musicians at the two papers!
(Here’s stupid story that I’ve never told anyone, not even my wife or son: Scott Lebar liked my rock music stuff so much that he actually posted a job and hired a “real” rock music critic named Steve Hedgepeth to write all of the “marquee” stuff. I put together this crazy resume and was so PISSED that he gave that job to someone else. I was 16! But that’s just the way I thought back then, that I was the best guy for the job! I was DEVASTATED, and I mean CRUSHED, when that beat was taken away from me and when the other guy was interviewing Madonna and Bryan Adams and Duran Duran instead of me!)
So, all of that was at The News American in 1985. When I started at The Evening Sun in early 1986, of course I attempted to befriend the Features Editor there to do the same thing for him and made it clear that I work cheap!
His name was Ed Hewitt, and despite being a tad bit curmudgeonly, I tried pitching him on doing similar work at the staid and stodgy p.m. newspaper. The ONLY thing we had in common was, of course, baseball — he absolutely LOVED the Los Angeles Dodgers! Wore a Dodgers’ cap and bled Dodger blue!
Even though he wasn’t enamored with the crazy, young, loud guy and probably couldn’t name a band that formed after the Rolling Stones, he agreed to let me interview rock stars and review concerts from all of the local venues — from Merriweather Post to the Capital Centre to Max’s On Broadway, and Hammerjack’s was about to go into full blossom as the East Coast “mecca” for glam metal and hairspray bands.
I was the youngest person in that newsroom by what felt like 20 years at that point, so NO ONE ELSE EVEN WANTED TO DO IT!
What a scam, I had, running around to free concerts every night and getting paid $25 to do it. For example, usually the seats were in the third row at Merriweather and that came complete with a picture and an introduction to most of the bands, either before or after the show.
No more camping out, no more spending money for tickets to see all of my favorite bands. And, not only THAT, I got to come back ,write about the concerts and see my stuff in the newspaper the next day.
Do you know how many chicks I met with that racket?
Wanna go to Hammerjack’s? I have a backstage pass!
When I was AT Hammerjack’s, I HAD a backstage pass!
I was 21 years old (OK…or maybe I wasn’t?)!
Hair spray metal was in and life was VERY good for me!
My favorite story was when Alex Van Halen called to do an advance interview in June 1986 for their “5150” tour at the Capital Centre. Sammy Hagar had just replaced David Lee Roth in one of the biggest rock “scandals” of the time, and Alex (he was the drummer) and I chatted for about 30 minutes and he was just super nice and thought it was cool that I liked the new album (most Van Halen fans were miffed that Roth was gone and hated Hagar — for the record, I STILL think 5150 is the band’s best work).
Alex asked where I lived and if I was coming to the show. I told him Baltimore and he said, “Well, we’re in Philadelphia tonight. You oughta come see the show!”
I got off the phone, jumped in the shower and my mother started screaming that I had a phone call.
I was wet, it was loud and my mother started screaming “Alex Van Hagar is on the phone for you!”
Turned out it was only Alex Van Halen calling back: “Hey man, I took care of the tickets and passes,” he said. “You’re all set! So get your ass up here! We’re having a party backstage before the show. Come now, and you’re in.”
Two hours later I was drinking beer with every member of Van Halen in their dressing room in the basement of the Spectrum in Philadelphia. It was June 1986. I was 17.
I don’t want to bore you with the music thing, but that early time during my gig at The Evening Sun was just incredible.
I honestly can’t remember a happier time in my life.
I was writing sports stories by day, covering mainly high school sports, and working on the sports desk all night. (I eventually went back to school during the late mornings and graduated from the University of Baltimore in three years from 1989 to 1992).
And the real “perk” was something that money couldn’t buy: a laminated ALL-ACCESS pass for Hammerjack’s (not to mention tickets, backstage passes and interviews with literally EVERY band that came through town!)?
“Hammers,” as we called it, was a pretty regular stop en route to my overnight shift on Calvert Street. Every show, every groupie, every band, every party — I saw it