assigned to look after me.You Go Back. Do It Again. As they began to appear in a blurred image. and assorted specialists on call at all times for situations like mine. And I was paralyzed. ANYTHING that would bring me down. I was rapidly rushed through a series of CT scans and other assorted tests. | 185 Regional Memorial hospital has dedicated stroke team of neurologists. I heard one of the doctors say to the other one “What a DUMBASS!” Yep. I was prescribed an Ativan shot PRN (as needed) every four hours. I remember waking up in my hospital room in a drug-induced haze.. neurosurgeons. I had literally exploded a portion of my brain by doing too much cocaine. it was becoming very apparent to me that these were indeed some serious consequences. I had so much coke in my bloodstream I wanted to die. and I told him so. while I was tied to a gurney wishing I could climb through the ceiling. He was completely right. but he could not. Luckily for me. Jails. I wouldn’t have been lying there on the fucking gurney. and two doctors were conferring on my case. Xanax. I kept begging the RN to give me Valium. They thought I was still unconscious. I could hear voices from across the room. institutions.
Somehow. when the nurses are huddled at their stations watching the glowing screens of the monitoring equipment while the patients sleep through another night. and tossed and turned until 3 am that morning. an explosion of too much blood pressure rupturing arteries and spreading blood throughout a section of my left lobe. I love the quiet and sterile environment of a hospital ward late at night. My only respite during this part of my ideal was once again a very cute RN who spent a lot of time with me during her shifts at the hospital. sinking me into an even deeper depression. I had made my way down to the first floor of the hospital and came . And that’s one of the benefits of being a member – you get to see the other members screw up.186 | Life Story of a Guitar Player station knew they would be receiving my call on that fourth hour for my shot. Friends came to see me. But even with her friendship and attentions. and eventually the doctors told me that they had done everything they could do. There seemed to be no light at the end of this tunnel. who were stunned to see me in that condition. and it reminds you that you don’t want to make the same mistakes. and it was up to my body and whatever God I believed in as to whether I would recover. I spoke to the neurologist and neurosurgeon that were my doctors. Jen called me and chewed me out. That kept me in a somewhat pleasant daze. and their prognosis was very iffy. Something was not letting me sleep. I was sinking deeper into a pit of despondency. There had been a severe stroke in my brain. What if I was never able to play guitar again? Would I be an invalid for life? How could I possibly bounce back from this screwup? I was tortured for weeks trying to recover. One night I could not seem to sleep. They told me I had about a 50/50 shot that my arm would work again in the future. but could not entirely mask out the reality of my situation. including members of my AA men’s group. saying that she was going to keep me out of my daughter’s life and that she never wanted to see me again. and I finally arose and walked the halls of the hospital late at night.
Do It Again. but id not know if it would be answered. I had spent a great deal of time within the Buddhist faith. Jack. a chance to recover and be whole again. The small chapel at Hollywood Memorial has 6 rows of small pews.. and all of the previous stuff he had gotten me through. and a small altar in a very non-denominational style. as I prayed like I have never prayed before. I felt like I had truly reached the bottom. I begged for another chance. but nothing had changed – my arm was still dead. I was faced with a situation that only a power greater than myself could cure. I entered the door quietly. and I remember laughing at my feeble attempts to hold up my paralyzed arm. | 187 face to face with the door to the chapel. I had basically denounced Christianity as a young man. I began to pray. day was breaking and I stumbled back to my room on the sixth floor. I attempted to clasp my hands together to pray. As I bended my knees. which were many. and I remembered my experience at the church in San Severino Italy years before. and studied as many other world religions as I could. and meditated upon my situation. I felt that I had just experienced another touch of the divine. checking both ways down the hall to see if anyone was watching me. It had been a long time since I had been in a church for spiritual reasons. I was led to kneel down at the altar. the gifts he had given me. And I asked for one more chance to make it through. After a couple of house there in the chapel. and had done a decade’s worth of work and study in the occult arts.You Go Back. and could go no further other than death. and I was still in the hospital. and thanked God for all the great things he had done for me.. Tears streamed down the side of my face. I knew my prayer had been heard. Paralyzed from a drug overdose. But with all my studies and all my experiences. although it was much more attenuated this time. At first I merely sat with my head down at one of the pews. I apologized for making the mistakes I had made. I made up my mind then and there that I would radically change my life if I was given . I felt the presence of that strong brilliant white light. I couldn’t even hold my head in my hands.
sit on a bench. I was greeted by a special group of nurses and aides from the “Behavioral Health” section of the hospital. I said to her as she checked my chart. and did not know what to do. I was quickly ushered into a wheelchair and taken to a separate secured building on hospital grounds. I would make my way down. This is just classic. I was somehow able to conceal my cellphone and a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in a deft move I made transferring them to a bag that had already gone through the search process. I was led into a locked down facility. I thought to myself. One again. as an invalid. And now I finally got to see one from the inside. Within 10 minutes. I made the mistake of confiding in one of the nurses that I felt lost. And they were getting ready to send me home. and walk all the way to the smoking area in my condition. “I should just go ahead and end it as soon as possible”. It was a sad sight to see all the patients like myself putting forth such Herculean efforts just to go smoke cigarettes outside in the small garden area that has been disdainfully provided by the hospital. head down the elevator 6 floors. and had tried to get into them at hospitals we had visited when our mother or one of our relatives were in the hospital. and all of my things were confiscated. I still managed to drag my IV tower. The doctors had exhausted all of their possibilities for my recovery. My sister and I had always been fascinated with mental wards when we were younger. I can check THAT off on my list of things to do in this life finally.188 | Life Story of a Guitar Player another chance. barring major brain surgery. But I was at a standstill. and that I thought I had no reason to live if I could not play guitar anymore and was to be paralyzed for the rest of my life. I was locked up in the mental ward and given a shared room with a sleeping older male room mate. . and watch the disapproving doctors stroll by. “Behavioral Health” is a very nice way of saying Mental Ward. Now I have finally ended up in the mental ward. After processing and a whole new set of paperwork.
“They usually don’t let you into this club unless you deserve it”. from serious criminally insane people on their way to the state mental hospital. Do It Again. | 189 My first day in the mental ward was a daze. I was locked up the week of my birthday! Life in the ward was pretty routine. you’ve really done it now!”. but had stopped with the every 4 hour Ativan shot. and eat cookies and drink juice out of boxes before our afternoon nap. They had stuffed me full of pills. “But of course. Looking at my surroundings. saying “well. That exercise brought some rather disturbing artworks out of some of the residents.You Go Back. I had truly reached the lowest point of my life. talking about how crazy it was that I was in there. And what’s worse. Jack.. here I was locked up with some of the craziest and most dangerous people around. The ward was populated with all sorts of cases. where we would “draw our feelings”. I had to admit he was right. paralyzed and crazy locked up in a mental ward. Then we would have art class. How had I become one of them? Bob G arrived the second day I was in the ward. We would have lunch. The only outside contact I had was with a beautiful young occupational therapist that was sent in from the hospital to work with me on my arm. as I was somewhat afraid of being around some of the other mental patients. then be let go to watch TV in the group room. and I was experiencing some serious withdrawals from that. He immediately burst out in laughter when he saw me. I had really done it this time.. We started our day with breakfast. to sad suicide victims and alzheimer’s patients. and he brought me some clothes. I spent much of my free time in my room alone. you EARNED your way here” said Bob. then would have a very rudimentary group counseling session. Life in the mental ward reminded me quite a lot of kindergarten. My fingers still miraculously worked. We sat for a couple of hours in the group room. I began to work hard at doing the simple exercises she taught me. .
I had not been back there since the morning I had left for the ER. and I wanted it that very day. and I will set up some follow-up appointments for you. I spent some time that day trying to clean up the place. and the staff processed me to leave. On September 15th. “Look. with a huge smile and a big bald head. Bob G came to pick me up. and he took me back to my apartment. The place looked like a hurricane had hit it. doing them as much as I could during the boring days in the ward. He was a large round island man. Peon”. things were all over the place. He looked at me intently. but my arm had started to come alive again my last day at the mental ward. Within a month. I wanted out of there. but I was insistent. I was able to use it more regularly. and I saw steady improve- . I started attending an outpatient occupational therapy program sponsored by the hospital. “It’s my birthday. but we did have a small caged in porch that we were allowed to visit for one hour a day. I promise I won’t hurt myself ”. I noticed the baggie from the cocaine that had out me in the hospital. Later that week. I pleaded. We discussed my case and progress. it’s up to you. I had a meeting with my psychologist. and said “Robert. It was slow going. and I want to watch Monday Night Football at my apartment watching my TV sitting on my futon. There was very little sunlight that entered the ward. Dr. and settled down to finally watch my football game. I persevered with the exercises. and will stay away from drugs” I assured him that I would. PLEASE let me out.190 | Life Story of a Guitar Player but my arm was still dead and just hung there like an Italian sausage in a meat market window. You can leave today if you wish. Just please promise me you will follow my after-care instructions. and I knew that I was at the end of the time that he could legally hold me at the facility. an immediately threw it away. He wanted me to stay for another couple of weeks to keep me under observation.
The hospital had sent me a bill for nearly $40. but did not look forward to three more years of college. I noticed a familiar face among the orderlies. This face came over to me. Jack. Do It Again. and I loved being around the staff and patients. I was able to bring in my guitar and play and sing for the staff at the facility. I had been granted the use of my arm again. After some paperwork and some meetings with the hospital staff. It was a life-changing experience for me. and recovered one day at a time. the guys from my men’s meeting gave me an idiot’s welcome when I finally got back to the meeting. So. and had absolutely no insurance of any kind. and I ended up working in Radiology and in the hospital library for a few months. At the end of my therapy. I considered going back to college and getting my RN degree. My prayers had indeed been answered. and here I was being given yet another chance at life. That’s one of the typical risks of the music biz – you are basically on your own. Of course. and any words I try to use make it seem more trite than it was. They had all been briefed on my progress.You Go Back. and one of the amazing things was this – when I was in the mental ward in a drug-induced stupor. . My brain had healed itself slowly. It was a great experience. I continued to volunteer at the hospital. and immediately decided to work there a few days a week as a volunteer. And it was miraculous. they decided to forego the hospital bill and give me the care free as an indigent case.. I was quite impressed with the care I had been given at the hospital. | 191 ment with the therapy. and I was able to play again.000.. It’s funny how this recovery stuff works. and said “remember me?” It was my friend Scott from the men’s meeting. looked me in the eyes. I wanted to try and at least pay them back something for saving my life. I had received a lot of medical care.
com/artists/lvxnova I am also quite active on facebook and twitter: @bobbydevito rrdevitojr@gmail. where I was performing solo acoustic for a few years during 2003-2005.com/artists/Stargarden Magnatune. I decided to finally release this book. My music continues to sell well at Magnatune.ePiLoGue This was all written in Key West. play music for a living. I am always willing to talk or chat with other people who are going through the things I have in life. I continue to write.com Magnatune. At the urging of fellow author Randy Wayne White.com . and have great fun doing demos of effects pedals.