It's my birthday today. I'm 61 years old. I worked a rock & roll show today, playing roadie for Colin Gawel & The Lonely Bones, my good friend Colin's side-project band when Watershed is not taking the stage. The appearance was at Comfest, a local Columbus hippie fete, that I have been attending since its inception in 1972. In some capacity - roadie, performer, stage manager, etc. - I have participated in Comfest since 1978 when I first helped Romantic Noise bassist Greg Glasgow onto the stage after a forklift driver ran over his foot at his warehouse temp job the day before the gig. (Ah, the glamorous rock & roll lifestyle.)
But that's not what this blog entry is about.
This blog entry is about my dad, traveling, hotels and growing old with rock & roll.
My dad was the greatest person I have ever known. He died of a heart attack at the age of 56 when I was 17 years old, April of my senior year of high school. I myself am on my second cardiac pacemaker and have so far outlived him by five years, but only with the bonus benefits of technology.
My father gave me my whole world. When I was 13 years old in 1965, dad started to get me into the rock & roll shows he worked as a ticket agent for Central Ticket Office, an early forerunner of what Ticket Master would become. It was my father's nighttime job after his main occupation at Columbia Gas of Ohio. My mom and dad both worked two jobs. They were children of The Great Depression and carried to their graves a legacy and a fear of not knowing where their next dollar was coming from.
Dad saw how interested I was in rock & roll and started bringing me along with him to shows at Veteran's Memorial or the Lausche Building on the Ohio State Fairgrounds. I was an incredibly shy, introverted child and I think the fact that I was willing to leave the shelter/womb of our house on the West Side to see a rock & roll show heartened my dad so much he'd have brought/driven/conveyed me anywhere, let alone the three or four miles it was from home to Vet's Memorial.
At first it was package shows like The Turtles with Neil Diamond and Every Mother's Son ("Come On Down To My Boat") opening; or Paul Revere & The Raiders with The Standells and Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs. But then, as The Sixties got into full swing I saw Bob Dylan's first electric tour with The Band (when they were still called The Crackers), The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Janis Joplin & the Full-Tilt Boogie Band, Cream and, most crucially, The Who on November 1st, 1969. (sidenote: Not one of those shows sold out the 3000-seat Veteran's Memorial. Dad would bring me to the show, wait for the opening acts to start, then pull me a single unsold seat somewhere. Advance sales to The Who show in 1969 were so slow that dad pulled me FOUR SEATS; one each for my best friend and our dates, a date I would almost certainly never have had but for the grace of my dad and of the rock & roll.) (Tickets for that Who show, by the way, were $3.50.)
Those shows, and rock & roll in general, quite literally gave me a reason for living. (see blog entry The Bathtub, January 13th, 2012.)
Dad gave me other stuff: he instilled in me a love of traveling. In 1962, when I was 10, a coupla years before The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and Changed Everything, dad had started to take my older brother and I to Cleveland Browns football games. This was in the Browns' heyday, when fullback Jim Brown was a true star of the National Football League and the Super Bowl hadn't even been invented yet. We would stay at the Sheraton Gibson Hotel right off Fountain Square. The Sheraton Gibson, and hotels in general, became MAGICAL to me. You could LIE IN BED and watch television. You could TAKE SHOWERS. (Our bathroom at home sported a claw-foot bathtub only.) You could look out the 20th floor window and see all the lights of the city spread out under you. I felt like a king. (sidenote: When Pete Townhend's first solo album, Who Came First, was released in 1972 with a track called "Sheraton Gibson" I was BEYOND THRILLED that I had once occupied the same building, the same square footage, as my Number One Rock Hero of that time.)
I remember very clearly one night in 1965 on the way home from Vet's, when dad was explaining the concept of touring to me, that musicians had to be on the road all the time. I just looked at him wide-eyed and said, "You mean all these guys do is play guitars & drums in a different city every night and stay in hotels in between?" I was incredulous. I was dumbstruck. Dad couldn't have possibly realized what he had just done. He might just as well have stamped Unfit For A Normal Job Of Any Kind across my 13 year old forehead right at that very moment.
My dad never got to travel much; those trips to Cleveland, our family summer vacations to the likes of Cedar Point Amusement Park in Upper Sandusky, an annual autumn trip to South Bend, Indiana, to see a Notre Dame football game with his Columbia Gas buddies. One time when I was 12 he took my sister and I to Florida. It was my first time flying and I was so nervous I threw up on the plane. I was such a miserable little kid. Dad, I wish I could have been better for you.
When my father died I think I had a little nervous breakdown. I can't really remember much of anything from April or May of that year, but by June 1970 when I graduated from Bishop Ready High School I had decided two things: 1) I was never ever going to have a job where I had to wear a suit & tie to work; and 2) I was going to travel and describe to dad all the things I saw.
It's my birthday today. I'm 61 years old. I accomplished the first goal goal by working in warehouses most of my adult life and discovering that bluejeans and a black t-shirt will get you through most days quite nicely. On most of my vacations from work I traveled to see rock & roll bands; to Massachusetts, to Texas, to California, to a lotta points in between.
I accomplished the second goal by becoming a rock & roll roadie in my 40's and crisscrossing the length & breadth of these United States (multiple times) with Watershed and Hamell On Trial.
Dad, you were with me every step of the way: every new sight out of every car, truck, bus, van & airplane window; every street of every city & town; every mile of every tour. This blog is for you. It's a happy birthday. - Ricki C. / June 30th, 2013
This entry originally appeared on Ricki's own blogsite - Growing Old With Rock & Roll, www.rickic614.blogspot.com - if you'd like to read more.