Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Random Rock Star Moment: Ronnie James Dio

The companion post to Like Rainbows In The Dark.

Tour Manager Doug and Umlaut have known each other since before we could buy alcohol legally; legend says we met in line at a Krokus concert. Here in the 21st Century, Tour Manager Doug enables Millionaire Rock Stars to be Millionaire Rock Stars... and I'm sure he's the only person who has worked for Slayer, Beck, Cannibal Corpse, Shakira, AND Green Day (among MANY, MANY others). However, what's most important is, despite his high status in the Lock 'N Loll World, Tour Manager Doug still remains Old Metal at heart and soul.

Submitted by Tour Manager Doug:

The day before Ronnie James Dio died, I went to my mailbox place to pick up my mail and noticed an autographed picture of him on the wall. I asked the guy who owns the place if Dio came in there, he said no, but his best friend did.

I knew, as most people did, that Dio had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and that the prognosis wasn't great. I also knew, as few people know, that Dio had long ago helped to make me a better Tour Manager, and I had always wanted to thank him.

I started to write him a letter that night, my plan had been to give it to my mailbox guy, who would (hopefully) pass it on to Dio's friend.

I didn't get very far, as you can see, I knew exactly what I wanted to say, but phone calls regarding plans for my upcoming European Tour got in the way, and led to the letter turning into a bunch of notes about flights vs. the Icelandic volcano. It got late, so I finally went to bed, with plans to finish the letter in the morning. Well, I woke up to an email similar to emails and texts and calls that many people got.

Dear Ronnie - Once upon a time I was just a kid who went to rock shows. Like many others in Northern California, I was excited to hear that the first live Dio show was going to be in Antioch at The Concert Barn. I often went to Antioch, because my uncle and his family lived there, which gave me a leg up on South Bay and S.F. comrades, many of whom had no idea where Antioch was. None of us had ever heard of The Concert Barn because, as far as we knew, there had never actually been a concert there, but we were ALL going to this one.

At this point I would have given Dio a run down of that day, but it's been well documented on this site..

(Umlaut says newbies should click HERE and HERE to read what Tour Manager Doug is talking about....)

The Concert Barn, Antioch, California - July 23, 1983
Tour Manager Doug's Ticket Stub

The Concert Barn, Antioch, California - July 23, 1983
Umlaut's Ticket Stub

After the show, I somehow worked my way backstage. I have a vague recollection of buying a pass at the box office of the venue, but I can't find the actual pass, so I'm not sure if that happened, but that vague memory is part of the reason why I prefer to use my own passes at shows to this day, instead of the promoter's passes.

The backstage area was kind of like a patio area surrounded by a few dressing rooms. There weren't a lot of people on the patio area, because everybody was in a dressing room. Shortly after I found my way to the patio, a door opened and I saw you. More importantly, you saw me. Then the door closed. For us kids going to rock shows, it was all about the eye contact. Everybody at any concert saw all the band members, but it was those moments where HE SAW ME that were special, and belonged to nobody but us.

I stood in the same spot for probably another hour, each time that door opened hoping for another glimpse, I saw Jimmy Bain at one point, and Vinnie Appice, and of course Vivian Campbell, but I didn't see you again, until, finally, the door opened, and you were standing talking to somebody. The door was being held open as some people left, you glanced over and saw me. Then the door closed. Then it quickly opened again, and you pointed at me and motioned for me to come over.

No way.

I looked behind me.

There wasn't anybody behind me.

I looked back at you and pointed at myself. Me? Are you pointing at me?

Again, you motioned for me to come over, so I did.

Ronnie James Dio (RJD) - You've been standing out there for an hour.

Teenage Tour Manager Doug (TTMD) - Yes, sir, I have.

(My parents and my job in a grocery store taught me to call everybody sir or ma'am.)

RJD - Call me Ronnie. What are you waiting for?

TTMD - I was hoping that I could get you to sign this poster for me, please.

(I unrolled the show poster that had already been signed by the rest of the band.)

RJD - You've been standing out there this long just so that you could get me to sign that poster, well thank you so much, that's very kind of you. Of course I would be happy to sign it.

TTMD - Thank you, etc, mumbling about a great show, and the great album.

(He proceeded to sign my poster, thanking me for the opportunity, and generally just making me feel like the world revolved around me.)

TTMD - Would you also sign my extra ticket, please?

RJD - Of course I would, why do you have an extra ticket?

TTMD - I had a friend who was going to come with me, so I bought two tickets, but I ended up coming by myself, because he couldn't go and nobody else where I live has any musical taste.

RJD - Who should I sign it to, you or your friend?

TTMD - To me, please. I'm Doug. He didn't come (my friend) so he doesn't get a ticket (Laughing). I bought them both anyway.

He then signed my ticket "To Doug - Magic - Ronnie James Dio"

RJD - (handing my ticket back) Well, it was a pleasure to meet you, I guess you get to go home now and get some sleep. It's pretty late.

TTMD - I won't actually get much sleep tonight. It's about a 2 1/2 hour drive home and I need to be at work at 9 am

RJD - What!? You have to drive 2 1/2 hours and be at work at 9!? It's already after 2!

TTMD - Yeah, I know, oh well, no rest for the wicked, right? (Laughing)

RJD - You stood here for the last hour waiting to get my autograph, knowing that you have to be at work early and you need to drive that far home? Thank you very much, that is very kind of you.

(Dio was shaking my hand and telling a couple people near by that "This guy has a 3 hour drive home so that he can go straight to work and he's here for my autograph isn't that nice of him")

RJD - Give me that ticket back.

TTMD - Um, ok…

I hand him the ticket that he just signed…

Ronnie then wrote "& Drive Carefully" on the ticket and handed it back to me.

We again shook hands, and we parted ways. I headed towards my car, he went back into the after-show party for what was without a doubt one of the most important shows of his career.

I usually got kind of tired about 30 minutes from my house on those drives back to Cloverdale after shows, but that night I was wide awake the whole time, singing and playing air guitar and air drums to the Holy Diver album a few times along the way. Anybody who had been in the car, would know why I'm a roadie, instead of a musician.

So, how did Ronnie James Dio make me a better Tour Manager?

Because he cared about the fans, above everything else.

He took time out of his life, away from his friends, family and business associates, not just to scrawl an illegible squiggle in the middle of his current conversation, but to actually have a conversation with me, a fan.

I wasn't a friend of a friend, I wasn't related to somebody, I actually had no business being anywhere near him. He knew that. He could have had Security throw me out. But he didn't. Because he cared about me. Because I was, and I am, a fan. I took that as a lesson. A lesson that I use as often as I can, and I hope that every once in awhile, I am able to help somebody have a memory of meeting one of my bands that's as nice as my memory is of Ronnie James Dio.

Thank you Ronnie.