Perhaps some of the more unique experiences I have to share are the years I spent in the early 80’s as lead singer of my own touring Country Band. — Corky And The County Outlaws! From seedy darken taverns filled with lost hope to the bright lights of elite Country Clubs. A journey of good times and bad, wild nights and long days of travel. So many memories! And the stories — Oh the stories I could tell…
So many old stories to tell! Too many in fact for just one sitting. So I’ve picked a few that stand out to me even today from my old memory time-machine that still seems to be working pretty well these days.
Funny though, at times I can’t remember what it was that I was going to do just minutes ago — but remembering 40 years ago? — Hey No problem!
Like the time…
Our new and under-aged lead guitar player (14 or 15 at the time) got introduced to the allure of the female species. — And right up close and personal too!
Because he was under-aged, he not only carried legal exemption documents to allow him in taverns and bars but part of the agreement was also having a legal guarding with him at all times. So his father would always be there whenever he was. In essence, we inherited dad as well as “Boy Wonder.” This led to some interesting and even comical situations down the road.
Like the time he was playing with us for the first time on the road. When we first arrived, all of us climbed the back stairs together to checkout the rooms we’d be staying in. Not Boy Wonder of course, his Dad would drive him back and forth to the gig nightly. But he and dad came up with us to have a look around anyways.
As we were climbing the stairs, I could hear giggles (female) coming from behind us? Then to everyone’s amazement, three laughing naked girls pressed past us on the staircase going up. And once we got to the top and looked around…
There were Naked girls prancing around everywhere?
I looked over at Boy Wonder and he was blushing beet red and smiling like the Cheshire cat! And all at the same time! The girls of course were all over him seeing how young he was, and this just deepened his color. But the big shit-eating grin he was wearing never once left his face. He was after all — in young-boy Heaven! As it turned out, the club was a strip joint during the day and a Country bar at night.
The other guys in the band were of course ecstatic about this surprising turn of events! Boy Wonder’s dad however — well not so much!
Needless to say, from then on the guys in the band looked forward to the girls coming in during the day and sharing the same floor that we were on. I’ve never known them to be such — early risers? (Lol.)
But Boy Wonder?
Well poor guy, he was only allowed to meet us on stage from then on in.
Then there was the Time…
When after a successful audition at a prominent well-known country bar (Dallas), the owner started booking us to play his club. One night, in between bookings, he asked me for a favor. Another band he was promoting was playing in Syracuse New York and the lead singer had a sudden death in the family. He wanted to fly me down there right away and take his place. And I said yes.
So my flight was quickly arranged for the next day. As it turned out, “very quickly” arranged indeed!
I’ll never forget the shock of the next day when I walked out onto the tarmac where my plane was waiting. — Why you cheap Bastard I thought! — You’ve got to be kidding me?
It was an old broken down “twin propeller” relic. Straight out of the sixties’. Dull flat grey with tiny small landing wheels, tiny port side windows and a small opened single-sized door near the cockpit where the aluminum wheeled staircase was now pressed up against.
All that was missing was the sexy girl cartoon decal and the twin guns mounted on the wings.
The baggage handler took my guitar (the wife!) and literally tossed it among the other baggage in a open side drop-down holding area a-la the bus coach lines. Great I thought. If the latches come open while we’re flying, my guitar will be scattered in pieces all over Lake Ontario. Or Western New York if we make it that far?
After I was seated (actually just walked in and picked one) I looked around in amazement. The outside of the plane was bad enough, but the inside was like being on an old movie set. The seats (two per side) were old and time had colored them an ugly worn-out grey. The cushions, once comfy and new, were now severely ass-pressed, thin and lumpy and uncomfortable. The seatbelt… old and frayed.
The windows were small dirty oval portals and as the plane suddenly lurched forward I abandoned their dirty-filmed view and grabbed the arm of my chair holding on tight. Takeoff it seems was just moments away.
Taking off was like being in a small beaver or Cessna pontoon-plane trying to get up enough speed to lift off from the water. The propeller engines were spitting and farting and the whole plane was shaking like at any moment it was going to come apart. I sat straight and rigid in my 1960’s throwback seat holding on for dear life. I started thinking about all the Country stars who have died in plane crashes. In Planes — just like these?
In the air, the plane would hit an air pocket, then drop free-falling taking my stomach with it until banging to a stop at a new and now lower elevation. I could here the nervous giggles from the other 20 or so passengers onboard as they went up and dropped down hard with me. Hold on I thought. Less than an hour and you’ll be safe on the ground again. Just hold on!
Eventually the ride did get a little smoother. The plane either running into better flying conditions or climbing high enough to be over the bumping bad. We got up over the clouds where the sun was beaming in all its glory casting gold hues on the rolling pillows of air below us. That too was a scene right out of the movies. But a much more pleasant and peaceful one to be sure.
When we finally landed, I thought about dropping down on all fours and dramatically kissing the ground like in the movies. I didn’t though. I was too busy trying to get as far away from that old junk plane as I could.
This other time…
When we needed a new lead guitar player and went to check one out who was playing in a local dining slash entertainment lounge. Dressed neatly in freshly pressed black suit-pants and a stiff collared “going to a wedding” white dress shirt, he was anything but an Outlaw. Didn’t seem to meet the personified namesake of the band at all (County Outlaws!)
But when he turned up for his audition in black leather pants and a Waylon Jennings tour T-Shirt — we were forced to change our minds. Even more so after we found out he’d spent some time in prison (nothing too serious mind you) and wailed on the guitar like an old country rebel.
Yet the most disconcerting thing about him was yet to unfold.
Because when you bunked with him, you were never sure if he was awake or sleeping? Because he would sleep with his eyes open! Craziest thing you’ve ever seen! I’d go to shut the TV off thinking he was long gone deep in slumber and he’d scare the shit out of me hollering “Hey, I was watching that!” I guess it was pretty funny to him. But in all honesty, it was pretty damn freaky!
One time far from home, nearing our last set of the night, he complained he wasn’t feeling well. He did make it through even though you could tell he was struggling. As it so happened my Dad and his Sister were up to see us play that last night of our week long booking. And since we still had to break down all the stage equipment and load her up in the van before leaving — Pops and his Sister offered to drive him home right away.
Now what happened on that drive home was related to me later, but I will never forget the tale just the same. Pops was driving what would be a good six hour journey home. My aunt sat in back with the lead guitar player to keep an eye on him since he wasn’t feeling well and having dizzy spells and such.
At one point she was leaning up against the back of the front seat having a long conversation with dad not noticing what was going on behind her. When she did finally lay back in her seat to check on him, a long silent pause followed. After a few minutes this silence concerned Pops enough to ask if everything was okay?
She again leaned forward and in the most serious tone told Pops to pull over.
“Pull over? Why?” he asks.
“Alec” she said. “I think he’s dead!”
“And he died with his eyes wide open!”
Here’s a few of our old songs my Brother (original Soundman) put together in celebration of my little Memory Tour of the 80s. The songs themselves very early in our career and a timestamp for the era.
Tract 1 “Folsom Prison Blues — One of the first songs ever played on stage as a band, it was our debut performance recorded in 1983 in a huge packed rented hall advertised as a come dressed country style dance. Originally recorded on an old portable reel-to-reel tape recorder placed on a table in the center of the hall (thus the less than perfect outcome). Later copied to cassette, CD and today’s audio file it has endured a long and somewhat improbable journey.
Tract 2 “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” — One of our songs recorded live at a Super Sunday show at Leisure Place May 8, 1984. Recorded live by country radio station — 97.7 QR-FM with headliners Joe Firth and the Promise Land and Terry Sumsion and Stagecoach.
Tract 3 “Luckenbach Texas” — Taken from the same Super Sunday show. I extended the song while on stage (yes too long I know!) to accommodate the packed dance floor who seemed to be really enjoying themselves at the time. So If you don’t make it through the whole song, I won’t hold it against you. Lol!
Tract 4 “Eastbound and down” — First song on our 2nd Demo recording. Originally recorded in 1984 at “Boy Wonder’s” personal recording studio at his home. And yes! His Dad — was there!
NOTE: The transition of old recordings to Audio file have a way of blanding the sound. However this can be easily rectified by you at home. For best results while listening to them — turn the volume on your device up loud— sit back a bit from it — and the old recordings will now play true.
THE WORD OF WAYNE
“Each night I lie down in a graveyard of memories.” ― Jerry Spinelli
Like your our own virtual Time Machine! That’s the Power of Song! — CorkyWK