From a letter: written by Jackie Curbishley, (Bill’s wife) about me and Pete Townshend. “You’re right. He was easy to love, but so difficult to trust. I never quite knew whether he was about to spit at me or kiss me. He was totally in awe of you and so jealous of you that he could hardly articulate when you were around. I have vivid recollections of the night you poured the whole jug of orange juice over his head. I’m pretty certain that nothing like that had ever happened to him before. I had to admire the way he recovered – getting his stash out of his top pocket and with those big hands spread out in front of him saying “Look what you’ve done!” as he held out the dripping little package. It was in Salt Lake City. Remember that? Jackie
I saw this picture of Bill Graham posted by Lisa Seckler- Rhode this morning, and it grabbed a memory from that section of my mind that is usually only aroused by drugs. We were doing a deal with him for The Who to play San Francisco sometime in the 1970s. He was bawling that we were cheating him. Predictably his negotiating tactics relied chiefly on shouting or screaming. When doing deals with him in the old day’s, Bill Curbishley, the Who’s manager, would be on his suite’s phone, and I would be in the bathroom on an extension. In Graham’s case, and there are pictures, we put the phone on a coffee table between us and still hear him screeching. He stubbornly believed he was singled out for disadvantageous treatment by God himself every minute of his day. He was a formidable adversary. Few promoters dared to stand up to certain bands — the Who had become too big to lose. That said, when I started with Genesis, he did me endless favors, which he did not have to do. The other variable was that the band (The Who) loved him, so we never really tried to fuck him. No doubt, he did them favors too, early on. We had settled on the particulars for one show, maybe the Cow palace in San Francisco. After the contracts were issued, Graham returned his signed copy. His shows represented at least 100,000 tickets per performance ( most likely far more, I can’t recall), to be sold at an agreed ticket price. Graham would get his percentage cut from that. He raised the face ticket price ( which he printed) one dollar, hoping to keep the money without telling us. When confronted, he responded, “but you were stealing from me” — We didn’t let him keep the money but with our admiration.
Between the years of 1972 and 1991, 78% of all rock shows used B.B. King as an opening act. I saw him perform at least 22% of those times. 99% of those audiences were white, and 99.95% of them were impatient to have him leave the stage to get to the headliner. Only 45% of the headliners had ever heard of him, and the remainder adored him because they thought he made them look cool and because he came cheap. B.B King would have played to a herd of sheep if he got paid and the sheep would have been the big winners. He was the greatest of all things. A happy man.
I did not expect Dolly Parton to call me Mr. Boff. She couldn’t fill the venues I had for her without the help of a strong opening act. She took this in stride. I suggested Merle Haggard, and she dispatched me to get him with her approval. Getting hold of Merle wasn’t straightforward. He didn’t seem to have a manager or agent. I had to go through his drummer. Haggard was a convicted felon. He had spent a good deal of time in the San Quentin prison. His band, “The Strangers,” was irregularly populated by musicians who happened to be on parole when his tours began. Asked once what his biggest mistake in life had been, he blurted slyly, “Pulling my jobs in small towns.” Merle did his own deals. The money I was offering him had his attention. Not often a fool, I know that thieves attend pleasantly to people who have cash. I did not expect the negotiation to be hard, so I was annoyed at meeting him first. I headed down to one of his shows in the South. It was a small show where he was headlining. After he finished, he sent a guy who put me on his bus. The drummer introduced me, and there it was again, “Mr. Boff.” We sat in his living room. A hairless animal cuddled next to him. I assumed it was a dog. It growled and snarled non stop at me. He wanted to make me feel he saw through me. It was the same look he projected from the stage. He had removed his black hat, so it did not work. Everything about him was wrinkled and mean. I liked him instantly. We both knew I was paying him too much money, so it could not have been called an authentic negotiation. What he said to me caught me off guard, “I’m sorry, Mr. Boff, I would like to do it, but I can’t.” I needed him, and I pressed for why. He said,” I don’t believe the Good Lord means for a man to open a show for a woman.” I went home. I called Dolly and told her what happened. She said she would call me back. She got back to me quickly to say Merle would do the dates. I asked what he said? She said, “Not much, he just agreed after I told his guy to tell him that the “Good Lord” Dolly Parton was on the phone.”
I have worked with and loved vegetarians. They are not better people and are easily frustrated by irregularities like leather belts and shoes. On rock tours, they grow weak during the midwest portions in America because they can’t find anything to eat but mutton, gizzards, and rhubarb. They can not play Germany.” ( 1976 ) Regis Boff
I grew up with Polkas playing on my dad’s radio. Unlike rock, Polkas, never benefited by having its own signature drug. Having traveled through old Czechoslovakia, I tied one or more on with “Slivovice,” that transparent brain reducing eastern European alcohol. But it is neither heroin or LSD, let’s face it.
Remember, I spent twenty-five years going from one concert to another where bands played the same set. Drugs, for me, were a way of taking that music out of my head, not enhancing it.
“There was a time, child, when we bought vinyl albums expecting every song in them to be great. Radio could play songs longer than three minutes. These collections were often written and performed by the same person. I don’t exactly remember the first album of this kind I heard, but I know my instant reaction was to do drugs, grow my hair long, and dress in outfits that resulted in the grateful early onset of my parent’s Alzheimer’s.”
Bill Curbishley, on the right, is the manager of The Who. If he had chosen to, he could have managed The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd as well. He quietly changed the live music touring business, but what he enjoyed most was robbing deli’s with me on off days.
My career incorporated moving each day from one bunch of people to another. The populations of these audiences ranged from 250 to 150,000 individuals. In each instance, almost all of them wished they were me. That never helped.