Some years back, before my eyebrows started getting bushy, I played rock ’n’ roll for a living. Every day, I woke up about noon, ate my breakfast when most people were getting done with lunch, then loafed around the motel swimming pool the rest of the day. Soon after it got dark, I drove to a nightclub and played guitar with an excellent band. When the show was over, I’d find a Denny’s, wash down a giant chili-cheese-and-onion burger with a quart of ice-cold skim milk, then go back to the motel and conk out in front of the TV. Next noon, I’d start the routine all over again. It was a pretty good life for a 25-year-old boy from a South Carolina cotton-mill town.
The first winter the band was on the road, our agent booked us into a string of Florida nightclubs. That winter in Florida, the temperature hung around 60 degrees. It was quite a bit chillier back home. We knew because our girlfriends told us so. Like so many women exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees, they claimed to be “freezing.”
We tried to work our four-piece band’s road trips into a pattern that got us home every three weeks, because we were pretty sure that if we stayed away from our girlfriends any longer than that, we’d bust wide open, like four microwaved pot pies with no fork holes poked into the crust, if you know what I mean.
It was always during that third week on the road that the guys in the band would start lusting after girls who weren’t their regular girlfriends. Of course, that’s normal band behavior. But as the conscientious, straight-edge bandleader, it was my duty to point out that cheating on the girlfriends—who were likely to become our wives and the mothers of our children—could cause discord that could break up the band. That was easy for me to say, because I have a long-term history of being uncommonly loyal, like one of those lonesome dogs who sits by the railroad tracks every day, waiting for his long-dead master who got run over by the train.
Anyhow, we had mixed emotions when our agent called and said he’d booked us for a fourth road week—Christmas week—at the Wreck Bar in Daytona Beach. The upside was that the Wreck Bar was a biker bar, a real outsider’s kind of place. The band always went over well in places like that, full of off-duty strippers still wearing their pasties, pierced-and-tattooed one-percenters and gentle hippies peddling weed and jewelry. The downside was worrisome: It would be a fourth week without the girlfriends, and we wouldn’t be home for Christmas.
Truth be told, we didn’t have any choice about working that week. First, we were a new act on the bar-band scene, and we couldn’t risk turning down work from our agent. Second, we needed the money just to get home.
So we went to Daytona. We did not draw big crowds. The first part of the week, we were lucky to get 50 people in the club. But the outsider bunch saved us, bringing in a few more deviant types every night. As our six-night stand drew to a close, we became a minor hit, right up there with Molly Hatchet.
Every night at closing time, a fireplug-shaped waitress named Chubby turned up the house lights and yelled, “Show’s over! If you ain’t bangin’ the band, hit the door!”
If any stragglers stayed after that warning, Chubby called out, “If you ain’t bangin’ Chubby, hit the door!” And with that, the stragglers straggled out to the parking lot.
Our last night at the Wreck Bar was Christmas night. The place was full, loud and busy, and a whole lot of people were commode-huggin’ drunk or otherwise impaired. At 2 a.m., Chubby turned up the lights, ran out the last of the non-band-bangers, and looked over the empty room.
“Boys,” Chubby said to us, “it’s Christmas night. And just like they do every Christmas, our patrons have gotten drunk and left their nice new leather coats here at the Wreck Bar. Y’all go out there, walk amongst the tables and chairs, and pick out some nice jackets for yourselves and your girlfriends. I ain’t running no lost and found. If you find any money on the floor, that’s my money. Bring it to me.”
And so we did. We picked new leather jackets off the Wreck Bar chairs like picking peaches off trees. I got a nice bomber jacket, and I found a fine new full-length leather coat for then-girlfriend, now-wife Brenda. My bandmates found coats for themselves and their girlfriends. I handed the wad of bills we found on the floor over to Chubby.
After our long drive back from Daytona, my bandmates and I split up and went straight to our girlfriends. We found our women to be warm and eager, ready to wrap us in their warm and tender love, and spring-loaded to coax the fourth-week steam out of our metaphorical pot pies. Then we gave our women the gift of fresh leather, straight off the chairbacks of professional strippers. I can’t speak for the others, but at the Jowers house, we got off to a pretty good start on the new year.
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