... & OTHER ODDBALL STORIES

Back when we first started we belonged to Dram Booking Agency.  A lot of the old R&R and R&B acts were booked by this agency as well. Whenever one of these acts came to town, instead of carrying a band with them, what they would do is to get some "green" basement band like ourselves to learn the songs in advance of the performer (in our case Del Shannon) and then the performer would fly in, have a short rehearsal with the band, and then go out and play whatever club dates were booked. The main performer would make a couple of thousand dollars a week, and we'd make about 40 bucks a week, but it was good exposure and good experience.

It was my job to pick up Del Shannon at Pearson Airport in Toronto, which I did in my $25.00 Ford Galaxie with the rear fenders rusted out, and over-sized snow tires on in the middle of summer. Del promised he'd buy me a steak dinner if I'd drive slower, which I did.  We arrived at our first gig about an hour after I picked him up at the airport. It was the Coronet Motor Hotel in Kitchener, Ontario.

We had our first practice together about 4 hours before we were to play, and the band was very nervous. We'd never done a gig like this before, and here was Del changing the keys of songs, adding new songs, and adding crowd participation stuff and things we knew nothing about. After about 2 hours we headed up to our rooms to get ready for the show.

When Del walked into Brent's room, here was Brent doing "hot knives". Brent had quit smoking cigerettes, so as a substitute he smoked hash oil from morning to night. He smoked so much in fact that he carried a butane torch and 2 butter knives with him wherever he went. Anyway, Del asks Brent what he's doing and Brent explains to him about smoking hash oil. Del asks if he can try, so Brent gives him about 5 or 6 tokes. Remember, we're on in about 1 hour.

The way Del would come on stage was as follows:  The band would be playing an instrumental number, and after a minute or so, Del would come onstage with a spotlight on him, walk to the middle of the stage, and plug in to a Fender Twin Reverb amp that would be there waiting for him. Then he would signal the band to stop, and sing accapella the beginning of "Hats Off to Larry". That night the place was packed, standing room only. People are going crazy and Del walks out with the spotlight on him to center stage, only when he reaches the middle he falls off, lands on a table filled with glasses and bottles, and rolls off the table onto the floor! Bouncers immediatly grab him and literally throw him back up on stage. He looked hurt, but undaunted he started into "Hats Off to Larry" and loses his voice!

We played for two weeks with Del, and he told us stories of just about everyone who was a "who's who" in the business.
A Thank-You Card from Del Shannon
Brian Vollmer & Del Shannon
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