Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Drunk Doc and 75 Stitches


I can remember quite vividly some of the adventures we got ourselves into back in the late 50s and early 60s. All of us were minors of course, but that was of little consequence to either us or the bar owners who never hesitated to book us into their clubs. They would set a rum and coke on the table along with a half filled bottle of Coca-Cola so that in case the fuzz came in, it would appear as if we were drinking plain soda. It really made no difference, the cops didn't give a damn anyway.

We were the house band at one club in Flint, and played six nights a week. My mom would drive me there and pick me up. Imagine THAT. I'm playing in a club, and I have to wait for mommy to come and get me! Sometimes she'd come early and wait, like a chaperone at a high school dance. Embarrassing!

Our financial status improved too. We'd get about $100/wk per man. In today's money that's the equivalent of about $1000. Pretty good cash for a punk kid. We were also in demand for parties and dances... proms and the like. We'd bring in some additional players, Ed Chick for instance. Ed was a first rate accordion player. With him on board, we could morph from rock band to dance band instantaneously. At the end of the gig we'd grab the cash and dash, life was good.

We were also in demand individually as side-men and session cats. I was able to pick up quite a sum of money by backing the various Hillbilly and wanna-be rockers who booked sessions at the Detroit studios. This was pre soul. Most people probably don't recall that Detroit was a huge center for Country music long before Motown became a factor. When Jack Scott, a Canadian singer from Windsor who'd relocated to Hazel Park, MI, hit it big with “My True Love” every Hillbilly singer in the state booked time at a studio to cut records. Most of them went nowhere of course, but I still got my $15.75 “dub fee” per session. I could knock off two or three of those on a Saturday.

Our very first attempt as studio cats was a single on Drifter, a subsidiary of Clix records in Troy, MI. The song, “Twilight Zone,” inspired by the popular TV show of the same name, featured a young singer/songwriter by the name of Barry Raye (Combs). We cut this in some guy's basement studio...all of them were basement studios... and he wanted in the worst way to play on the record. He kept telling us “steel guitars sound good on records boys.” We deferred, thankfully. The record was a complete stiff, but this year Dick Johnston discovered it on a European album. I wonder where my royalty checks are!

Since it was the radio guys who helped us in the beginning, we did as many of their shows as possible. Private promoters came out of the woodwork as well. They smelled cash in this Rock-N-Roll Teen Dance thing, and booked us for their shows.

On one occasion Del and I were traveling to some show, somewhere when the car in front of us hit the binders. Problem was, he'd forgotten to hook up the brake lights on the boat trailer he was hauling. This is what I remember:

Me: “Huh?”

We'd plowed straight into the back of the guy's boat. A huge piece of it came through the windshield and sliced the hell out of my arm. I was rushed to a local hospital, where they immediately contacted the only doctor in town. Problem was, he was drunk as a skunk. He squirted Novocaine all over my wounds...which stung like hell... and proceeded in a drunken stupor to sew me up. I looked like Frankenstein's monster after he got through. Altogether I wound up with 75 stitches, and a huge bandage on my arm. My parents came up to get me, but I refused to go home. I was determined to play the show, and the next night, I did.

There's an old show-biz saying... “The show must go on.” Whoever said that was a MORON!

The thing became infected, and I had to go to yet another doctor to get it cut and drained. Talk about pain! Good grief, to this day I break out in sweats just thinking about it! I've had a monstrous scar on my arm and back ever since. I'm told that if the cuts had been a half inch higher, I could have lost my arm.

But that was the extent of the drama. For the most part we just kept on playing, making money, and enjoying our little slice of local fame.


  1. Yeah...I remember that. I remember how terrified for you I was that night, driving with them to some part of Michigan I'd never been to before. I remember how frightened Mom and Dad were and how anxious we all were. I remember Mom draining the pus from your wounds. That was the summer just before Grampa died, so 1961, which meant you were not yet 16. Mom was a lot more lenient as a parent than I was.

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