Archive | February, 2014

Bret Michaels

4 Feb

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A few years ago, I was asked to do a job by a friend of mine that turned into one of my coolest moments on stage.  I was in Kansas City and Bret Michaels from Poison was coming into town with his solo band.  Jason Madden (my friend) knew his tour manager and the band’s guitar tech had recently quit, so they called Jason to see if he knew anyone who could fill in.

For those who don’t know, a guitar tech is the person backstage who tunes the guitars and basses for the band in between songs.  He also sets up their gear, helps with sound check, restrings guitars, and unloads/loads the equipment for every show.  Basically, he does all the non-rock star stuff, so the band can just walk on stage and play.

So Jason asked me, I said yes and showed up to the venue that held a couple thousand people and got to work.

Before every show, there is a thing called sound check.  That’s where the band comes out and checks volume levels through the PA system to make sure every instrument and microphone can be heard.  During sound check, they asked me to check Bret’s microphone and acoustic guitar.  At this point, Bret was still on the tour bus doing God knows what while the band and I worked on getting the sound just right.  I checked his mic, I checked his guitar and they asked me to run through a song since Bret hasn’t arrived.

“Do you know any Poison songs?”

Unfortunately, I didn’t at the time.  I was never a big fan of 80s hair bands and wasn’t familiar with any of Poison’s work.  I said, “No, but we can do ‘Sweet Home Alabama’”.  It’s a simple three chord song and the easiest song I could think of that everyone and their grandma knows how to play.

So we started playing the song—with me on acoustic guitar and singing—when halfway through, I see Bret enter the venue and he is standing in the very back with his arms crossed.  He doesn’t look happy that I’m doing his sound check.  It was my first day on the job and it looked like I had already pissed off the boss.

We finished the song and Bret comes onstage.  He quietly thanks me, take the acoustic guitar and finishes his sound check. 

Cut to later that night, the show is in full swing and I’m backstage working.  One of my jobs is to bring guitars on stage to Bret.  There are certain songs he plays guitar with the band and others that he doesn’t.  So when a song comes up on the set list that requires him to play, it’s my job to take the guitar to him.

On one particular trip to hand him his guitar, Bret takes it from me, turns to the microphone and says, “This is Jeff Wood from Kansas City…..something, something, something Sweet Home Alabama” (I couldn’t understand what he was telling the audience).  The crowd goes wild and I wave to them while running off stage.  I think to myself how nice that was of him to say something about me and get back to work tuning guitars. 

The very next song, I am supposed to come out onstage, take the acoustic guitar from him and exit.  As I’m reaching for his guitar, he leans over and says, “Put it on”.

The first words out of my mouth were unfortunately…..“What?”

Bret Michaels leans into the microphone and asks the audience, “Do you guys wanna hear this guy sing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’?”  The crowd roared and the rest is history!  We played the song and Bret sang background vocals, sharing the mic with me every time we hit the chorus.  It was an amazing moment and Bret made a new fan that night—me!

After the show, I hung out with him on his tour bus and he could not have been a nicer human being if he tried. After that, any time his solo band came into town, he’d have my band open for them.  He got me and Jason Madden backstage passes every time Poison was on tour, and he taught me something as well.

This guy has a reputation from being in an 80s band when rock stars were gods and stepping on mere mortals on their way to the top.  Once that era faded, he went on to do reality shows like “Celebrity Apprentice” (which he won) and “Rock of Love”.  The latter certainly didn’t do much to help that reputation and it came very easy to make him a punch line to any joke.

But the man I saw—for the brief times I saw him—was what my dad would call “a good man”.  Every person he talked to before or after shows, he made them feel like they were the only individual in the room.  He did no less for me every time I saw him.  He didn’t have to invite me onstage or do any of those other things he did.  But he did.  It was a lesson learned.  Be good to people.  Maybe someday they’ll write a nice blog about you!