Monday, April 27, 2009


My good friend Sharon took umbrage at my use of the expression “drunk out of our minds” when referring to our work habits at the Oyster Bar. She was quite right of course. We were incredibly professional in the face of overwhelming crowds.

I have yet to see any bartender (working sports events or otherwise) make it through the total chaos we endured.

The drunk out of our minds part usually was at dawn on the East Side.

That being said, our eternal father figure and boss Dennis, allowed us a shift drink. For my part that evolved into a shot every hour. This was an Old Fashioned glass filled with Bourbon, effectively a triple. Between these were countless beers. I have no idea how I survived this period. Youth I guess.

Maybe it wasn’t really that bad but that’s what I remember.

One night, after a bachelor party for our pal Benet, I staggered into work “drunk out of my mind”. I had stopped my car on the snow covered shoulder of a highway twice to vomit. Sharon took one look at me and said, “You hang out in the back room tonight, I’ll deal with the bar.”

Sharon has always taken care of me.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Speaking of great live sound track moments.....

On one of our road trips in the mid 80s Joanie and I had been driving for hours on the Smokey Mountain Parkway. Hypnotized by the drone of our tires on pavement we seemed to be driving into a dream.

We were up high enough that the golden hue of sunset lit clouds that floated at eye level outside my window. There was a flock of geese flying in formation Hell bent for somewhere. I had Peter Gabriel’s Wallflower on the stereo.

The birds were only a few feet away over my left shoulder. Their wings were in perfect synchronization with the music and they flew at exactly the same speed as our car. Time and motion came to a complete stop.

Leroy Tangents

A few years ago Valerie and I went to a fund raiser at BB’s Blues and Soups. Our friend Dennis was in danger of losing his farm so we all got together and threw a party.

This was when I first learned of our buddy Dave Gebben’s cancer and it would be the last great laugh I would have with him.

Our good friend Mark O’Shaughnessy has owned and lived in the building forever. In the late 70s and early 80s my band Wax Theatricks played there all the time. It was called Heart Break Hotel then.

Geoff  Seitz came up to me at the party and asked if I remembered him. I was floored. He used to drum for Leroy Pierson and they were one of my favorite bands in St. Louis. He played with Leroy and Russ Horneyer when they were a three piece. Leroy’s band has never been as good since. In spite of the fact he ended up with Dominic, Tracy and Benet (Wax Theatricks) as his band. They had a drunken, barrel house energy you had to experience to understand. I really miss them!

Geoff’s real passion was violin and he’s become renowned for making them. The photo is from a recent Post Dispatch article Valerie found for me. I think Geoff still sits in with Leroy on fiddle occasionally but I really miss his wild drumming.

Russ was my favorite bassist. Everything he played was perfect and nothing was there that shouldn’t be. His silence was as powerful as his sound.

I would eventually have the opportunity to experiment with a three piece band that included Russ and Mike Long. Mike was a punk/power pop drummer, Russ was master of reggae and blues and I was into my heavily processed psychedelic guitar and synthesizers. I wish I could have kept my shit together. It only lasted a month or so. It could have been great but I’m so damn easily distracted.

Mike is currently performing with Red Ass Jones and the Gold Bondsmen. He sings and plays a cocktail drum set up. He goes by “Shorty Long” and his son Miles also plays in the band. Two other buddies, Wrangler Wren and Ray Brewer, are part of the group. Valerie and I go to their every other Saturday happy hour gig at The Shanti in Soulard. These guys are funny as hell. Check ‘em out:


The Leroy Pierson Band was pretty much the house band at The Oyster Bar in its heyday. Sharon and I tended bar as the band played. We all got drunk out of our minds and went through the war together.

Leroy knew one of my dad’s best friends. A guy named Bob Koester. Tracy and I stayed with him in Chicago in the late 70s. Bob’s a blues producer. He runs Delmark Records. It used to be Delmar Records until he moved from St. Louis in 1958. The first thing he said to me when we arrived on his doorstep was, “Yer not as tall as yer dad are ya?”

He took us night clubbing in the wildest parts of Chicago’s south side. He was so respected in the music scene that all doors were open to us. He had a movie theater in his house where he’d run 16mm cartoons from the 30s and 40s that were too blue for circulation. He also had a recording studio and we listened to old tapes of my dad and his buddies partying. He also played incredibly blue stand-up comedy from the 50s that could never be distributed.

Tracy and I later learned from Iggy Pop’s autobiography “I Need More” that Iggy lived in Koester’s basement.

In the mid 90s my ex and I were visiting friends in Chicago. I called Koester. Instead of the beer and piss soaked south side bars we ended up in high class Jazz clubs. I hadn’t seen Koester since the 70s. The first thing he said was. “Yer not as tall as yer dad are ya?”

I actually have a lot of stories about Leroy but this is getting to be a long post so just one more for now.

Years ago Benet and I would go to Off Broadway on Tuesdays for open mic guitar night. The owner played drums for the jam sessions and was a big fan of Benet’s. Everyone would get pretty drunk and sometimes the jams would get pretty sloppy. I remember one guitarist getting very drunk and becoming incredibly offensive. He finally fell backwards into the owner’s drums. This was the last straw and one of the most spectacular bar fights I’ve ever seen broke out. It was right out of a John Wayne movie. People were thrown across tables and I think I remember someone swinging from a chandelier. A quick thinking bar tender threw “I’m Gonna Stab That Bitch with a Great Long Rusty Nail” by Leroy on the CD player. It was the best live sound track moment I’ve ever had!

If you’re not familiar with Rusty Nail check it out;

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

One of my life’s ambitions is to skydive in every state. I’ve already jumped in at least half of them. Valerie and I are planning a blue highway trip through the northwest in an RV to visit small airports.

Most drop zones celebrate the end of the day with a bonfire, beer and BBQ. They usually have showers and you can pitch a tent. It would be a cheap trip except for gas.

A few years ago we took a road trip through Indiana and Ohio, two states I hadn’t jumped over yet. Valerie agreed as long as we could visit the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

We stopped at an airport in Indianapolis for a quick jump before heading out for Cleveland. We drove in just in time to get on a load. They didn’t even check my credentials. I must have projected an air of experience with my demeanor. I just threw on my rig and got on the plane. I met people on board. We planned a formation and somehow pulled it off.

The DZ at Cleveland was one of the first skydiving clubs in the country. They had been around since the fifties.

I panicked on my first jump when I looked for a place to land my canopy. They had a grass runway surrounded by woods, farms and no sign of a landing area.

The place was over run with Amish teenagers. Their buggies were parked with horses tied to trees in the woods. They seemed to own the place. They were cussing like sailors, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. I was shocked. I hadn’t experienced “Wilding” yet.

As promised we spent one full day at the Rock Hall of fame. We could easily have spent a week. We saw John Lennon’s Rickenbacker he bought in Hamburg that he never finished paying for, David Bowie’s harlequin costume from the Ashes to Ashes video, David Byrne’s wall sized Polaroid collage of the Talking Heads “Buildings and Food” album cover (taken from Tina and Chris’ apartment when they moved), and more relics than I’ll ever be able to remember.

The top two floors of the museum had a temporary exhibit devoted to Tommy. There was a drum kit Keith Moon sold to the Bonzo’s “Legs Larry Smith” and all the original master tapes.

We’re going back.

Valerie just reminded me. The day we came back we misjudged how long it would take. I would have to get straight back to work. We decided to stop at Lake Erie for a picnic. It was a beautiful day and we fully enjoyed it which included cocktails. By the time we left we were exhausted and drunk. The drive was ten hours and our hearts were in our throats with worry about a constant thump from a bad tire on my van. It was too late to do anything about it if it blew. Every day’s an adventure!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My First Apartment

I moved out of my mom’s place pretty early. I think I was 16 or 17.

Dom and Benet were living in Bre-- ,er-- Laclede West, a newer part of Laclede Town on the west side of Compton. The band was practicing in the basement. This really separated Laclede West from the rest of Laclede Town. There was a basement.

The band had several names before settling on Jon Cotton. My favorite was Bronco Bullfrog.

A friend of mine named Ed had just moved out of his folks’ place in Brea -- ,er-- Laclede West. He found a beautiful carriage house in the Central West End. It was a little expensive so he invited me to move in. I thought, “What a cool first place to live.”

It was a big deal for my folks too. The night I moved in my mom stopped by with my dad. My dad looked like he was choking back tears at the thought of this new phase of my life.

I spent my first night there alone. I remember falling asleep to a small TV my girlfriend Pam had given me.

I was still at Logos High School and Ed was at Southwest. I had gone to Southwest. So did my dad and uncles. Logos took me in when I began to have trouble recognizing the authority of my teachers.

When I got home from school that next day I found the apartment crowded with a bunch of Southwest High School students. The place reeked of marijuana.

Ed had divided his part of the rent with five other kids from Southwest. He wanted a place to party away from his folks. I lived in my first apartment a single night before running back to my mom.

It would be several months before I moved into a place across the alley from my mom with Tony Patti and my brother.

It was good I didn’t stray too far. I ate at Best Steak House no. 2 one night and spent 3 days in a food poisoned delirium. When I was finally lucid enough to call my mom she walked across the alley to spoon feed me peanut butter until I got my strength back.

I think Ed eventually spent time in prison for dealing. I know a lot of people came to regard him as an a$$hole.

Photo is an early publicity photo of Jon Cotton in Dom and Benet’s Laclede West basement. 1973 or 1974 I think. Left to right out front are John Steffen, Benet and Jimmy Hill. Dominic and I are in the back.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April 5 - My Dad's Birthday

My dad would have been 73 today. He was the youngest of three brothers. They were 7 years apart. My uncle Bill is the only survivor. He’s the middle one and was born on my grandma’s birthday – February 24. He’d be 80 this year.

In the early 80s my grandma had a stroke and spent the rest of her life in a nursing home. Half her face was partially paralyzed and she had trouble enunciating. She hated the home. She whispered in my ear that the staff treated her like an infant.

Before the stroke I started visiting on a regular basis. She’d open a couple of cans of beer and we’d talk. Until this, I didn’t know she drank at all.

She confessed to me that before my dad she was pregnant but lost the baby. She never told anyone. She had been carrying the pain of this for years. She told me she wasn’t really sure my dad would make it.

In case it's too small to read, my dad's the mustache on the right.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dick Gregory Update

I just remembered. In 1968 Gregory ran for president. As a campaign gimmick he printed up a bunch of dollar bills with his face on them. We soon discovered they worked in the primitive bill changers of the day.

A Word of Caution

The name Dick Gregory has been popping up in my life lately. Most of his family lived in Laclede Town. Laclede Town was an urban experiment in St. Louis in the 60s. I’ve gotten involved with a FaceBook group devoted to it.

In the 70s my friend George bought a juicer. He was inspired by Dick Gregory who had been living on a strictly liquid diet. We decided we should try fasting.

My body must have been resilient with youth. When I fasted I was smoking and drinking a lot of Cokes.

We were living in the Central West End. There was a restaurant there called Dressells. They served a veg plate with a really good curry dip.

I fasted almost 2 weeks when I was overcome by an urge to consume an entire plate. They were large and meant as an appetizer for a group.

For some reason I was looking for George. I went to his girl friend Meg’s house. She lived in one of the mansions on a private street in the neighborhood. I knocked on the door and her father answered. He was an older man and seemed like the classic authority figure to me. As I attempted polite conversation I felt the need to fart. I thought I could sneak out a quiet one. There was an explosion in my pants. I quietly excused myself as I backed out of the house.

Never break a fast with raw vegetables.


Pic of Dick Gregory is from a page of the Mill Creek Valley Intelligencer November2, 1967. This was Laclede Town’s newspaper. He’s in front of the Coffee House where all the hipsters hung out.