Backstage: Sex, Drugs and… Bar-B-Que? music musings zach claytonMany of us have watched the old VH1 series “Behind the Music” as it pulled back the curtain on many of our favorite music artists. There were stories of fighting, contract disputes, affairs, orgies, etc.

It, along with Rolling Stone stories, always painted a picture of debauchery backstage at concerts. How many of us have witnessed hot girls flashing their backstage laminates (gotcha, didn’t I)? We just knew that as soon as they went behind that curtain, there were nekkid people, beer flowing out of fountains, liquor being passed around, and the smell of Mary Jane in the air. You figured that even the shy freshman at a small Midwestern college could even get lucky back there.

backstage music musings

“Excuse me, have you seen the hot slaw?”

Well, I have been fortunate to be able to go backstage at a few venues, thanks to my friendship with a professional musician. The first time I went backstage was after a particular show where it was basically an empty picnic area at Starwood (Nashville’s former amphitheater). I figured the party had already moved to the bus since they were leaving. Somewhat disappointing, but I could rationalize why I wasn’t met by the nekkid people I mentioned earlier.

The next opportunity came again at Starwood when my friend suggested that I pick him up at the hotel and go to the venue earlier. He said we could go to “catering” and fill up. I just knew that was a rock & roll code word for “wild ass party”. We roll in and park in the VIP lot and in we go to the “backstage”. Wait! Where were the buxom beauties with free flowing booze? All of a sudden, I was back in summer camp in the mess hall. It was a buffet of….. food. There was bar-b-que, hamburgers, chicken, ice cream, etc. Honestly, I couldn’t find a single drop of beer or liquor. The fact that most band members were somewhere between steps 7 and 12 might have had something to do with the omission. Now, don’t get me wrong, the food was great, but it was a bit of a letdown. I will tell you that Starwood had a basketball goal backstage where I shot hoops with my son once.

Recently, I did have a tremendous experience backstage. I got to go backstage at the Ryman Auditorium. It was pretty small and cramped. We were in the Johnny Cash room where his pictures covered the walls. As I walked down a hallway behind the stage, it hit me who all had walked these halls – Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff, Loretta Lynn, and thousands of others. Kind of made me stop and ponder (or muse). Wonder what they thought about as they walked there before their first performance. Were they nervous or were they chomping at the bit to take the world by storm? It was pretty intimidating to think about.

While my backstage experiences may be tame due to the 12 step thing or the fact that most of the band members are over 45, it is still backstage. Occasionally, I will drop the nugget that I went backstage and give someone a wink. Let them wonder and turn green with envy. Only I know how many times I filled my plate up with bar-b-que.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Rocks the Ryman

Johnny wants you to know:
“Skynyrd’s in the House!” lynyrd skynyrd zach clayton

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Photo: Zach Clayton

On Monday November 11, the Mother Church of Country Music (the Ryman Auditorium) was transformed into the Mother Church of Southern Rock as Southern Rock icons; Lynyrd Skynyrd shook the cobwebs out of the Ryman’s rafters. Except for a free show on New Year’s Eve about three years ago, it had been a while since Skynyrd played a show in Nashville. I must say the Ryman’s intimate venue was perfect for their return back to Music City.

Ironically, Nashville was the first city the Skynyrd survivors played after the fatal plane crash and the first city they played when they reformed in 1987 with Johnny Van Zandt as lead singer. Johnny now has over 25 years standing in his brother’s spot which is longer than Ronnie had the spot in the first place.  In addition to Johnny and Gary Rossington, Skynyrd is comprised of Rickey Medlocke and Sparky Matejka on guitars, Johnny Colt (Black Crowes, Train) on bass, Michael Cartellone (Damn Yankees) on drums, and Peter Keys on keyboard.  Throw in Carol Chase and Dale Rossington (yes, his wife) and there was a small town on the stage.  While Gary is technically the only remaining “original” member, Medlocke and Cartellone have been in the band well over 10 years each, which makes them “old timers” in my book.

Regardless of the longevity of the band members, the crowd gathered in the Ryman and anxiously awaited the band.  Based upon the age of the crowd, I fully expected an AARP table or leaflet under the seat.  However, when the band came out after AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, the crowd proved that one is never too old to rock & roll.

musings 2The band opened with Last of A Dying Breed which released in 2012, was the only song that the copyright date started with a “2”.  The rest of the set was a stroll down the memory lane of every Southern rock fan.  The band sounded tight and pretty much held true to the original songs.  Medlocke and Sparky employed every stereotypical move ever done by a guitar player while Cartellone brought his large and loud rock drumming to the stage and once again proved that he belongs on the stage with the “big boys”.  Johnny Van Zandt provided strong vocals while periodically proclaiming “Skynyrd’s in the house!”

The band closed the set with Sweet Home Alabama.  During this song, I wondered if the younger members of the audience really knew what Watergate was or did they care.   Leave it to this Tennessee fan to be seated behind an Alabama fan who for some reason would turn and yell “roll tide roll” every time “Sweet Home Alabama” was sung.   Of course, even the Alabama fan could figure out that the Southern rock anthem Free Bird would be the finale and the band didn’t disappoint.  The song came large and loud from a golden eagle statue on the piano to a disco ball the size of Haiti.  When the song finished, I don’t think there was an ounce of energy left in either the band or the audience.  Here is the complete set list:

  • Last of a Dyin’ Breed
  • Call Me the Breeze
  • What’s Your Name
  • Gimme Back My Bullets
  • Down South Jukin’
  • That Smell
  • You Got That Right
  • Saturday Night Special
  • Simple Man
  • Mississippi Kid
  • Tuesday’s Gone
  • Gimme Three Steps
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • Free Bird

For me, the highlights were Tuesday’s Gone (favorite Skynyrd song) and the names of deceased band members scrolling during Free Bird.  Even if the band has only one original member, it seems as if the spirit of the original band lives on 40 years later whenever Skynyrd’s in the house. Finest Craft Beers from America’s Best Micro Breweries- 728x90 banner