Tales of Rock – The Cool Parents’ Guide to Rock Music for Kids

If there’s one universal truth to parenting, it’s that whatever songs your kid listens to will end up on repeat in your head at 3 a.m. Most of the time we’re fighting off tunes about frogs or balloons or shapes from Little Baby Bum, or we’re reluctantly humming a particularly annoying little ditty about a family of sharks (and just like that, dear reader, it’s now in your head too. Sorry).

Look, we have the power — the obligation — to introduce our kids to better music, for their sake, and very possibly, our own sanity. Nursery rhymes are adorable and learning-shapes songs are valuable. But with the state of things around us, social distancing and staying at home can provide a great opportunity for parents to expose their little ones to better music, some even with helpful life lessons.

We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite kid-friendly albums from what we dub the “Golden Age of Rock,” the classic oldies of rock ‘n’ roll from the ’50s through the ’70s, to help create a fun music experience for you and your kids. So, clear the living room, turn off the TV and fire up the record player (or Spotify playlist) and, hopefully, get to dancing.

Chuck Berry

The Great Twenty-Eight

Chuck Berry defined the sound and spirit of rock ‘n roll, so it’s only right that our kids hear his music. This compilation album, which Rolling Stone ranked No. 21 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, starts off with the toe-tapping “Maybellene,” and kids just know what to do when songs like this come on. Later on the album is “Johnny B Goode,” a fun opportunity for you to mention a great scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly baffles everyone at a dance with a rendition of this hit. This album is a necessary lesson on the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. Nicknamed the “Father of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” Berry was a major influence on decades of music that followed him.

Little Richard

Here’s Little Richard

With lyrics that go “A-wop-bop-a-loo-lop a-lop-bam-boo,” “Tutti Frutti” is probably the most fun a kid will have singing to a song, and the second you drop a needle on this track, your toddler will light up. It’s the opening track on Little Richard’s 1957 debut album Here’s Little Richard, which also includes “Long Tall Sally (The Thing)” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)” Simply put, these are just fun songs.

The Beatles

Rubber Soul

The Beatles helped define 20th-century rock ‘n’ roll, but not before dominating the pop charts. If we had told fans of the hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand” that the same band would later be making songs like “Helter Skelter,” they wouldn’t have believed us. But, there’s one album, in particular, that is a great introduction to the Beatles for kids, and has both the catchy, pop-like melodies that launched the Fab Four to stardom, but a little more meaningful message than the idea that they want to hold your hand. And it seemingly has no references to drugs yet: Rubber Soul. It’s said that Beatlemania ended on Dec. 3, 1965, the day the record hit the shelves. It was the album that saw the Beatles as men, not boys, similar to a teenager coming of age. And tracks like “Nowhere Man” explored John Lennon’s own dealings with inadequacy.

David Bowie

Hunky Dory

David Bowie is a great artist to introduce to kids early on because he took on many alter-egos, opening up the possibility of a young person to find one that relates to their own personality. His music explores fantasy-like storylines, and he always encouraged young people to be themselves –– no matter how weird. His 1971 album Hunky Dory is especially great for kids, and the song “Changes” reflects those ever-changing personas. He also wrote the track “Kooks” for his first son, which is a great song to dedicate to your own children.

Wings

Wings Greatest

We’re the last people to reduce the fantastic music of Wings to “just another Beatles band,” but once your child realizes that the Beatles broke up in the summer of ’69 and are left wanting more, they may want to hear what one Beatles head songwriter, Paul McCartney, made in the ’70s. Only two years after John, Paul, George, and Ringo parted ways, McCartney co-founded Wings with his wife. Yes, we’re recommending a “greatest hits” album, but it’s a great start for kids, or anyone, who hasn’t taken the time to listen to the band before. It’s a fun record that highlights the best of a great band.

Melanie

Gather Me

This album is packed full of emotional ’70s folk-rock ballads. But track four, “Brand New Key,” recalls the innocent days of young love. A particularly adorable song from singer-songwriter Melanie, “Brand New Key” follows a young, empowered girl thriving off confidence and nudging a crush to play along as she roller skates along — and it’s super fun to dance to. The rest of the tracks are probably more fitting for a teenager, as it covers a lot of heartbreak, but it’s also a great introduction to blues-rock.

Bob Dylan

Another Side of Bob Dylan

Is your child an aspiring poet or songwriter? Look no further than Bob Dylan to inspire that creativity. And his fourth studio album, 1964’s Another Side of Bob Dylan, is a great introductory album for your little one. OK, this is a folk album, but Dylan has become an influential figure in rock ‘n’ roll. Like the album title suggests, this was the first album Dylan released that didn’t reflect his usual politically driven songwriting, making it easy listening for kiddo. In fact, it played on his humor quite a bit too. Give “All I Really Want to Do” and “I Shall Be Free No. 10” a listen with the kids around for a good laugh. “To Ramona,” though, shows Dylan at his best on this album. A beautiful, lullaby-like song, the melody alone is likely to capture your child’s attention.

The Beach Boys

Endless Summer / Pet Sounds

It’s hard to decide which album is best for introducing your little one to when it comes to The Beach Boys. Endless Summer, a great album for those summer pool days in the backyard, captures the best of The Beach Boys’ 1963-1966 catalog. Be sure to pick up the vinyl reissue that includes “I Get Around,” “Surfin’ USA” and “California Girls.” These are all great introductory songs to surf rock and capture a great slice of the band’s career. You can almost feel the warm sun and sound of the hot rods driving by.

Pet Sounds is universally regarded as The Beach Boys’ best album. So, go ahead and save your kid the future embarrassment of admitting they haven’t heard this album by introducing it to them now. It begins with the super catchy tune “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which captures the thoughts we have when we’re lovesick teenagers. It’s been said that Beach Boy Brian Wilson was aiming for tracks that kids could relate to on this album, and we think he did a pretty good job.

The Monkees

The Monkees Greatest Hits

Yeah, we’re recommending another greatest hits album. But look, this one cuts out some of the more experiential songs the band did (oh, you didn’t know about that?) We’re not going to recommend that you introduce your kids to The Monkees by having them watch the film Head, or listen to The Monkees’ soundtrack for it. Trust us. And, The Monkees didn’t have an endless catalog of amazing songs, but the hits they did have are upbeat, really fun, and definitely kid-friendly.

The Byrds

Mr. Tambourine Man / Turn! Turn! Turn!

This double album (not to be confused with a greatest hits album) was partly taken from earlier writings from Bob Dylan. It contains Dylan originals in a pop-rock-friendly tone, including: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Chimes of Freedom,” “All I Really Want to Do” and more, so it’s a great opportunity to show your child how songs can be made differently.

Dusty Springfield

Dusty in Memphis

Dusty Springfield was an anomaly among the usual British female pop stars of the 1960s. Her voice was deep and rich, and her music sounded not unlike the hits coming from Motown or Stax. Her singles include “I Only Want to Be With You,” “Wishin’ and Hopin'” and “Son of a Preacher Man.” The latter of which is on one of the singles from her best-rated albums, Dusty in Memphis. A hallmark of the oldies we so love to wax nostalgic, Springfield’s music is a great lesson in love, and perfect for any lovelorn preteen.

Buddy Holly

20 Golden Greats: Buddy Holly Lives

Buddy Holly was a pioneer in 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, with hits like “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day.” His signature “hiccup,” unique spin on rockabilly and as-innocent-as-can-be songs make him perfect for introducing a young person to rock ‘n’ roll. After all, he’s said to have inspired greats like Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Unfortunately, he died shortly into his blossoming career, so his discography mainly includes compilations. But 20 Golden Greats: Buddy Holly Lives is listed on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and includes tracks he made with The Crickets — his band he played with before going solo.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – 10 Fascinating Band Name Origin Stories

Picking a band name is no easy feat, as it will have an enormous impact on how you are perceived by the world. There are many fantastic band names out there, but of course there are also some pretty terrible ones too. But regardless of whether the name is good or bad, it is always fascinating to hear how they came about. There are some excellent band name origin stories for many of the biggest acts of all time, including these 10 iconic groups.

10. Nickelback

While they are not the most popular band (anymore) and constantly the butt of jokes, the origin of Nickleback’s name is quite interesting. The name came from bassist Mike Kroeger (brother of frontman Chad), who was working at Starbucks when the band formed. With prices at $2.95 and $3.95, he would constantly be saying here’s your nickel back” to customers after each transaction. When they were trying to come up with a name, the phrase “nickel back” stuck in his head and he suggested it to his brother. Chad thought it was perfect, and Nickelback was born. Despite the endless abuse that they receive, Nickelback is one of the most successful rock acts of the 2000s, with “How You Remind Me” being the best-selling rock song of the decade. They have sold over 50 million albums worldwide, making them one of the most successful Canadian groups ever.

9. Queens of the Stone Age

Originally called Gamma Ray, founder Josh Homme was forced to change the name after a German power metal band of the same name threatened to sue. He settled on the unusual name Queens of the Stone Age, as this is how producer Chris Goss described his previous band Kyuss a few years earlier. On why he chose the name, Homme stated “Kings would be too macho. The Kings of the Stone Age wear armor and have axes and wrestle. The Queens of the Stone Age hang out with the Kings of the Stone Age’s girlfriends when they wrestle, and also it was a name given to us by Chris Goss. He gave us the name Queens of the Stone Age. Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls. That way everyone’s happy and it’s more of a party. Kings of the Stone Age is too lopsided.”

8. Pearl Jam

There are a few suggestions as to the origin of legendary rock band Pearl Jam’s name, but they originally went under the name Mookie Blaylock. As any NBA fan will tell you, Mookie Blaylock is a former all-star who spent 13 years in the league. The band was fan of Blaylock, but they were forced to change their name due to trademark concerns. As a result, they named their hugely popular album Ten after Blaylock’s playing number (he was also a fan of the band). In an early interview, Eddie Vedder stated that they settled on Pearl Jam as a reference to his great grandmother, Pearl, who was married to a Native American and they had a special recipe for peyote-laced jam. This has also been dismissed, however, and some claim that “Jam” came from when they attended a Neil Young concert where he extended his songs with lengthy jams.

7. 30 Seconds to Mars

After playing their first concerts under a few different names, Jared Leto and his brother Shannon settled on the name 30 Seconds to Mars, which was taken from a manuscript titled Argus Apocraphex. Written by an ex-professor of Harvard, this was the title of one of the subsections. It discusses the exponential growth of technology that relates to humans and saying that we are literally 30 seconds to Mars. For Leto, he found that the phrase perfectly encapsulated their music and he explained it as a metaphor for the future and how it “works on several different levels, a phrase that is lyrical, suggestive, cinematic, and filled with immediacy.” The band went on to be immensely successful, but in these early days, Jared Leto would not allow the use of his Hollywood fame as a promotional tool for the band.

6. Led Zeppelin

Often said to be the greatest and most influential band of all time, hard-rocking British act Led Zeppelin first formed in London in 1968. They first formed under the name the New Yardbirds (in reference to Jimmy Page’s previous band, The Yardbirds), but they soon restyled themselves as Led Zeppelin. Now one of the most famous band names ever, the story goes that Keith Moon and John Entwistle were discussing the prospect of starting a supergroup with themselves, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, and they stated it would “go down like a lead zeppelin” (“lead balloon is a British idiom for an ill-conceived idea, with a zeppelin essentially being a much bigger balloon and therefore a worse idea). The band decided to intentionally change “lead” to “led” so that it would be correctly pronounced. It is now an iconic name for one of the greatest bands of all time.

5. The Velvet Underground

An enormously influential group that formed in 1965, the band name actually comes from an S&M book about a secret sexual subculture during the early ’60s, written by journalist Michael Leigh in 1963. It reports on Paraphilia in the USA, which is the experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, and individuals. The New York-based band decided to use the title of the book as their band name after Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison’s friend, a filmmaker called Tony Conrad, found a copy of the book lying in the street in New York. Morrison was a fan of the name as it reminded him of underground cinema, and it stuck. It is somewhat fitting, as the band achieved little success when they were active and could be considered “underground,” but are now deemed immensely important and influential.

4. Steely Dan

Steely Dan may seem like a fairly innocuous band name for the jazz-rock act founded by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen who were hugely popular in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but the story behind their band name is cheekier than most people realize. As fans of Beat Generation literature, the band named themselves after “Steely Dan III from Yokohama,” which is a sex toy mentioned in the novel Naked Lunch, written by William S. Burroughs in 1959. Not quite as innocent as most thought, Steely Dan has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001. The band split up but reunited in 1993 and has toured consistently since.

3. 311

Nudity and rock and roll seem to go hand in hand, and this is exactly how popular American rock act 311 got their name. Formed in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1988 by Nick Hexum, Jim Watson, Aaron Wills, and Chad Sexton, the band name came from when Watson was arrested for streaking when he and some friends went skinny dipping in a public pool. He was arrested and handcuffed before being taken home to his parents, all completely naked. He was issued with a citation for code 311, which is a police code for indecent exposure in Omaha. The band found the story so amusing that they settled on 311 as their band name. Watson, the lead guitarist, would later leave the band and was replaced by Tim Mahoney. They are still going strong today, with 2014’s Stereolithic being their most recent studio album.

2. The Who

An excellent band name for one of the all-time great rock acts, The Who were originally called The Detours. Whilst searching for a new name for the group, people would come up to the members with their suggestions. There were a lot of odd suggestions, which frequently saw the likes of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend, and Keith Moon simply reply “the who?” Townsend and his roommate Richard Barnes also liked the theme of having joke announcements as a band name, such as “No One” or “The Group.” In another version of how the band name came about, Townsend’s grandmother would always refer to bands as “the who?” due to her impaired hearing. Whichever version is true, it turned out to be an excellent choice, as they would go on to become one of the greatest bands of all time and now everybody knows their name.

1. Lynyrd Skynyrd

The act is famed for popularizing southern rock through signature songs such as “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” Lynyrd Skynyrd first formed in 1964 in Jacksonville, Florida. They first went under the name My Backyard, and they would not settle on Lynyrd Skynyrd until 1969. They first decided on Leonard Skinnerd, which was a mocking tribute to the physical education teacher that all of the members had when they were in school together. This was a teacher that they disliked due to his strict enforcement of the school’s policy against boys having long hair, which led to Gary Rossington dropping out. The spelling was altered shortly after to avoid a lawsuit. With their success, they became friendly with the teacher in the later years and even invited him to introduce them at a concert in the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum.

 

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Tales of Rock: The Best Band You Never Heard – Rhino Bucket

If you like AC/DC, you’ll love this band!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhino_Bucket

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – 35 High School Yearbook Photos of Rock Stars

They were once regular high school kids, right? Some of them didn’t even look that cool dude with a rock star potential. Some though still managed to look cool like Dimebag Darrell Lance Abbott or Wes Borland. The others? Not so much.

We rounded up a gaggle of funny photos of famous heavy metal, hard and alternative rock stars before they became music legends. The result is this most fascinating list that confirms what we already knew: any uncool-looking kid can become a rock star someday.

Check them out and enjoy!

1. Steven Tyler (Aerosmith)

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2. Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses)

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3. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)

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4. Marilyn Manson

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5. James Hetfield (Metallica)

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6. Jon Bon Jovi

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7. Kid Rock

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8. Kirk Hammet (Metallica)

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9. Alice Cooper

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10. Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe)

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11. Slash (Guns N’ Roses)

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12. Izzy Stradlin (Guns N’ Roses)

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13. Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)

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14. Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society)

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15. Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against the Machine)

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16. Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit)

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17. Vince Neill (Mötley Crüe)

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18. Glenn Danzig (Misfits)

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19. Mike Patton (Faith No More)

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20. Chester Bennington (Linkin Park)

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21. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)

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22. Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots)

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23. Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine)

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24. Paul Stanley (Kiss)

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25. Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit)

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26. Corey Taylor (Slipknot)

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27. Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath)

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28. Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)

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29. Dimebag Darrell Lance Abbott (Pantera)

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30. Randy Rhoads (Quiet Riot)

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31. Jonathan Davis (Korn)

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32. Eddie Van Halen

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33. Les Claypool (Primus)

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34. Daron Malakian (System of a Down)

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35. Gene Simmons (Kiss)

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Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – Explicit Adventures of Traveling Rockstars

The annals of music history are rich with tales from the road — stories of questionable behavior, catastrophes in transit, run-ins with the locals, and shenanigans of the most bizarre and extreme order. Who could forget the infamous Led Zeppelin mudshark incident, or that time Frank Zappa was nearly killed when a crazed concertgoer, incensed by his girlfriend’s infatuation with the musician, pushed Zappa off the stage at London’s Rainbow Theatre?

Frank Zappa recovering after being pushed off stage

These stories are the stuff of music history legend; they become mythologized, and some are even completely fabricated, like Robert Johnson’s crossroads meeting with the devil, or Ozzy’s Alamo urination.

Such anecdotes have become an art form, a time-honored tradition in the culture of any genre of contemporary music. Thousands of biographies and memoirs recount the exploits of musicians on tour. And the notion of the “crazy tour story” hasn’t disappeared as legendary musicians hang up their boots or pass on to that great gig in the sky.

A new crop of bands and artists has taken up this mantle, constantly refilling the anecdotal coffers with fresh tales of mayhem. Sure, there are sexed-up narratives to be told, but the typical “so I took her back to the tour bus” story only has so much mileage to it. Wilder is the violent episodes, the truly catastrophic stuff. And while the escapades of big-name artists can prove droll, those of grassroots, touring bands are often more intriguing.

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The Holly Springs Disaster guitarist Josh Guillaume on tour in Stouffville, Ontario | Photo by Daniel Bray

Today, there’s an entire subset of the music industry, and innumerable careers, dedicated to chronicling such noteworthy events. Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, MTV News and TMZ — a dazzling array of media outlets keep us fully abreast of on-the-road monkeyshines of musicians from any stratum of fame, from one-hit wonders like Afroman, who recently made headlines for delivering a haymaker to a fan who was unlucky enough to be dancing behind him onstage, to superstars like Justin Bieber (no one’s forgotten what you did in Germany, Biebs). Outside the realm of celebrity, though, musicians are still getting into trouble, and their tour stories continuously add to the canon of lore that has come to define the archetype of the traveling musician.

Sauced

“This is what rock and roll is all about,” says “Evil” Jared Hasselhoff (real name: Hennegan), bassist for the raunchy pop-rock group The Bloodhound Gang (think, “You and me, baby, ain’t nothin’ but mammals”►). He’s talking about a night in New Orleans 10 years ago, when he was working as a roadie on the Jägermeister Tour with Slayer, Archenemy, and Hatebreed. He tells this story between an anecdote about going to court to testify against some young punk (“this fucking ballbag”) who graffitied the Gang’s RV in Towson, Maryland, and a tale about filling his manager’s briefcase with old sushi one time in Berlin.

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Bloodhound Gang bassist “Evil” Jared Hasselhoff performs onstage at the V2000 Festival in the U.K., 2000 | Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

That night in New Orleans, the tour package was playing the House of Blues, and after soundcheck, Jared had gone to the Harrah’s next door to gamble a bit. “I made a huge mistake and had some mall sushi,” Hennegan says. The raw fish made Jared’s stomach churn and roil. He felt what he was sure was just a substantive fart building up, and he let ‘er rip. Unfortunately, Hennegan got more than he bargained for and his bowels voided themselves at that moment. “There was at least a solid cup of shit,” he claims. Jared’s stomach rumbled again and his gut expelled another wave of noxious waste. “It was everywhere,” he says. “It was, like, a quart of diarrhea.” Soiled, shit-stinking, and sick, Hennegan retired to his hotel room to lie down.

Several hours later, Evil Jared was back in action, hanging out with some other roadies in the venue’s VIP section. But the scene was grim: “No broads there; not a looker in the lot.” He grabbed the tour manager and headed to the bar next door, where they were soon approached by an enthused fan. “I think she’s half-Mexican, but she’s pretty hot,” he says.

“Yo, I know you work with the bands,” the girl proposed. “I’ll do anything if you get me into the show.”

Now, you might think you know exactly what happened next, but if you’re picturing a sordid, back-room exchange, you’d only be half-right. Evil Jared handed the girl “a shot of insanity hot sauce,” which she put down without issue. Then she took another. Jared escorted her backstage to the VIP section and went back to his hotel room to watch TV, while the girl proceeded to attack with gusto the green room’s generously stocked open bar.

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Jared Hasselhoff of Bloodhound Gang performs, pouring drinks for fans in the front row of the audience at Soundwave Festival at the Royal Melbourne Show Grounds on February 27, 2009, in Melbourne, Australia | Photo by Martin Philbey/Redferns

Two hours later, Hennegan was back at the House of Blues and had run into a hot-sauce girl. “This is the guy who got me in!” she screamed, hammered after a go at the open bar. She threw her arms around Jared and shoved her tongue into his mouth. “We weren’t really making out, more like she was molesting me,” Jared offers. She was sloppy, but that was hardly a deterrent. Wanting privacy, Jared took the girl through the back of the venue to a quiet area, pulled open a door, and stepped into a small room. “Even working for Jägermeister, making out with some pissed-up slapper in the middle of the VIP area is frowned upon.”

“I realize we’re in the trash room,” he says. The couple was literally surrounded by gargantuan piles of trash, heaped high and probably smelling like the contents of Jared’s underwear earlier that night. Things started getting hot and heavy between the two, and suddenly, the girl stopped the action to make a request. “I’m on the rag right now,” she said, before asking Jared to place himself someplace fairly uncomfortable. “She asked me to fuck her in the ass,” Jared says.

“I think she was from Memphis,” he concludes.

The Cinder Block Brawl

Daniel Bray, a Toronto-based photographer, was on the road with the hardcore group, The Holly Springs Disaster, when the tour ran into some trouble with the residents of Stouffville, a small town in Ontario. The tour package had played an “awesome” show, and the bands were loading out when “out of nowhere, a hail of rocks and chunks of red bricks came raining down on us.” The groups turned to see two kids chucking stones from an empty lot nearby, and sent four or five guys over to deal with the situation.

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Singer Mike Froh of The Holly Springs Disaster performing in Stouffville, Ontario | photo by Daniel Bray

They broke Hayden’s leg! Bray heard minutes later. “One of the dudes named Hayden, from one of the Calgary bands on tour, went over there to stop these kids who were throwing bricks,” he says. “And one of them picked up a full-size cinder block and threw it at Hayden, and it broke his leg badly above the ankle.”

While Bray stayed with Hayden to administer some rudimentary first aid and help him into a fan’s car, the rest of the tour package went off in search of the culprits. Heading back to the venue, Bray saw a kid dash past him, holding a skateboard, with eight guys in hot pursuit. Bray followed.

“I’m not sure who got to him first,” Bray says, “but they caught up to him right behind the backstop for the ball diamond. They tackled him and had him up against the chain-link [fence], feeding him punches, in no time. Everyone else joined in as soon as they got there.” The entire tour package laid into the kid, using his skateboard as a weapon against him.

One guitar player broke his hand on the kid’s face. “You know those oil barrels that are used as big garbage cans?” Bray asks, “I saw one of those full of garbage dumped on the guy then the barrel thrown at him. We beat this guy up till he was limp.”

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Hayden at the hospital | photo by Daniel Bray

A few minutes into the beating, two cops watched from the safety of their squad car. “Alright boys, he’s had enough,” said one, emerging from his car to drag the bloodied youth away from the melee. “The other cop told us that this guy was the town’s biggest shit disturber,” Bray says. “He fucked with every single band that came to town, and no one ever did anything about it.” According to Bray, the cop was “stoked we put an end to [the kid’s] shenanigans and taught him a lesson.”

Greyhound to Hell

It’s not unusual to hear of out-of-town bands getting into altercations with local folk, especially in rural areas and red states. Once, while on tour, I nearly found myself the victim of a hate crime in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Paul Adler inside tour van “Connie,” left, and “Connie” parked in a residential area.

I had been working for a tiny record label on the 2010 Vans Warped Tour for six weeks, hawking my solo album in parking lots and spooning bags of ice while sleeping on the floor of our 15-passenger Ford van, “Connie.” The day after the Atlanta stop of the tour was to be an off-day, to give us time to make the drive to Cincinnati while those bands lucky enough to ride in buses had the chance to do some volunteer work. We woke up that morning in the empty parking lot of the festival grounds where the tour had stopped. We were freaked out. We’d heard gunshots nearby the night before.

We stopped at a gas station — where some guys pulled up next to our van and tried to sell us a VCR — and discovered the card we’d been using to gas up had expired. All we had was a couple of hundred dollars in the cash box, just enough to get the van back to our home base in D.C. The owner of the record label and I made the call to send the rest of our entourage back to D.C., giving them the cash to finance the trip. We would continue on to Cincinnati to shore up our contacts, as we assumed we’d want to get on the tour the next summer. We headed to the nearest Greyhound station to buy bus tickets.

Outside the station, we killed time waiting for our bus, crushing up Vicodin into a mason jar that’d once been home to moonshine-soaked berries. We mixed in some raspberry schnapps and some Svedka and drank deep, knowing we had a long ride ahead. We found a bum who sold us a $5 bag of weed, rolled a joint, and smoked in the van until we heard a knock at the window. It was two cops, who warned us this was a “rough neighborhood” and walked away.

As my buddy and I went to board our bus, a haggard-looking old man asked if we wanted to buy some Xanax, which we politely declined, as we were already pretty fucked up.

We got on the bus and, to our chagrin, the only two seats available were aisle seats directly across from each other. However, the seats weren’t entirely, well, available: the gentlemen taking up the respective window seats were so large that their torsos spilled over into our seats, leaving me and my buddy each with one cheek in the seat and one in the aisle. Uncomfortable as it was, it wasn’t long before we passed out.

I awoke at 5 p.m. at a bus station on the outskirts of Knoxville, irate and desperate for a beer. We had half an hour to kill, and I thought myself miraculously lucky when I found a bar right next door. But when I walked into the dank, dusky honky-tonk, I found myself in a scene akin to a classic movie. Every drunken day-shift worker put down his drink and stared right at me. These guys were white-bread, and I’m the kind of half-Indian who gets dark in the summer. On top of that, my tattoos were exposed and my beard was in full effect. “I’m going to die,” I thought.

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Marie’s Olde Town Tavern

As soon as I got my $1 Bud, this yokel sidled up to me and slurred, “Hey, brother, you better get off that Allah, man — it’s all about Jeeeezuss!”

“Oh. Oh no. No, I don’t like Allah. I love Jesus. I swear,” I swore. The man put down his beer and started to stand up; several of his peers did the same. I grabbed my Budweiser and made for the door, full beer in hand.

I made it back to the bus and on to Cincinnati in one piece. I was back on another Greyhound by 2 a.m. the next night, after paying a cabbie $10 to drive me over the bridge into northern Kentucky — where I’d stood in front of a line of cars at a drive-thru liquor and begged the cashier to sell me a fifth of whiskey. I didn’t tour much after that.

Detours and Disasters

Often, musicians on tour encounter pitfalls in the form of natural or man-made disasters — tempestuous weather, accidents, and calamities of every sort, ranging from mild delays to Almost Famous-esque transportation woes.

Geoff Bennington, the guitarist/vocalist of the Brooklyn indie-rock outfit Gillian, describes narrowly missing one such cataclysm while the band was en route to Johnson City, Tennessee. “I think it was only the second full day of our first time on the road together as a band,” he remembers. They’d almost reached their destination, driving south on I-81, when their phones began to buzz and flicker with messages announcing an area-wide tornado watch. “We had no idea what to do,” says Bennington. “We looked out the window and saw that [the sky] was, for the most part, totally clear and open,” so the band kept driving.

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Band Gillian | Photo by Brian Lauer

Minutes later, everyone’s phones lit up with a second emergency message, a tornado warning. The band drove on, watching as other motorists pulled over and switched on their hazard lights. “We’re fine as long as we’re not close to the exit for Route 21,” guitarist Paul Demyanovich said, trying to calm down the rest of the van’s occupants.

“The next sign we see says ‘Route 21, next exit’,” offers Bennington. “This also happens to be the road we have to take to get to Johnson City.” With no tornado in sight and their destination nearby, the band pushed forward. It didn’t take long for them to notice the broken signs and snapped trees littering the highway, so they got off 81 and made for the backroads.

“Suddenly, we could go no further,” Bennington says, “because a huge barn had been knocked over and into the road, along with some trees and power lines.” The van came to a halt as the band stumbled onto a harrowing, almost biblical scene: farm animals, loose, milled about in terror. In the middle of the road, an enormous barn lay in ruin, having dragged down a number of trees and power lines with it.

On the side of the road, people were emerging from storm cellars and damaged homes, their faces contorted in shock and dismay. “Apparently, we missed it by about two minutes,” Bennington says of the tornado. “Suddenly, I felt bad for discouraging that last quick bathroom stop we took that probably saved our lives with its serendipitous timing.”

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After the tornado hit, all that was left of a barn was a pile of lumber in the middle of the road

As long as fans of music are willing to shell out their hard-earned money to see live performances, there’ll be occasions for artists to get into trouble, to get involved in situations they’ll end up recounting to friends, fans, and journalists. These few snapshots into the lives of touring musicians are mere drops in the bucket, pages in an elephantine tome of booze-addled tomfoolery, waylaid van trips, vicious tempests, and snafus involving the locals. Every tour story, every new bit of oral tradition, adds another layer to the lore of the itinerant musician and another episode in the vast history of on-the-road antics we’ve come to expect from bands the world over.

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