‘Brush With Greatness’: Rock Fans Share Their Stories

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Alice Cooper in 1974

You’re at the supermarket. Or a bar. Or the middle of nowhere. You’re alone in your thoughts. Your radar’s off. And suddenly, you gasp! When you least expected it, there’s a classic rock legend, standing next to you.

Best Classic Bands asked the subscribers of our free newsletter to tell their stories of their “brush with greatness” so that we could share them with you. (If you don’t already subscribe, please do so by filling in your name and email address in the form provided below.)

Some of these celebrity sightings include photos, several of which were taken well before we imagined that we’d all have cameras in the palm of our hands, via our smart phones.

Gordon Lightfoot, Avery Fisher Hall, NYC, 1974

Jonathan Weiss: After the concert, I crashed the afterparty, approached Mr. Lightfoot, and told him that his music touched me. He reached out his hand, placed it upon my forehead, and said, laughingly, “There, I touched you again.” I wasn’t real happy about it.

Paul and Linda McCartney, London, 1990

BCB reader Linda Malaspina (at far R) with Paul and Linda McCartney (Used with permission)

Linda Malaspina: After seeing the usual tourist sites, I left my friend back at the hotel and took off to check out the MPL office in Soho. As I turned onto the Square I immediately saw the building and bright TV lights shining on the top floor. Outside was a Mercedes with MPL plates. That’s all I needed to see, and planted myself curbside. About an hour later, a TV crew exited. And then, there stood Paul McCartney! He and Linda were in their way to an MTV contest event which I had actually tried to win, mailing 500 postcards to no avail. He and Linda could not have been more gracious. (Linda even asked me, “When are you going veggie?”)

Paul signed my Beatle tourist site book, took photos and spent a few minutes chatting. At that point I realized it was a good thing that I didn’t win the MTV contest!

The James Gang, Dearborn, MI, 1972

Patrick Gohl: In 1972, Michigan dropped the drinking age to 18! A restaurant called Blazo’s sponsored free Stroh’s Beer Nights! So the place was packed, we were sitting with three guys, drinking the favorite brew of Detroit when one of them asked if we wanted to smoke some weed. We went outside and climbed into their van, filled with instruments. Back at their motel room getting high, we finally got to know who our hosts were. It was Joe Walsh and the James Gang, who were here doing some recording, heard of the free Strohs night, and stopped by to indulge in the great suds!

Billy Joel, Washington, DC, 1976

Carl Fischer: In the ’70s my friend and I were going to see a little-known singer named Billy Joel. He was performing at a small club called The Cellar Door. We were in a short line waiting for his second concert and all of a sudden a side door opened and Billy ran out. My friend said “Hey, that’s Billy Joel.” I replied “No, he’s too short” We called him over and asked him. He said “Yeah, I’m Billy Joel.”

He went back in and we saw the second show, during which I yelled, “You’re better than Bruce Springsteen.” He stopped, turned to me and said, “I think there’s room in the world for both of us.”

Watch Joel perform in 1976

Roger Earl of Foghat, Columbus, OH, 2016

Mark Stewart: My second career as an independent filmmaker started with a film about a clueless parody band trying to make it to the big time called Mock & Roll. My favorite classic rock band, Foghat, was scheduled to come to our city while we were doing principal photography so I reached out to them asking if they would do a cameo. I got this three word response: “Sounds like fun.”

So on August 3, 2016, I picked up original Foghat member Roger Earl from his hotel, took him to our film site that day (The Big Room Bar above alternative radio station FM102.5) and he did an amazing job! So grateful for that opportunity to meet Roger and hear his stories about touring with bands like J Geils and Humble Pie. Such a gracious and talented musician and a day I’ll always remember.

Carly Simon, Martha’s Vineyard, MA 1987

BCB reader Linda Wheeler with her idol (Used with permission)

Linda Wheeler: During the summer of ’87, I saw her in a grocery store and said out loud, “Wow, that’s my idol, Carly Simon.” I introduced myself and she couldn’t have been more gracious. Then, I nervously said, “I just saw your ex-husband in concert.” I was embarrassed. She smiled and said, “Oh, really?” She was kind enough to take a photo with me.

As she crossed Main St., I couldn’t take my eyes off “this angel in white.” I just met the greatest female singer that ever lived. Certainly, she isn’t “vain” at all, but a lovely lady inside and out.

Lou Gramm, Williamsport, PA, 2017

Francesca: My husband and I took our 11-year-old son to see my all time favorite singer, Lou Gramm, in a small venue. We stopped at the merch table prior to the show and a roadie told us that Lou would sign his book and shirts after the show. I was very surprised, but was assured he would be there. We had second row seats and the show was great!

Afterwards, we went back to the table and a line quickly formed. He was so kind to the three of us, signed my book, my son’s shirt and said he saw us in the audience and we looked like we were having fun. His roadie gave my son a guitar pick which was such a sweet gesture.

The next morning, we saw all the members of the band in the hotel having breakfast. I had no idea we were all staying at the same place.

Watch Gramm’s 2017 reunion with Foreigner

Alice Cooper, Memphis, 1974

John Lynch: In April 1974, a friend who was a local reporter in Memphis brought me to the press conference before an Alice Cooper concert. Alice came in and soon tired of questions about whether he was Eddie Haskel from Leave it to Beaver. He then said, “I have a question, and if you can answer it, I’ll talk.” It was a baseball question and I knew the answer.

He then came out to the first row where I was sitting and we talked for about 30 minutes. He was the nicest guy I ever met. Very natural and unassuming.

Two things stuck with me. He asked, “Don’t the parents in America realize when I’m on stage I’m acting?” He was quite demonized then by parents, who of course did not know “Alice.” Also, there was a nasty rumor that he had bitten the head off a dove on stage. Frank Zappa called him and said, “Did you really do that?” Alice said, “No.” And Zappa told him, “Well, don’t tell anybody!”

I got to meet the rest of the band, as a party was going on in one of the suites. All were great guys. The opening act was there, Flo and Eddie, aka the Turtles. Alice gave me fourth row seats for the concert, which featured the guillotine. Really scary, and all in all, an incredible show. A day I’ll never forget. Great that it all happened in Memphis, the birthplace of rock and roll.

Watch an interview with the man himself in 1974

Mike Scott of the Waterboys, Orkney Islands, Scotland, 1994

Pat McGuckin: I met Mike Scott wandering the streets of Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. He could not have been nicer, and when I told him I was from the Chicago area, he said to get in touch with his team and come backstage after the show when he toured in 1995. I did, he remembered our Scotland visit, and gave me a couple of Heinekens.

John Lodge of the Moody Blues, Columbus, OH, 1994

BCB reader Al Rodack with John Lodge (Used with permission)

Al Rodack: I heard John Lodge liked to play golf. The Moody Blues were touring and had a day off. On a lark, I was able to contact their management and said I would be happy to host him to a round at a nice course. Although they had no idea who I was, other than a fan, they said yes! I met John and his manager at their hotel, drove them to the course, had a great time and a couple of drinks afterwards.

He was a very good golfer and almost had a hole in one! (Besides that, he was fun and a true gentleman.) The next night my family were able to spend a few minutes with John backstage after the show. A true highlight!

Members of Poison, Uncasville, CT, 2001

Lisa Kongsvik Keith: We had some time to kill before the concert at Mohegan Sun, so we hung out in the food court, which was fairly empty, and got dinner. Bobby Dall was being paged every few minutes for a half hour: “Bobby Dall report to room x.” “Phone call for Bobby Dall.” My friend, Carol, and I figured a group of fans were trying to get him to meet them. We were just looking around when we suddenly saw Bobby and Rikki Rockett along with another guy, who we assumed was a bodyguard, right next to us. We couldn’t believe it! Carol called out ‘Bobby!’ and they all turned around.

We told them we were going to the show. The bodyguard told us to keep things quiet because they didn’t want to attract any attention. They wouldn’t let us take pictures because they were trying to quickly get some food without being noticed. We told them about all the announcements for Bobby. He said he didn’t hear them, but wasn’t surprised. We played it cool and only talked for a few minutes.

Al Stewart and Linda Marr (Used with permission)

Bobby was the total rock star – as they were leaving, he asked us where we were sitting and we said the eighth row. He smiled and winked at us and said he’d be watching for us during the show. We laughed and said okay.

Al Stewart, City Winery, Nashville, TN, 2018

Linda Marr: I was sitting at my seat at the stage and Al’s saxophonist, Marc Macisso, comes up to me while I was seated and tells me that Al would like to use my seat to step on during a song. Of course I agreed and, pushing my luck, asked him if I could bring him a drawing I did of him and get a CD signed. A little later, Marc led me backstage where I got to meet my hero.

Watch Stewart perform a favorite in 2018

Justin Hayward, Harrah’s Stateline, South Lake Tahoe, Circa 2005

Justin Hayward’s note to Dan McCullough (Used with permission)

I was the Saturday manager at Tahoe Music in South Lake Tahoe. The Moody Blues were playing the weekend at Harrahs Stateline. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Justin Hayward walked in. I have always been a huge fan and knew many of their songs. He was a true gentleman answering my co-worker and my questions when I picked up a guitar. (I play a right handed guitar left handed.) He got a kick out of this. I played little bits of his songs, the whole time thinking I must be dreaming. He remarked in his British accent, “That’s an odd way of playing, I’ve never seen such.” His demeanor was so relaxed, I was not nervous. When he had to go, I asked for his autograph and he wrote this kind note. I had a similar encounter with George Thorogood, only we jammed together. That’s another story altogether.

Keith Richards, Turks and Caicos, 2008

G.D. Praetorius: In 2008, for my fiftieth birthday, my wife took me to Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos. The first evening there we ran into Keith Richards, alone at the bar, and we spent the next three hours with him smoking, drinking, talking music, family, life, and his new memoir, Life. Just shooting the shit with a newfound friend.

“I’m almost 65, and I’m lucky to be here!”

While I thought he was going to follow that up with a lament regarding the toll taken by his wicked ways, his explanation was more nostalgic. “I grew up with the bombs falling on me ya’ know, back in London, in ‘43.”

Then upon further reflection he let us in on his secret to survival: “It’s cheese that’ll kill ya!”

The next day I wrote it all down as I lay by the pool. When I got back to the States it turned into a short story. Eventually that short story turned into a 300-page book recounting years of youthful adventures with dozens of classic rock icons, Babysitting a Band on the Rocks.

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  1. KarenSD
    #1 KarenSD 2 February, 2020, 19:43

    These were great! Need more of them, please! And I went looking for the book by G.D. Praetorius, and it’s only found as a $30 paperback. Too pricey for my wallet, but it sounds good!

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