There are few things I loathe as much as cell phones.
In L.A., there are people who can’t go five minutes without making a call, taking a call, or texting somebody. I dread visits to the post office or anywhere else that requires a lengthy stand in line because, inavriably, I’ll end up with no other choice but to listen to some yokel bothering everyone he knows with a pointless phone call just so he doesn’t have to be bored for a few minutes.
Having said this, there is one moment in my life where such widespread existence of such technology would have come in mighty freakin’ handy.
The time is 1985.
There I was one picture-perfect summer afternoon, not a care in the world, just kicking it at home when – suddenly – the phone rang.
A guy from Sunshine Promotions (a major Indiana concert promoter that I had besieged with demo packs and phone calls for months) called, asking if my band could fill the opening slot for that night’s Stevie Ray Vaughan show in South Bend, Indiana. Turns out the scheduled opener’s van had broken down.
“Sure,” I said, barely able to contain my excitement. He then gave me all the necessary details. As I hung up, my heart was beating so hard, I could feel it in my temples.
I figured two calls; one to Jim (guitarist) and one to Mark (bassist), and we’d be burning down the highway towards the bigtime.
In the little town we lived in, push-button phones were still considered a luxury so there I stood winding the rotary dial for what seemed an eternity.
Three rings later, Jim’s mom answers. I explain the situation and she becomes just as excited as I am. The only problem is that Jim and his girlfriend (who would later urge him to give up music after roping him into marriage) are out on a date. She thinks they went miniature golfing. Of course, there are three possible mini-golf courses in our immediate area.
The first one says there are only three customers, none of them answering to the name Jim. I quickly call the second golf course, where my request is greeted harshly. I then explain to them, in no uncertain terms, that this is rock & roll history in the making and that it’s their duty to help. I then ask to speak to a manager, who turns out to be a whole lot nicer and actually walks around to all the golfers on the course, asking if their name is Jim. He returns to the phone and informs me that Jim isn’t there.
The third one, a bona fide Putt-Putt golf facility, is my last hope. The girl who answers is friendly and eager to help. Within seconds, she is on the course’s PA system announcing, “If there is a Jim Allen here, please come to the front desk. Your band is opening for Stevie Ray Vaughan!”
Jim, of course, thinks it is a practical joke, but heads to the front counter anyway. She puts him on the phone and I explain the deal to him.
I then call Mark’s house, whose Mom also answers. She tells me he and his pals are out for the evening. She thinks they either went bowling or to a movie.
Sigh. I hang up, not knowing quite what my next move should be.
I figure I’d better get my equipment loaded into my car and head over to Jim’s. We’ll worry about Mark later..
Before I am even down the stairs, the phone rings. I run as fast as I can back up the stairs. I pick up the phone, completely out of breath.
I quickly give him the 411 and tell him to get over to Jim’s as fast as he can. There’s only one problem; he doesn’t believe me. Mark is convinced I’m kidding around. I am literally hyperventilating as I explain to him for the fifth time that I am dead serious. Out of frustration, I hang up.
As I had never hung up on him before, this is apparently enough for Mark to realize this is legit and that he should probably haul-ass over to Jim’s.
We pulled up to the load-in area of a concert hall I’d been to at least a dozen times as a fan, never as a performer, and gazed at the huge buses and liquid precision with which everyone operated. We, on the other hand, tumbled out of Jim’s dad’s bright yellow pickup truck, unloading our gear with all the coordination and grace of a hillbilly boot-fight.
We were in way over our heads, man. Thankfully, none of us realized it until afterwards.
Instead, we rocked like supreme bad-asses that night, putting on the show of our lives. We had strict instructions from SRV’s tour manager to keep it to forty-five minutes and by the time we got to the last song, I gotta admit, my knees were shaking, I was so tired.
Then, from stage left, I see SRV’s tour manager signaling us to keep it going.
We oblige, rocking the house with continued intensity for what turns out to be another thirty minutes.
He must have really been digging our stuff, I think. Only afterwards did I put two and two together. Jim, who was a big Stevie Ray fan, had gone in to meet his hero after our set. When he came out, he had this stunned look in his eyes. Turns out Stevie Ray was so out of it, he could barely talk. Jim had gone to shake his hand, but saw that Stevie Ray’s hands were already shaking.
The one thing I remember is that we all tried to savor every moment of the experience. None of us had any allusions to this becoming commonplace anytime soon. Still, I can’t help feel I didn’t savor it enough.
Needless to say, having the ability to get ahold of my bandmates via their trusty cell phones would have been freakin’ sweet and might have prevented at least a couple of the numerous minor myocardial infarctions this writer suffered that day.