Being a newly wed and out of a job, I did the only thing I could think of. I cut my hair and got out and got a job. Driven a delivery truck for a paint store, long hours and little pay. If was enough to get a small duplex in a not so good part of town. It was a two bedroom until the baby came I set up the spare bedroom as a place to hang out and get high.
When friends came over, all the dudes would go in there, we could smoke and drink. I didn't want Brenda around the smoke. I got back from a delivery one day and the owner said a dude came bye to see me. He said it looked like a cop to him, in plain clothes. I taught to my self, they found my smoking room, I was worried about Brenda.
We didn't have a phone, so I couldn't call her. Mr. Taylor, the owner called me up front to let me know the guy had just pulled up. He was in a nice car with an radio antenna, three piece suit and briefcase. He came in and introduced himself as Larry Montague, I was still looking for handcuffs and a gun. Ask if he could talk to me in private, so we went outside. He said he was the manager of a entertainer, Billy Sandlin, and my mother-in-law had told him I was a drummer. He was looking for a bass player and drummer to go on the road with Billy.
They had contracts already signed with clubs, and the drummer pulled out with the bass player. He wanted to know if I would be interested in auditioning that night. Billy was doing all his own song, mostly country. I didn't like the idea of playing country music, but I hated working for a $1.65 an hour, I told him I'd be there. The audition was in a small club on Summer Ave. called Four Way. Billy was the star, he was the writer, the lead singer and the rhythm guitar player. With him was Don Rhodes, who did all the leads on saxophone, he was a good singer too. The only covers they did were by Johnny Cash, Don sing them.
The bass player trying out that night was Tony White, he was good but not into country music either. Billy 's song really weren't that country, with Tony and me pushing um. We went through about a half-a-dozen song and the three of them went off to talk. That gave me a chance to talk to Tony, he like it a little. He was wanting to go on the road, he also wanted to go back to school at Memphis State. Billy came back in and said we had the job if we wanted it. I told him I was in, Tony said he had to think about it over night.
Tony gave me a ride home, he didn't know me at all. He had long hair and I could tell he was cool, I had short hair and I'm sure he couldn't tell about me. I told him what I had been doing the last few years and what was going on now. I really like the way he played bass and I told him so. He called the next day and said he was in. I was in a band and didn't even have a set of drums. I had been using Richard's Rodgers for the last year. I borrowed the money from my brother to buy them. We got to rehearse a couple of times before the job Friday night.
The place was packed wall to wall, they loved Billy and Don. The next day we were in the club rehearsing on break I was setting at the bar talking to Gundy on the phone. I wanted him to come out and give a listen to us. I told him there were only a few rednecks in the club, he wouldn't come. Again that night the club was pack, we could hardly get to the stage. I had been outside getting some air, and was heading back to the stage.
A dude the size of a barn got me by the arm and pulled me over in a corner. He had a couple of other dudes with him, he didn't need help this guy was huge. He got right in my face and said,” what’s a redneck”?? I knew as soon as he said it he had over heard me on the phone. I could hear the band tuning up and this guy is fixing to kill me. I could barely talk I was so scared, he could have kill me with one lick.
The only thing I could think of was the real thing. So I said, any body south of the Mason-Dixson line was considered a redneck. He looked enlighten and back up and said O! o.k., his friends moved and I got the hell out of there. We played three or four songs before I got over that. I didn't go back to that part of the club, I went around it. We had to play at Four Way Wednesday through Saturday the next week and leave for St.Joseph Missouri the next day, Sunday . Don had a hot rod ('66 SS Malibu 327- 4 in the floor) we hooked a U-Haul to the back of it. We didn't get out of Memphis tell late Sunday afternoon. As soon as we got a little out of Memphis, I decided to find out what was up.
I didn't know any body in the car and it was time to get to know them a little better. I pulled out a joint and fired it up, Billy and Don wasn't into it, they didn't care if Tony and me did it. I thought to myself, here I go again in a half and half band. It had to be better then driven a truck. Don drove about four hour and I took over, he just pulled over to the side of the road, and we switched. This car was a hot rod, a lot of power, I just took off .20 or 30 miles down the road, when I came to a stop sign, there were no brakes, I geared it down and didn't go through the stop sign. I had not taken the emergency brake off, and it burned the brake up.
I had never used the emergency brake in any of the car I'd drove before. Don knew how to adjust them by backing up, which he did in a parking lot. We got to the club about 6 in the morning, it looked like a rat trap. We set in front of the place laughing, we drove all night for this. The hotel was in the center, they say Jesse James stay there. On the left side was a topless go-go club, on the right side was the night club ( The New Orleans Room ) where we were playing. The hotel was five stories, the roof was falling in, so you couldn't stay on the top floors.
They put the band on the third floor, we couldn't believe it, we could have walked up the stairs faster then the elevator. It was spooky, the hall ways were long and dark. Our rooms had light, sun and moon light that is, there was no shades on the windows. Tony's room didn't have any glass in his window, at less the weather was nice. The phones were original, with the crank on the side, bathtubs, no showers, it looked like somebody had just got out of the beds. We stayed open minded and went to set up the stage. The club was totally deferent, new carpet, a real nice bar, a big stage, nice table and chairs. The capacity was 175 so it was a fairly good size room. It had a couple of dressing room behind the stage, the stage was four feet high, about 40ft. wide and 15ft. deep.
It had a hand painted mural all the way around the room, of Bourbon Street, ever who did it was good, very good. We got some rest before going on, we played from 9 - 1:15. At 1:15, all the lights in the club would come on, at 1:30 every body was out. In between our sets, they had girl dancers. One was a redhead that had been around, the other was a cute little young thing that had never danced in front of people before. After the show we all went over to the redhead's house. We smoked, drink and was merry all night, the place was full of people we didn't know. Billy got the redhead, Tony got the young one, and I got drunk.
The sun was coming up and we ( the band ) were getting ready to leave. There was only a handful of folks left, this one dude setting in a rock-in-chair, with sunglasses on, a bottle of wine and a joint in his hand. He had a long handlebar mustache and sideburns, with short hair. I hadn't seen him at the club or the party. He handed me the joint and introduced himself as Tudor, we started talking. He had just got back from Vietnam, he had a great personality and sense of humor. I liked him from the start, we had a lot in common, we both had short hair and were really long haired people and liked getting high.
The next night went pretty good. About midnight, a dude came in wearing black leather pants and a motorcycle jacket with dark sunglasses. For some reason he looked more like a beatnik or heroin addict then a member of a motorcycle gang. I was staying away from him, he just had a look about him that was trouble. The show was over and we were just standing around out front of the club. Tudor came up in a truck with two friends, Ken and J.R. and a black dude in the back. They were also friends with the dude in the leathers ( Art ). They were getting four cases of beer and ask if we wanted to come over to there place. Don didn't like um, Billy was going out with red, so Tony and me were talking about going.
Neil, the owner of the club was standing there, I ask him if he new them. He said they were cool to go on and have some fun. We went in and changed clothes, Art gave us a ride. Less then an hour ago I was staying away from this dude, now here we are in the car with him, going I don't know where. They only lived a few miles from the club, in a little one bedroom house. They had all just got back from Vietnam, Ken, J.R., Art &Tudor. Tudor got kick out for using drugs and a few other things. It was really J.R.'s house, Ken was living in a camper in the backyard, Art was staying at the Y.M.C.A., and Tudor lived on a farm outside town, with his grand daddy.
We drank and smoked all night, had a good time. In our contract was a deal, we had to have a jam session on Saturday at noon. So all the local musicians could come in and get to know us. One of these, was a guitar player, he was good. They were planning a party Sunday at the rock quarry, a big blow out. Somebody in the group, came up with some speed ( amphetamine ) that you had to do three or four to get off. We all got some and went to the quarry. I talked more that night then in my whole life, we ended up doing way to much of that speed, I think Tony and me did seven each.
Tony was the only one that went swimming, he did that just about day light, showing off for some girls. We didn't get back to the hotel tell 3 o'clock Monday afternoon. I had just laid down, I could hear Tony calling me. He was so down he couldn't get his key in the door. It scared me, he looked real pale, but I wasn't seeing that good either. I helped him to his bed, it was all I could do to get back to mine. My bed was right over the juke box, somebody down there liked the song 'Have Another Hit Of Fresh Air', I got some rest, but I didn't go to sleep. We were still speeding when we got off at 1:30 that night, we drank a lot of beer so we could get some sleep. What a deal, and it was the first week in St.Jo. Billy got our first check, and had to send it to Larry in Memphis, and Larry would pay us.
That was one of the dumbest things I'd ever heard, we were broke. We were in the lobby of the hotel when the letters came. Larry had taken out for union dues and clothes, Don, Tony and me got $65, Billy got 45¢ taped to a piece of paper. He just laugh and got up, walked over to the soup machine and dropped in his money. I was mad at first but not after that, it was to funny. Neil told Billy he was going to pick up our option, that gave us two more weeks there. So we decided to come to Memphis and get Don's motorcycle, a dressed out 74 Harley.
So we drove all night after the show Saturday night. It was Don, Tony, Art and myself, Art had a bike so he was going to do most of the riding back. We should have put it on a trailer, and that would have been that. But no! I almost laid it down, right in front of my mom's house. We left at daylight Monday, I was going to ride it tell I got tired. We stop at a gas station in West Memphis. It only took a minute to fill up the bike, so I was going on ahead. Just two miles from the station the expressway Y'd off, the left to Little Rock, the right to Jonesboro. It's early, I'm doing 70mph, it only took a second to go wrong.
There was a weight station just a 1/2 mile down, I stopped. Sure enough, I should have went right. I got back on and hauled ass, the bike would only go 85 wide open. I didn't know if they were in front or in back of me. Right outside Blytheville, I'd just pasted a big ass 16 wheeler, moved back over in front of it and the primary chain broke on the bike. I looked over my shoulder and that semi was right on top of me, he laid down on his horn. I pull over off the road, it was like a drop down to gravel, I was still doing 50mph, it was all I could do to get stopped. I didn't know it at the time, Don said he was doing a 120mph trying to catch me, they pulled over to wait for me on the other side of Blytheville. Man, what a joke ! something like the three stooges would do. I'm on one side of Blytheville and their on the other.
A janitor to the local high school came bye and ask if he could help, at first I tried to get a chain, it was going to take to long. We ended up putting the bike in his truck, he said he would keep it for me. I called my new wife's step daddy ( J.W. ) and got him to carry me up there for $50 plus gas. We got there just as they were doing the last song ,I sure hated to tell Don his bike was in a basement of a high school in Blytheville. He was real nice about it, it wouldn't have taken much for me to go off. That had been one very long day, he ended up selling the bike to the janitor.
After we finished the month in St.Jo, we had to go back to Memphis for two weeks. Larry wanted us to get more clothes alike, we did that at Lansky Brothers on Beale St. We were to play Four Way for two weeks, and back to St.Jo for two more weeks. He had something else coming up too. We did the two weeks at Four Way, and got some more stage clothes. Don knew a dude that owned a used car lot, he got us a 66 Chevy panel truck. It was a Tennessee State Road truck, so it was painted green and yellow. We put carpet in it and sprayed painted peace signs on it, and a few other things. It looked like a down and out hippie truck, it ran good. On our way out of town we needed to go by Larry's and get the contracts.
When we got there he told us not to get down, but Neil had canceled our contract in big red letters, that very morning. All of us had already said our good-byes and was counting on the money. Larry pulled out a map laid it on the table and said where do you want to go? I wanted to go back to California, Billy was from Florida, Tony and Don both wanted to go to Florida. The coolest towns in Florida were Miami and Daytona, we all decided on Daytona, it was closer. Larry was going down in his car so he could book us. We took turns in the truck. We got in to Daytona about 9:00pm and got some rooms.
Everybody was a little tired, Larry got his briefcase out. Started going over some ideas, one of which was lame to Tony and me. He had some scarfs and wanted us to wear them around our waist. He had some picture of people wearing them, one was Wayne Newton. Tony and me were not fans of Wayne Newton's or the scarfs. Tony took a stand and say there was no way he was wearing a scarf around his waist. Larry got mad and slammed his briefcase down on the bed, papers went everywhere. Billy and Don were staying out of it, I didn't feel like fighting about it, so I walked out of the room.
I went out to the beach, it was beautiful, the wind was coming off the ocean at about 15mph,nice and warm. Tony came up, I told him I could spend the rest of my life right here. We smoked a little, got our heads right and decided to go along with Larry's idea. Before we got out of bed the next morning, Larry came in and said he had us an audition at 2:00pm at The Aku Tiki, one of the nicest hotels on the beach. The guy that owned the place was in town, he live on the whole top floor. He had 10 hotels in Florida, two in Miami, this dude was loaded. Billy did three songs and Don did two of Johnny Cash's.
The owner's wife, in her early sixties, fill in love with Don's stage appearance. He looked a lot like a young Cash and sounded like him too. They gave us a great deal, good money, nice rooms, half off on food and the kicker-free drinks. He was going to fire the band ( local ) he had that night, and we were to start the next. The manager of the hotel told us to be in the club at midnight and he was going to take us out for a few drinks. We went to a very plush privet club, beautiful girls in almost nothing waiting on you. It didn't open till midnight, he gave us all a hundred dollar bill before we went in and say if we needed more to come and get it.
We had a ball drinking till daylight, right before we left, Billy hit the dude up for another hundred, we were going to us that to live on. When we got back to the hotel, the dude ask if we wanted some breakfast. So he had a table set up to accommodate us, must have been about ten people. Just about the time we were getting finished eating, he asked Billy about that last hundred dollar bill. You could have heard a pin drop, Billy grinned and got it out of his pocket, everybody laughed and it was over. They treated us great, most of the time the food was free, it was first class all the way. They let us have small parties at the pool after we got off at 2:00am.
After the second week, the owner call Larry in Memphis and wanted us for six more weeks, and then wanted us to go to his other clubs. We had a two week obligation at The Royal Groves in Lincoln Nebraska, we were thinking of canceling and staying in Florida. Sunday were always real slow, this Sunday night was the same. We started having a little party with the bartenders and waitresses. We all were slamming down Tom Collins, there were only a few people in the club, and we were setting talking to them. For some reason Don wanted Billy to come tune up, Billy told Don to relax and wait a few minutes.
Don got mad a told Billy if he didn't come right then and tune up he was going to quit. I was standing at the bar all the way across the room from the stage, pasted full of gin and it did the talking for me. I told Don in a loud voice to pack up his stuff and get off the stage, he did. We decided to replace him with Norman Brown, I call him at 3:00am, had a plane ticket waiting on him. The phone woke us up with a hang over that wouldn't quit. It was the front desk, we had 15min. to vacate the rooms, or they were going to call the police. We called our union rep, they let us have some more time in the rooms. Larry was on the phone trying to help, our contract was for Billy Sandlin and three musicians, Don's name wasn't on it. One of the main reasons we got the job was because of Don, without him they didn't want us.
The union man came out of the meeting, told us if we didn't get out we were going to jail for trespassing. Tony got back with Norman from the airport just in time to help us get out. It took every dime we had to get the ticket for Norman. Tony borrowed money from one of the waitresses he was going out with, to get us home. The life and times of a road band. Next Story - Sandlin
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Sandlin & Co.
Sandlin & Co.
Billy Sandlin – vocal - guitar / leader Don Rhodes – sax / vocal Tony White – bass Roger – drums