From the full version of Sunnysides Lousy Book.
The Worlds Greatest
I’ve known Leon since he was about thirteen years old. The half black, half Asian kid who was adopted and brought up in the part of town where there was low end housing many were on a fixed income. His mother was a beautician who ran her business in a room on the south end of their house. I learned about his father through my aunt Rosebud by the way of trying to find me a job. Leon was in the junk hauling business and I worked for him on and off over a few years. I first met JR when he was thirteen and I thought it was unordinary for a young black kid to have every Beatles album there was, import and domestic. His dad had sent him to a private school where he learned to play about forty different instruments.
Someone turned JR onto a Vanhalen album and after listening to Eddie Vanhalen play guitar, JR decided that playing lead guitar was the thing he wanted to do. Darelic, a drummer friend of mine told me about JR after I’d left the X-band for good. He said, “He’s always playing in the little shack next to his house; whoever shows up to watch him play, sure gets to see one hell of a show. You gotta go check him out.”
I stopped by one day and I was totally impressed. JR. He could play anything and make it seem like it was just second nature to make it sound even more alive than on the album. I didn’t even get a chance to see his whole band when I told him that no matter what, he had a lightman. That if his band wasn’t up to par, I would set him up with the right musicians.
At the time I was working for a blues band out of Lakewood called SAE. We had a practice room set-up in their basement and the band was on the hustle for an agent or promoter. The band decided to throw a party to coerce a few over and promote their band. They bought a keg and invited people over. The only person I invited was JR and he brought the drummer he had at the time. People seemed to enjoy the party, but I think the thing they enjoyed most was either the free beer or the light show. Which one the most I’m not one to say. The thing they did like most of all was the time JR got on the guitar and he taught the bands bassplayer a few lines to play. The crowd went nuts, they were hooting and hollering. JR truly up-staged the band, wore out their bassplayer and ruined what was left of their party because when their bassplayer said that he had to save his hands for his own band later on that night, it was apparent JR wasn’t going to play anymore, so the people left. The party ended up being deader than a doornail. From that point on, I don’t think the band liked me too well.
One night I met up with a couple of the guys from SAE at the tavern we’d played at the night before. It was a Thursday night and it was the night before my twenty-first birthday. I was sitting at the bar with the guitar player and friends, having a few beers. Just after midnight my parents walked through the door. I couldn’t understand why they would happen to be at the dive we called are local hang out, but soon it was quite clear. My dad looked at the bartender and said, “I want to buy my son his first legal drink.” There is no describing the look on the bartenders face, because I’d drank pitcher after pitcher of free beer over the years when ever I’d worked there with bands. All she could say was: “Well you have an honest face.”
Believe it or not, I ended up setting-up JR with Jamie the drummer from the X-band. I don’t know the reason why, because I really didn’t like him, but I guess it was because he was one of the best drummer around and he was available. It might have had something to do with the idea of stealing him away from the brothers of the X-band. Unfortunately Jamie liked the vocalist that JR had known before I could arrange to get Stick to sing in the band. Stick was from a local rival band in the area called Hightimes and no matter what, Jamie wouldn’t think he was good enough for his band. The thing is, Stick could sing well and the other guy sucked.
J.R. and I became close friends. Enough so that he was like a little brother to me. One time I brought him out to my parent’s house for some reason and my mother arrived home while we were there. The next time I went out to the house on the lake, I got bitched out by my mom because I had brought a black kid into her house. I thought it was erroneous since she thought it was perfectly fine if a different black guitar player named, Tom came over. Tom played in a band with Niles and my parents met him through the neighbors. My parents even invited them over to record some demo tapes on my dad’s real to real from time to time.
It was really ironic when my father figured out that the boy my mother didn’t want in her house was Leon Chistenson, a boy who rode his bus every week to guitar lessons. My dad snapped right back at her and said “Leon is a very nice kid, he’s rode my bus every week to lessons. He should be welcome in this house.”
That wasn’t the only time I experienced oppression from having a friend of a different color. I can remember the times when I looked over to other vehicles and saw that the people inside would look over at us and say, “Niger lover,” to me.
Eventually a few of the older guys with money to rent the halls and hire the bands got greedy. They saw profit in it and decided to call themselves promoters. The problem with these profit oriented guys was the greed they had. Instead of the word to mouth that had worked in the past, they started handing out flyers around town as a way of promoting their investment. The flyers would direct the cops to where the hall the party would be at on any given weekend. We noticed the cops breaking up the parties at two o'clock in the morning; which I thought of as sending the paranoid drunk kids out onto the road.
Next thing we knew the cops were breaking the parties up at one o’clock; then it wasn’t long before they would break the parties up at midnight. Soon it was eleven o'clock and these promoters started coming up short on the money to be paid to the bands. Then when the cops began shutting down the parties at ten o'clock, the so called promoters not only lost their butts every time, but they also made hall parties a thing of the past.
I worked for Stick and his band called Hightimes, a few times. We did everything from a van club rally on Halloween, to wedding receptions and the occasional bar gig. The van club rally was one of the best gigs we’d done together. I can remember Joan warring a pair of Stick’s bib overalls because her costume wasn’t warm enough in the large fair ground’s warehouse we played in.
I got a kick out of the older folks at a wedding reception once. They had never seen a light show before and it was a real treat to them. I’m sure they had a new found respect for rock bands and the shows they try to produce.
One of the things I’ve regretted most was the time my girl friend had an influence upon my own desires. Hightimes wanted me to work for them at the local bar on July 1st, 3rd & 4th. The problem was that Joan didn’t want to be stuck in another bar on the Fourth of July. She wanted to go down to the water front and watch the fireworks like normal people do. My solution was to tell the band that I already had a gig booked for the 4th, but I’d play the 1st and 3rd, and then lend them my old light show for the fourth so they could have someone else run them.
By the second night, I had the material Hightimes played down to a tee, and just about as tight as I was with the X-band. The audience knew it and so did the band. The stick and the band appreciated my work and even asked the audience for a special thanks and applause. And boy did I get applause. It made it difficult for me to tare down my lights because that was what I really wanted to do the following night. Unfortunately I was side tracked in the effort of making the long term relationship work with the one I loved and she had a hold of me in a way many of you may be able to relate.
On the night of the 4th, Joan and I were down at the waterfront, taking up our spot on the grass with a blanket to keep warm. By 10:00 – 10:30 we were back home at my place and another Fourth of July had come to pass. That night was the night I began to have doubts to where the “relationship” was going because the thing I wanted to be doing was playing my lights down at the tavern, just up the street where my friends were.
I think someone tight with Stick’s band must had informed them that I was at home that night because it amounted to the demise of our relationship and I don’t think I ever did another gig for Stick since. Our mutual friendship we had over the years was never quite the same either. I’m sure it wasn’t the only time a girl got between the musician and his music.
From that point on, my lights just sat there collecting dust. The bad experiences with many musicians had taken its toll on Joan and it halted my motivation to keep at it.
Though my priorities in life had changed with Joan in my life, my lights were still there. Occasionally I’d get a call to do a gig and I’d usually take on a one night stand every once in a while.
The next chapter of Sunnyside's Lousy Book is:
The Recession of the Early Eighties
Have you seen the otherBook Excerpts?
Featured chapter prior to
The World's Greatest
Guitar Player is-
Give Me Lights
The next chapter of
Sunnyside's Lousy Book is:
The Recession of the Early Eighties
JR built this guitar himself from parts.
I painted it at work in a plastic factory with Imron paint designed for Unacell cabinets used at hospitals. We think an ex-girlfriend stole it. If you know where it is. I'll give a reward for it.
My Synchro-link truck
is a whole fleet of trucks in one
Check it out at MiniRollOffTrucks.com