by Don Carrico and ProgRockTV1000
At Tom Field in Somerville, Massachusetts as a Spotlight operator, I worked more than 100 different Rock and Roll Groups from 1972-1975. I will try to remember them and the halls that we worked, and some interesting stories ‘from the road’ to share.
How I became an accidental roadie
The story begins in the Anti-War movement of the Vietnam War.I had been involved with the Vietnam Veterans Against The War. I actually had my 15 minutes of fame - as one of 15 Vietnam Veterans who occupied the Statue of Liberty in 1971 for 3 days:
Seizing the Statue of Liberty 1971: Three Days With A Lady By Don Bristow-Carrico (from ‘The Veteran’ Spring/Summer 1999)
National Parks Service website, Statue of Liberty CHAPTER 1:THE STATUE OF LIBERTY: MONUMENT TO AN EXPANDING SET OF IDEALS (photo: Members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War leaving the Statue of Liberty, which they had occupied for two days. The demonstrators emerged in response to a court order, December 28, 1971)
In the Beginning there was Light (1972)
Bill Raeder (who turned Boston’s current ‘Orpheum Theater’ into a Venue for Rock and Roll Shows when it was called the Aquarius) was a supporter of VVAW and offered us the Stage for a show to benefit a Vietnam Veterans Drug Recovery Center. I was in charge of putting the show together and had Bonnie Raitt, James Montgomery Band, Screemin’ Jay Hawkins, Bill Colwell Band...we had a great show, but we didn't make much $... anyways Bill liked me and asked me to work for him...
I worked with Robert, his Stage Manager and learned how to run a fly floor, hang lights run the Boards and load in load out, run super troupers and everything else to run a show from an empty stage and rigging!!! I helped run shows every weekend for about a year working incredible groups such as:
The Kinks, Procol Harum, James Brown, Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, J. Geils Band, Cars, Boston, .... many more I'll try to think of..
But, the Aquarius lost money and it got sold to Don Law..(I personally hated him... I was looking for his support to throw our show, but, instead he scheduled a major event at the Music Hall up the Street and hurt our attendance)... so I left with Robert and went to Tom Field Lighting...That is where I again "did it all" I have many stories that I would like to share, but I am going to go back and answer your questions...and look forward to telling you more of some amazing times...
Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt
For a while at Tom Field I carried Spot lights to auditoriums and theatres up and down the East coast from Long Island NY to Moncton Canada. I would travel with the lights, load in, set up, run shows, strike and load out every night for months at a time. They all look the same and everything is closed by the time we got back to the motel!! So we drank ‘til we moved to the next town....
I did a tour with Jackson Brown and Bonnie Raitt. Every night Jackson Brown would sing to his roadies with the song Load Out!! We would go nuts with the lights!!! Then Bonnie would come on and say "get that spot outa my face!(I LOVE Bonnie in spite of that!)… she too got recovery and then recorded ‘Nick of Time’...a lot said there!!
‘Discovering’ Bruce Springsteen at the Harvard Square Theater
I did the lighting for Bonnie Raitt for a while. One night she performed at the Harvard Square Theatre. The Harvard Square Theatre was amazing… That is where Bruce Springsteen started and I was lighting him the night that he opened for Bonnie Raitt. So this unknown band from NJ opens for her, and Bonnie allowed Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to perform the entire set.
He drove the crowd nuts! Jon Landau was in the audience and wrote in Rolling Stone that he had "seen the next Bob Dylan". Six months later Bruce Springsteen was on the Covers of Newsweek and Time - the same week.
She let him play the entire set.
Workin’ for the Boss?
Bruce Springsteen..I have a whole story on the Boss...I told you about the concert at the Harvard Square theatre/ well he came to us for lights for his tour.. I got a friend of mine a job at Tom Field. He (Rick Seguso) gets the job to drive Springsteen on the tour in a small motor home.. and after the tour, Rick becomes The Boss' tour manager!
I was still doing one nighters!! Rick came to me the next year when I had left Tom Field in 1975 and asked me to do the tour. I had just got married, was going back to school at Emerson and declined...I wonder where my life would have gone if I had taken that job...
I did get to ride in the Limo with Rick and the Boss to the show at the Boston Music Hall 1976... Rick lost his job when Mike Apel got canned...Rick is an artist now in Florida...
I did work a Bob Dylan Concert after I "retired" from Tom Field. A friend called for help to run a spot for a show at the Harvard Square Theatre, so I had fun lighting up Bob Dylan and Emmy Lou Harris (Dylan was in white face and strange) in such an intimate setting as a small theatre.
The Super Trouper Spotlights from Woodstock
One interesting side note: The Super Trouper Spotlights that I used at Tom Field had been the spot lights used at Woodstock. I saved a knob from one as a keepsake. I was still in the Marine Corps during Woodstock.
Carl Palmer’s Revolving Drum Set
I worked at the Orpheum Theatre (it was the Aquarius, run by Blind Bill Raeder until Don Law took it over in 1972). I moved to Tom Field Assoc. in Cambridge, Ma. -moved to Somerville Ma. and that is where we built the drum riser. I worked there until 1975. We were a Stage Lighting Company and provided the lighting for all the major tour groups of the early 70's including Chicago, ELP, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan.
For weeks in between tours, we would work at the shop in Somerville Mass. That is during the time we were building lighting trusses and sets for Chicago, Emerson Lake and Palmer and the Stones and others. Once the shows were set up they left our shop and went to ‘union houses’. Sometimes, I would deliver extra lights or cable and sit in the seats and get paid to watch a show...
Arena Rock at the Orpheum and Boston Garden
We did set up lights for Genesis and Yes tours, I was not involved directly. The Orpheum has always been a great Boston venue. I worked the lights at the Orpheum stage for such greats as the Kinks, Procol Harem, Joe Walsh, Chic Correa, John Mahavishnu MacClaughlin, Bonnie Raitt, J. Geils Band, Boston, Cars, James Brown, and many more...
I worked as a Lighting technician and helped set up the shows for Chicago, ELP, Rolling Stones - omg, there are so many more, I need to rack my brain. I went out to the shows when they were in town and spent time backstage at the Boston Garden (not working) for the ELP concert and the Rolling Stones (I delivered equipment along that tour, to Buffalo NY and Long Island).
Tin Foil for James Brown
I did most of what you mentioned. Some stories stand out… James Brown was doing an anti-drug show as a Public Service for a drug bust he had, his road manager asked me for some tin foil...I was like a gopher, I did everything… I finally found some tin foil... so he takes it and rolls it into a pipe! So much for the anti-drug message!
Greg and Duane Allman’s Drug Feud
Another quick story...Greg Allman asked me for coke...I found someone in line that had some and got them into his dressing room and show (I regret!) Later that night in his motel room Duane came in furious that Greg was doing drugs...and was bullshit at all of us- Sorry that was the last time I saw Duane..
The J.Geils ‘Tree Stash’
Touring with the J.Geils band, when we hit the Canadian Border we found a tree on the US side to hide our MJ ... it was there when we got back!
Assistant Stage Manager and Lighting Tricks
Define your services; When I was Assistant Stage Manager, Robert really knew a lot about Theatre so I was fortunate to have a good teacher. I ran the big knife switch lighting boards (piano boards) and we used the house lighting of fresnels, leikos, Pars and Spot lights to each band without much prior knowledge. Robert didn't know a lot of the groups (actually, he didn’t know most of them - he was a real nerdy type) so he would ask me for opinions on the lighting design he came up with. He would let me do the opening act design and run the show. One of them was Peter Frampton!
We would set up the lights for the lighting designers of the groups, but, the opening acts didn't usually have a designer so I handled it many times. I also provided lighting design for one night shows, including: Chic Corea, Peter Frampton, Dave Mason, The Cars, as they didn't have a designer on site. It was awesome to run a show. Dave Mason showed up at a show in Cape Cod without a lighting designer, so I did it. But I was generally a "gopher" and spot operator (grunt!).
On the Road – Up and Down the East Coast
I worked Primarily the Northeast from Moncton Canada, to Long Island, and as far as Buffalo. I carried Super Trouper Spotlights and ran the follow spots for the shows. None of t I worked primarily the Northeast from Moncton Canada, to Long Island, and as far as Buffalo. I carried Super Trouper Spotlights and ran the follow spots for the shows. None of the halls and theatres we went to had their own follow spots, so we provided them. I told you that one of the spots was from Woodstock.
We would start working on a show weeks before we went on the Road. About 3 weeks of pulling instruments (lights - mostly PAR cans) make sure they work, paint them and stencil our logo (a leiko light that spelled ‘Tom Field’). We would put together trusses, road boxes and sets, make sure they were clean or painted. The road manager would figure out how to pack the truck(s). The whole show would be put together in pieces, broken down and packed up.
We would all go to the Irish Bar behind the shop for last minute talk and bash. Then get on the road for the tour. Either fly out, drive a truck, or a van and off to the first gig. The first show, we would set up ahead and tune everything and fix what is needed. The lighting plot had been made by lighting designer and we would rehearse to canned music. Later we would work a live rehearsal with the band and often run a live show the next day.
Bigger shows would rent a hall for a week or two to hone everything. The Orpheum was used for J. Geils Band rehearsals, so I got to go back there, for a bit. Once the first show was over, we would go on to the next show, either the next day or shortly thereafter, not much time between. Every city looked the same.
Jackson Browne sings to the Roadies
I worked for Jackson Browne for a while...his songs, "Running on Empty" and "the Load-Out" tell quite a story of the road. He would always recognize the roadies! We would do special effects with the lights (flash on and off) when he sang Load-Out! It was awesome, most bands hardly knew we existed, until they didn't have lights.
Once he toured with Bonnie Raitt. He would praise us and then Bonnie would come out and say "get the lights out of my face!" (But I love her anyways..I know I wrote this before did you get it?)
Every Town Auditorium or theatre looked the same. The same groupies were there...(very few for the crew, however) We would pick some guys to help us load in (when it wasn't a ‘union house’). If it was a Union House, we would back the truck in and watch the show!! We were scabs... but, got paid pretty good... We would set up around noon, run a show at 8, load out at midnight and be finished by 2, hopefully a bar would be open, but usually we ended up in a Motel room with some beers, get up the next day and do it all over again.
Hot Tuna plays all night
I can't remember the names of all, but OH Yeah, I lit Hot Tuna in the Nassau Colloseum. They played all night! The crowd never sat down, so they kept playing...I was about to drop the next day, but we had to go to Providence and do the same thing over again! By the time we got to Bangor Maine… the show was out by midnight!
Trashing it up with Aerosmith
Once I left the Aquarius/Orpheum, I went to work at Tom Field, which was an incredible place in Somerville Mass. Tim Mahoney was the boss, I worked with his brother Pat Mahoney... who has been a roadie for the BEST groups in the world over the past 30 years, if you could get a hold of him, he will remind you of the time that he and I went to a University show at UNH with two Super Trouper Spotlights to light Aerosmith.
We did not bring enough cable to reach to the power supply so we used some extension cords, when the two of us cranked up 30amps each at the same time WE HAD A FLASH ACROSS THE ENTIRE BALCONEY of burning zip cord! It was funny but could have been deadly!
That was the same show that Aerosmith destroyed the dressing room and caused thousands of $ in damage! The entire group went into rehab a few years later. I found that out, because, I went to the same rehab in Pennsylvania (Galen Hall) that they went to a few months after them. There was always drugs and drinking on the road. I stuck most to drinking, but, got into trouble with that.. now I don’t drink. I like doing recall, because it was an amazing time – EPIC because we all thought we were gonna change the world through music.....when you see that all we got was George Bush you realize we didn't listen to the words! Excuse the politics…
Losing the Truck in NYC
I was about to go out on a major tour with David Bowie in 1975 but, I ended up getting drunk and forgetting where I parked the truck in NYC - well , but Tom Field drove me around trying to find the truck somewhere in the Village of NYC. Found the truck, but was sent back to the shop to cleaning instruments (lights), and working local shows.
Rehab and Bicentennial Pyrotechnics
My boss suggested AA, so I went. I only worked one more tour after that. I worked the 1975 Bicentenial for the National Park Service. We toured all the National Parks... this is a whole ‘nother story... but it is pretty good: I was the pyrotechnician for the re-enactment of the Revolutionary War.
I got to be the entire British Army! I set up simulated musket fire from a hidden area in the woods. The actors (from college of the arts-NC) were the Americans and they would come at me as I fired off about 25 rounds every nite. We went from Concord Mass to San Francisco, hitting many of the National Parks. After this tour, I went to Emerson College, but decided Stage lighting wasn't my future. I ended up at UNH with a degree in Environmental Conservation 1980... working in Solar Energy now.
I love your last comment –Yes, now I am working with the Big spotlight in the Sky, or perhaps the real "Boss"!
List of Groups: Anyways. between the Orpheum and Tom Field and some gigs I did on my own...I have to say it is probably 200, or more. I will rack my brain but there are some groups that I don't even know their names! It was from 1972-1975 so I will do some youtube searches... I did not physically light the Rolling Stones or ELP. Besides building the Lighting trusses and Sets, I went to a number of the shows, backstage and helped with load out and delivered equipment. After I left the biz, I used to go to lots of concerts because I could find someone I know to get a complimentary ticket.
Plus I did Revival shows where you get 8 or 10 oldies groups in one night....but, I will have fun re-collecting:
Electric Light Orchestra
(Bob Hope! in Newport)
Tommy James and the Shondells
Seals and Crofts
Hall & Oats
Earth Wind and Fire - that reminds me. I ran the lighting for Earth Wind & Fire on a College tour in New England,they had no designer with them so I had a ball, and I knew the music... usually we set the shows up,and then someone from the band would "call the show" -In fact, I would miss hearing the concerts, because I was always on a headset listening to commands, but this show I just listened to the Music and designed as we went!
Blue Oyster Cult
Three Dog Night
Loggins and Messina
Seals & Crofts
The rest of the groups names are obscure.. You have to realize for all the name acts, there was an opening act. And some of the Festivals (Freedom Jam-I remember in RI, for one) had multiple groups. Also not counting Bob Hope(!) - I also Lit Opera, Ballet, Magic shows, Royal Lippazon Stallions,etc. All fun but not all Rock and Roll!
One group, The Moody Blues, I didn't work for in the 70's, but know more recently, because Norda Mullen (flute &vocals) is a friend. Just a coincidence...
Nowadays I operate a myspace site: rockandrollreturn - my daughter set up when I was running local Band Rock shows at the American Legion a couple of years ago. I hope to do some more when I get back to Maine...
I have no pictures left from that era (70’s), except for three that are on Myspace (View My: pics) from when, prior to the roadie era, I was with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War "taking over" the statue of Liberty 1971. The picture of John Lennon is signed "merry christmas war is over John and Yoko"- they sent one to each of us, but mine burned along with all my belongings in a fire at my Beacon Hill apartment back in the 70's. I was on the road at the time. I got these copies from one of the brothers that was in the Statue with me. There is a picture of me today on my website www.photovoltus.com/ on the Who we Are page, scroll down.