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!!!Advisory Warning - this story contains Adult Language!!!
DON'T DIDDLE WITH BO
© 1995 Duncan R Fry
Sometimes a gig gets cancelled at short notice. It's a real pissoff, to put it bluntly, but there's not much you can do about it, apart from shrugging your shoulders and hoping it doesn't happen too often.
It happened to me when 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, so I must have been some way down the list of PA system possibles.
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" 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 load in 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 scribbled a little note on his monitor wedge.
And this was what Bo was looking at now. A childish chalk scrawl that said:
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 us a big cheesy grin!
Modified versions of this story have appeared in Connections magazine and Live Sound International magazine