Monday, August 8, 2011

THE DIZEAZOES MEET CHUCK BERRY (AN ADDENDUM)



Famous people are stupid. Weird and stupid. And crazy. They're all paranoid and arrogant, which is a dangerous combination. For instance, John Cale almost hit me in the face once. Granted, yes, I had been following him very closely for several blocks, and no, I probably shouldn't have touched him unexpectedly, but he shouldn't have tried to hit me. I don't care what that smart ass judge and his bullshit restraining order says.

Anyway, this isn't really a Dizeazoes story as it has nothing to do with the actual band and it's history or anything like that. I just like the story and thought that it might work well as an addendum to the series, help to sort of bow out on a lighthearted note. I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading these stories and if so I'll hope you'll indulge me a few quick notes. First, it was a project that Wheeler and I had been talking about for over a year and I really have to thank him for being patient with me while I worked on other stories, constantly telling him that "I'm going to get to the Dizeazoes story one day!". Honestly, I really didn't think that I ever would get to it, but one night I got drunk listening to the CD of Dizeazoes recordings he had sent me and I typed out the introduction. Very quickly I started to get the feeling that this was a story that could just go on forever and that's why I decided to divide it up and just hit the most interesting parts.

I'd also like to thank the other members of The Dizeazoes for doing everything they could to accommodate my annoying questions and insistence on a proper timeline and shit like that. I know that it was a long time ago and that it was all just for fun and I'm glad that they didn't just tell me that I was full of shit.

Anyway.... enough of my babbling. Here's the story of the time The Dizeazoes met Chuck Berry straight from Paul Wheeler's keyboard...


"This isn't really a Dizeazoes story, but it involves three of us from the early days of The Dizeazoes. This would have been Larry's first or second year in Columbia, MO, before I joined him there. I was working in a factory in St. Louis at the time. The chances are that The Dizeazoes had begun, but that it was just Larry Dardick and I at that point. We probably didn't even have the name yet, but we may have. I had heard from Mike Shelton that he was going to sing with a band at Chuck Berry's park, which was just outside of Wentzville, MO. Chuck Berry had set up a small club there where bands would play on weekends. I decided that would be a good time to visit Larry. The plan was for me to drive my car to Columbia, MO on Friday night. Saturday night we'd take Larry's car and drive to Wentzville to see Mike's performance, then we'd drive back to Columbia, MO, and on Sunday I'd return to St. Louis.

(Right: Berry Park in Wentzville, MO)

"We had no idea when the show was going to start, so we decided to arrive early in the evening. In actuality we arrived at Chuck Berry's farm in very early evening, or possibly late afternoon. We turned into a big parking lot, drove slowly up to where it looked like the club might be, and who should come out of the front building but Chuck Berry himself. He waved us to come forward and showed us exactly where and how he wanted us to park. He looked at Larry's parking job, gave a satisfied nod, and said, 'If you get the first one parked right, the others just fall in line.'

"We're here to see one of the bands tonight." we stated.

"That'll be in that building over there." Mr. Berry pointed.

"When will it start?" We asked, wondering how long we would have to wait. It looked like it might be quite a while.

"Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies," said Chuck and headed back inside.

So there we were, the only car in the parking lot, not a soul in sight, no idea how long we'd have to wait, or, in fact, if Mike was actually going to be singing that night. I hadn't received any confirmation from him. Neither of us had ever seen Mike Shelton perform. It was obviously something we were willing to go out of our way to see. The idea of having Mike sing for our band had probably never crossed our minds. Plus, the fact that Chuck Berry had just helped Larry park his car was quite the buzz. We headed over to the building that Chuck had pointed out. The door was open, so we walked inside and started investigating the small club. It was empty, so we began exploring, just to see what we could find. I had just come back out onto the stage after checking out the backstage area when Chuck Berry and a woman walked into the club.

"What are you doing in here?" asked Chuck with a certain amount of rebuke in his voice.

"You said the show would be in here. Is there somewhere else we should go?" we wondered, kind of pleased to be talking with the legend again, and maybe even toying in our minds with the idea of relaxing around his guitar shaped pool. Chuck seemed to see the sense in what we were saying, but wasn't completely satisfied.

"Well, if you're going to stay in here, you should pay for your tickets now." he decided.

"How much are tickets?" was our reasonable response.

"Five dollars, each." Chuck replied firmly.

If that's what he wanted, we were certainly willing to oblige, I pulled out a ten dollar bill and asked, "Do you have change?"

Apparently he didn't, so Mr. Berry said, "Later." and he and the woman turned and headed back toward the door. I pulled out my small pocket camera and took a picture of them as they headed away. They were about twenty feet away from me with their backs turned, but Chuck didn't like it, and demanded I hand over the camera. I refused to give it to him, telling him truthfully that it wasn't mine. I had borrowed it. He then demanded the film. I explained to him that it was a new roll and I had just started it. After all, if I gave him the film, I wouldn't be able to take pictures of Mike Shelton's performance. I don't know why my lame explanation worked, but he probably figured it just wasn't worth arguing with me, and he and the woman exited the building and left us to amuse ourselves in whatever fashion pleased us.

Eventually people started to arrive, and we set about trying to talk with the band to see if Mike was actually going to be singing that night. We did find someone who was playing in a band that night. He didn't know if Mike was singing, but promised to try to find out for us, and suggested that we should park in the back of the building because that's where the bands would be arriving and unloading their equipment. We moved Larry's car to the back parking lot, and it took a while longer before we tracked down someone in the band that Mike was supposedly going to sing for. That guy wasn't sure either, but he managed to find out that no, Mike wasn't going to be performing that night. We were walking back around the building to get to our car when we ran into Mr. Chuck Berry again.

"Where are you going?" He asked accusingly.

"We're going back to our car." we explained.

"But your car's over there!" he said, pointing back behind us where he had parked us initially.

"No." we explained, "We moved it. We're parked back around there now."

Chuck didn't seem pleased about that at all. In fact, he seemed unquestionably displeased with having to once again deal with these youngsters, who he hadn't actually caught doing anything wrong, but perhaps were not behaving within his acceptable parameters. He grudgingly said. "Well, OK, but if I see you two doing one more strange thing, you're out of here!"

We headed on back to our car chuckling, partially because without doing anything we had royally pissed off Mr. Chuck Berry, who we both very much respected. The Dizeazoes eventually worked up 'Come On', The Rolling Stones first single, which was written by this very man who had just threatened to boot us off his property. We were also amused because, since Mike wasn't going to play, we had been stopped and interrogated in the act of heading back to our car with the express purpose of getting out of there, exactly the thing Mr. Berry had threatened to make us do. We headed back to Columbia, and very possibly plugged in our guitars and ran through what at that time existed of The Dizeazoes repertoire.


Further reading on early St Louis underground music:

The Moldy Dogs
Akashic Records
Wolfgang and the Noble Oval
BDR Records

3 comments:

Cory said...

and now for my 15 part report on the Red Hot Chi Peps: The Early Years

Anonymous said...

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

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