"Rock 'n' roll is the American art form. Eric Dolphy once said that music came out of his breath, went through the saxophone, and it was gone. That was a paraphrase, but it's true. It's evanescent. You can never capture it again. It's a moment in your life. It's your best fuck--"
And Eric Dolphy really did say, "Those great musicians, it's great to play with them. Every musician that has his contribution is a great musician whether he has a name or not. Because some man that have a stronger personality that come over stronger than we hear more often, but it takes the musician that you never hear about to make them great, to make the music come to us." [Interview in '60s with Michael de Ruyter in Holland]
Until I picked up that Creem magazine over at Mike Roddy's loft, I knew next to nothing about the rock music going on around me. I had been dedicated to blues and jazz since I was 8 years old and refused to play Chopin and wanted my music teacher, Mrs. Kirby, to teach me how to play boogie-woogie and she gasped and I thought she was having a heart attack. "That music is the devil's music; classical music comes from God; young man, boogie woogie comes from the boogie man who is the Devil." "Yeah, I know, old woman, 'cause Raashan Roland Kirk would explain that to us years later after Mrs. Kirby and her John Schaum methods were put 6 feet under. [As an aside: I have an autographed 8 x 10 glossy photo of John Schaum sitting at a piano hanging on one of my 4 walls--he's an ugly son of a bitch but with delicate and beautiful hands.]
OK, so I went to Max's Kansas City a couple of times. I heard the Velvet Underground once--I paid them no mind, though I kind'a liked one of their guitar players. I didn't know any of the band members when I first saw them.
I certainly couldn't stand the New York Dolls, especially David Johansen who I literally despised; I couldn't even bear to look at him he gave me such willies. And then later after he made a mockery of my blues under his 2nd personality Buster Poindexter and he was such a pompous ass I began to not only despise him but to hate him. I got him though. I was hired by the club Tramps during Buster Poindexter's reign as their house pianist with their Tramps house band. The old Tramps was a seedy blues club that was down on East 15th right off Irving Place in NYC. The Tramps house band was led by a dude named Rocky Sorvino, a harmonica player--a good one, and Rocky lived at Tramps, up above it, and he hired me on piano because I'd played with him before at some blues sessions at old Giant Studios in NYC, jams started by me and theryefarmerfromqueens, my bass playing friend of 25 years now.
So I started playing with Rocky; Hilly Michaels was our first drummer; Tony Guarnieri was our bass player; and Danny Dreher was our guitarist. What a crew! All of us were stone freaks; Rocky later got sidetracked by drug abuse and I don't know if he's even still with us. Haven't heard from him in years. But anyway, so I started playing with these guys and I did fine with them for a couple of weeks and then Rocky changed the band and brought in theryefarmerfromqueens on bass and my pal TK (Taddeus) on drums and we started playin' and were rockin' the joint at a heavy pace when a big stretch limo pulls up in front and out pops David Johansen wearing a top hat and a tux--I kid you not--and he's got a drink in his hand and he's got about 5 babes on his arms and he struts into the club and suddenly it's no use for us to keep playing so we stop. "Yo, yo, yo, dudes, why'd you stop the music. Come on, Rocky Boy, let's heat this place up with "Rocket 88."
Now I know theryefarmerfromqueens feels the same way I do about David Johansen, he hated him, too, so Johansen calls "Rocket 88" in E and theryefarmerfromqueens looks over at me and signals for us to play in D, which we did. The tune started off fine; Johansen was abusing this tune, the first rock and roll tune ever, or so some say, and I'll go along with 'em on it--it's Ike Turner's Greenville, Mississippi, band and Ike recorded it under Jackie Brentson's name for contract reasons--oh that Ike Turner band was so sweet in those days--whew! So with wretched pomp and circumstance Johansen got all the way through the first verse without noticing anything foul, but then we hit the chorus and he knew what we'd done--and we were grinnin' like possums-eatin'-shit, too, and Johansen figured it out, turned and threw his drink at the wall behind the bandstand and walked off the bandstand. We finished the set and then Mike, the owner of the club, I'd slept with his girlfriend, too, hah-hah, but she's dead now so it won't matter who she was--so Mike came over to the bar and whispered something in Rocky's ear. Then Rocky came over to us all dog-droppy-sad and said, "You boys have been fired per David Johansen. You guys fucked up--Johansen has saved this club's ass so you knew Mike would do what Johansen told him to do." We started laughing like hyenas and kept on drinking at the bar. Then Mike comes over to me and he says, "You know I really like you, Wolfie, but you don't piss in my gravy bowl and get away with it."
So I was totally dumb to this music the VU was calling "punk rock." What the hell does that mean? I did know one thing, punk rockers danced jumping straight up and down--and they were all white--and I think they called that dance "doing the pogo." There were no mosh pits until later--did the mosh pit start at the Mudd Club? I don't remember. The first time I went to the Mudd Club I was with Matty Quick. We saw Robert Gordon in there that night--but then, all I remember about the Mudd Club was there was cocaine in every corner, and all the chicks seemed to have safety pins piercing their cheeks and sporting single-edged razor blade earrings. Oh hell, making love to a punk chick must have been bloody as hell--like the Vietnam Charley chicks used to put razor blades in their pussies so when the "so-jer boy" put his dick in there, zing it got a four-way slice going in, then, WOW, it got an extra four-way slice as he jerked it out real fast and scary, screaming at the top of his drunken lungs as he did, holding his dick and wincing with pain.
[As an aside: many years later, I was in a band that opened for Robert Gordon, Chris Spedding, and Rockin' Rob Stoner (god, is Rockin' Rob still kicking?) at the Lone Star Roadhouse after the Lone Star Cafe moved from downtown on Fifth Avenue uptown to like West 55th, somewhere in the Rocky Center vicinity, and that night the joint was packed, Dr. John was at the bar, and we kicked ass, especially me, especially when I did Doc Pomus's Elvis hit "Mess of Blues"--plus I was a pretty good piano player that night, too--I was playing a Korg M-1 in those days--didn't like the way it sounded but now I hear it as having a pretty nice piano sound (I'm still playing Korgs by the way much to the irkings of my Yamaha and Roland friends). And after we tore down our set up, Robert Gordon came over to us and said, "Right on, guys, we really dug you guys...would you like to sit up on stage during our first set? The beers are on us." So we did; the whole band, we sat on the stage while they went through their rock and roll act--imitations of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Gordon had a hell of a full voice, man; I appreciated that.]
Here's Chris and Robert when they were young; Hell, Robert played with Link Ray, did you know that?
And here's that pompous asshole David Johansen posing as Buster Poindexter--even that name irks me. He's got his tux on and his drink in his hand; his pose.
The music comes through his breath into his saxophone and what comes out.... Dolphy was a master musician who thought too hard. Died young. Listen to "Out to Lunch."
"Ridin' in style, movin' and groovin' along...." A Rocket 88 Oldsmobile--with hydra-matic drive, one of the first automatic gear shifters; just stick her in D for Drive and off you went like a rocket. There are no longer any Oldsmobiles--they're long gone. Notice the ad, from like 1949, is hand-drawn by a "commercial" artist. No PhotoShop in those days of T squares and Exacto knives and Le Page glue pots and dummies and mechanicals.
And there it is, the first rock 'n' roll record. It was Ike Turner's band backing Jackie up; Ike played piano on this, I'm pretty sure.
for The Daily Growler
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