The Phone Call – 4th segment.

About the third week of January 1976, I received a call from Jerry Potter. He told me Doug had left and asked me if I would like to work for Lone Star Sound, and tour with Willie Nelson? I said yes, and I was  in the music bid’ness. Jerry said there was a tour starting in a few weeks with a lineup of Willie, Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and David Allen Coe.

I let my boss Know that I was leaving but had two good carpenters looking for work and he could choose between the two, or hire them both. He thanked me, wished me luck, said don’t be a stranger, as we parted ways on good terms.

Jerry’s cousin, Jeff, had come down from Syracuse, New York, to help out on tour, and he hired Mark Proct, from New York City, who had been living in Austin for a short while and was involved in the early music scene here in Austin.

We needed to upgrade the sound system to accommodate the bigger venues the tour would be playing in, and that involved a lot of woodwork, painting, installing speakers, and electrical wiring, and soldering connectors, etc.

Before the tour started, we worked a few shows with Willie here in Texas. The Yellow Rose in Corpus Christi, Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio, Beaumont, and an outdoor festival in Nacogdoches.

During the show in Nacogdoches, it started to rain, and rain, and rain some more. The show site was a large open field, surrounded by tall, long needle pines, the soil was red sandy loam, and it got plenty muddy, mighty quick. The show was called off, we loaded up and managed to slip and slide our way out to the highway. On our way out we passed Asleep At The Wheel’s tour bus, bogged down to its axles, in the red mud.

Their bus was an old Greyhound double decker super cruiser, and they are big and heavy. The sad thang about their situation, they had arrived just before it started to rain. I’m not sure if they were pulled out that evening or the next morning, but I saw the bus later that week in Austin.

Those few shows allowed Jerry to educate me in the fine dynamics of mixing sound. My new job was mixing the Front Of House sound the audience hears. Jerry had just received this massive 32 channel Yamaha sound console for the tour coming up. It was eight feet long, and I’d never seen so many knobs and faders, and was very intimidating to me. It also had something called a matrix, and I had no idea what that was, nor how it was used, but I soon found out.

Spring was approaching, and it was time for the tour to start rolling. We took the equipment over to a nearby shopping center to load onto the semi. Concert Lighting, located in Houston Texas, was contracted to do the lights for the tour, was furnishing the semi and waiting for us when we arrived. We introduced ourselves; Howard Kells owned Concert Lighting; Andy Fields was a lighting Tech from England, Jack McCormac, lighting tech, and the driver was Jim Swartz, who went by the name of Bozo, complete with long red hair and quite a character. We transferred the sound equipment to the trailer, and we were ready to hit the road.

First show, Little Rock, Arkansas. Willie had just bought Dolly Parton’s MCI tour bus after realizing the RV was just a little too small for the band and band crew. The RV was passed down to the sound and light crew. There were seven of us, four on the sound crew, three on the lighting crew and were quite comfortable with that arrangement.

We rotated drivers on the way to Little Rock, but that would soon change as the tour went on to whoever could stay awake. We arrived in Little Rock a little after sunup, clear blue sky; the air was fresh, a little nippy, and I was on cloud nine with excitement. My first tour with three bands I enjoy and the verdict was still out on David Allen Coe, as I was not too familiar with his music, but would soon get to know.

We started load-in at 8 AM, and by mid-afternoon, Jerry and I were out at the big Yamaha 32 channel mixing console, sorting it out. I said, man, I don’t know about this, as I was feeling intimidated with such a big lineup. Jerry said don’t worry about it; he would work with me till I got the hang of it and felt comfortable, and I would soon have total control of the sound console and the bands sound in a couple of weeks. That made me feel better and took some of the pressure I was feeling away.

The first show allowed us to set the order of thangs, as far as working with stagehands and setting up the equipment, as we would be working with a new crew in each city and we needed to be very organized.

When the show was over, we brought down the equipment, and I helped Bozo load the trailer. We had to reorganize the load as a result of all of the band gear added. It was a real good workout that I didn’t mind, as I had wondered how I was going to stay in shape out on the road. Now I knew, loading the truck with Bozo. When we closed the doors on the trailer, it was two AM.

Now let me see, 8 AM to 2 AM, is 18 hours. That’s a mighty long day. I showered and got in the RV to find that everybody was laid out in the bunks. I guess it was decided whoever got to the RV last gets to drive first.

Jackson, Tennessee was the next venue, and just 205 miles away, I drove the first couple hours, then one of the other rookies took over. A 21-hour workday, and I was ragged. With about three hours sleep it was 8 AM, time to do it all over again


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