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So…not every gig turns out as planned. There are many vagaries about the rock and roll lifestyle that change schedules, alter itineraries, and fuck with the fragile heads of every road manager that ever rode the bus. Forget knowing what’s around the next corner. Sometimes you’re struggling to find the next corner. Or you’re looking for a chance to use the word vagaries just one more time in a sentence.
One of my most highly anticipated shows at the Lone Star Cafe was the coming of Larry Coryell. We were taking a chance on jazz at our little honky tonk, and Larry was the first big name. Unfortunately, we had been closed down the night before for being over crowded for a special weekend show with Johnny Winter. Our listed capacity was two hundred and twelve, there were nine hundred bodies in the room. We didn’t see a problem with that.
The fire chief disagreed, demanding that we clear the house and shut our doors immediately. Teddy Slatus, Johnny’s intrepid and often impossible manager (okay, he was an asshole), told them they could try to stop Johnny mid set if they wanted, but he was not quite suicidal enough to do it himself. I also refused, pointing out that I was still a young man with so much to look forward to in life. Needless to say, the fire chief did not appreciate our zest for life. He had the place cleared within ten minutes of the end of the show and declared that we couldn’t open our doors back up until the following Monday and a court appearance.
One of our owners, Bill Dick, who also had that Slatus kind of winning personality, decided we were going to open for Larry’s show Sunday night, regardless. You know: fuck them - who do they think they are anyway? Which of course meant that it was possible I’d be hauled off to jail, because they knew who the fuck they were, and their badges fucking proved it. I actually didn’t mind being the fall guy, since I was an ex-con and knew the ropes. I figured I’d just charge Bill double pay for every day behind bars.
They did not haul me off to double pay, but they did chase out what would have been a good crowd and close us back down less than fifteen minutes after opening, leaving just a few of our chosen friends, Larry, Joel Youngblood and Doug Flynn of the New York Mets, two Playboy playmates, a bartender, Sweet Mary, myself and….Bo Diddley. Bo, who had just come in for a quick drink, also had a quick question, “who the fuck is Larry Coryell?” Larry knew who the fuck Bo was but apparently did not give a shit. His primary concern was the full bottle of Martell cognac sitting in front of him behind the bar. He started knocking back shots as soon as he knew the performance was cancelled.
Bo, the baseball boys, and the babes all left after a couple rounds, leaving Mary, the bartender and me in charge of Larry and the rapidly depleting bottle of Martell. Bo still hadn’t figured out who Coryell was, but he totally didn’t care. He was fucking Bo Diddley. He didn’t have to know shit, and we loved him all the more for it.
Larry downed a few more shots, declaring after each, “one more round and I’m outta here.” A third of the way through the bottle, however, he suddenly declared he needed some blow to rev up for the road. We were pretty sure he wasn’t going anywhere for a while - he could barely stand up by this point - but we did arrange for a gram to be dropped by the side door.
When I handed him the glassine, he dumped its entire contents on the bar. This would be the bar easily seen at any time through the front windows of the club. Fortunately, those contents didn’t stay where they were long. With one fell snort, Larry vacuumed the bar clean, after which he stood straight up, completely erect….and keeled over backwards, landing flat on his back. Imagine, if you will, the remaining three of us staring down at him trying to decide if he was dead, and, if so, what we were going to do with the body. For a good two minutes, Larry looked as dead as any dead rock star we’d ever seen.
Finally, a gasp, snort and dribble of snot proved that he was alive. Not cognizant, mind you, but alive. And definitely not going anywhere. Mary and I half-carried him upstairs to the dressing room and poured him onto the couch, that same couch that had seen so many nasty, disgusting things over its short life. I must say Larry looked quite beatific plotzed. Not nasty at all. Maybe a bit disgusting. You know, the snot bubble. Every hour or so for the next eight hours, Larry would sit up and holler, “okay, point me to my car, and I’ll be on my way.” After each declaration, we propped up the equally nasty and disgusting pillow, and laid him back to rest. His snores echoed throughout the empty club. plus bohemian wedding gown
Finally, at about six in the morning, we judged Larry fit enough to be let loose and handed him his keys. On his way out, he told us, “it’s been real,” before turning right, then left, then right again to go to his car.
And so ended our first big jazz show at the Lone Star.