Sunday, February 17, 2013

Little Richard - Bronze Liberace - Queen's University 1971


It’s been decades since I’ve smoked a bowl of hashish and none finer than sharing with the Bronze Liberace - Little Richard at Alumni Hall January 1971 – Queen’s University.

I was keyboardist/vocalist with Toronto outfit ‘Homestead,’ an act that caught the attention of Guess Who producer Jack Richardson in 1970. Jack understood my position with the American military and opposition to the Vietnam War and did all he could to rectify. I just made the task near impossible.

Homestead concerts were testimonials against war and degradation of the environment. I wore more Canadian flags than springtime on Parliament Hill. Jack just rolled with the situation.

We were invited to open for Little Richard – 7:30 set. The stage was outfitted in these humongous Traynor speakers. Back then they were cheap and sounded like stampeding caribou when fully exercised.

We play our opening set which was received as if we had been sentenced to an embalming until my ‘save the planet’ pitch – things then heated up. We won round one..

  Now we are downstairs in dressing area and Little Richard is yet to arrive due to a bomb scare over Cleveland. Richard refuses a chartered flight to London, Ontario fearing plane would crash. He arrives at 11PM half hour after second show was to start by ground.

I’m killing time with a quarter ounce of Lebanese hashish. I don’t think anyone other than me and I smoked. Suddenly, Richard’s band arrives and catches the action.

Hey bro,’ what’s that you smoking,” says horn section. ‘Hashish’, I reply. ‘Well, give me some.’ Smooth huh? So I cut a couple grams loose and the guys disappear in the john find a toilet roll, unravel foil from a cigarette pack, punched a few holes – Wah la – ‘Big High!

I’m kicking around with promoter when Richard walks in demands pay. The promoter tells him to play first. Not far away is Richard’s bodyguard packing heat and sinister look. ‘Pay me mutherfucker or I don’t play.” Well, I have to go up to box office and count the money, I hope they will do this.” Get moving”, says, Richards”

So I’m sitting there looking at this made up cosmetic icon not knowing what to expect when he goes off and lectures about ‘taking care of business’ then horn section returns. “Give me more of that good shit.” I can’t believe the audacity of this clown. Quickly, Richards jumps in – “what shit? The hippie got some bad hashish,” says the viper man.

Richards looks at me – “Is that so, I ain’t never smoked hashish – is it any good.” I look at him and think – fucking Little Richard! “Yeah man- this is Lebanese and it’s got a nice froth on it.”

‘Light me some hippie guy – I need to get high.” I do just that and LR gets his love on. “This shit is outrageous.”

The next half hour we continue bowl lighting. “What’s your name? It’s Bill! Your band? Homestead! Tell you what Bill – I like you man. Paul McCartney is playing on my next album and me on his – then I’m playing on yours.”

I’m young and cynical and don’t give a shit. Little Richard is in the house. He's playing me for the remaining gram.

Richard collects half pay and hits stage and rocks the room. I feel like a miniature entertainer. This was big bold history and I’m a witness. The sound was horrible but who gave a damn. His foot hit the floor like a sledgehammer and he sang in ungodly tones – ‘Lucille, Blueberry Hill, Be Bop A Lula, Good Golly Miss Molly, Satisfaction, Midnight Special, Tutti Frutti’ and on. I’d rocked with Chuck Berry in 1968 but it in no way compared.

Half time! We’re back in waiting room. “Hey B, got anymore of that killing shit? Sure do – light me a bowl. “That I do. Band arrives – “give us more.” Are you kidding I’m with the man and ain’t blowing anymore on greedy horn section.

Paymaster fucks up. “Sorry Mr. Richard. We have to wait until closing time.” Richard – ‘ What are you saying? Get my money or the night is over.” The dude reaches down and touches Richard. “Get your fucking fingers off me queer. Then bodyguard moves in and clutches hidden gun.” Richard intercedes- “Did you get the message – get my money”

Richard looks over at me – “fill the bowl Bill - looks like a long night – you say that shit is Hebanese?”

Eventually, promoter pays up and Richard does second show.

We’re on our way home and stop at one of those unfriendly late night diners. I walk in with Kris and the catcalls start. ‘Hippie, dick sucker, fuck face…when suddenly this tall lanky black dude in pimp suit strides in and slithers to bathroom. All action ceases. Not a sound - everyone hesitates. A few minutes pass and the guy exits and you can see a gun under short jacket. He taps – looks about and gives one of those stares that freeze the fearful then exits. The last words heard were – “Fuck me, who was that – Shaft”!


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