Death has been busy lately in the world of country music. When Vern Gosdin passed away, I hated to admit that for all my country music geekness, I had never heard of the man. But I can’t say the same about Poodie Locke, who passed away last Wednesday (5-6-09). I knew exactly who he was, and why the country music world is a different place without him.
When I look back at the original Outlaws, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and when they have looked back at themselves, they give a lot of credit to their success to the great people they have been fortunate to have around them. For Willie that is especially true. Willie might be living under a bridge if it weren’t for his “family,” who has always included his band members and close associates. Poodie Locke, Willie’s long time stage manager, is one of those vital people.
Poodie was also an amazing character, and a superlative storyteller. When I read the Willie Nelson Autobiography, one of my favorite parts of it was the stories that Poodie told from the road.
Following is my favorite excerpt. It ends with Willie standing in a parking garage, with a pair of huge Colt .45’s stuck into his cutoff jeans in a parking garage in Birmingham, Alabama. Enjoy:
From Willie, An Autobiograpy:
(Caution: Heavy language from a crazy Texan to follow)
In Vegas the stage is about table high. People leap onstage and you got to deal with their shit. You can’t be violent with them, because Willie don’t like it, but sometimes it’s hard to reasrain a person without being physical. i looked around at one show, and here was some drunk bitch on the stage heading for Willie. I stepped in front of her and she said, “Get out of my fucking way. I’m gonna touch Willie.”
I said, “No you ain’t.”
She said, “Have you ever touched Willie?”
I said, “No ma’am, but I jacked him off once in Kansas City. Does that count?” She looked startled, and it gave me a chance to ease her away as gently as possible.
We played with the Grateful Dead in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City in 1977 to a crowd of 80,000. Us and Waylon. The Dead played three and a half hours while we watched the clouds building up. This big fucking storm blew in and it was pouring rain when Waylon took the stage. Waylon freaked out. Lightning ain’t the best thing to have happen when you got all this electrical equipment around you. Waylon hadn’t been to sleep in about a year – he just ate Hershey’s Kisses and snorted cocaine. Waylon started hyperventilating. He froze. So Willie walked onstage, took Waylon’s guitar, and kept on picking.
I says, “Willie, it’s dangerous out here.”
Willie says, “If you got to go, you got to go.”
We changed bands in the rainstorm, moved Waylon’s stuff off and ours on. Willie never missed a lick with rain pouring on him. I told the Grateful Dead guys, “You fuckers played so long you made it rain.” They said, “Yeah, so why don’t your old man make it stop?”
Soon as we got our band set up, the rain stopped.
But one of the strangest happenings was in Birmingham, Alabama. We had done a show downtown, and we were loading our gear at a six-deck parking garage. We all carried two or three guns and plenty of ammo back then. All of a sudden we hear KABOOM! KABOOM!
It’s the sound of a .357 magnum going off in the parking garage. The echoes sound like Howitzer shells exploding. It’s kind of semi-dark, and this guy comes blowing through this parking deck. Now here comes this fucking bitch with a fucking pistol. KABOOM! She’s chasing this motherfucker. It sounds like a fucking war.
People are piling out of the show and they start scattering. Here comes cops from every direction. They’re flying out of their cars, hitting that parking deck, spreading eagle the whole crowd. “On the deck, motherfuckers!” – because the cops don’t know who is shooting at who.
We cut the lights, and slip around to the back of the bus. All you can see are police headlights in a big semi-circle and hundreds of people lying flat on the ground all stretched out. It looks like Guyana. All these cops are squatted down in the doorjams, turning people over, frisking them, aiming guns at everybody, just waiting for the next shot to be fired.
And here comes Willie. He walks off the bus wearing cutoffs and tennis shoes, and he’s got two huge Colt .45 revolvers stuck in his waist. Two shining motherfucking pistols in plain sight of a bunch of cops nervous as shit.
Willie just walks over and says, “What’s the trouble?” Well, he’s got some kind of aura to him that just cools everything out. The cops put up their guns, the people climb off the concrete, and pretty soon Willie is signing autographs.