My Run-Ins with Rock and Roll Royalty

Introduction

When I was in 4th grade, I went on a field trip to a convention center in downtown Houston with several hundred other elementary students to hear a speech on ecology by Jacques Cousteau. I was running around the exhibit hall grabbing all the free brochures I could get my hands on, and suddenly I looked up to see the larger than life undersea explorer himself right in my path. I walked up to him and he extended his hand down for me to shake, but my right hand was full of pamphlets so I shook it with my left. I'll never forget that wonderfully awkward moment.

I first started playing and hanging out in live music clubs at the tender age of 16. I have always had an irresistible instinct to make the acquaintance of influential figures, and music has been a great facilitator. I have been blessed with great resourcefulness when it comes to rubbing elbows with some of my heroes. Over the years I have met countless stars, and it is not difficult to get me started over a few beers telling the stories of these fateful meetings, which are often quite dramatic or comical. I have had photo ops and in-store type opportunities with many artists, but many more I have just met and hung with in random circumstances. This is an attempt to get them listed for posterity, and I plan to expand and add to these stories over time as the memory gets jogged. Look out below, big names will be dropping down like rain.

Lollapaloozers

My first band The Urge toured the east coast in 1987 when I was 21. The first time I was ever in New York City, we came out of the Lincoln Tunnel after an 8 hour drive from Virginia and stopped at a phone booth in the Village to get directions to the club we were playing called Kenny's Castaways. I was digging for quarters to use the payphone and I noticed a short, skinny couple on my right with matching buzzcuts. Adam Horowitz & Molly Ringwald were on the next phone over. I introduced myself and told them I went to UT with a childhood friend of Adam's named Art. They told me where the club was and were very friendly. Many years later, I stayed with Art while he was housesitting for Adam and Ione Skye, who were not around, but we had a pool party with Roman and Sofia Coppola and Donovan Leitch.

In 1994, I was scheduled to play a Sunday night Hole in the Wall date with my pal Miles Zuniga,  who I first officially met in 1985 at a UT dorm party in the Union ballroom that my band was playing. He was back in town that summer playing solo shows, following a year living in Berkeley after his band Big Car had broken up. Art called to invite us to join him in Dallas for the Beastie Boys Lollapalooza tour. Miles could not go Saturday because he had a gig, so I opted to go without him and then play the Hole without him on Sunday. In Dallas, a huge storm blew through the Starplex Ampitheatre while early acts The Breeders and George Clinton were onstage, so Arthur and I escaped from the torrential downpour into the Beastie Boys dressing room. There was a huge group of people hanging out, playing a practice drumset and singing on a karaoke machine, passing around guitars, bottles and bongs. Adam Yauch was making amazing fresh juice drinks for everyone in a huge industrial blender, and we were taking turns playing Ramones and Clash covers. I was trading off songs with this scraggly little green haired kid, and did not find out until months later after they got huge that it was Billie Joe from Green Day. Later we watched the Beasties' and the Smashing Pumpkins' climactic sets from the side of the stage. Back in Austin, I called several friends including Beaver Nelson, Scrappy Judd and the Sleestacks to help me fill out the Sunday night show. It was so fun that Debbie gave me the weekly gig and the Free For All was born.

Tricksters

The Urge used to play Aquafest every year on Auditorium shores. Our love of 60s classic pop made us a perfect fit for frat parties, and we had a large following of college kids. One of our biggest shows ever was a wild night at Aquafest when it rained and 1000 wet drunk rowdies ran over to our stage from the big outdoor stage where Joe King Carrasco was headlining. We stage dove, high-fived and rocked out.


Cheap Trick was playing a few nights later, so Miles and I hatched a scheme to get in free. I worked at a copy shop, where I took the backstage passes from our previous show and altered the dates with pasted-on copies. They looked very fake up close, but they worked perfectly. We found an amazing parking spot and began to notice a pattern of good luck. The guy at the artist gate thought I was Will Sexton. Cheap Trick played an amazing set, Miles and I used his patented "pretend you're about to get sick" technique to get closer to the stage, and after the show we joined the large crowd clamoring at the backstage gate. The event staff saw our bogus passes and practically grabbed us from the throng and pushed us in to the hospitality area. We ran into Robin Zander and talked with him for awhile. Someone mentioned that there was a Monday night jam at Steamboat. We were regulars and planned to attend. We got our passes autographed by Rick Neilsen in their trailer. Glowing from the presence of greatness, we headed downtown for a few beers. On Sixth street, we ran into some people who told us Robin was sighted at Maggie Mae's. We rushed over but missed him. Back at Steamboat we nursed a couple of Coronas and began to speculate that they would not show, but how great a time it had been anyway. Right on cue, Robin Zander walked in the front door dressed in white and magnificent. Miles asked Robin about vocal technique and Robin, smoking a cigarette, said he did not "sing from here or here," as he pointed to his chest and throat, but that he just sang. I walked up and asked Robin to sing a Beatles song with us, and he said he would be back. I went to the stage, told host Stephen Doster we had invited Robin to play with us, and he said we would have to wait our turn. Robin left and we went back to nursing our beers for an hour or so and were once again resigning ourselves to a near miss, when in the door he walked as last call approached. I went on stage and Doster graciously handed me his custom guitar. Knowing the catalog of Cheap Trick B-sides, I began the riff to Day Tripper and called to Robin to come up. I could see him casually sipping his beer at the rear bar talking to a statuesque blonde girl. Then he rose and casually sauntered to the stage while I had to play the riff for about 12 extra measures. He grabbed the mic, leaned in, and then that unmistakable golden voice almost tore my heart out of my chest:  "Got a good reason, for taking the easy way out... "
Miles joined us for Ain't that a Shame and then a long line of locals began taking turns on classic blues numbers, including Van Wilks, who got a good natured dome polish job from Robin when he made the mistake of kneeling in front of him for a solo. Years later I met Robin again backstage at La Zona Rosa. During the show Rick Neilsen hit my date squarely in the chest with a well-aimed pick from about 50 feet and it went right in her bra.  Later backstage, I told Robin the story of meeting him at Aquafest and asking him to come jam. I told him, "We didn't think you were going to show up," and he replied "But I did, didn't I?" That night in '99, he joined me for a drink again at Texas Music Saloon, (now Opal Divine's) where I was stage managing. I said, "There's a 5-piece blues band playing right down the block," and he said "Tell this guy where to pick me up," and then we walked down the block together. This time he did not sit in, but he grooved along at the table as I filled in on bass to a rendition of "Shake your Hips" with the Blues Crawlers.

Rapid Eye Movements

In 2001, I was invited to accompany Fastball to the Super Bowl for a big corporate party in the parking lot with Cheap Trick. We got to hang with them some more and then go to the big game after. It had been a long day of partying, and by third quarter, I was quite impaired. I went to get hot dogs for everyone and was standing at the condiment table grabbing napkins and relish when a familiar face walked up beside me to dress a dog. I recognized him and blurted out, "Hey, you're Peter Buck." He smiled and said, "Yes, I sure am" and walked off. I called after to him to enjoy the game, and then immediately realized it was actually Mike Mills. At SXSW in 2003, I was reintroduced to Mike by Miles and we had a laugh about it in a downtown taxi ride with Gary Louris of the Jayhawks.

In 2008, the members of REM made an appearance at the Hole in the Wall a few days before their SXSW showcase at Stubb's, where they previewed their new album.   It was the Swollen Circus showcase hosted by Michael Hall and Walter Salas Humara, and featured REM side project the Minus 5 as a surprise guest, among abouta dozen other acts.  Peter Buck and Mike Mills played in a couple of the bands while Michael Stipe milled around on the sidewalk and took pictures with fans, including my recent ex-girlfriend.    I was doing sound and introduced myself to Mike Mills as he put on the bass to play a song.   He said, "Of course, you're Paul Minor, I know all about your work.  I'm on your e-mail list!"  I apologized for spamming him and offered to remove him, and he said, "No, keep it coming, I love hearing about what you're doing."

Rick Danko and the Last Temptation

I was first turned on to Rick Danko in the late 80s while staying overnight at Pete Gordon's mother's home in Georgetown while on an east coast tour with the Neptunes.  We stayed up late in the basement watching the Last Waltz on video, and I remember Pete and I being blown away by his passionate and fragile performance of "It Makes No Difference."

In 1993 I went to see Rick Danko at the Cactus Cafe on UT campus.  I was late for the show because I had been at the Black Cat watching the Booze Weasels, Joe Ely's back up band, running through a classic set of covers with ace guitarists David Grissom and David Holt trading blistering leads.    When they launched into the Band's "The Shape I'm In" it reminded me I needed to hustle on over to the Cactus to catch Danko.


The show had started earlier than I thought, so I got there just as he was going into his last few songs.  The crowd sang along on the Weight, and when it was over I called out for "It Makes No Difference" from the side of the stage.  He told me he was sorry but he had already played it and asked where I had been.   I apologized for being late, and to my utter delight he said he would play it again just for me.   The whole crowd sang along on the glorious chorus, and then he ended the show with "The Shape I'm In" and a  lovely version of "I Shall Be Released."

In March of 2001,  my band the Superego All-Stars were ending our 7 year run as Sunday night house band at the Hole in the Wall by re-enacting the Last Waltz , with a cast of local favorites portraying the stars of the concert.  Li'l Cap'n Travis played Neil Young,  the Damnations did Emmylou Harris and the Staples,  Ted Roddy was Muddy Waters, and Beaver Nelson stole the show as Dylan.   We called it "The Last Temptation of Superego" in reference to another climactic Scorsese epic.

While preparing for the show earlier that week, I was putting together some lyric and chord charts for some of the back up musicians who would be playing with several performers.  My band was functioning as "The Band" so we had to prepare a lot of music.   I was downloading lyrics from a website that had a fan message board for the Band, with a section for people to recount their chance meetings with the band members.  While I was logged on, I decided to post my story of Rick Danko playing "It Makes No Difference" for me at the Cactus.  Danko had passed away not long after that show.

A few days later, I received an e-mail from a guy in New Orleans.  It said "If you were at Danko's show in 1993 at University of Texas, I have a board tape of that show.  You can clearly be heard requesting "It Makes no Difference" at the end."   He mailed me the tape a few days later, and sure enough it's me on there.   Thanks to divine intervention, I finally got to hear the rest of that show, years after the fact.

One of my favorite parts of the Last Waltz is when Danko plays some solo material he has been working on for Scorsese in the studio.  He sits there wistfully and listens to his own lonesome vocal singing "I want to lay down beside you..."   I was always curious about this tune, and thanks to Napster I finally got a chance to hear this beautiful song called "Sip the Wine."   I included it on the mix CD I planned to play between sets at the Last Waltz tribute.

A few days before the show I was thumbing through some old one dollar T-shirts at a St. Vincent thrift shop.  A gray shirt with a cluster of grapes embroidered on the front caught my eye.  I pulled it out and it read "Rick Danko Band - Sip the Wine" with a silhouette picture of him on the back. My eyes welled up and I felt a surge of wonder course through me.

The dearly departed are out there watching out for us and sending us little cosmic shout outs when they approve of our efforts in their honor.


A Magic Night with one Kink


Miles sat in with Ray Davies at his awesome storyteller's show at La Zona in 2002.  I met them at a secret location after the show, the steak restaurant Tru-lucks on Colorado.  Miles told me to hang back until I got the signal and he would introduce me to Ray.  Of course I was so excited I walked right up and said "Hi Ray, great show, I'm Paul Minor!"

We couldn't get a cab because of a big rain storm so 4 of us rode in the cab of my 1980 Chevy pickup to a couple of other bars. I told him I like the song "Rock and Roll fantasy," and he said, "You should with a truck like this..." He was hilarious and very gracious. He kept calling me "James Carville." He made his crew and sideman ride in the bed of my pickup and told us "You can't treat them too well or they take you for granted." After we sat in with the blues band at Ego's he said very dryly, "I had no idea you had so much soul." I ended up singing "Don't cry for me Argentina" with Mr. Davies at a Korean karaoke bar.  We also cruised through the gay bar next door before we parted ways.

Daniel and McCartney in the Van

I gave Daniel Johnston a ride one time from Waller, TX to the Hole in the Wall for an Anniversary gig.   He was napping in the passenger seat in between Beatles songs on the CD in the rental van.  There was a serious storm underway with dark clouds swirling and thunder clapping, very surreal.   I had my girlfriend and her special needs autistic friend with us, so it was an interesting crew to say the least.

After "Got to Get You into My Life," played on the stereo,  I asked my girlfriend if Paul McCartney played the song in concert when she saw him recently in Dallas.   Daniel awoke suddenly,  assumed I had been addressing him and said, "Yeah, he played it,  and then he pointed at me and dedicated it to 'my good friend Daniel Johnston, let's bring him up onstage for  a round of applause.'  So I was walking across the stage to shake his hand and I tripped on a wire and fell on my face right in front of the whole crowd.  There was blood everywhere, and then I died..."

Then he went back to sleep, and we drove on in stunned silence to the gig.
   
Still to come:
 


Playing Stevie Ray's guitar
Dinner with Emmylou
Bono uses my lyrics at Antone's
Run-ins with the Replacements,
Paul Westerberg playing Slim Harpo on his backstage boombox in Houston
Church with Rev. Green
David Byrne at the Grand Old Ryman with Tosca
Lou Gramm at Cotton Club Atlanta
Neil Young Continental and Antone's watching Scrappy
Nick Lowe Auditorium Shores
Big Star's Jody Stephens in Memphis, Alex Chilton in Austin
Jason and the Scorchers
Peter Criss, Jeff Buckley, Morphine, and Joan Jett at Electric Lounge
Exene Cervenka at Free For All
Ivan Neville and Dennis Quaid at the Last Temptation,
Bad Blood with Lou Barlow , and Sonic Youth, Ramones, Tori Amos, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Lowe, Jayhawks, Quentin Tarantino, Dick Clark, Lyle Lovett, Archie Bell, Doug Sahm, Roky Erickson, Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbons, Tracy Ullman, Gene Ramey, James Michener, Walter Cronkite, Ladybird Johnson, Ann Richards, Emory Gordy, Jr., Matthew MacConaghey, Eric Bogosian, Data, Natalie Portman, Ani Difranco, Margo Timmins, Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Harry Dean Stanton, Max Weinberg, Dan Rather, Will Farrell, Luke Wilson, Josh Freese, Johnathan Richman, John Stamos, Leon Russell and more...
Paul Westerberg & Paul Minor 
Tower Records 1994 

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