"What was the strangest gig you ever played?” Boxturlte Bob asked me, on his Cecil TV show. I was tossed. One of the gay bars I played in San Francisco had nothing but opera on the juke box. Scenes from Wagner were painted on the walls. A pool table hung from the ceiling, and you had to climb a ladder to play.
Bonny, an opera singer, lived nearby on Noe street. She’d wobble down the hill in her stilettos, drape her mink over a barstool, and join in on a couple of songs. I can remember her perfect diction as she sang “Come on home and sit on my face.”
The scariest place was in Bozeman, Montana. The first night we played, I sang “I’m glad when you’re dead, You Rascal you,” holding a toy gun to my head. The bartender flipped out on me. “PLEASE DON’T do that again. On New Year’s a guy sitting at the bar pulled a gun and shot himself!” The cute-chick band who followed us used a cattle prod to keep the guys offstage.
I had my only-ever out-of-body experience at a biker carnival outside Sebring. The local chapter of “sure we’re scary and filthy, but we raise money for crippled kids and bring them toys at Christmas, and anyway half of us are undercover cops” hired me for their big bash. I was scheduled to play shows at 2 and 4, for which they’d pay me handsomely.
I got there at noon, and cruised the various tables and tents, where people shared their various party materials. I figured it was rude to refuse, so by 1:30, when I approached the stage with my guitar, I was very much “impaired.” But, the stage manager said they wanted me to wait until 4, for a bigger crowd, and anyway the sound man hadn’t arrived yet.
Okay. I went back to more cruising. But at 3:30 they said my first show would be at 6. I played very well then, considering, and I was surprised when the crowd, by that time large and loaded, listened and clapped for my acoustic fingerpicking solo act. Then the kick ass southern rock band came on and rolled a tsunami of sound over the crowd, flattening their timpani like the drummer was flattening his.
“How the hell do I follow THIS?” I had a lot of time to ponder that, because the powers that be decided that the band should take a break and then play another set around 9:00, after which I’d play my acoustic show and the band would finish out.
By this time I was rockin’ and rollin’, but I was TIRED. I didn’t get on till after 10. I’d had some rest in my car, but couldn’t really nap with all that noise. After I played, I staggered off to my car and went to sleep.
By then it was dark, and I was deep into dreamland when a banging on the window pulled me maybe 20% into consciousness. I shook my head, I hyperventilated, but I was still way less than half awake as I listened to the giant bikers say they wanted me to play another set.
“They love you, man. This is a chance to sell some albums. C’mon, it’s show biz.”
The guy assured me he’d stand right next to me and catch me if I fell. He did, and I played, and I smoked them strings, and I sounded FUCKING GREAT! That’s not Ego talking, because my fingers, my voice, were not MINE. Ego was just another spectator. Id, or the Atman, or whatever, was doing its thing. Reflexes; any thought was off the table, and all my love of music was let loose, and that was the best I ever played.
With the best seat in the house.
Then they paid me, and I slept.