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Another crazy story from my youth for your amusement.

drummer5359

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Every once in a while, I share some crazy story from when I was young.

I played my first gig in 1975 at age sixteen, after forty-four years I've happily blocked some of the worse gigs. A particular crazy one crossed my mind today, I thought that you folks might be amused. This took place in the early fall of 1978.

My guitarist brother found a used music store on the other (wrong) side of the city that was selling a nice used PA system and light show. Up to this point we were running just vocals into an older 6 or 8 channel "Shure Vocal Master" PA head and matching speaker columns. On our best gigs it sounded awful. They were selling a 16-channel board with case, proper speakers, monitors, a snake, two power amps, an outboard reverb unit and two graphic equalizers. On top of that, they had a great light show for sale. To us, this was we needed to take us to that next level. Of course, we really didn't know how to use most of this, nor did we own more microphones to take advantage of this additional capacity. We also didn't own vehicles large enough to haul this, more about that later. The other thing is that this purchase meant was that we'd be eating PB&J sandwiches and only PB&J sandwiches for the next month. The other guys in the band were in their mid to late twenties and had families. My brother was twenty-two, I had just turned nineteen. He had a pretty good day job at a mill and had a nice apartment, I worked two jobs and lived in a one room efficiency. We figured that it was up to us to bite the bullet and buy a pro PA.

The music store was across the street from a venue. (I'm using the term venue loosely.) It was a really rough bar, rougher than sixty-three-year-old me would be comfortable playing in. Nineteen-year-old me had no such reservations. The two guys that owned the music store were friends of the owner of the bar. They booked us a gig that didn't pay much. ($300) But they would set up the PA and lights and run it for us and only take $100 of our $300. Wow, we'd play a gig at a new venue and have professional lighting and sound guys running our new system and we'd make fifty bucks each. Woo-Hoo! Of course we are stupid enough to take that deal.

We decided to go check the place out the night before the gig. My brother parked his white 1971 Cadillac Sedan Deville in the alley behind the used music store next to one of the music store owners' white 1972 Sedan Deville. We joked at the time that most people would have trouble telling one from the other. We walked around the block, crossed the street and went into the bar. The place smelled pretty horrible, the regulars were obnoxious, the owner and bartender were slightly better. We walked up about 25 steps on a narrow staircase to get in there. This will be a fun load in, load out. There was no stage and frankly we didn't know how we were going to it our gear into the space allotted, but we'd make it work. The owners of the music store were there, so we hung out with them for a bit and decided to head home. We'd see them tomorrow at the gig.

My brother and I left the bar, crossed the street and went around the block to the alley behind the music store. Earlier that day the owners of the music store testified against a local youth who had stolen from their store. His friends decided to retaliate and burn the store owner's Cadillac. Instead, they had burned my brother's car. Oops. The firemen got to it before it was totally destroyed, but it was pretty bad. They told us that we needed to walk down to the police station four blocks away and file a report while they finished with the car.

We walked down the alley, cut over to the main street and walked to the police station. We told the desk sergeant who we were and that we were here to file a report. He asked where we lived. We told him and he responded that we had no reason to be in his neighborhood at night and told us to get the bleep out before he arrested us.

We walked back down the street and cut over to the alley. The fire department was gone as were all of the bystanders. We surveyed the remains of his Cadillac. The one rear side window was broken out. All of the other windows were crusted in black soot inside and out. The entire blue brocade interior was soaked and soot covered and the back seat was completely burned out. As we were checking this mess out, the guys who burned it showed up. They were 16 to 20 years old, larger than me and there were six or seven of them. They thought that it was pretty funny that they had burned the wrong car. My brother didn't share their amusement, we ended up in what I would characterize as a gang fight. We both had teeth kicked out, my brother really took a beating. Someone punched him in the face with a brick, messing up his eye. Both of us had broken ribs.

They left us lying bloodied on the ground in the alley after they had decided we were beaten badly enough. I helped my brother up and loaded him into the passenger seat of the Cadillac. I got into the driver's side. Amazingly, it started. But I could not see out the windows, the power windows and power seat were no longer working. My brother is six foot one, I am five foot six. I ended up driving to the nearest hospital emergency room holding the driver's side door open and hanging my head out to see while I was perched on the edge of the seat to reach the pedals. Oh, by the way, it started raining on the way to the hospital, so visibility was even worse.

They patched us up, I drove my brother to his apartment and picked up my car, a 72 Skylark four door. The next day we each went to work as sore as we were. To this day I don't know how. Friends of ours carried and set up our gear as neither of us were in any shape to carry anything. My brother played the gig with a patch on his eye and seated on a bar stool as it's the only way that he could hold his Stratocaster. I played the drums with broken ribs. I can't begin to explain how painful that was. The place was packed. People from our jobs packed the place to make sure that there was no trouble. On top of everything else, the music store owners didn't know much more than we did about operating this sound system, so the sound that night wasn't much better than previous gigs. (The lighting looked great though!) We paid them for the PA, and it took five or six cars to get all of our gear home.

My brother got rid of his burned up 71 Cadillac and replaced it with a black 58 Cadillac with bullet holes in it. I got rid of my Skylark sedan and replaced it with a 72 Vista Cruiser wagon that would hold a lot more gear.
 

studrum

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In what tender little 'burg did these deeds transpire?
 

drummer5359

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Did this happen anywhere near Hollowood Music?
Yes, in the block where they are currently. Hollowood Music's location was about two blocks away back then. The building that the bar was in is now a vacant lot. I think that the bar was called "The Vibrator's Club". I believe that the location of that little used music gear store was is now a Pizza shop. I can't remember the name of the music shop, they were only in business a year or two.
 

Steech

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Yes, in the block where they are currently. Hollowood Music's location was about two blocks away back then. The building that the bar was in is now a vacant lot. I think that the bar was called "The Vibrator's Club". I believe that the location of that little used music gear store was is now a Pizza shop. I can't remember the name of the music shop, they were only in business a year or two.
I remember a Chinese restaurant in the strip around the corner from Hollowood’s and they had a kind of hidden back bar. It was pretty safe for us to go in as a band and a few friends but I would never have ventured in there by myself. I wonder if that neighborhood has gotten any better over the years since I left.
 

drummer5359

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I remember a Chinese restaurant in the strip around the corner from Hollowood’s and they had a kind of hidden back bar. It was pretty safe for us to go in as a band and a few friends but I would never have ventured in there by myself. I wonder if that neighborhood has gotten any better over the years since I left.
I played there as well. That place was WAY better than the Vibrator's Club.

As for the neighborhood, it is still not stellar. The good news is that the police department is not famously corrupt like it was forty years ago. A band that I was in from 2013-2019 regularly rehearsed in "the Rocks" and we played our share of gigs in the area. I think that overall, it is a little better than it used to be.
 

bpaluzzi

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A band that I was in from 2013-2019 regularly rehearsed in "the Rocks" and we played our share of gigs in the area. I think that overall, it is a little better than it used to be.

I rehearsed in ABC-EZ storage in McKees Rocks from 2013-2016. Never had any problems, but the neighborhood definitely helped with the price of the space. It was $300 / month for a BIG room.

An independent WGI drumline I was on staff for used to rehease at Sto-Rox HS. Had a few issues with locals trying to grab stuff when we were loading the box truck after rehearsals. :(
 


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