About the time I was completing my souvenir photos, somethign was stirring stage left. Up the ramp strolled the admiral. His swagger was regal, his presence undeniable. Here stood the captain of rock ’n roll, surveying the stage and the crew like an admiral might survey his newest battle cruiser. We were all in awe and pretty much speechless.
“I brought an external Reverb unit for you to use with the Showman 15,” I muttered feebly. He looked down and smiled at the rig.
“That won't be necessary,” Chuck replied. He visually surveyed my Showmans; there was a gentle recollection and anticipation in his smiling eyes as he looked them up and down.
“Would you consider autographing my amp for me?” I managed to say. He agreed and I took two or three photos of the process. I also got a picture of me and him together, thanks to Sharna.
Chaos ensued immediately.
“Would you sign my book?” someone hollered. “Please sign my keyboard!” “I brought my autobiography of you would you please sign it?” To hell with sound check, we were all serving our own greedy little desires. After four or five minutes of this, he decided it was time to go to dinner.
Like a learned statesman he bid us farewell and exited the stage with Sharna and the bass player. I saw them drive off in a newly rented Lincoln Town Car.
My wife and I arrived at the venue just moments before the show started. We had complimentary seats so I couldn't complain when we were pretty far back.
I had the okay from Johnny to shoot stills around the venue because I had promised him, Chuck and Sharna a set of photos. After the first song, which I shot from the seat, I smiled at the lady next to me and crawled back over the seat to make my escape to the front of the stage left. Man, you could hear the 355 all over the arena, who needed the mics in the Pennsylvania?
My amps were cranking out mega bass on the neck position of Chuck's 355. I was sure my wife Joey was impressed. Fifteen photos from close range with my zoom, and I was stoked. I triumphantly made my way back to our seat, certain that any and all in the audience had seen me taking Chuck's photos. I assumed they all knew those were my amps as well.
About the time I returned to my seat and had time to smile self-assuredly at my wife--things started to go south.
By the third song, it was becoming apparent that Chuck’s fingers weren't as timeless as his music. Although he could remember the words to his own songs and could still sing rather well--which is more than you could say for most performers his age--his guitar playing was rather different. It was pretty much an occasional grace note and a few three finger chords. He thanked the audience for letting him continue to do what he loved. After their applause he asked everyone to sing along on “My Ding-a-Ling.”
Just then, the unthinkable came from the stage... “BNAAAH-PHKKKKKT.”
“Oh my God,” I thought, “he's using the wireless!” Then again, “BRAMMMMPT–BNAACHCT.”
My amps complained at 200 decibels in front of 3000 people. I felt like the guy in the cartoons, where his head immediately shrinks down so small it nearly disappears in the collar of his shirt.
“Lose the crappy amp!” some guy hollered from about two rows over. “Get some good equipment!” someone else booed.
“Oh my, now what to do?” I worried. Undaunted, I sprung to my feet and leapt over the back of my chair like some stupid superhero on a mission.
I hurried my way up the ramp and onstage in front of God, Chuck Berry and 3000 irate concert goers to try to minimize the damage.
I unplugged the feeder line from my other amp, and it seemed to quiet the problem. Meanwhile, Chuck stopped playing and looked for something to be done. I helplessly fumbled with the gain controls on the amp. Now David Dover to the rescue—he heels up his Twin Reverb and plugs Chuck's bad wireless into his working wireless. Chuck hits a note or two, smiles, and the show continues.
I slithered off the stage like a vanquished invader and obtrusively return to my seat. I am sure 3000 people now know it is all my fault. My wife tried unsuccessfully to console me; I had let down the God of rock ‘n roll! I had let my ambition for Chucks autograph overcome my better wisdom to insist on a replacement for the bad wireless.
For the grand finale, Chuck invited all the pretty girls from the audience up on stage to be his go-go girls. One, then two, then ten, then 20, then 40 women took to the stage and flailed about unashamedly in revelation of their own celebrity. This frenzy went on for about four minutes until we were certain that every one in the arena that night had seen a legend. Never mind that he might have lost a step or two, he was Chuck Berry for crying out loud.
After the show, Dover's wife and I loaded the amps and we drove back to my house to unload. We spoke politely of the mutual acquaintance we had, but awkwardly… I knew I was the slime ball of the night.