“That could have been me!” I yelled to my friend, shouting over the sound of Axl Rose as Guns N’ Roses performed “You Could Be Mine” at the Exit 111 Festival on a chilly Sunday night this past week
“You? A rock star?” he laughed. “Sure.”
“Hey, it could have been me,” I scowled, not appreciating his dismissal of my musical prowess.
I returned my attention to the performance while allowing myself to imagine what might have been had things worked out a little differently. The fame. The money. The women.
Granted, to look at me now you might not realize that I was literally a fingertip away from being a rock n’ roll sensation back in the 80s. Granted, I’m very well-preserved for a 54-year-old man aside from becoming a bit gray around the edges and being slightly follicle-challenged as I’ve entered my middle-age years. However, back when I was 21, hair was not an issue. My long hair cascaded over my shoulders like a Kentucky waterfall, permed like the singer from White Snake, while the front was short and feathered like a kid from the Brady Bunch. Um, yeah. I guess you could call it a mullet.
Anyway, already sporting the rocker look and having the voice and musical skills since my mother put me through years of vocal and piano lessons (for church performances rather than gyrating on stage to the devil’s rock n’ roll, I’m sure), I got together with some other musicians and we formed a band. We got together and practiced a couple of times a week and booked us a few gigs.
Were we any good? I don’t know about that but we were loud. The fact we turned our amps up to 11 when we practiced did not thrill my roommates, some of whom were trying to study. I know, right? Study in college? Who does that?
“Can you please play more than one song?” my roommate Billy asked one night, holding his ears as he passed through our practice room.
“We’re perfecting,” I defended as we took it from the top again. “You can’t rush art.”
“Is that what that is?” Billy shot me a look. “Sounds like noise to me.”
It wasn’t too much later, even as we were really rocking it, that everything went black. “Did we blow a fuse?” asked Dave, our lead guitarist.
Since it was night, I stumbled my way in the dark to the fuse box at our rent house and reached in to find the fuse missing. The next thing I know, I hear snickers from the next room.
“Very funny guys,” I call out to my roommates who had snatched the fuse. “How are we going to get famous if we don’t practice?”
“Is that what you call that noise?” my roommate Calvin called out from the darkness.
I chalked the whole thing up to them being jealous of my pending fame and fortune. Let them study their fancy learnin’ books and go on to be engineers and businessmen. I was destined to be a rock star.
However, their tomfoolery didn’t end with just snatching fuses during our rehearsal time. A few nights later we were tearing it up when there is a knock at the door.
“Police!” someone called from outside. “Open up.”
I open the door and sure enough, there are a couple of Cookeville’s finest standing on our doorstep.
“We’ve had a noise complaint, sir,” the officer declares, prompting me to give him a quizzical look. While we were less than a mile from Tennessee Tech where we lived on North Willow, there were no houses around. Thus the question, who snitched?
“I’m sorry, officer,” I apologized. “We will turn it down.”
“Thank you,” he said and turned to leave.
“Oh, officer?” I called out. “Can you tell me who called on us? I mean, there aren’t any houses close by.”
The lawman turned and shot me a grin. “The call came from this house,” he said, his revelation bringing a chorus of howls from the roof above me where my roommates and I sometimes sat at night.
“That’s it!” I yelled up at them. “You’re buying your own tickets to my concert. No VIPs for you fair-weather friends.”
Anyway, despite the setbacks, we got a big break a couple of months later when our “agent” got us booked for a show opening for the Georgia Satellites. That’s right – “don’t give me no lines and keep your hands to yourself” – those Georgia Satellites. They had just hit it big and the fact our band was going to be opening for them was HUGE.
So, we turned our amps back up to 11 and practiced like we never had before. Fame. Money. Women. Fame. Money. Money. I was so excited since I wasn’t even remotely famous and I was always broke and girls didn’t like me that much despite my luscious hair. We did have two groupies, but they both liked Dave.
Anyway, it’s the week leading up to the concert. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep, let alone study those fancy learnin’ books for college. My destiny was almost where I could reach out and touch it. We would crush it so good opening for the Satellites that they would ask us to go on tour with them. Fame. Money. Women.
Then, once we toured the world with the Satellites, we would make it big on our own. We would headline. We would be the next Van Halen, Aerosmith or Bon Jovi. We were going to make the big time … then the phone rang.
“Hey Duane, what’s up?” Dave asked from the other end of the line.
“Not much, dude (yes, rockers call each other dude. It’s like rocker code),” I respond. “Just all jacked about our concert.”
I’ll never forget the silence that ensued on the line, broken only by a deep sigh from Dave. “About that, dude,” he began. “I’ve had a little problem come up.”
“Problem? What kind of problem,” I heard my voice squeak.
Again another sigh from Dave. “Well, I was at my mom’s house cutting the hedges with an electric hedge trimmer and kind of cut off the tip of the middle finger on my left hand.”
“You kind of cut it off?” I repeated, not believing my ears.
“Well, yeah,” he said. “It’s not there anymore.”
“So you’re telling me you got nine fingers now?” I shook my head.
“Nine and a half,” he shot back.
My eyes danced back and forth as my brain ran wild. Fame. Money. Women.
“So, you’re going to play, right?” I asked.
“Dude,” he began. “I can’t play without all my fingers.”
“But … but,” I stammered.
“Sorry, dude,” he said. “Aren’t you sorry I cut off my finger? I mean I’m looking at my hand right now and I’m missing part of a finger.”
“Can’t they just glue it back on or something?” I snapped.
CLICK! “Dave? Dave? You there, Dave? That was the last time I talked to Dave.
I slammed the phone down and sat staring into space. You only get so many chances to make the big time and that was mine. Without Dave there was no band, no fame, no money and no women. He, of course, to add insult to injury, took our two groupies with him. Go figure. I was the one with all my fingers.
Anyway, I never really found out if they were able to glue Dave’s finger back on. I mean, come on, it was just a finger. The band broke up and I went back to being a college student, studying those fancy learnin’ books. I eventually joined the real world and had to cut my hair. Now, I barely have hair anymore.
That’s why, if you’re ever with me and the Georgia Satellites come on the radio, I’ll turn the channel real fast. “Don’t give me no lines and keep your hands to yourself.”