Duncan Fry – Don’t Diddle With Bo
I was working quite regularly with a band – let’s call them the Defects. One Friday their gig was cancelled about half an hour before I was due to get in the truck and head off to the load in. While I sat there wondering whether I would go home and watch TV that night, the phone rang again.
Did I have my PA available that night, to do a gig with Bo Diddley? He was currently touring, and the management had slipped a small club gig in between bigger shows, and were stuck for a system. It was already 4 o’clock! I leaped at the chance.
I had been a Diddley fan since hearing Buddy Holly’s posthumous version of “Bo Diddley” when I was a little tacker, and later “Mona (I need you baby)” on the Rolling Stones first album when I was sixteen. I would probably have done the gig for nothing just to meet the man himself, but I didn’t say so!
We agreed on a price, I organised Andy to help me and we headed straight off to the gig. It was an easy load; the club had its own multicore snake running under the dance floor, plus its own amps and speakers (‘stacks and racks’). All I had to supply were the ancillaries; microphones, cables, console, effects and monitor system.
The previous night I had been working with the Defects, so everything was still set up for them. It was no hassle to rearrange things, but we were running late (as usual) when I got there, and in the rush to set up I failed to notice a message scribbled in chalk on the front of one of the monitor wedges.
We laid out the microphones and cables, plugged into the house system, quickly checked that everything worked, (surprisingly it did!), did a rough EQ, and then it was time for the soundcheck.
Bang on time, just as we finished, the great man arrived. Strapping on his trademark square Gretsch guitar, he climbed onto the stage and stepped up to the microphone. However, instead of the traditional “Check one two,” that I was expecting, he said “Hey, what the fuck is this?” and pointed to the front of his monitor wedge. He looked none too happy.
I scrambled out of the Front of House bunker, dashed across the dance floor and jumped up on the stage to see what he was pointing at. When I saw what was written there, my guts sank and I had a sudden flash of memory from the night before.
The rhythm guitarist and sometime singer from the Defects spent most of his time on stage either frowning in concentration trying to memorise his three chords, or else looking bored to tears, so to liven him up a little the drummer had put a little note on the wedge. And this was what Bo was looking at now. A childish chalk scrawl that said: “Smile, c-t!”
He turned to me for an explanation, looking fit to burst. I hastily stammered out the above story, although not quite as coherently, and I must have looked really embarrassed, because all of a sudden he started to laugh, a big deep chuckle that came booming out over the PA system.
“I’ll wipe it off right now,” I said,and bent down to rub it away. He put a hand on my shoulder. “No,” he rumbled, “I like it Leave it on there to remind me.”So I did.
The gig went well. A big crowd, all fans of Bo, who seemed to be really enjoying himself and happy to be playing before such an appreciative audience. And every now and then, he’d look down at his monitor, then over to where Andy and I were at the monitor console, and give a big cheesy grin!
After the show, he came over, thanked us, and then was gone. And as I started to pack everything up, I had a problem with the console, so I called Andy over.
“The connector for line 11 is stuck in the console, and I can’t get it out. Can you have a look at it while I bring the truck around to the front?” He nodded, and I went out to get the truck. When I got around to the front, the console was waiting there for me, all packed up in the road case.
The next day, I unloaded everything at the Defects regular Saturday night gig, As I lifted the lid off the mixing console roadcase, I suddenly realised how Andy had fixed the rogue connector so fast. It was still jammed into Channel 11 on the console!
He had just snipped the cable off it with some wirecutters, and then put the lid back on. What a slack bastard. I was glad it wasn’t my multicore.
Eighteen months later, I got to do another gig at the same club. I went to plug the house multicore into the console, and you wouldn’t believe it – the plug was still missing off line 11, after a year and a half of solid use!