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Blue Collar's Celeb Stories,Volume #1
By Mick Polich - 07/15/2009 - 09:25 AM EDT

People have asked me when I was going to include some blogs with some well-known music industry names that I’ve encountered (well, nobody has asked me YET, so I thought I would just subterfuge that first…). Most of my celeb sightings were back in my music store employment days - there are a few stories worth handling here.

The time Rudy Sarzo, Ozzy Osbourne’s old bassist, did a clinic at our store, and REFUSED to play any Ozzy/Whitesnake numbers during the clinic jam – numbers that our store band had so meticulously hand-crafted to a rat’s hind quarters over boo-koo rehearsals….

The time Richie Hayward, Little Feat’s drummer, would visit the store (his parents lived in Ames, Ia. – about 35 miles from Des Moines, and where Rich was born). His mom ALWAYS addressed him as “Richard” – “Richard is ALWAYS happy to see you folks!”

The time Bo Diddley came to test out a guitar amp for a gig the same night. Trademark hat and glasses, Bo mumbled, cussed to himself, and played with this loud, nails-to-the chalkboard tone, as he tested a few amp models. We, the employees and management, all looked at each other in equal parts awe, head-scratching, and weirded – out glances……

The time I flew to northern California with my manager, J.C. Wilson, for a 48 - hour trip to see the semi-final of Yamaha’s “Sound check” band competition in north Hollywood. Bon Jovi, Brian Wilson, Viv Campbell from then Dio, now Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Vince Neil from Motley Crue, and more silicone and Botox on guys and gals than you could ever imagine…..

Other than these brief encounters, my celeb entanglements have been few and far. There’s a reason that this is called “Blue Collar Rockin’” – we celebrate the local and area heroes, their music, and their cultural acts of contrition.

At some point, on some level, if you’re in the ‘entertainment’ business, you’ll encounter a person of notoriety. Usually, there’s a pretty good story – big or small, bad or good – that comes out the meeting. And the biggest rule of thumb is to never let the truth get in the way of a good story. So, I’m going to pick two of my favorites from the aforementioned, and riff on those……

First, Rudy Sarzo – a nice little young man from Cuba who went on to play with some of the biggest names in the 1980’s pop – metal(and I say ‘pop metal’ because those who know, know the difference!) Rudy’s claim to fame was playing bass with Ozzy Osbourne, back when Ozzy had a legit title in metal music. Anyway, Rudy was scheduled to perform a music clinic at our then-burgeoning store franchise back in Des Moines, Iowa, Rieman Music. One of my co-worker buds, Craig Sinclair, was in a popular area band called “The Blinders”. The band had some excellent musicianship in all the players, and could pull off a number of different styles.

Craig got the idea of the Blinders working up some Whitesnake tunes (Rudy was in the band Whitesnake, I believe at the time) for Rudy to step in and play bass on. Now, if you could have heard these guys, you knew they could pull a stunt like this off. All were seasoned vets of the local central Iowa music scene, and this was the late 1980’s,so the airwaves were permeated with the influence of pop-metal abounding – you couldn’t help but soak some of that playing up with a wink and a nod. I remember working late ( which I usually did  a couple of times per week for the money and to keep the shop up to speed), and those guys would be rehearsing out in the drum/piano area of the store, just honing this stuff for the Rudester’s arrival.

The clinic arrived, and the store was packed with the curious, the young, and the metalheads. Rudy elaborated on all the infamous Ozzy stories ( especially when Ozzy bit the head off of a live bat throw on stage in Des Moines, Iowa), and then came the time beckoning him to play bass with the Blinders. Would they do the Whitesnake covers? It would kill – that I knew.

“No, let’s just jam on “Tush”.”

That nut, the ole Rudenator – let’s just jam on the simple ZZ Top classic that beckons just about every kid who ventures down the ‘classic rock’ lane, pining to play electric guitar. And so, the Blinders and Rudy jammed on “Tush”. All of us who had witnessed the hard work and sweat of the Whitesnake tunes were crestfallen and p.o.’ed. Just one look at the Blinders collective faces told the tale of mistrust and ignorance (not theirs, the Star Bass Player Guy’s….)

Did Rudy underestimate the musicianship of a bunch of seemingly Midwest young buck musicians, perhaps too wet behind the ears to tackle the hollowed musical canon of Rudy - dom?

In my humble opinion, those Midwestern boys would have kicked Rudy’s musical ASS on those Whitesnake tunes back to Hollywood and Vine…….

But hey, what do I know after 35 years of musicianship? Gotta protect my homies –  that’s  what I know, and that’s numero uno.

I’m probably going to run out of room for the rest of the stories, but I need to end with the Bo Diddley affair. Our store was one of a few places around Des Moines that, come Iowa State Fair time, we rented out amps, keyboards, and small p.a. systems to cover the ‘backline’ for various acts that were playing around the fairgrounds, and on the main stages. Rock and roll legend Bo Diddley happened to be booked for a state fair gig, thus sending his entorouge into our pro shop one afternoon for some gear. Well, sure as shite, there’s Bo, dressed in his infamous ‘Diddley’ hat and leather vest, walking in to test out some amps. “Hey, it’s Bo! Look, it’s Bo!” All the buzz, so a bunch of us come out to witness a major player in the annals of rock music history ….

Well, Bo sits down with a guitar, the model I can’t recall at the present, plugs in, and proceeds to screech out this piercing, high-treble based guitar tone that only comes from years of having your ears assaulted with a piercing, high-treble based guitar tone. I’m sure all of us standing in range, on axis, were wondering about the possible damage of certain body organs critical to rock and roll survival. On top of that, you would hear from Bo,”(mumble, mumble)@#$%%^^!(mumble, mumble)&*^%$#!”

Good Lord, sweet jee-bus, if I had pictures of everyone’s expressions in that room as Bo went from amp to amp, muttering to himself with swear words and jumbled slang, trying to get a pleasurable Bo Tone for Bo. Half of us thought, ”Holy shit, it’s Bo Diddley – we’re in the midst of a rock legend!”, while the second half of our collective room thought was, ”Holy shit, it’s Bo Diddley – what the hell is he DOING???”

May he rest in peace, though – good ole Bo, God bless ya, man. I think at that point in life (late 1980’s/early 1990’s), Bo had enough history and cred to not really give a hooey about his guitar tone or whatnot. State fairs to play, money to be made, road – doggin’ it forever, baby.    

There you have it – two tales which I am happy to tell at this stage. And what is a life without stories? I’m am glad to be able to share with all of you out there, and granted, there will be more to come here in the ol’ Blue Collar column, rest assured!

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