Radio DaZe: Star Struck at WACKY 102:
Prior to working at WACKY I got to meet Dusty Springfield (up close she was…ummm..less than attractive) and once I introduced “The Shirelle”, (it was just Shirley Alston Reeves by that time, and she looked like she had eaten the rest of the group) at a shopping center appearance. I said “The Shirelle”, too…and no one noticed.
But once I got to WACKY and the station got reporting status to Radio and Records I had all sorts of chances to meet and greet the stars, and I took advantage of it.
Meeting big stars backstage can be exciting, glamorous, a dream come true. My experiences, mostly good, were not always any of that.
The first BIG star for me (you never forget your first) was Steve Miller. Now I had been a fan of Steve Miller since the album, “Sailor”, where he was a staple of progressive FM airplay with songs like “Livin’ in the USA”. When I met him he was riding high on the top 40 charts with “Fly Like An Eagle” hits like “Take The Money and Run” (#11), “Fly Like an Eagle” (#2) and their second Number One success, “Rock ‘N Me”.
Unusual for a meet and greet we met in a large room set up with a buffet after the show. I was nervous and almost ran to his table. The record guy introduced me and Steve Miller stopped stuffing shrimp in his face long enough to stick out his hand. It was covered in cocktail sauce. When he said hello he sprayed shrimp remnants on me. It sort of ruined the moment for me.
Springfield Mass. had a good Civic Center and everyone who was anyone touring at the time stopped there, and if they didn’t they were 30 minutes away in Hartford. I went to EVERY show and met all of them, too many to remember.
A couple of stand outs:
I really wanted to see “The Brothers Johnson”, because I loved their cover of “Strawberry Letter # 23” (Shuggie Otis wrote it) and I still do. The record guy was not really enthused by the idea but said OK. I found out quickly why he was so hesitant.
The show was part of a multi-act deal, I think it was five openers with the headliners, “The Brothers Johnson” on last. The record guy and I were the ONLY white faces in the civic center. We made our way into the dressing room prior to the show and it was the most uncomfortable 15 minutes of my life. I understood for the first time what it was like to be disliked for the color of my skin.
I met “KISS” because the guy who did the WACKY 102 Rolling Boogie Machine sound system also built guitars that launched fireworks (Rockets). He was a mad scientist type. You can’t make this stuff up. He had built one for Gene Simmons and so had all access passes and gave some to me. Usually there are two or three levels of passes at a show. Backstage after show, backstage pre-show, and all access, with the latter being the hardest to get. “KISS” had at least 12 levels of passes. This was back before anyone had seen them sans makeup so I guess it was part of keeping the identities secret.
We waited for a LONG time in a room, just me and about four others. When the band finally showed, so did my Gyro Gearloose sound guy, holding the rocket shooting bass guitar. We posed for photos and the sound guy was showing the guitar when it went off.
Now we were in a room about the size of a living room in a house. Maybe smaller. All of “KISS”, my guests and the inventor guy and about 6 security guys the size of houses. All in this tiny room with this guitar sending roman candles between our legs and into the ceiling. KISS departed the premises forthwith and I don’t recall seeing the rocket launching guitar in the show.
We met “Heart” after show. We had done a huge promotion “Send your heart to “Heart” and had received all sorts of wild entries for tickets, including an actual cows heart.
I asked Nancy Wilson about the show starting slow and building in intensity. Typical radio guy question.
At that point she was slim and very attractive. She grabbed my hand, (I swear this is all true) looked me in the eye and said, “I like to build up the intensity of everything I do, whether it’s playing music or making love.”
I had to change my underwear.
The “Cars” were not noted for personalty. They were stand-offish and not real communicative. The record guy took us to dinner afterward and sliced most of his thumb off cutting a piece of bread at the salad bar. Blood and bread and me collapsing in gales of laughter. It may have been something I smoked.
One last story. We met “ZZ-Top” and my midday guy struck up a friendship with Billy Gibbons talking about arcane guitar stuff. The bass player, Rocky Hill, was a character who carried a derringer in his boot and had shot himself once. I asked him about it and he showed it to me. The backstage buffet was 100% alcohol. Anything you can imagine. We all drank for a LONG time and as we were leaving Rocky gave us all the unopened bottles. I’ll never know how we made it the car, drunk and carrying all those bottles of booze.
Another time I will relate the story of how the “Who” got me arrested and thrown in jail.