I had spent months assembling this fall tour and was proud of the end result. We would play Tuesday and Wednesday of every week and then take Thursday off. We would play Friday, Saturday and Sunday of every week and take Monday off. It didn’t always work out that way but that’s what I was aiming for. Rarely a tour goes together as well as this one did but remember when you call a building and ask about availabilities things open up when it’s revealed that the act you’re talking about is Bob Dylan. You can never play more than three hundred miles from the previous night’s gig because of the equipment that must be trucked from city to city. Our equipment filled four semis. We were opening in Augusta, Maine. From there we would travel down the east coast, then back across the Midwest and to the Northwest. We then would move down the West Coast, across the Southwest, the South and end in Miami, Florida. The tour was routed so well that Bruce Springsteen followed nearly the same exact route only three weeks later.
We all arrived separately in Augusta. We would spend a week in the town, rehearsing and preparing to play our sixty-five concerts over the next three months. Tickets had gone on sale weeks earlier and Dylan was selling out everywhere. It’s wonderful to know that ticket sales wouldn’t even be a matter of concern. Bob, the band, Road Manager Mike Crowley and I were traveling in style. We had a BAC-111, pronounced as a Bock One-Eleven. The BAC-111 is a short haul two-engine, jet aircraft built by British Aircraft Corporation. It’s somewhat smaller than a Boeing 737 and was made to seat around ninety people. Our charter aircraft was outfitted for twenty-one. Besides the band we would have our PR people, accountant, photographer and one or two others on board. The crew included a pilot, co-pilot and flight attendant. Meeting the aircraft in every city would be a truck to pick up our luggage. It would be transported to the hotel where everyone was pre-checked in. We would all board a charter bus that would also meet the aircraft and usually go straight to the building for a late afternoon sound check. Following the sound check we would eat a sit-down dinner, lounge around for about an hour and it would be show time! After the concert we would all board the bus back to the hotel. At least that’s how it was planned and usually it worked out that way. We would plan to leave the hotel about noon or one o’clock the next day and do the whole thing all over again.
Inside the aircraft Bob, Mike Crowley and I rode up in the front section. There was a large coffee table in the center of the forward cabin and a padded bench type of arrangement on either side. There were also a couple of rows of seats toward the rear of the front section. Then there was a small partition and then the area for the rest of the band and crew. Our flight crew was great and you could tell they enjoyed show business. They attended most of our shows where they always had prime seats. Of course soon after boarding we were offered a beverage of our choice and food if we wanted any. Usually most of us passed on that. That’s one thing about this tour…no one was going hungry. The roadies, the band and everyone connected with the tour enjoyed the main meal together the nights we had a show. The rest of the time, the band was moving across the country with a generous per-diem allowance and an even more generous salary. For example, sax player Steve Douglas was making five-thousand dollars a week. There was no skimping on this tour. First class all the way.
It’s hard to kill time in Augusta, Maine. Remember this was in 1978, long before computers became commonplace. One night we rented a downtown theater and all went to see “Animal House.” Everyone really enjoyed it and it was good to let down a little bit, relax and sort of forget everything for at least a couple of hours.
Another day Tom Hulett and Bill McKenzie popped in. Bill was the chief comptroller for Concert West and Kaye/Smith Enterprises answering directly to Lester Smith. Since Kaye/Smith had acquired the concert company Bill’s life had really changed. He kept track of the money with the aid of several other accountants. Keep in mind the tremendous amounts of cash money changing hands on a daily and nightly basis. Show business agreed with Bill and he enjoyed his new life. In fact, he has since moved and relocated to Las Vegas where now days he manages among other acts, Three Dog Night. Anyway, the two of them knocked on my hotel room door. I was surprised to see them. I had no idea they were going to stop by. I think it was a courtesy call more than anything else but keep in mind, Concerts West was a silent partner of Jerry Weintraub. I’d done most of the work as a Concerts West employee posing as a Weintraub employee. While we would be working with several different promoters, Concerts West would be a financial part of nearly every night’s concert.
We kicked it off with the initial concert at the Augusta Civic Center on September 15th then on down to Portland, Maine. Both concerts were well received.
New Haven, Montreal, Boston – the cities were flying by – upstate New York; Syracuse, Rochester, Binghampton; then Springfield, Massachusetts and into Long Island for a date at the Nassau County Coliseum.
Then it was two nights at Madison Square Garden in New York. After my Sinatra experience at the Garden and my Eagles concert in the facility I was better prepared this time around. There were no union problems or irregularities of any kind to deal with. This was the third heavyweight act I’d been associated with in a Madison Square Garden concert and I believe I also had gained a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t, in the words of Aretha, from the folks that ran the Garden. The shows went over well. Backstage, in Bob’s dressing room, I had an opportunity to meet one of my favorite comedians, Bill Murray, at that time, of Saturday Night Live fame. Of course now he’s gone on to star in many, many movies. “Lost In Translation” remains one of my favorites. Bianca Jagger, who was separated from Mick, showed up one night back stage with another jet-setter, a guy from Paris as I remember. Dylan didn’t admit her to his dressing room. Actress Faye Dunaway was also in attendance. At the time she was married to Peter Wolf of the J.Geils Band. As I recall there was some disturbance that involved her. She was very intoxicated and had to be removed. Dunaway had a reputation for dissension in her profession as well. Later in 1984 she was fired just before the opening of the L.A. Stage Production of “Sunset Boulevard.” It would be good to leave New York and get back with the simple folk.
We were off and running; Norfolk, Baltimore, Washington and Philly. Rhode Island, Buffalo (I thought we already played upstate New York…who routed this thing anyway?)
It was a natural, Buffalo then a hop, skip and a jump over to Toronto followed by Detroit the next night. We had a couple of nights off in Toronto. While we were there Bob and a few of us were invited over to Gordon Lightfoot’s house just outside of the city. We mostly played pool and drank beer. I knew very little about Lightfoot but he seemed like a very nice guy. Gordon and Dylan had both been managed by Albert Grossman in the sixties and Bob at one time or another had recorded a few of Lightfoot’s songs.
Both the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and Detroit’s Olympia were out of yesteryear. Arenas, I mentioned earlier, built primarily for hockey teams. The Gardens in Toronto was built in 1931 but the Olympia Stadium in Detroit goes back to 1927. We headed south to Terre Haute, Indiana, then Cincinnati and into Chicago Stadium. I’d played there so many times with Sinatra it was like coming home. While we were in Terre Haute the sales manager from WLS radio station, a guy who went by the name of Simon T. flew down in his private plane and brought us all pizzas from Chicago. It was a great gesture on his part. WLS received many, many thousands of dollars in advertising revenue from the shows that Weintraub and Concerts West brought into town. Remember that Jerry Weintraub had the exclusive rights to any rock show brought into Chicago Stadium so the advertising dollars over a year’s time were huge. The morning superstar of WLS was Larry Lujack. Larry was one of the highest paid disk jockeys in the country. In fact I once heard that he was number two, second only to Don Imus in New York but that could be an exaggeration. Simon T. knew of my radio background and was aware that Larry and I had been disk jockeys together at KJR. He thought it would be wonderful for us all to get together two days later for lunch when I arrived in Chicago. What he didn’t know was that Larry hated my guts. This goes back to the mid-sixties when Pat O’Day and I were part owners of a minor league football team in Seattle called the Seattle Rangers. Sunday mornings I pulled a 6am to noon shift on KJR – Lujack relieved me at noon for his shift that lasted until 6pm. Lujack was always late. This bothered me a lot because I usually had to get out of the place on Sunday and head for the football game to take care of arrangements there. I had bitched at Lujack several times about being late and finally I talked to O’Day about it. He was KJR’s program director at the time. Larry was chewed out and he never forgave me. That was too bad because I was sort of his mentor. Back in his early radio days in Idaho and later Spokane he listened to my air checks and tried to emulate me. Lujack and I both deal in very sarcastic humor except Larry carried it much farther than I was ever able. I always thought that it was easier for him because that was his persona 24 hours a day. Over the years Larry Lujack has been very kind to me in print. In a “Hamilton Report” interview and also in a “Radio and Records” interview he credited me with being a big influence on him. He also did the same in his book, “Super Jock.”
It’s too bad that this thing happened and I’ve regretted it over the years but I also have a great deal of respect for Larry for acknowledging me despite his feelings. Our lunch at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago was a disaster. Larry showed up twenty minutes late, unshaven for days and said, “So why in the fuck should we be getting together?” I said, “I asked myself the same question.” Lunch was over in less than thirty minutes and we were on our separate ways. The next time I saw Larry I was living in Hawaii and was general manager of O’Day’s radio station in Honolulu, KORL. Lujack and his model wife were there on vacation. Pat, Lan Roberts, who also lived in Honolulu, and I took Larry and his wife out to dinner. After dinner Lujack’s wife Judie kissed O’Day on the cheek and said thank you for dinner. Larry got so upset he left Hawaii, ALONE, and headed back to Chicago. Judie, who was left behind, spent a week in Hawaii with all of us entertaining her and trying to sooth her feelings. They survived and are still married and retired in Santa Fe, New Mexico but that’s just a glimpse into the psyche of Mr. Lujack.
and in a 2001 interview with R&R Magazine (Radio & Records) Lujack said…
So you can see why it was so unfortunate that Lujack disliked me so much. He never got over it. I think we could have been great friends.
I’m sorry I digressed so much. We were talking about Bob Dylan weren’t we? Oh yes, the Midwest and Chicago. Two great shows in front of more than twenty-thousand each night at the old Chicago Stadium and we were again on our way out of town.
Cleveland, Toledo and Dayton, Ohio; the cities were flying by. Louisville, Kentucky, Indianapolis and Kalamazoo, Michigan – first time I’d ever been to Kalamazoo. Carbondale, Illinois; where we played at Southern Illinois University. The Checkerdome in St. Louis and up to the Civic Center in St. Paul. It was there that I met Bob’s mother Beatrice who’d come down from Duluth for the show. She seemed very pleased watching her son and I felt Bob was glad to have his mother there. I didn’t spend much time with Beatty, as her friends called her, but she seemed very nice to me.
We opened November with a concert at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin then it was Kansas City, Omaha and into Denver Colorado. From there it was a long jump to the next concert which was three days later in Portland, Oregon. The next day it was into my hometown, Seattle. Unfortunately the Seattle Center Coliseum wasn’t available when I routed the tour so I put us into Hec Edmondson Pavilion on the University of Washington campus. Not an easy place to stage a concert but I felt the concert that night was one of the best on the tour. Dylan thought the fans were great and told Seattle Times reporter Pat MacDonald that he had added a couple new tunes for the show. One of them was “Rainy Day Woman Nos. 12 and 35 (Everybody Must Get Stoned),” which Bob told MacDonald he had worked up that afternoon with his band. Dylan said he thought they might like that on a college campus. They certainly did because many were standing and clapping throughout the song. The three background singers had only learned the lyrics that day and Bob seemed very pleased with how they’d brought it off claiming, “They did a great job.” We headed north to Vancouver, Canada after Seattle and then we were California bound.
We played two nights at the Oakland Coliseum with great audiences both nights. Opening night I met well known promoter Bill Graham. Bill patiently waited back stage and asked if it would be okay if he saw Bob. I thought what a gracious way for him to approach that. He’d known Bob many years longer than I had and if he’d wanted to could have been more demanding. In the years to follow, preceding his death in a helicopter crash, he would again produce many Dylan concerts. Next it was Los Angeles where we were set to play the Forum in Inglewood. I planned the tour for us to have a free day in L-A. It was a weird feeling having a hotel room in the same city where I lived. I spent the first night at home, the next day I moved into the hotel to be with the band. I was shocked to see Dylan pull into the hotel parking lot with his beat-up Chevy station wagon, telling a few of us to hop in. Bob was going to drive us to the Forum for the night’s gig. If you think I was shocked, you should have seen the looks on the faces of the guards at the Forum when we tried to enter the backstage area. Bob drove up to the door and said, “I’m playing here tonight.” After a brief conference among the personnel, the door opened up and we drove in. The concert that night at the Forum was much better received than the earlier one that summer at the Universal Amphitheatre. After Los Angeles we played San Diego, Tempe and Tucson, Arizona, El Paso and Norman, Oklahoma where the University of Oklahoma is located. We arrived there the day before Thanksgiving and had a concert scheduled for Thanksgiving night. The university hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for our group the day before Thanksgiving – Turkey, dressing, yams, cranberry sauce; the works. I had also rented a large suite at the Howard Johnson’s where we were lodged and had a big screen television moved in so those that wanted could come in and watch the football games. Remember, this was 1978 and big screens were relatively rare. After Norman we played Ft. Worth, Austin and Houston, Texas then over to Jackson, Mississippi and Baton Rouge, Louisiana to put the wraps on November.
It was during this part of the tour that I noticed the Bible in Bob’s dressing room. Bob had been spending quite a bit of time during the Texas leg of the tour with committed born again Christian, T. Bone Burnette. Burnette, along with other former Rolling Thunder Tour members, David Mansfield and Steven Soles, had been talking to Bob a lot about Jesus. Dylan had inquired about the nature of their faith in detail. Howie Wyeth, former Dylan drummer and longtime friend is quoted as saying, “T-Bone read Bob that line in the Bible that says if you listen to astrologers and people who are into black arts, your family will be taken from you. Bob had just lost the battle over his kids in court. T-Bone says that the thing that really nailed it was when he showed Dylan that quote in the Bible. Upon returning to Los Angeles Dylan’s girlfriend, Mary Alice Artes, herself a born-again Christian, directed Bob toward a West Los Angeles fundamentalist Christian church. In 1979 Bob would become a born-again Christian himself and his concerts would consist mostly of Christian music. The next two albums released by Dylan, “Slow Train Coming” and “Saved” were Christian albums. The third, “Shot of Love” had a heavy Christian influence.
Tragedy stuck the tour while we were in Texas. Keep in mind that riggers are usually a few days in front of the show hanging the rigging from which the lighting for the show is hung. Jim from Greenville, South Carolina was one of our two riggers and he tragically fell while rigging the LSU Arena in Baton Rouge. Jim had died. Following our concert at Baton Rouge a few days later, we took our chartered plane to Greenville for Jimmy’s funeral. I will never forget how upbeat his parents were to see us all. I couldn’t believe how wonderful they were in light of the tragedy they were experiencing. Following the memorial service we said our goodbye’s and headed for Memphis, Tennessee our next stop. After we got on the airplane in South Carolina, the other rigger laid out huge lines of cocaine on the coffee table between the area where Bob and I sat. The line of coke was the fattest I’d ever seen and ran up and down the coffee table three times. You see, Jim was also one of our two coke dealers on the tour. When he fell he had this coke in his possession. His partner said, I’m sorry I can’t remember his name, “Jimmy would have wanted it this way.” Jim also had three-thousand dollars on him at the time of his fall which was never found. We suspect one of the policemen ended up with it but we had no proof. By the time we arrived in Memphis there was a plane full of very high people. Now I realize you’re reading this and saying, how awful to be doing coke and all but in the seventies and much of the eighties, cocaine was a way of life. Many doctors, lawyers and other respected people in their communities were doing coke, not just people in the entertainment business. This coke in no way resembled the crack cocaine that’s used by a different element of people in the new millennium. Okay, that’s enough about coke already.
The next day we had our concert in Memphis then it was on to Nashville, Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama. We then headed north to Greensboro, North Carolina, Savannah, Georgia and into Columbia, South Carolina where Jim’s folks from Greenville showed up to see us and watch the show. We went back into North Carolina to play Charlotte, on down to perform at the Omni in Atlanta, Jacksonville, Lakeland and the Sportatorium in Hollywood, Florida on December sixteenth. And just like that it was all over. Little did I know at the time but December in Florida would be the last time I would work with Dylan.
It was a tired bunch of people who were winding down after that final show in South Florida, letting it all out after one of the most grueling entertainment tours ever undertaken. It had taken a toll. It’s usually customary that bonuses are handed out to key people following a successful tour. This tour moved flawlessly from Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Western Europe and sixty-five concerts in sixty-two cities in ninety days in North America. Never a concert cancelled or even a minute late starting. Word got back to me from our tour accountant that there would be no bonuses. I was flabbergasted. I actually cried to myself in my room, partly out of disappointment for the crew and partly out of exhaustion. I managed to go around to the rooms of the key personnel and tell them that Dylan wouldn’t be handing out any tips. It was hard to swallow for some. Most of them like stage manager Mitch Fennell had received generous bonuses from tours with Fleetwood Mac, Neil Diamond and others. The next morning it started to sink in that it was all over. I was on a commercial plane headed back to Los Angeles.
Arriving home on a Sunday, I checked into the office on Monday. I gave my report on how things went to Weintraub, went home where my wife Karen and I planned a Hawaiian vacation. We made reservations at the Kahala Hilton on Oahu and a stay at the Sheraton Hotel in Maui. A few days later I was told to cancel my vacation plans because there would be a motivational seminar in Palm Springs during those same days of my vacation, shortly after Christmas. This apparently was an idea coming from someone at Concerts West. I never knew for sure but I was pissed-off at the time. I attended the three-day seminar and went through the motions. It was a total waste of everyone’s time. Weintraub had even dropped everything to attend. You could tell he was also faking it. I’ve always felt that most of these feel good get-togethers are bull-shit. I went to one that the last radio company I worked for sponsored and there I was forced to play musical chairs. Honest!! Forty-five people…forty-four chairs.
Following the Palm Springs meeting Karen and I headed back to L-A, not even bothering to go home we grabbed a plane for Hawaii. While I was there, I called my friend Pat O’Day and asked him if he’d heard of any openings for radio station managers in the Seattle area. He said, “No, but why don’t you stay here and manage my station?” He was part-owner of a powerful 10-thousand watt clear channel radio station at 650 on the AM dial. On our way back home we went through Seattle, negotiated my deal to run KORL and went back to Los Angeles. In those days it was so simple to change airplane tickets…ah for those days again.
The next day I went into my office, where I gave Jerry Weintraub a written sixty day notice. He wanted to know why, I told him about Palm Springs and the difficulties of changing reservations, airline tickets and the like. He said, “Why didn’t you ask me, I’d of taken care of that for you.” I said, “I didn’t know you were a travel agent Jerry.” I was shown the door the next day. You’d have thought they would want to know a few things about dealing with Bob, the rest of the crew and the like but I thought, “Suit yourself.”
My concerts years were over just like that. I did get a call from Weintraub’s office about three months later asking me some questions about Dylan. It gave me great pleasure to say, “Figure it out.” About six months after I’d left Weintraub and Concert’s West I got a call from Louie Kemp. He told me Bob was going back to Europe and could I come along. I explained I was now running a radio station and it would be impossible for me to drop everything and head off to Europe. I don’t think they really got the idea that I had a legitimate job and the live entertainment business was a thing of my past.
A few months after that I once again received a call from Lou Kemp. He only said, “Now might be a good time to talk to Bob.” I knew better than most to never try to take an act away from Jerry Weintraub but I had the feeling that Dylan and Jerry were parting. Bob was in his religious faze and I had some ideas on how he could be promoted. A friend of mine managed gospel singer Andre Crouch. He once worked for Pat O’Day and me. When Willie Leopold and I had visited, while in London with Dylan, we exchanged many valuable ideas. I hopped an airplane for L.A. and a Santa Monica meeting with Dylan on the following Saturday. It was just the two of us in “Rundown Studios” playing pool that day. We’d exchanged some small talk and I’d begun moving the conversation toward where he planned on next taking his career when the phone rang. It was his ex-wife Sara. Bob came back and said, “Sara says I can have the kids for the weekend so I have to go.” I said, “Okay, I understand.” I didn’t pursue it further and said to myself, “Didn’t you leave this business once already?” I didn’t have to wait for an answer. I was on the next flight back to Honolulu. Other than disk jockey appearances, show business was now truly behind me. While I enjoyed my concert years and wouldn’t change them for anything, there was something to be said for a job where you wake up in the same bed every morning and aren’t always heading to or coming from an airport. I was back in radio for good.