Segarini: The Art Of Touring Part 1
After years of touring up and down the West Coast in The Family Tree, with forays into Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona, I thought I was a seasoned professional when it came to rock and roll touring.
I knew to take an empty suitcase so I’d have a way to bring all the crap you get on the road home with me. Promotional T-shirts from radio stations, books and comics and magazines you’d buy to read to stave off the road crazies, decks of cards, clothes bought from hippie clothing stores, hand made by beautiful, free-loving girls named Sunflower, Moonchild, and Debbie, hotel and motel towels, unsent postcards, souvenir ashtrays, gig posters and handbills, albums, assorted snacks indigenous to wherever we were, gifts from fans, and once…a big jar of homemade dill pickles.
Most of the time we were paid in cash back then, so we’d get back to Stockton with 100’s of 1s, 5s, 10s, and 20s, usually tossed into the extra suitcase because carrying them in the regular suitcases tended to give the money the faint, but deadly, odor of used socks and underwear.
We knew to bring hair dryers with us not to dry our hair, but to dry underwear and socks that got washed in motel sinks. We knew where we could get a good breakfast and a bottle of Ripple at 7:00 in the morning in every city in the 11 Western States. We knew where on the dial the good local radio stations were, and got a huge charge out of hearing our records in places other than our home town. We could drive right to every late night Chinese restaurant, burger joint, and liquor store. We knew where the Denny’s were, where the best record store and guitar shops were, and always had a number we could call, (usually a guy named Dave), where we could score some pot, or some cross-tops if we had a long drive. We had a GMC van, carried our own gear, and traveled together with just one occasional roadie who we paid with burgers, pot, and cigarettes.
Yessir…we thought we were Veterans. Able bodied Rockers, seasoned with experience far beyond those of Mortal Men.
A move to L.A, and a new band, taught me otherwise…
Run Away With The Rock And Roll Circus
Suddenly, without warning, The Family Tree was no more.
I found myself living in Los Angeles, in a band called Roxy, signed to the uber-cool Elektra Records, living in Laurel Canyon, off of Lookout Mountain Rd, on Horseshoe Canyon Rd, across the street from Mickey Dolenz and Chuck Barris, and rubbing shoulders on a daily basis with folks like Graham Nash, Rita Coolidge, Jim Morrison, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, and a whole pile of people that weren’t rich and famous yet, but could buy and sell me hourly now. The funny thing was, Roxy was on the fast track to success and already had a single on the big AM stations, the support of the label, and a great manager named John Frankenheimer, a school chum from Stockton who was going to law school in Southern California, and is now the CEO of the world’s largest entertainment industry law firm, Loeb And Loeb. He was also the home owner in Laurel Canyon, and we all lived there ala The Waltons…only not so, you know, folksy.
It was John that got us an agent and convinced Jac Holzman that we should tour the album, which would be released just as we hit the road.
The tour was to start in Toronto Ontario, opening for Bobby Sherman at the O’Keefe Centre. After a week of hanging out in Toronto, we were to rent a station wagon in Buffalo, and drive to New York, where we would do a series of club dates, and then hook up with the Jefferson Airplane tour for a bunch of college and University gigs, as well as some of the great venues on the East Coast, like The Capitol Theater. Our crew, (Dennis and Bruce), would leave several days before us and drive our beautiful custom gear to Toronto in time for our first show. We would fly into Toronto to meet them.
It would be the first time I had ever been East of theRockies.
Toronto The Good? More Like Toronto The Weird!
We flew from LAX to Toronto on a Friday morning in October of 1969. I was wearing a pair of jeans, a Roxy, “Pretend You’re Right Then Go Ahead” T-shirt, a pair of white slip on shoes, a thin leather windbreaker, and no socks. It was 80 degrees in Inglewood when I got on the plane.
When I got off the plane in Toronto, it was 23 degrees and snowing. WTF? Snow? In a city? In California, if you wanted to see snow, you drove to it. It did NOT come to you.
Lesson number 1: Get a weather report before you go somewhere new.
Lesson number 2: Wear socks.
Lesson number 3: Have Hertz bring the car to you, don’t ask for the keys, directions, and storm out into the…storm.
So, we’ve been in Toronto for all of 30 minutes, and already it’s like an alternative universe. A city covered in snow. Money that looks like you should be looking to buy Park Place or Boardwalk. Cigarettes with names like Peter Jackson and Players. Beer in short, stubby bottles, with strange names. Weird road signs and weirder billboards.
Now, I’d had a taste of this stuff in Vancouver with The Family Tree, but this was almost 3000 miles from home, and much more alien in its totality. I fully expected to see a white rabbit in a waistcoat running alongside the car, looking at a pocket watch and muttering to himself.
We checked into a Holiday Inn. Wonderful! I recognize this! Until breakfast. The bacon wasn’t what I was used to, the hash browns were big and clunky and called ‘home fries’ and instead of orange juice, there was tomato juice. I ordered a vodka to go with it, and was told that they didn’t serve liquor until after lunch. Again, WTF?
If someone would have told me that I would be living here for 32 years and counting at this point in time, I would have punched him in the face.
That night we play the O’Keefe opening for Bobby Sherman. Bobby Sherman…a teenybopper Idol along the lines of today’s Justin Bieber. Why did we play this show? Apparently, it paid for our plane tickets.
If the O’Keefe held 5000 people, 4999 of them screamed through our set, an incredible display of lung power and stamina from a room full of people that wouldn’t be old enough to drive for another couple of years. When Sherman came out, the screams doubled in volume and began to resemble the sound of a million starving mice unable to get to the big cheese towering before them. I was standing in the wings watching this fascinating ritual, when someone from Sherman’s crew told me to stand back. “Why?” I asked, over the din. “Because before this song is over, Bobby will be running through here and out the back door into a limo, He’ll be gone before the band stops playing, and if you’re smart, you and your mates would be wise to gather up your things and get out of here, too.”
“I see”, I said, not seeing. “GET OUT!” he shouted, squeezing my arm and sounding alarmingly like the house in The Amityville Horror.
“I’ll consider your advice, sir. Thank you”, I said, but he was no longer there. I watched him go down a short flight of stairs off the stage, pushing people back, and clearing a path to the glass double doors to the street behind the venue. There. Sitting like a big napping cat, was the longest black limousine I had ever seen.
And then…a feat of derring-do and Olympic-worthy athleticism I had never before witnessed in an athlete, let alone a guy who made his living singing to pre-teen girls and their fantasizing mommies.
The lights on stage suddenly went dark as the band launched into the musical coda of Sherman’s last number.
Bobby Sherman, teen idol, actor, singer, self taught handy man who built a replica of Disneyland’s Main Street in his back yard, whizzed by me like the March wind, a blur of blue and gold, a look of terror on his fleeting face. Without touching the stairs, he made a leap worthy of an Olympic long-jumper, landing perfectly in front of the glass doors, pushing them open without breaking stride, and disappeared into the open-door of the limousine, and was gone. A ghost. I saw a man who wasn’t there.
Still mystified by the near panic in Sherman’s crew member, I started to walk down the stairs on my way to our dressing room when the Band hit the button ending the last song, and the house lights came up behind me, a long, mournful “Bahhhhhhbbbbbbbeeeeeeeee” following me down the hall to where my bandmates sat drinking the last of the free beer and polishing off the debris of our tasty deli plate.
“What’s that racket?”, one asked.
“The sound of success or the 3rd Circle of Hell…I’m not sure”, I replied.
We gathered up our stage clothes and the other flotsam and jetsam that bands carry with them, leaving our road crew to deal with the stage gear and headed for the double doors.
As we approached the doors, a huge yelp of recognition rose in front of us. I looked up.
We were trapped in the O Keefe for almost 4 hours.
I should have listened to the Amityville guy…
Next: The Art Of Touring Part 2 – The Wrath of Dawn
Segarini’s column appears here every Monday
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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.