Tour Pranks: Battle of The Gig Bands
All those years of touring, and these are the pranks I get (and give)
By Al Kooper / June 1997
This article can’t possibly be what you think it’s about. If you were thinking Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw, fuggeddabowdit. These are all true stories about what happens to musicians' minds during long tours. In the summer of 1991, Joe Walsh called and invited me to join his band for a “shed tour.” This is a tour of outdoor venues nicknamed sheds because they are sheds; albeit huge 20,000-seat ones. You know the ones I mean: Jones Beach in NY, Pine Knob in Detroit, Chastain Park in Atlanta, etc. Joe’s summer hit was “Ordinary Average Guy,” and we were opening for The Doobie Brothers all summer. The two bands were good friends, and it was pleasant to spend the summer with friends.
The first signs of trouble took place about two weeks into the tour. The Walsh band had two drummers. In one of the closing songs in the set, there was a drum solo and towards the end of it, the two drummers would throw their sticks at each other and catch each others sticks without missing a beat. I had never seen anything like this before and thought it added a little pizazz to the show. So one night, some Doobie Brothers hid behind the drumsets and when the sticks started flying, they added rubber chickens, tampon boxes, and candy bars to the sticks that were already in the air. For an inside joke, it was pretty damn funny. We all thought it was hilarious. However, the escalation soon began.
The next night, in the middle of The Doobie’s closer, “Listen To The Music,” a woman of dubious character but surely with a heart of gold, came out on stage in a trenchcoat with nary a stitch on under it. With her back to the unlucky 20,000 fans present, she flashed the Doobies.
Two days later, we were playing a Sunday afternoon show and were deep into “Life In The Fast Lane.” As the guitar solo began, three male strippers in trenchcoats hit the stage, and were down to g-strings before the song's end. This time, however, Joe was actually embarrassed and the battle had now truly begun in earnest (Earnest, Ohio, I think it was).
When we arrived in the next town, Joe went down and made a large cash contribution to the local zoo. In return for his contribution, a dispatch of zoo residents were delivered backstage to that night’s show just in time for “Jesus Is Just Alright With Me” by the Doobies. Our band — all dressed in sheets, Arab style — walked out onstage with a llama and many exotic birds in the middle of their song. It was so good, it actually looked like part of the show. This was considered untoppable, and ended the one-upsmanship joust for the duration.
I have seen other incredible things done in the name of tour madness. One promoter had his room completely emptied while he stepped out for a few hours. A large road crew removed the bathroom fixtures including the toilet and sink, the bed and furniture, the drapes, the carpet, and the phones, until it resembled a bunker from WWII when he returned.
I once put a live lobster in Bobby Hatfield’s (Righteous Brothers) room while he was downstairs having dinner. He never mentioned it the next day.
In the '60s, we used to share rooms to save money, and often one of the beds in the room had a built-in-pay-for-use vibrating massager in it called “Magic Fingers.” When I was in The Blues Project, Steve Katz, another band member I was rooming with, would always dash in the room and claim the vibrating bed for his own. One night, while he was at dinner, I put $30 in quarters into the slot in his bed, and the massager went non-stop all night until a week after we checked out I think. He couldn’t unplug it either, cause I Krazy-glued the plug into the wall as well. He didn’t dash so fast next time. Well, that’s all for now. I Just wanted to illustrate how intellectually stimulating it is to be out there in America during and between shows.…
P.S. I left out the really bad stuff like sneaking into someone’s room and urinating into their shampoo bottle and sneaking out again, cause I thought people would find it distasteful, OK?
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