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The winning entry of the OnlineRock writing contest. John Griffith of Muclehead Music Production tells a tale about an experience with the man behind Mad Dogs and Englishman – and his missing bag of pot!


I’ve been a lucky guy. I’ve had more than my share of good times and fun since I played my first paying gig at the age of 15. When you’re a teenager, and you get to party with the college girls, and drink all the free beer you can, and also get paid for it, well, life just doesn’t get any better than that! I was blessed to be on stage with Janis Joplin, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Blue Cheer and many other legendary artists before I was out of high school. I was always blessed to be in bands with guys that were my musical superiors. Being raised in Northern California, a short stony drive from San Francisco, put me right in the middle of the whole trippy scene going on in the Haight Ashbury. I saw so many tremendous triple bills at the Fillmore and Winterland that are still embedded freshly in my mind today, and some that are just a vague, but warm, fuzzy memory. One of the really striking shows that I saw (twice) was Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour with Leon Russell and a whole all star cast. He really blew me away. That voice! Those spastic contortions! Wailing and flailing away with a feeling that only Ray Charles could rival. As I watched him from about ten feet away, I thought that I better dig it now, because there would be no way that this guy would have a voice left in the future. Pity, I thought. This guy had to be seen to be believed. I wondered, "What’s this guy really like?"….

Flash forward ten years or so. I’m playing with Spider Kelly and we’ve relocated to Los Angeles to be near the hub of the music business. We’ve begun working with Rob Fraboni, who is a giant in the world of rock. He had already produced Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, The Band, as well as Joe Cocker and many other heavyweights. I had completed my tracks and we were listening to some rough mixes and sweetening a few things. We had recorded previously, but we were still quite green, and Rob had to guide us quite a bit. I thought I’d better not smoke any pot during my tracks, but busted out the last of the green I had brought with me as soon as I was done. As I was scraping together a hooter, one of the guys came in and said Joe Cocker was out in the kitchen. We always pulled pranks on each other and I thought it was a joke, but went to check anyway. I looked around and, just as I thought, no Joe. I headed back to the control room to snag my favorite spot, and who’s ass is in my chair? The mighty Joe! Awesome! I actually got nervous and didn’t know what to say. We shot the breeze for a few seconds and I fired up, not knowing if it was uncool or not. It wasn’t great smoke and that was the only complaint. Joe had been on a long flight and was quite tired, but graciously pulled out a small amount of Jamaican, which our singer rolled up. We were smokin’ Joe’s stash! Joe mentioned that the song on the speakers (Call Me Up), was kinda bubblegum, and fell asleep right there. We continued on with what we were doing. When the joint was finished, Jeff (against my protests) continued to roll up Cocker’s stash, which we finished off rather quickly. I would glance over and trip on the whole scene, and wonder if he would be pissed when he woke up. As the day’s session came to an end, Fraboni went to the track "Made In Heaven", and cranked the speakers. Joe shot straight out of his chair saying, "What the hell is that?" We all laughed and said that it was still the same band. He said, "I like that!," and I was in heaven! As he began to look around and gather his senses and belongings, Joe saw his depleted bag sitting there. He gave it the "what happened?" look and just raised his eyebrow. I don’t know to this day if he was pissed or not. He didn’t say anything but, "nice to meet you guys, good luck with the album", and disappeared into the night with Fraboni.

Flash forward another bunch of years, and I’m sitting here gathering together material for the new Spider Kelly website I’m building at OnlineRock. I’m flashing on the recording sessions, and this particular episode, when I get an Email announcing this writing contest. There’s something cosmic about that, and, at the risk of sounding like we’re a bunch of stoners, I couldn’t resist telling you all about it. Bear in mind that it was a different time, and we’ve all cleaned up our acts since then. Joe, if you weren’t pissed then, I wonder if you are now!

Read the Runner-Up's Story in the OnlineRock Writing Contest

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