Recording with Flaco Jimenez and playing with The Texas Tornados

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In the 1990’s when I was signed to my first big recording deal with Hollywood Records, I was fortunate enough to have several of my all-time superstar favorite musicians want to play on my album.

So, when my producer said that Flaco Jimenez from The Texas Tornados loved my song, I Wonder Why, and wanted to add his Tejano accordion stylings on the track, I was all in.

I had never met Flaco, I had only admired his work as a fellow musician and a fan and so… the day that he first came to the studio… I was a bit shy.

Lucky for me… Flaco wasn’t.

In fact… Flaco is FAR from shy. He is actually a giant flirt but in a way that is so sweet and kind he could have basically said the crudest of things to me and I still would have looked at him and smiled like a starstruck school girl: He really is that charming.

He showed up in old polyester grandpa pants and an over-sized sweatshirt. His hair smelled of Tres Flores and he reminded me of all of the men that I had loved growing up: greaser grandpas that worked on cars, had tool sheds with pin-up girl calendars on the wall, and always bought you that coca-cola you weren’t supposed to have right before dinner at the old school liquor store while picking up that cigar that grandma didn’t want him to smoke.

Yep.

For me it was love at first sight and for Flaco… it was love when he had a pretty girl standing next to him singing like a bird while he played along… at least… that’s what he said to me in his charmingly witty way.

We ran through some takes and caught the feel of the music rather quickly and so the PR rep began to take the publicity photos.

Flaco has a very thick Spanish accent and though I could understand most of what he was saying… I was a bit confused when he kept asking me to put my head on his accordion.

I couldn’t figure out why in the hell he would want me to put my head on his accordion but… I figured if a musical great asks you to put your head on his accordion well… then you do it.

I leaned over and laid my head against the keys.

Flaco laughed and pushed my head back up and said, “Your head. Your head!”

I put my head back down and pressed it against the keys again.

“Ay!” he said laughing and then repeated louder. “YOUR HEAD!”

After about five minutes of me putting my head down… Flaco pushing it up… the people standing inside of the control room staring at us and starting to wonder if we were playing some musical blow job game, Julian, my producer, finally pushed the talk back button in the control room and said, “What the hell are you two doing?”

The photographer stood mute… not sure how to handle the situation so he just stared at Julian hoping that his production skills went further than just musical instruction.

Flaco shouted out towards the glass, “I want her to put her HEAD on my instrument for the photographer.”

Julian looked stunned for a moment… not sure if we were moving into some type of creepy sex-for-music scandal before I saw his face light up and he said, “Oh! He wants you to put your HAND on his accordion.”

“Yes!” Flaco laughed and nodded his head, “Come D.D. put your HAND on my instrument.”

I tried not to envision my “hand” on Flaco’s “instrument” as I reached over and pretended to play the keys on the accordion.

Flaco put his hand next to mine, leaned in for a giant hug, and smiled big at the photographer waiting for the flash to snap.

“Jesus,” I heard the photographer mumble under his breath.

“You didn’t understand him either,” I snapped.

“Whaaaaaahhh?” Flaco said.

“Nothing Flaco,” I squeezed his arm and then turned to give the photographer a dirty look. “Everything is fine.”

About a week later, the record company called and said, “Flaco really likes you. The Texas Tornados want you to play a series of shows with them. Are you okay with that?”

Were they kidding?

I was ecstatic.

My family was elated.

And I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to meet the boys.

“Just some local shows,” my manager said. “But we want to get a bit of a buzz going for ya.”

Our first show together was at The Coachhouse and I wanted to bring them all gifts so… I talked to my A&R rep and we gave them each the best of the Disney swag: Solid gold Mickey Mouse watches in special collector cartoon tins. They were super cool gifts and though I was nervous to meet all the guys together, I was excited to give them to the band.

I arrived for sound check, walked up the back stairs of The Coachhouse, and found the guys hanging out in the large Green room.

Augie Meyers definitely looked the scariest. He has that old hard biker thing going and I swear if he had shouted at me I would have stopped and pee’d in fear on the spot. He eyeballed me up and down as he sat on the couch, one leg crossed over the other, arms splayed out over the backside of the couch cushions, as if he were sizing me up and deciding whether or not to like me.

Freddy Fender looked up from re-stringing his guitar and smiled. He had always reminded me of a Latino Jerry Garcia, someone I had never seen as much of a threat, so I smiled back and gave him a bit of a wave.

Doug Sahm, was the funny man of the group… he reminded me of Joe Walsh from The Eagles… always looking for some type of trouble and fun and so he shouted a big “HEY!” before Flaco rushed over and grabbed me.

“This is D.D.” he said to the band, as if he were presenting them with a special gift, and when I saw Augie Meyer’s face light up, I knew that everything was going to be okay. They all stood up to hug me and shake my hand and I felt like I suddenly had my own personal gang of musical bad asses: men who would be more then willing to silence any type of idiotic heckler in the crowd. I knew it was going to be a beautiful series of shows and as I glowed in their presence… I handed them their gifts.

You would have thought that they had never received a present from anyone in their lifetime. They were all overwhelmed with my thoughtfulness and Augie actually bent down and kissed my head, he seemed almost embarrassed to accept his watch but took it out of the case, admired it briefly, before putting it on and preparing to sound check for the show.

That night both our sets went off without a hitch. We played to a sold-out crowd and woke up to stellar reviews. It seriously felt like my life couldn’t get any better and the warm feeling continued until later that night when I watched Freddy Fender giving an interview on television.

He was in the middle of talking about the tour when his microphone kept clinking against something in his pocket.

The metallic sound was so distracting to the interviewer that he actually stopped the interview with Freddy and asked, “What’s going on in your pocket?”

Freddy smiled and pulled out the Disney cartoon watch tin and held it up to the camera. “Oh,” he said, laughing as he opened it wide for the viewers to see. “D.D. Wood gave this to me. I love it. I’m diabetic and I keep all of my insulin needles in this little container. See? It fits them perfectly. Isn’t it a lovely gift?”

I looked at his wrist: no watch.

I looked back at his hand: tin full of needles.

God I hoped people heard the diabetic part and weren’t already sending me hate mail about how I was enabling the habit of “Mr. Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” and basically trying to kill off a living legend.

Jesus.

My husband who was watching the show with me looked over and laughed out loud.

“I love it!” He said with a great big growl and a loud clap of his hands. “Freddy Fender just gave you the best shout out ever.”

I wasn’t so sure about that.

“He liked the tin. He isn’t wearing the watch,” I said with a pout.

“Gimme a break,” my husband said. “Keeping his needles in your tin is way better.”

I gave him a skeptical look.

My next show with The Tornados, I walked up, grabbed Freddy, and pulled the tin from his pocket.

“Really?” I said. “Really? On National television?  You tell people you love the tin and you don’t even wear the watch?”

“What?” He said. “The watch is cool and all but… that little tin is just so perfect for my rigs.”

“Hey this ain’t prison,” I said. “Don’t be getting all drug slang on me.”

He laughed and gave me a big hug, “It’s not like I said you were there with me little girl.”

Flaco came up and hugged me. “I heard you brought your mother to this show may I meet her?”

Freddy actually rolled his eyes.

I could only imagine what was going to happen next but I led Flaco to my mom and watched from the stage, trying to concentrate on my set, as Flaco flirted and laughed with my mother.

I couldn’t stop myself from wondering what it would be like to have Flaco as my step-dad and The Texas Tornados as regular visitors at my household.

I smiled at the thought as I finished my last song and bowed to the crowd.

“He seems to really like your mom,” Augie said from the wings as I unplugged my Fender and walked off the stage.

“Is that a good thing?” I asked.

Augie shook his head and laughed.

Doug walked up behind us and said, “You might need a drink child.” Which was a pretty serious statement from someone very much clean and sober at the time.

But Flaco, was a perfect gentleman. He kissed my mother’s hand at the end of the night and she road home with me charmed as everyone was by Flaco’s attention.

I played several more shows with The Tornados before we parted ways.

Several years later Doug was gone… Freddy was too…. and I think of Augie and Flaco and miss our time together… and in my heart I am so grateful that I had my moment with the Godfathers of Tejano, these Kings of country music.

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Robbie Tells Reno What For

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Robbie and I have been in a band together for over twenty years.

Sometimes we love each other.

Sometimes we hate each other.

But as it is with most good marriages in life as in art: We can’t seem to live without each other.

Robbie loves to give me a bad time and in fact, just called me at school yesterday and began to verbally abuse me in a long stream of multi-syllabic words, and if I even tried to chime in… would stop and say, “Can you shut the fuck up for just one minute? I mean fuck… just listen to me for once? Just for once!” and then laugh and laugh as if his abuse were amusing… which in all honesty… even though it sometimes does infuriate me… it was.

Robbie, my lead guitar player and co-vocalist in Gypsy Trash, is someone I have always considered as my kindred spirit and so… I would prefer to have attention from him… even if it is totally negative and annoying… them no attention at all: He means that much to me.

And so, I booked a show in Reno and took the “kindred spirit” with me.

I was pretty excited about the trip. I had heard the show was going to be a big event and like the good little “mother hen” that I was… I prepared the mini-van with snacks… plotted our course… had music picked out to perk us up at the boring parts of Interstate 5… and was prepared for a day of fun with Robbie and Corey in the van, Craig, our drummer, following somewhere in his car close behind us with his girlfriend Nickie, and Reno, of course, it’s own entity before us… holding a fabulous string of shows.

There is nothing like being on the road with your band: The camaraderie is palpable.

I pulled up to Robbie’s house, big stupid smile on my face, optimistic about our time together when frumpty-grumpty rolled out of his house with his guitar case and said, “Get the fuck out of the driver’s seat. I’m driving.” Threw his case in the mini-van and said, “Where’s the coffee?”

“I thought we could stop along the way and…”

“Jesus, fuck, D.D!” Robbie interrupted. “You don’t already have the coffee?”

Corey, installed happily in the backseat, rarely the talker, always the introvert, always the peace-keeper mumbled, “I could do with some coffee and then lit up a Lucky Strike, preparing himself for the long drive ahead.”

And it was.

A LONG DRIVE.

Several hours of Corey and Robbie chain-smoking Lucky Strikes over numerous conversations and musical debates, cups of coffee, Robbie’s harassment, Corey’s mumbles, and my people-pleasing all of the way to Reno where… we found out… like most musicians find out at one time in their musical career or another… that the show was not a big festival of fun but a sadly thrown together affair at an old hotel that was currently fighting to regain their liquor and entertainment license.

I won’t even go into Robbie’s tirade here. Just note… that it began with “Jesus fuck” and ended with “God damn it D.D.”

His vehement lecture was close to legendary.

Lucky for me, we were in Reno which meant that gambling and booze were close at hand. So, we met up with Craig, our drummer, played our first afternoon gig to a skimpy audience of about twenty people, before we packed up and headed over to the strip to gamble, booze, and eat before our show the next day.

I didn’t see much of Robbie and Craig… somewhere ensconced in a game of poker… drunk on the free drinks in a matter of minutes… I left to sit at the other end of the casino with Corey, both of us totally sober, as he tried to teach me the finer points of Black Jack.

I wouldn’t say I was a complete and utter failure but, after I knocked my large glass of Coke into the dealer’s chips and cards, alienating myself from almost every seated player and resulting in me being cussed out by two super drunk, spray-tanned orange, bleach-blonde, Reno sluts, I decided to call it a day.

I waited almost two hours in an all-you-can-eat casino restaurant for the boys before I finally realized they were addicted to the cards, and walked back to the hotel where I waited for them to show up.

The next day’s show was not much better… in fact I would say the crowd of twenty had thinned and after a fight with the drummer of Hellbound Hayride, a no talent asshole that almost got his ass kicked by Corey and Robbie for mouthing off to me (one of the perks of being a girl in a band… hardcore violent back-up at your finger tips) Robbie shouted “Fuck this place.”

And we all left to head home to our next gig at the Orange County Tattoo Convention. Supposedly another “big gig” but after this fiasco we just weren’t buying it.

“Fuck that show,” Robbie snapped. “Fuck everything. I need some food. I’m hungry and right now… I fucking hate Reno.”

He flipped off the hotel both hands held high, middle fingers blasting, before we piled back in the mini van to stop for a quick bite at the Donner Pass restaurant before heading home.

“They seriously have a Donner Pass restaurant?” Robbie said as he looked at me and Corey with mock disbelief. “Do these fucking idiots know that the Donner party basically ate each other’s frozen dead asses until a rescue party found them in the spring? Jesus.”

He kicked open the glass entrance door with his boot, sat down at the first empty table and began chain smoking.

Corey and I looked at each other but said nothing.

We knew if this didn’t go well, things were going to turn ugly rather quickly… but when you are a member of band… your loyalty requires you to ride the train wreck to the very end and so… we sat down next to him.

I prayed that nothing would go wrong.

I prayed that we could order quickly.

I prayed that the food would appear in a matter of seconds and that we would be fed, content, and on our way but… that didn’t happen.

An hour later we still hadn’t been served and Robbie was irate.

“What do I have to do to get something to eat around here?” He shouted out to the entire restaurant. “Do I actually have to eat someone’s ass? Is that what you people want? Do you want a fucking show? Do you want some fucking Donner party action at this table?”

Corey lit up another Lucky Strike and calmly gazed around the room, almost challenging anyone to speak up.

I sipped my Coke, focused my eyes towards the ceiling, and pretended I hadn’t heard Robbie say anything really of any interest.

Our waitress grabbed someone’s food off of the hot rack, today I still don’t know if it was ours but at that point…I couldn’t give a flying fuck: I just wanted Robbie satiated and satisfied.

“That’s more like it,” Robbie said as she handed him his plate and he immediately attacked his steak.

“Jesus, I hate this fucking place,” he said through a mouth full of food. He pointed his fork at me as if he were teaching me a lesson, “Town of illiterate idiots, D.D. they don’t even have a fucking clue that the Donner’s ate ass.” And then he attacked his steak again.

Corey took a long drag off of his Lucky Strike and smirked as he looked out the window at the pass.

I was trying not to laugh by now, the embarrassment and the reality of the situation way too much for me.

It was a matter of minutes before we paid our bill, climbed back in the car, and drove to the actual historic location of the inevitable ass eating Donner party episode.

“Shall we go check out some history and see where all this shit went down?” Robbie said, excitement taking over, now that he was fed and away from the travesty that was named, Reno, he was full of historical gusto.

“Lead the way,” Corey said as he followed Robbie down the path into the woods.

I walked behind them, glad that it was modern times, spring, and happy in the knowledge that I would not be eating either of the asses walking in front of me.

CBGB’s with Brian May from Queen Resulting in the Worst Hangover of my Life

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You can ask just about anybody.

I don’t drink.

Well, I don’t drink very often.

Maybe once, twice a year.

Seriously.

I believe that years of partying with the “Bad Boys” of the 80’s might have something to do with my lack of interest in drinking today and…

After spending most of my time around recovering alcoholic-addicts, I have a lifetime full of cautionary tales… so I don’t.

But I have to admit… that maybe this night in New York City, with Brian May from Queen, might have had something to do with my decision to give up the “big party” for good.

We were both in town for CMJ: the huge music/publishing festival that takes place annually in New York.

I flew in with my band, Brian was there solo.

But we were both on Hollywood Records and so the president of the record company wanted to take us both out to a schmooz dinner, after we played CBGB’s that night.

Our job was to impress publishers, journalists, radio station owners in hopes that they would find us “down to earth” yet “intelligent and witty” and therefore, want to buy our music or play our music because not only were we talented but heck… we were just damn good people.

Now… I have always been good at schmoozing… it’s just something you have to do when you are playing in “The Show” but deep down inside…. it always made me extremely nervous and super sick to my stomach.

So, when it came time to leave for the big dinner party, my band thought it would be great if I drank a few margaritas and tequila shots with them… just to relax me before the special event.

Well, anyone that has been drinking in New York, knows that the bartenders of the Big Apple really like to make their cocktails strong and so… next thing I knew… I was in a limo, heading to a dinner party… empty stomach… well… now full of booze… and pretty much already bordering on inebriated.

My A&R person was trying to get me to pay attention as she did the run down on who would be there and why it was important to impress them but… I was in a bit of a stupor, looking out the passenger side window, enjoying the street lights, and basically spun out in my own little world.

“D.D.,” she snapped. “This is serious.”

So I gathered myself together and tried to sober myself long enough to at least LOOK interested in what she was saying.

We arrived at the restaurant: Upscale Mexican. Tequila and Margaritas strewn across the table.

This was going to be bad.

My thoughts of getting a coke or a cup of coffee to get myself back on track dissipated.

The record company president handed me a shot and pressed me to down it.

Brian May stood up, towering above me, gave me a giant hug, placed a margarita in my hand and that is basically all I remember.

I have a faint recollection of trying to pull a girl’s ear off her head, believing that she had something stuck in her hair.

And I guess I did actually get up and cross the restaurant to smell Robin Leech, from Lifestyle’s of the Rich and Famous fame because Brian May dared me to do it.

Other than that… my next memory is me on a street corner, outside of CBGB’s talking to a middle aged Italian man in a wife beater, who had a 1980’s Cadillac with a back seat full of hand guns and kept telling me not to worry about anything.

He would take care of me.

“Johnny” would take care of me.

At this time, I knew I was in trouble.

I picked up the pay telephone and called my brother Jack and started to cry.

He could hear  “Johnny” rambling on in his heavy Bronx accent in the background, people outside the club screaming and fighting, and me… having my first breakdown on the road… and he wasn’t sure what to do.

“Where’s your A&R person?” He asked.

“I don’t know,” I sobbed.

“Go back to CBGB’s and get a cab back to your hotel now. Call me when you get there.”

I hung up the phone, told “Johnny” my brother said I had to go now, and so he saluted me with his heavily-clad-in-chunk-gold, pudgy Italian hand, and wished me well on my way.

I did grab a cab.

I did make it back to the hotel.

And when I woke up in the morning, naked in a bathtub full of rusty water in one of the old rooms at the Algonquin… my all time favorite New York hotel… home of the Algonquin Round Table… host to many of my favorite writers and editors: Dorothy Parker, George Kaufman, Harold Ross… I felt like I was going to vomit.

Not only because I was in the beginnings of the WORST hangover of my life but, because I had acted a fool and ended up a physical wreck in my literary place of worship.

I felt like Bukowski was the only writer that might actually applaud me at the moment, raise his glass to me in celebration of last night’s debauchery.

It was horrible.

And when I suddenly came completely to and remembered what I had done… I actually slapped my hand to my forehead and shook my head in disgust… hoping that I might somehow be able to forget the idiot I had been.

Had I actually tried to pull an ear off of a girl’s head?

Had I actually walked over and smelled Robin Leech?

I leaned out of the bathtub, grabbed the edge of the toilet, and vomited.

Ten minutes later the phone rang.

I dragged myself, naked, across the floor, and picked it up to hear Jack, my brother, and Joe, my husband, both screaming at me for scaring the shit out of them.

I guess I never called the house back to tell my brother I had made it safely to the hotel and they had no idea where I was staying until they were able to get hold of one of the record company reps in the morning.

I made my pathetic apologies and hung up.

The phone rang again.

This time it was my A&R rep.

I was ten minutes late for the record signing and press junket for my first album.

“Get your ass in a cab and get down to the Kimmel Center now!”

I had no idea where I was supposed to go but I rushed to get dressed, did everything I could to try and look like I wasn’t a drunken mess the night before, and made it to the Kimmel Center just in time to take some publicity photos with Brian.

Seeing him standing on the red carpet, his arms outstretched ready to pull me in close, a big smile on his face, soft-hearted giant, I felt like I had just been granted an “idiot” reprieve.

I rushed towards him and snuggled close, as he held me tight, and leaned down to whisper in my ear, “I loved that you actually went over and smelled Robin Leech. It was just so great.” and that was the moment that they snapped our photo.

Light bulbs popped off around us, people screamed out our names, questions were fired from all angles, and though I was a bit dazed… overwhelmed from the attention, and sick as a dog from my hell of a night. I made it through.

“Welcome to my world,” Brian said as he squeezed my hand and then sat down next to me at the autograph table where we spent the remainder of the morning visiting with fans, signing our names on cds and posters, and joking about Robin Leech until we both caught the late afternoon flights home out of JFK… me back to Los Angeles and my small home in the suburbs of Long Beach… Brian back to England… to his mansion estate… but both of us forever connected through our mutual love of music, drinking, and Robin Leech.