|Sometime after our reasonable success at maintaining regular employment between San Francisco and Sacramento, (steady gigs) we headed south to "The Land of Plastic and Smog" (description of LA by aforementioned go-go girls) in San Francisco. My first impression of Hollywood was two-fold--look how small it is! And secondly, the cars! It was as if someone had posted a sign "Warning only flashy colored, expensive T-birds, Vettes, Rocket 88's, Eldos', XKE's, rods, allowed beyond this point. They must also be convertibles with top down"! City ordinance! |
We were gigging in a club with a capacity of about 350, typical of 60's clubs with a dance floor about 15 x 30 feet in front of an "adequate" stage, big enough for a B3, Leslie, drum kit, about three guitar bass amps. And--above and way too close a string of ten HOT incandescent spot lights. Add a room full of smoke (cough) and you got it. Ah the good ol' days! So we set up, tune-up and play a few songs to get the feel of the room and about that time, the club owner comes up to the stage and says "Oh yeah, I didn't tell yz I booked Ike & Tina Turner along witchaz. So--you'll share the stage wit-em. OK?" NOTE: This was well before "Proud Mary" and their much deserved skyrocket to the big time fame. But--we not only knew of them, we played several of their songs. We had even recorded some of very similar songs that were minor hits in Europe, theirs "Poor Fool", ours "She's Mine". Ironically She's Mine is in the record collectibles book! We also did not know they had exactly one album out and had mostly worked the Chittlin Circuit.
Not long after set-up/tune/play, these days known as sound check, this lanky black dude comes walkin' up to the stage, stands in front of my kit and says "Hey my drummer can't make it tonight, can you play for us"? "Just fo tonight"! I was even more dumbfounded. We loved their music and knew it well. I, of course, said "Yes, sure, I'd love to." Lanky dude is of course, Ike Turner. He says "Well you guys got time to listen to our S#%T". We said "Sure, but we already know most of your songs". Now comes BIG frown from Mr. Turner. "Bull S#%T. How the hell would you know our S#%T!?" To wit me, my brother and the guitar player, all Jersey Boys, chant in unison "From NJR, Jaco's Rocket Ship Show--Here on the scene with the record machine, playin' ooh poop a doo an how do you do?" I thought the man was gonna fall over backwards! The next thing I see is the front door at the other end of the club open, silhouetting the FINEST pair of legs I've ever seen! And an aura that would warm your soul...........Tina! Ike turns around and says "Hey baby, you ain't gonna believe this, these boys know our S#%T!" She just stares at us with a mild smile and looks over at six white boys with a rather subdued, hopefully positive, but deservedly questionable expression, Ike looks at us with a look that says "Well--y'all said you know our S#%T, play it"! My brother smiles at me and says as quiet as possible "Treated me Right" (he wanted to make big surprise)! Yours truly counts it off, 1, 2, 3, 4. Ba-da, ba-da, Boomp A Dadadada....You shoulda treated me right. Dat da dat da da! Horns a wailin'! Ike and Tina about both fell over. Tina stares at us with a look of wonder! "How th????" Ike says "These boys from Jersey, said they heard us on NJR. Jaco must be playin' our S#%T!" Tina says with her big brown beautiful eyes "What other ones do you know"? We tell them that we have "one of your albums. Ike and Tina Turner Live"! They start laughin' loudly and say "We only got ONE album!" Meanwhile a bunch of really funky, cool lookin' Creole cats are filing in...the rest of their band. Buncha horn players! They'll need to set up on the dance floor in folding chairs. So--the Turner orchestra does exactly that. With Ike and Tina on the stage with us, the horns on the dance floor and we ROCK! Wow! What a joyful experience. Everyone was ecstatic! We'd never seen each other before, but we were really rippin'! Anyone who wasn't playin' was dancin'! Music truly is a universal language. Of course, it helped that half our band and Ike and Tina, etc. all had gigged in and around Newark.
Oh yeah! I need to add I had "the near death flu", but was damned if I was gonna tell Ike Turner "Well, I'll try but I'm really not feelin' that good." So! I'd play our show, then lean back against the wall while the bands changed moanin' to my brother "Clay, get me another Southern Comfort" This stuff was 100 proof in those days. 50% alcohol, 50% sugar! You could light it with a match! Rocket fuel! Reminescing at a holiday family dinner my brother told me years later, "That he was really pissed 'cause I laid back during our shows so I could kick Ike's band in the ass!" I had this 1948 WFL 22" kick drum with a calf skin rolled tympani head and a wooden ball beater on the pedal. Motown rules! My right ankle top was black and blue! Not from the beater hittin' it, just from playin' 1/8 notes and dotted stuff for 5 1/2 hours straight! I'd sleep most of the day just to stay alive and by the way, "Just fo tonight" turned into two weeks! End of first night, both Ike and Tina said they were grateful and amazed and "hoped we'd take that the right way"! Needless to say, we did! I LOVED playin' with Ike and he seemed to feel the same way. He'd turn around and look at me and aim his guitar at me and grin with a "funky frown" every now and then when we had the whole club airborne! No matter how flu ridden I was, I had that little big man philosophy "Today is a good day to die"! The gospel truth--I'd rather had fallen backwards off the drum stool than dragged in that band!
Tina--Tina was the most electrifying performer I'd ever seen at that point! She was absolutely mercurial. She could go from the look of a poised African princess to the funkiest screamin', stompin' gospel singer you ever saw in a par-sec! She never stopped movin' even when she was standin' still! Both Ike and Tina and the whole band and our band were as one on that gig. It's the reason all musicos and entertainers put up with the crap the public never sees/knows about show biz. Bob Seger nailed it with his song "Turn the Page".
Synergy! The gift of the spirit of music is conveyed through the players to elevate an audience--make your brothers and your sisters move to the vibrations and forget their earthly problems for awhile. True performers know this, that they are blessed with a higher vibration and able to receive it, communicate it with each other and transmute it to an audience. A mere flesh and blood, three dimensional human could not accomplish this on their own! There's no business like show business!
EPILOGUE: At the aforementioned family dinner my brother reminded me of this whole scene and believe it or not I had forgotten about it! How could I forget this amazing experience?! I must have been using every brain cell I had just to keep on truckin'! "NJR was slang for "the black station WNJR New Jersey Radio". in Newark, New Jersey, where else! They played a lot of Chitlin songs, "Trickle Trickle", "Ooh Poop A Doo", "Peanut Butter", "Young Blood", etc. They also played a lot of R&B and jazz. We first heard Ramsey Lewis there and hangin' with them in Chicago we told 'em "They're playin' your S#%T on NJR".....But that's another story!!!