Chapter 15: KDOT, Bill Compton and a Missed Opportunity

Chapter 15: KDOT, Bill Compton and a Missed Opportunity

By 1976, I had become buddies with several of the people at KDKB.  There was a guy who was already god-like when I met him, named Bill Compton, who was working there as both the program director and a DJ.  He was the real heart behind the operation, along with Dwight Tindle, who had bought the station with an inheritance.  Both of these guys are legends in the Phoenix history books.  They’d play deep cuts and mix them in with some popular singles, and it would all come together beautifully.  He knew how to do an underground radio show and his influence and expertise spread throughout the staff at the station.  Bill knew how to mix in the lesser-known artists and tracks in such a way that they’d stick in his listeners’ ears.  He broke a bunch of bands from behind the turntables at that radio station.

Bill was supposed to get 10 percent of the radio station on account of all he’d done to get it to where it was, but when the moment came for him to collect on the promises that had been made, they wouldn’t give it to him.  He got pretty heated over it, and instead of trying to fight it, he just quit on the spot.  He came to me not long after that with a new offer: Let’s buy this other radio station, KDOT, for a million dollars.

“Cisco,” he said (he always called me Cisco), “do you think you could raise the other half million?”

I wasn’t sure, but I was intrigued by the chance to get into radio.  It would be great for me to get to affect the programming and to get on the air and do a few hours; playing the music I loved so well—and now I had a new fantasy about being a radio station owner! I said I’d try.

I went to Don Reno, the boss at Dooley’s, and what do you know, things started happening!  We put together meetings, got the money together and it became a real thing.  We were going to do this.  I got Bill and Don together, and we shook on it.

“What do you want out of this?” Bill finally asked me.

I hadn’t really thought about it.  I didn’t want to be too greedy. 

“Five percent,” I said. “Five percent and let me do two radio shows, on Friday and Saturday night.” That would be a time when I could really stretch out and play music at a time when people would be able to really dig it “Done.” This was when radio could break an act simply by playing their music because it was great, not because of ratings.  The ratings were HUGE because of the way they did it, and they were RIGHT.

And that was it.  I got a piece from Bill’s side and I could get on air twice a week and be a DJ, playing the music I wanted to play.  This was a good deal with lots of potential and my passion for music would have an outlet.  I’d be working in the business in a different way, getting close to the music from a new angle, one I hadn’t had the chance to get at before. 

This was June of 1977.  I was doing a show at Dooley’s with the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the day after the show we were going to sign all the papers and finalize this deal.  The next morning, the phone rang very early and woke me up.

“Bill Compton’s dead,” the voice on the line said.  He had a car accident on his way home from bowling the night before.

I went into shock.  It was that quick; one day we were going into business together and the next, he’s not around anymore.  That radio station was sold and became KSLX.  Nowadays it’s owned by Hubbard Group, along with KDKB and a few others.  KDOT turned into a $75 million property and I should have had a part of it, and Bill should still be alive.  He was truly one of the greats in the radio business—someone who could never be replaced.  And he wasn’t…look at the state of radio today.  It doesn’t even resemble what it used to be.  Nothing but hits nowadays instead of creating the need for the songs that become hits.

But you can’t dwell on all that stuff that might have been or could have been.  It’s part of business, part of life.  Opportunities show up, you do everything right and sometimes they don’t come through.  It’s unfortunate but you can’t let that stop you from taking risks and making moves.  When it comes to making deals—and most things in life—you just have to keep going.

I am quite sure that had Bill lived, we would have gone on to greatness as a new radio station, creating a format that would have been copied and would still be all over the air to this day.  So many greats broke out of Phoenix because of Bill’s ability to pick songs and allow his talented staff members to bring new music to the masses through him.  Early, unpredictable deaths have robbed the world of what could have been so much more; in this case, Bill would have continued as a radio pioneer who had his finger on not only what to play, but how to present it to new audiences.  We were left with a lot of decent radio people, but not with his vision and taste.  The world of radio was never the same.

Dwight and I got together some years later (1998) and did a “Return to The Underground” radio show on Sunday nights for the better part of the year on a station called the Mix.  We had a good time doing it.  Not long after that Dwight got cancer and passed which was very sad for me.  Another one of the guys I started out with, then gone too young. 

Here is a note that Bruce Springsteen wrote to Dwight’s mom when he learned of his passing.  If it wasn’t for Bill and Dwight, I am not sure Bruce would have happened the way that he did as Phoenix was Bruce’s first HUGE market.

Chapter 15 Photo Gallery

 

 

A picture of Dwight with a tie on from his website, 1975. 

 

 

 

A 1973 photo of the people behind the microphones and the magic called KDKB – Krazy dog, Krazy boy.

 

Bill Compton in the early 70s

 

The end of the radio underground.

Chapter 14 Gato Barbieri

Chapter 14: Gato Barbieri
Not long after the Outlaws show, the great saxophonist Gato Barbieri came in from Argentina.  He had been one of my favorites for years. We used to listen to him in high school as kids, along with other jazz greats like Pharoah Sanders, Miles Davis, and Coltrane. Shamefully, there is hardly any good jazz music anymore.  Gato’s covers of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and Carlos Santana’s “Europa” are still two of my favorite songs.
 
Gato sold out two shows in the same month as the Outlaws.  His wife, Michelle, was known as a tough cookie, but she loved me.  He came off after the first show and people were still going crazy.
I said, “Gato, you’ve got to go back out there and do another song.”
 
He said, “I can’t. I’m so tired, and I’ve got to do another show.  There’s no way.  I can’t do it.” And he gave me a look like maybe there could be a solution.
 
Magically, with a little of his favorite marching powder provided by a local angel, the problem was solved.  Gato got on stage and played a couple more songs.  Then he came off and stayed in the corner the rest of the night getting high and having himself a good ole time: “Have a Coke and a smile.”
 
He then went on to do his second show and lifted the roof off the place.  He was incredible every time I booked him, and I really wish I had done more shows with him before he moved on.
 
Back in the ’70s, the use of blow was pretty standard, although I don’t want to promote its use to anyone reading this.  Musicians have hectic schedules, as do promoters and it was a different time back then.  That medicine has been a lifesaver, so to speak, at various times in the careers of many in the music business.  Also, a life taker in the wrong hands, sad to say. ’Nuff said.

Chapter 13 The Outlaws

 Chapter 13: The Outlaws

The Outlaws were one of the first big acts I got for Dooley’s.  I booked them with an agency called Paragon out of Macon, Georgia, which was run by a man named Alex Hodges.  He also had groups like Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Wet Willie.  Today, Alex is now the CEO of Nederlander Concerts in Los Angeles.

One of his young agents was Ian Copeland, who booked a great new band called the Police.  His brother, Stewart Copeland, played for this legendary band and his dad, Miles Copeland Jr., had been in the CIA (the actual intelligence agency, not a rock band).  The other brother, Miles III, ran a record label called IRS.  Ian later went on to form the FBI, the great new-wave booking agency.  (Ian actually coined the term New Wave.)  They came up with this really fun idea in the ’70s to use all these government names.  In fact, the real FBI actually called them and told them to quit calling themselves the FBI.  Ian told them it stood for Frontier Booking International.

Anyway, I booked a show at Dooley’s with the Outlaws.  It was two shows in one night — the seating capacity was 750 people per show — and this was the first legitimate headliner with which I actually sold out two shows.  They were flying high with their hit “Green Grass and High Tides,” (The ultimate air guitar track!) among others.

The Outlaws were known for their hard drinking and partying ways, and they were one of the best live bands around at that time.  They were managed by a guy named Charlie Brusco, who still manages them today along with Styx, Don Felder and others.  Charlie is known as one of the best managers in the business.  He and his wife, Cindy, became best friends with my wife and I.  Charlie loved Cindy so much that he married her twice.

Charlie was on the road with the Outlaws.  They had been in Las Vegas the night before playing with Heart at the Aladdin Hotel.  I guess they stayed up awfully late because the next day, none of us could find the band and nobody had heard from them.

Usually you have a conversation with the band at least a week before the show.  To go over when they’re going to show up, what they need, what they want in the dressing room, how many stagehands are needed and what time doors will open.  You go over everything.  They call that “advancing the show.” Remember, there were no emails or cell phones back then.

Nobody at the club had advanced the show.  The club tech guys said, “We tried to reach them, but they just wouldn’t call us back.”  Nobody had told me that and if anybody had, I would have chased them down and connected the band’s tech people with the club guys to figure it out.

It turned out, this was the last date of the tour.

Around three o’clock Don said to me, “Here’s a check for $10,000.  Go over to the bank and get cash for it just in case they don’t show up tonight and we have to do refunds.”

At that time, everything was done with cash.  Very few people had credit cards.  You would either go to the record store or the club to buy tickets.  There was none of this online stuff because people didn’t have smartphones, or the internet and personal computers were not powerful enough yet.

The show was slated to start at seven o’clock, where a UK blues act called the Frankie Miller Band was set to open.  What’s funny about Frankie Miller was that he had a very short concert rider specifying that they needed two sober stagehands — but their two stagehands came in drunk as could be.  In fact, they were probably still drunk from the night before in Vegas.

They ended up getting into a fight with the bouncers at Dooley’s.  Those big jocks didn’t take kindly to these little squirt roadies with their funny accents and smart mouths, so they closed their mouths for them real quick.  I had to break it up.  You can’t have your security beating up the opening act’s roadies.

The Frankie Miller Band went ahead and set up their equipment.  Usually the opening act is the last one to sound-check because they want their stuff in place so they can go on stage right at seven o’clock.  Well, what happened was, the Outlaws showed up in this huge semi at six o’clock, with a huge logo of the big steer head on the front of the truck, with the horns and everything.  I was relieved to see them because I’d been afraid they weren’t going to show up.  Plus, they were one of my favorite bands, not to mention my first sellout.

Charlie Brusco got off the bus and came up to me and said, “Hey, Danny, come on.  Let’s go have a talk.”

I didn’t know what he was up to but I was glad to see him.  It’s like when you lose track of your kid for just a minute, and you’re worried and you’re crying.  Then you find him, and you spank him for getting lost.

So needless to say, I had a few words for Charlie but before I could start, he said, “Well, if you thought that was bad, come on in here and listen to this.”

He closed the door to the office, put his briefcase on the table, opened it up and said, “I’ve got to ask you a big favor.” Then he opened up this big bag of blow and emptied it onto the desk.

I said, “Whoa. What do you got there?”

“I got some really great shit here, man.”

“Well, why are you breaking it out now?  It’s so early.  We haven’t even had dinner yet or anything.”

“It’s like this.  Two of the guys from the Outlaws have flights at midnight tonight out of Phoenix.  They’ve been gone for a long time.  They’re really dying to get home and their wives really want them back.  They’re going to take the red-eye back to Atlanta.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Well, we got two shows tonight, so Frankie Miller will open the show and the Outlaws will close the first one.  But what we want to do is open the second show so we can be done and get out of here so they can make this flight.”

“People aren’t going to like that.”

“Don’t worry.  We’ll play plenty long enough.  They’ll get their show.  Nobody’ll be unsatisfied.”  And with that, he scooped up some blow and shoved it in my nose and said, “Are we OK?”

I said, “Yeah, sure.  Anything you say.”

That was his way of schmoozing me, but what the hell?  It didn’t hurt.

So, they did their show and killed the place.  The second show, they came out and tore it up again.  When they left, I told the crowd, “Stick around.  Frankie Miller will be right on.”

It was late by then, pushing midnight and I’d say about two thirds of the audience had left because they came specifically to see the Outlaws.  The Frankie Miller Band went on and did a fine set but there wasn’t much of a crowd left to see them.  They were a great band but sometimes these things happen.  The good news was, we rode the emotional roller coaster and lived to talk about it.  One minute, you wonder if you are going to have a show, the next, you are shaking your head and driving home happy.  It all worked out.

Chapter 13 Photo Gallery

Charlie Brusco, Jon Bon Jovi, me, and Michael Bolton the night Charlie was put into the Georgia Hall of Fame, 2010.

The incredible Ian Copeland and I in his Beverly Hills nightclub one fine night. I sure do miss Leroy, one of a kind, to be sure.

 

Chapter 12 Chuck Berry

Chapter 12: Chuck Berry
 
Chuck Berry was one of the first artists I booked at Dooley’s, for two shows in January 1977.
 
I’ve heard some messed-up stories about him—that he would arrive for a show and tell you he needed more money than he was supposed to get before he would play. He’d tell people to give him another five grand in cash right there or he wouldn’t go on. Depending on how many people were in the crowd you’d either have to suck it up and do it and make five grand less, or tell him to forget it. He’d insist on being paid in advance, and then he’d show up five minutes before he was supposed to go on. Plus, you had to have a backup band there, rehearsed and ready to go. They had to already know all of his stuff, because he wouldn’t carry a band with him. He sometimes even wouldn’t rehearse with them. He’d just go on stage and say, “Follow me.”
 
After the first show, he said to this kid who was playing in the backup band I hired, “You’re the guitar player, right? You’re fired.”
 
The kid said, “What?”
 
“You stole too many leads from me.”
 
Again, this was with no rehearsal. The kid was trying to do his best, and he did a good job but Chuck just up and fired him.
Right after that, Chuck said to Don Reno, the owner, “Hey, can you turn the air down a little bit? It’s really cold up on that stage.”
 
Don replied, “Well, Chuck, you’re rocking everybody so hard we don’t want to get people too greasy in there.”
 
Chuck stopped cold, “Greasy? Is that like a racial word? Are you talking about me being black?”
 
“No. No, Chuck. I’m just saying we want to keep the people comfortable. It gets too hot in here.”
 
“You want a slow show? I’ll give you a slow show.”
 
I didn’t know this at the time but Chuck loved to play the blues. So instead of going out and kicking ass for an hour on the second show, Chuck went out and played forty-five minutes of super-slow blues. I’m on the side of the stage, on my knees praying, begging him to pick it up, and I’m trying to mouth to him, “Let’s rock.”
 
He didn’t care. He laughed at me.
 
Finally, the last ten minutes of the show, he did a medley of ten of his hits. He played everything but just a verse or a chorus from each of these songs, which really messed with the band—they didn’t know where he was going next. But fortunately, as great as Chuck Berry was, almost all of those songs were more or less the same basic progression in the same key. After the show, Chuck just brushed past me, put his guitar in his case, walked out the back door, threw his guitar in the trunk, and took off. See ya.
 
I did see him again at shows I would book with him from time to time, questioning my intelligence. Yes, he’sa super legend in the business but I would wonder what was the point, because you didn’t know what you were going to get with Chuck. Many years later, in 2010, he opened a show I was doing with Tom Petty. This time he couldn’t have been nicer. Of course, by then, he was making $50,000 a show instead of $5,000.
Sadly, both Chuck and Tom have passed on recently. Truly a couple of originals, they broke the mold, as they say. I loved them both, they were originals, in their own right.
With Chuck Berry backstage at the US Airways Center in Phoenix after he opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Chapter 11 Getting the Gig at Dooley’s

Chapter 11: Getting the Gig at Dooley’s
Tempe
 
A Star is Born came and went. It was a great gig, and it gave me some much-needed confidence. I was marking time at this point, not doing much in the biz … until I finally got a regular gig booking for Dooley’s Nightclub in Tempe in the fall of 1976.  Dooley’s was a new breed of venue, one of the first large concert clubs. Most local scenes didn’t have a Fillmore of their own. This was a brand-new thing, a nightclub for rock bands, one of many popping up all across the nation. They would serve as a proving ground for new bands and a place for medium size acts to perform.  Nowadays spots like this are all over the place, but at the time it was revolutionary.
 
My friend Linda Thompson, who was the music director at KDKB, went to Dooley’s one night shortly after they opened to see what the fuss was all about and suggested I might want to book shows there.  By now Sundown Productions, the company I’d started with my dad and the Kopald’s, had gone bankrupt.
 
I went into an interview with Don Reno, the owner of Dooley’s. He was a jock, very conservative and I had on a pair of the big bell-bottom jeans that the sailors would wear, with shoulder length hair. At the time, there was no nightclub like Dooley’s: It was all barn wood, big and beautiful. It could hold up to a thousand people. All he was booking at the time were cover bands. The bands would come in and play three or four one-hour sets per night, and people would dance, drink, and carry on.
I said to Don, “I could book this club with some great national recording acts.”
I gave him what experience I had, which apparently was more than anybody else had going.
 
They hired me to book shows for $80 a week—less than Bill had offered me for the full-time Denver job. However, I also got a 15 percent agency commission for making radio ad buys for the shows I would book into the club, which came out to about $300 a week. That was great money in those days, and the most I had ever earned anywhere, much less in the music business, up to that point.
Dooley’s Photo Gallery
  

Taj Mahal, January 77’ First Evening Star Show -God Bless the photographer. 

 

My first show at Dooley’s of Taj Mahal with my insta-cam. 

 

April 1978 Dooley’s, Garland just met me and jumped into my arms.

Randy California of Spirit, Circa 1970s.

Joan Jett and The Runaways flipping off the audience at Dooley’s, Lita Ford in back.

 My brother Jimmy and I with BB King. 

1982 Evening Star Xmas Card.  Me, Iggy Pop & Bill Niblick, my great friend & original Evening Star partner.

Original Backstage pass, thanks Carole King. 

Me and my brother Jimmy at Dooley’s. 

Me at 24 and J.J. Cale, obviously he is thrilled to see me. 

Ray Manzarek (The Doors) Odyssey Records in store appearance in Tempe.