The first time I went to a concert, the Rolling Stones performed. It was only their second U.S. performance: June 6, 1964, at Teen Fair in San Antonio, Texas.
My mother dropped me off at the Joe and Harry Freeman Coliseum. I had a front row, center seat and brought my dad’s camera to take pictures of Paul Peterson, Bobby Rydell and Leslie Gore. I took photos of everyone, except the Rolling Stones. Looking back, perhaps I didn’t photograph the Stones because I was too busy trying to make sense of what was happening onstage.
ARE YOU LISTENING, SWEET MAN? CAN WE SETUP AN INTERVIEW?
Part way through their performance, the audience began pelting the Stones with tomatoes and then booed them offstage. They were replaced by a troupe of performing monkeys, and I don’t mean, “Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees.” My preteen, first concert-going self didn’t know what to make of any of it. All I knew was that by the time it was over, the Rolling Stones had changed my life, and I’d forgotten Bobby what’s his name.
I used my babysitting money to buy the Stones’ Out of Our Heads album. My mother threw it away. With more babysitting money, I bought another album. She threw that one away as well. When I bought the third album, her only request was I not play it while she was home.
My father was a musician and played clarinet, tenor and alto sax with numerous jazz and blues bands around the country. From the day I was born, I was listening to Gershwin, Brubeck, Coltrane, Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters on my parents’ record player. Music is in my DNA.
When I was in second grade, my father decided I should take piano lessons. He found an old player piano in a VFW Hall and refinished it inside and out. He replaced chipped and yellowed ivories with new ones and installed a new player mechanism. He then bought boxes of music rolls like Tchaikovsky’s “Concerto in B-Flat Minor” and “Roll Out the Barrel.” Oh, yeah! We’re having fun now!
Since my father spent his high school years at a military academy boarding school, he knew nothing about being a child, or raising one. As a result, piano was not a joyous experience. My father was the music police. I had to practice three hours a day, before he got home from work. That meant no extra curricular activities, or time with my friends after school. Ever. He didn’t want to hear a piece until it was perfect, or I played it at a recital. Because I had talent, I was sent to study with better and better teachers. My last piano lesson was the day he died. My overriding emotion that day wasn’t grief. It was relief, like I’d been let out of prison.
I put away the sheet music to Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C Sharp Minor.” While I didn’t have access to Rolling Stones’ sheet music, I sang and played “Satisfaction” by ear. To say mother was horrified is an understatement. Since then, I’ve bought Stones’ sheet music, albums, CDs, DVDs, books and have seen them in concert five times. I never tire of the Stones.
The other day I was at a stoplight, rocking out to the Stones’ “Miss You” and doing my best Mick Jagger imitation. I looked at the driver on my left, and with big eyes and an exaggerated expression, I sang, “I’ve been walking Central Park. Singing after dark. People think I’m cray-zeeee!” The driver stared, open-mouthed. As soon as the light turned green, he was out of there.
Last week I bought myself an early birthday present: a third row seat to the Stones’ new Zip Code tour, June 6, in Dallas, the anniversary of the first time I saw them perform. The only thing better than concert tickets would be to interview Keith Richards. He’s the coolest, most talented, original guy on the planet.
I’m not a fair-weather fan, or a newcomer. I’ve literally been here since the beginning. Are you listening, sweet man? Can we setup an interview?