Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Anecdote #555 part one

Stormy Weather.
one night in 1976 I was playing in a dark dank biker's bar in nashville. it was called "fanny's". the inside was painted black. the way the club was laid out, when you were onstage you could see the people entering down a long hallway. imagine my surprise to see frank zappa walking toward the stage with a small group of strange-looking rock musicians and his huge body guard john smothers.
frank had played a show in nashville earlier that night and was looking for somewhere to go afterwards. he asked his chauffeur for a recommendation. terry pugh was the chauffeur. he was also a big fan of the band I was in.

was known regionally not just for our killer covers of songs by steely dan and stevie wonder, but also for our radical appearance. to be in sweetheart you had to cut your hair 40's style and wear authentic 1940's vintage clothing. all the time! even in the daytime if you were going grocery shopping, the rule stood: you dress like a gangster. three-piece suit, tie, tie pin, fedora hat; the works. it was actually a lot of fun, especially finding and buying the clothes. we scoured warehouses and old jewish tailor shops across the midwest and south and found some remarkable deals on clothing that had been in storage since WWII. the look was way ahead of its time, before the vintage craze that caused gabardine pants to soar in price on melrose avenue.

anyway, there was frank zappa unmistakably seated in front of me. to me he was the only person in the place. I played and sang with a fervor. I was excited to play for a legend. after 40 minutes the zappa entourage were leaving. we were playing give me shelter when frank came up to the stage and reached out to shake my hand! I bent down and he said, "I'll get your name and number from the chauffeur. I would like to audition you". wow. that was a thrill.

despite the cool threads and great band, life was not easy. I lived alone in a small two-room apartment on 21st avenue south. the rent was $300. I drove a used beat up VW. sweetheart was considered a top band on the cover band circuit which included mostly small clubs and frat gigs. on a very good week with sweetheart I might earn $125. but many weeks were not very good. some weeks I earned nothing.
funny the little moments you remember indelibly. I was driving up 21st avenue south one day when a new song by david bowie came on the radio. it was heroes. the guitarist on the song was robert fripp. the producer was brian eno. I loved that song. the vocal was so emotional, the guitar playing searing. within 2 years I would be playing that song in david's band.

that seemed impossible in 1976. things got worse in a hurry when just six months after shaking the hand of mr. zappa, sweetheart decided to call it quits. I knew very few people in nashville and had to scrounge fast to find work. weeks went by before I ended up in a disco band called 11o in the shade. nice people but a dreadful band. we had a keyboard player named "stormy". every night somewhere during the third set I would hear a loud rumbling. stormy would be face down drunk asleep on his organ. it was a "weekend warrior" band. the first time we went out of town to play a show I was in shock. with sweetheart we at least afforded cheap motel rooms to share. 110 in the shade slept in stormy's van. before I knew what hit me, I was 3 months behind in my rent, in a band with no future, and going nowhere fast.

that's when frank zappa called.


  1. A disco band? yechh!

    Amazing that when you are most down on your luck, something incredible happens.

    I love these stories.

  2. Sweetheart breaks up six months earlier and none of us is here. Been in enough lousy bands to appreciate your moving from lousy to best bands in the world.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I can't imagine having Zappa walk in while I was onstage. He was such a genius.
    Adrian, one thing I have wondered about through the years of following your career is how/why you ended up in Nashville, of all places. I hope you tell us about that someday.


  4. eardrum:
    that's easy. the first time I moved to nashville was in 1974. I moved here specifically to play with sweetheart. it was following 3 years of playing drums in a Holiday Inn band and I was eager to get back to music I liked.
    the second time I moved here in july 1994 was to be near to martha's family. martha grew up in lawrenceburg TN, about 1.5 hours south of here and still has a large family of relatives there. we knew we wanted to have children and to give them a family structure (aunts,uncles,cousins,grandparents)would be important.

  5. Hi Adrian,
    I just read a very interesting article concerning today's connection between music artiste's like yourself, and your fan's, via such media as blogging, myspace, artist web sites such as yours and DGMLive (where downloading of music is available).
    The article I mention is by Clive Thompson, of The New York Times, called 'Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog'....
    (not sure if this link will work, if not go to the DGMLive forum page and look for dbbshop's NYTIMES ARTICLE - he provides a working link there)
    It is an exceedingly interesting snapshot of today's online music industry, and how it is being access, utilized, and manipulated, by the fan base.
    I was absolutely stunned by the sheer numbers of fans accessing material/music online, and how this is affecting the artist's themselves.
    This brings me back to you Adrian, and I am interested to gain some insight into how all of this has, or has not, affected, changed, influenced your musical 'life'. Not just the emotional impact, but the changes to your fan base, concert attendance, and music sales.
    The article highlights the emotional 'tole' being placed on artist's who also blog, and find themselves being deluged by fans wanting to interact with them, on a daily basis.
    This article certainly gave me a moments pause, concerning my own interest in your blog/music etc. I would certainly be aghast if I thought that my interaction caused you discomfort.
    Certainly a timely article in this new age of 'artist accessibility' and the 'new online fan world'.
    I for one, am very appreciative of you making yourself available to us, your fans, through your blog. But I have never considered the bigger picture, nor the possibly negative impact of just such a connection, to yourself.
    Definitely food for thought!