(from Ricki C. - It seemed like we were getting a little too serious and devotional in our Willie coverage, so I thought I’d throw in a coupla mildly scabrous, “when-we-was-young” rock & roll stories from back in the day. Apologies to everybody involved, not many names were changed. Click here to hear two FREE songs from the Willie Phoenix Tribute Machine and links to all things Willie Phoenix)
When I first met Willie in 1978, when he was leading Romantic Noise, the band (Willie, Greg Glasgow on bass & vocals, John Ballor on lead guitar & vocals, and Dee Hunt – the pride of Beckley, West Virginia – on drums) all lived together in a house on 4th Street, right around the corner from that little strip-shopping center on Summit, near Oakland, where Café Bourbon Street and The Summit are located. (I’m not sure Willie lived there all the time. As always, his living arrangements were and are a mystery to me, but he was consistently there whenever I dropped by to visit.)
Frequent visitors to the 4th Street house were The CookieBakers: three teenage girls – Erin, Kim & Cindy, by name – who came to all the bands’ gigs and, true to their name, baked cookies for the boys. It was all really quite innocent & charming; the girls really did bake cookies and bring them to the house. They weren’t groupies exactly, but Kim and Willie “dated” for quite some time and Erin later married and still later was divorced from Greg, so more than chocolate chips got exchanged, if you get my drift.
Anyway, one day in early spring ’78 we were all at the house and Erin was telling an elaborate story about something that had happened at high school that day. She was wearing a longish skirt, but the skirt was also really sheer and once the setting sun starting pouring in the picture window in the front of the house, she might as well NOT HAVE BEEN WEARING A SKIRT AT ALL. So Erin’s jumping around, acting out the story and the guys and I are all stifling laughs, just staring at her essentially naked from the waist down form, when Kim walks back in from the kitchen and yells, “ERIN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!!!?”
She pulls a confused Erin out of the sunlight while the rest of us just fall over laughing. Erin turns beet-red and flees the room, pulling her skirt tighter well after the fact and Kim soundly reads us the riot act: “That wasn’t funny, you guys, that was just mean.” I think she might have actually cuffed Willie on the head, and then she spun on me, saying, “I would have expected this from these guys, Ricki, but I really expected better behavior from you.” What the hell? Was my twelve-years-of-Catholic-school-upbringing really that apparent, even at that late a date?
“I’m just one of the boys,” I said to a livid Kim, “you’d best not expect that much of me.” That became only truer & truer as the year went on.
It’s after a gig at Bernie’s Bagels. I’m packing up gear and Willie initiates a conversation with my lead singer & girlfriend Nicole, whom I’ve brought along to the show that night:
Willie – “Hey Nicole, why don’t we go out to my car?”
Nicole (feigning naivete, she’s seen this Willie show before) – “What would we do in your car, Wilie?”
Willie – “Oh, we’d just talk and stuff. It’d be no big deal.”
Nicole – “Well, we could talk right here, Willie, we’re talking right now.”
Willie – “Yeah, but in my car, we could listen to music, or we could talk more private. Or do more private things.”
Nicole (in a tone like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth) – “Oh, I’m not sure Ricki would like it if we did more private things, Willie.”
Willie – “Oh no, Ricki would be cool with that. Ricki’s a cool guy.”
Ricki – “WILLIE, I’M STANDING RIGHT HERE.”
Willie (glancing briefly in my direction, and then totally ignoring the outburst) – “So, whattya say, should we go outside?”
Nicole – “We’re not going out to your car, Willie.”
Willie – “Okay, just give it some thought,” patting Nicole’s hand and walking over to a random girl standing by the bar, “Hey, why don’t we got out to my car?”
Drummer Dee Hunt, Willie & I are having a bite to eat at that Wendy’s across from campus by Schoolkid’s (now Used Kid’s) Records and Willie starts telling us – apropos of not much – that he scored the night before with a Hare Krishna girl he picked up at the airport. Dee & I exchange a glance, and then Dee says, “You made it with a Hare Krishna girl?” “Yeah,” Willie says, nonchalantly, like this is an everyday occurrence in the little rock & roll circles in which we move.
“Didn’t it creep you out that she was bald?” Dee asked, in those long-ago pre-Sinead O’Connor days of the late 70’s.
“Well, I made her wear a hat,” Willie deadpans, and I laugh so hard that some of my Frosty comes out my nose.
Willie was my hero.
I miss the 1970’s. – Ricki C. / March 4th, 2015.
Willie Phoenix & Dee Hunt / May, 1978