Berry Stoned

Late March of 2006-
Hi again gang! Well, here we are headed full throttle into spring again. We’ve been off of the road for a while now this winter, but we have been in the studio every chance that we get to work on this new CD. Now we’ve got gig offers starting to drizzle in, so it looks like soon we’re… “Back in the saddle again!”
I get a lot of requests about stories from the road… and for stories about celebrities… here on the ol’ Ramblin’ home front. I like to throw one out there at ya every once in a while, and since my pitchin’ arm is feelin’ fine… I reckon it’s throwin’ time!
This next little tale is kinda long, so you just gotta hang in there on it!
I remember watching the Tonight Show with Johnnie Carson late one night quite a while ago and Mr. Chuck Berry was his guest. This must have been in the early to mid-eighties. After talking to Chuck for about tem minutes or so, Johnnie asks Chuck about the rumor of a concert he did a few years ago where he played with the Rolling Stones at the Palladium in Hollywood. Johnnie said that he had heard that some of the Stones jammed with Chuck that night, and Johnnie wanted to know how Chuck felt about playing with someone like the Stones!
“Well, it’s was great,” Chuck answered back with a laugh, ” but it wasn’t a Rolling Stones show… and it wasn’t a Chuck Berry show! The headliner that night was Black Oak Arkansas… and the Stones and me opened for them!”
Johnnie just sort of sat there with his mouth open.
I believe that this is the story I’ll pick to tell ya’ll about this time out of the chute!
I guess in order to tell this tale correctly, I’m going to use feedback and direct quotes here from my good buddy Jim Dandy. I’ve had Pat on here with me before, but this may be Jim’s first contribution!
I reckon that I’ll call this critter…
Berry Stoned!
It seems to me that this tale happened in about 1973, but I could be off by a year or so. Black Oak Arkansas was on top of the world at that time, and we were headlining not only in the United States… but also all over the world. We had done Europe and Great Britain twice, and we were back in the U.S. playing large halls everywhere. (Our management liked to keep us very busy on the road all of the time. It made it harder for us to keep track of what went on with our finances back home, which we later realized was a mistake on our part… but that’s another story.)
We had a date scheduled to perform at the Hollywood Palladium. Man, what a place that is! A GIANT grand old lady from Hollywood’s heyday is what the place is; this is the same place a lot of your basic Lawrence Welk shows were done! A feeling of old Hollywood just kinda oozes from the place… and you can just imagine all of the famous folks who have played at this place over time.
Since we were the headlining act on this show, we had the choice of whom we wanted on the bill with us for this concert. We already knew that Circus Magazine and Rolling Stone Magazine were going to have someone at the show for either an interview with us… or for a review of the concert… or both!
We wanted something sort of different for the opening to this concert. After consideration was given to several choices, we picked 2 acts to open. For the first act, we picked a group from Holland who had a hit single out at the time. They were called “Focus” and the hit single was a fast “yodeling” sort of critter on an album called “Hocus Pocus.” Focus… Hocus Pocus… ohhhh, I get it!
Only later did we find out that no one in the band OR crew spoke any English! (And being from Arkansas, my Dutch sucks!)
For our middle act, we picked Mr. Chuck Berry. We had done a few shows with Chuck prior to this one… and we always got along great. A true gentleman… and one of the real pioneers of my business… Rock!
So… we book these two acts for our “Coming Soon” date.
Then… we find that when you book Chuck Berry… that’s what you get! One Chuck Berry! One guitar! That’s all!
The promoter has to furnish Chuck with an amp and cords.
The promoter has to furnish Chuck with drums AND a drummer that knows Chuck’s stuff.
The promoter has to furnish Chuck with a bass amp AND a bass player that knows Chuck’s stuff.
The promoter has to furnish a keyboard AND a keyboardist that knows Chuck’s stuff.
Well, we say to ourselves… a lot of this is no big deal. We can rent any equipment we’re gonna need from Hollywood Instrument Rentals. I love Chuck, and I love his stuff… but none of his tunes are so complicated that most any decent musician couldn’t pick them up in quick time.
About this time, one of the interviewers from Circus (?) says, ” Hey, did you know that the Stones are in town recording for a new album? I’ve got to interview them tomorrow for the magazine. They love Chuck! It might be cool to see if any of them wanted to play with Chuck!”
“Yeah…” said we (with a giggle), “and what if we didn’t tell Chuck??!!”
Interviewer begins to laugh.
O.K…. now here’s what we got…
The night of the show… we’ve got a totally sold-out house at the Palladium for the Black Oak Arkansas show. We’ve even got a lot of people who supposedly had tickets, but still couldn’t get in because it was an oversold show! Fire Marshals and Police were everywhere. Along with the folks who were ticket holders but not allowed to get in… they were tons of folks who didn’t have tickets but were planning on buying them, not knowing that there was no room!
Through someone who was working for the venue… word leaked out about just who was gonna be opening the show. Focus for an hour… then Chuck Berry with his band… being Bill Wyman on bass, Charlie Watts on drums, Keith Richards on rhythm guitar, and Billy Preston on keyboards! Also, Mick and Bianca Jagger were backstage watching with two of the largest bodyguards known to the human race!
The Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry… opening! FOR BLACK OAK ARKANSAS!
Now that’s a hand to draw to!
Everyone outside found out about this… and pandemonium struck!
The crowd broke two of the front doors down, and an unknown amount of folks got in… ticket or not… police or not.
Now the place was REALLY packed!
Focus took the stage, and having a hit record at that time… the crowd response was great.
Then it was Chuck’s turn.
Man! Did he ever slam that night! The crowd was going out of their minds, and at one time the police were ready to enter the crowd because of how rambunctious they were getting! Chuck is always great to watch, and with the Stones behind him it was excellent! (Even though he did eventually ask Keith to leave the stage because Chuck said there was only room for one lead guitarist on his stage! Keith just smiled, waved at the crowd… and slid away into the wings!)
Chuck got two encores that night!
Then it was our turn.
Every once in awhile, a musician has an almost magical set where everything just kinda falls into place. This was one of those nights. We could do no wrong that night. The crowd refused to let us. Girls were jumping on stage by the minute, and at one point… we had six roadies doing nothing but pulling girls off of us.
Also, that night… another strange thing happened! The Palladium has a balcony that butts up to the stage… and the stage has those old-timey movie curtains that draped both sides of it. During our set, in what seemed like slow motion, a TOTALLY NAKED MAN (these were the days of “streaking”) stood up in the balcony… jumped up to the handrail on top of the wall that lines the balcony… AND LEAPED INTO MIDAIR TOWARD OUR STAGE! This guy was about forty or fifty feet high when his feet left this railing! In what seemed to be slow motion… this guy flew through the open air to what appeared to be certain death… and at the last instant he managed to snag the edge of the old curtain! Jim Dandy said, ” Just like Errol Flynn… the curtain tore… and he swung gracefully all the way across the stage into the waiting arms of a policeman!” He was quickly bundled up and out to a police vehicle… and that was the last we ever heard of him!
The crowd went nuts!
I don’t recall how many encores we did that night, but the stage manager kept begging for just one more because he was afraid of this over-sized crowd tearing the damn place down! We just kept on playing.
After the final song, we headed to the dressing room. The Stones were partying in Chuck’s dressing room wanting to hang with him… but Chuck was in our dressing room… waiting for us.
“Man, what a show, huh?” Chuck said! “Hey, can I hang here for a few minutes? I can hardly understand what those guys are saying in my dressing room! Haha” “Anytime, Chuck, anytime,” Jim answered.
When finally it was time for us to leave for the Beverly Hilton, the problem was that there was still such a crowd out back rocking the limos back and forth and banging on the cars and windows that the drivers got scared… and had to leave without us!
The crowd finally started to quiet down as two or three ambulances pulled up in the rear of the building and started unloading stretchers! Doctors and drivers were running into the building… and the people outside started worrying about who got hurt and how! Seven different stretchers came running out with red smeared sheets over the bodies. Everyone cleared a path as the sirens came on and the emergency vehicles screamed away into the night!
When the parking valets at the Beverly Hilton saw the ambulances pulling up with lights and sirens blaring, they quickly jumped back as attendants unloaded the stretchers… and Black Oak Arkansas comes rolling out from under ketchup-smeared tablecloths! You could have knocked those dudes over with dandelion fuzz!
Ahhh… the good ol’ daze!
Well gang, that wraps up another little tale of BOA and my Ramblin’s for ya all! I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you believed it! Sometimes, the truth we lived sounds almost like fiction… even to me… AND I WAS THERE!
I hope that life treats you to all that you want… and gives to you more that you deserve!
Peace, my friends. Peace.
Copyright © Rickie Lee Reynolds