No, I never actually drove a truck (I don’t have the license and wouldn’t even know how) but there was one point in my life when I found myself wondering whether I was a truck driver or musician.
The occasion for this introspection dates back many years to when I was a “Starlighter” accompanying Joey Dee, a cantankerous little mother fucker who capitalized on the twist craze in 1961 with a hit tune titled “The Peppermint Twist.” The record rated #11 for the year…and combined with “Shout” (a lesser hit as a follow up), Joe was poised to work the oldies circuit for the rest of his goddamn life! And for six months (until I quit), I got caught up in the madness.
Joseph DiNicola was the only road warrior. After a close call on a flight back in his hey day, Joe absolutely refused to fly anywhere…though accepting bookings as far away as Miami, Texas, and Iowa wasn’t a problem for him. Joe just hopped in his van (with band) and drove to the gig!
Around month #4 of my employment, we returned home to play a few venues in the tri-state area only to face the next leg of what seemed like an endless journey…one night in Louisville, Kentucky…two nights in Des Moines, Iowa…and then back home for a few days off. And of course, we would be driving the entire trip.
In the meantime, I’d just about had it with the whole fucking mess. For one thing, the band sucked. Having played with real musicians while backing Musique, Carol Douglas and Stephanie Mills, I wasn’t feeling the hacks in Joe’s band. And for another…we all took turns driving to the jobs…and I knew too many times, guys were one second from falling asleep at the wheel. I wasn’t ready to die on the road. At the time, I had a friend who’d told me that just a few months after leaving Billy Stewart’s band, the entire outfit bought the farm in a car crash when one of the musicians fell asleep while driving. Plus…I wasn’t getting paid enough! Joe wasn’t the kind of guy who split the gig money evenly.
Considering the circumstances, I decided to crack on Joe for a raise. I figured he’d refuse me and that would be that. Summer was ending and I didn’t want his job anymore anyway. But to my surprise, he acquiesced and met my demands…and re-enlisted me for what would be in the neighborhood of 2 hours of playing the bass – and 50 hours of driving/riding. It was at that point that I asked the drummer “Jesus Christ! Are we musicians or truck drivers? This is insane!”
Regardless, the next morning, I hopped the #6 train to Bronx Park East (where Joe lived) and once everybody had gathered, we were off to the Kentucky State Fair where Bobby Lewis, Mary Wells, Bobby Vee and our band would be performing at The Louisville Redbirds AAA baseball facility.
Except for the fact that the stadium had astro turf and the temperature was over 100 degrees on the field, we actually had some fun. For one thing…the band dressed in the team’s locker room, which had a vending machine with Coke, Pepsi and Miller High Life as the beverage choices. I got a kick out of the hand-written sign that limited the players to two beers. Yeah, right! I’m sure the Louisville Yahoos obeyed that rule!
While the sign warning the team not to get drunk in the locker room was makeshift, the ones that said “Do not assault the umpires” were very official-looking. Obviously, triple A players had anger issues and the league didn’t want the boys kicking the umpires’ asses over a bad call.
So anyway…we sweated through our gig and then went back to the hotel to hang out with the Bobby’s! The next morning our vacation was over and it was back to truck-drivin’ Bill. Next stop? Des Moines, Iowa and the Iowa State Fair!
A few things about Iowa struck me as unique. First was the 110 miles of corn we saw out the window once we hit the state line! Yo! They got a lot of corn growing out there! And second, was the wide-open space feel of everything. The first night we arrived…the promoter took us out to a sports bar that was so big there was actually a regulation basket right inside the bar where a dude could shoot hoops in between sips of brew! Try that one in New York!
The sidewalks in town were as wide as 10th Street in New York…and the bathroom in our hotel room was bigger than my entire apartment in the East Village. Clearly, space was not at a premium in Iowa.
The next morning it was off to the fair, a festival complete with ferris wheels and hog-catching contests. Whoa! Click your heels, Dollar! This might not be Kansas…but it was pretty darn close! To the stage to set up…where I discovered why Joe had given in to my demands for more money. He forgot to mention that we would be backing the Chiffons…and knowing that I was the only guy in the band who could read music, he was gonna need me for the job!
What a nightmare. Imagine the sound of three girls singing their hits with nothing but a drum beat and a bass part backing them because the rest of the musicians were befuddled! But no problem! This was commonplace in the oldies game. Bad musicians were always fucking up gigs for worse acts on that circuit!
Whatever…we muddled through the concert which featured not only Joey Dee and The Chiffons…but Rick Nelson (just before he died) and Johnny Rivers as well…not to mention 8000 screaming fans (admission to the fair included the concert so virtually everybody came to watch)!
A couple of go-rounds on the ferris wheel with Joe’s son…back to the bar for a hula hoop contest (which I won)…on to our spacious hotel room…and then up the next morning bright and early to drive the 1000+ miles back to New York. And for the entire trip…225 1985 dollars in my pocket! Not exactly a windfall!
I piloted the last leg from Pittsburgh to the city hoping that Joe would let me drive myself home to 10th Street when we arrived in the metropolitan area. But it wasn’t to be. Joe was a prick like that! Even though I’d done all that driving, he saw no reason for me to not ride 27 stops on the fucking #6 train after riding/driving over 1000 miles from the middle of the country!
After that, we did a few more jobs within 100 miles of home but when Joe decided we were going to drive to Texas for a one-nighter…that was it. No more boppa shoo wop…bop boppa shoo wop’s for me! I was out! Next stop? From the frying pan right into the fire with the fucking Belmonts! But at least with Warren, we flew a few places…like Buffalo, where I thought we were gonna die as we landed in a snowstorm!
Now you might ask “What the fuck does this have to do with escorts?!?!” And the answer is…absolutely nothing! I’m just jerkin’ myself off here. But some guys like the music stories – and it only took me 30 minutes to write this. So why not indulge myself as that’s really what blogs are all about anyway.