Monday, April 20, 2009

Blue

Rick Benedict posted this on his site...

April 2009

As I sit writing these memories down I have just been told of the death of my good friend Rocky Hill. So, now I sit listening to an album he made in Dallas in the 70's. I don't think it ever got released. But I have a copy of it. Thank God. Rocky was so damned talented, but as talented as he was he was the same degree of difficulty. He was his own worst enemy. I played in
several bands with him and I was always in his corner and if that description reminds you of a pugilistic relationship with the world, it definitely was. So talented, hard core. A real blues man. I first saw him play at the Cellar in 1967 in Houston in the American Blues with his brother Dusty on bass and Frank Beard on drums. Sharkey played keyboards and Phil sang and was
pretty. They all had blue hair! Really blue! Everybody had blond hair and so the Nestle Blue Hair Spray made their hair really blue. The Airline Motel where they all stayed was threatening them with paying for the pillowcases and towels that were turning blue with their use. Frank decided he wanted to go home to Dallas, so the job became available and I took it. So now how was I going to get my black hair to turn blue? I ended up with a long blond fall sprayed blue. It worked pretty well. It made me a target for the go-go girls. One night a drunk dancer decided to take issue with my oh so obvious wig. She snatched it off my head leaving me sitting there playing with my hair all pinned back with bobby pins, looking stupid and mad! I believe I kicked her into the pillows and put my wig back on my head.

But Rocky and I were pretty good buddies. We even went to San Francisco tosee Little Richard's band (* Little Richard had been a show drummer in Dallas and had played with Rocky and Dusty in a band called the Warlocks) The Anonymous Artists of America. They played in Haight Asbury Park with Steve Miller and the Diggers fed everybody. It was a "Be In". We also went to an art exhibit that was full edible and consumed by the patrons. Wow. Rocky turned me on to a lot of music. I think he introduced me to Lightnin' Hopkins a local bluesman (Houston). I later did some recording with his harmonica player Billy Bizer. Rocky was a force to be reckoned with and I did it as often as was possible. Through out the years, I even played with him again in the 80's and again in 2002-03. He ghost wrote (which just means he got no credit as a songwriter for the song) many of the ZZ Top songs and was paid a monthly stipend until he died. He never had to work, he never had to gig, and I for one think that was a pity. Most never got to see him really play, like I knew he could play and I thought if he had had to gig it might've gotten easier for him or made him stronger. But as gigging became more and more difficult for him (he thought he couldn't play unless he drank and once he drank he couldn't play). Also it was killing him. He had Hepatitis C and despite efforts to the contrary by his wife Joy, he still insisted on drinking. He always thought he was hiding it, but no. I even wrote a song on that very subject. He asked me to bring him liquor when we were practicing during a revival of the Rocky Hill Band in 2002 but I refused. Louie (*Lou Bovis who's Mom owned Lou Ann's in Dallas and made him promise to always play with Rocky and who played with and put up with Rocky until he died) would bring him a bottle of vodka because Rocky would promise to beat him up if he didn't. Now, one thing you didn't want was for Rocky to throw a punch at you. At one point he was not drinking and had taken up boxing and working out and running every day. Rocky stood about 6'2" and weighed about 230. And if he ever hit you, you would for sure know it!

Take a message to Garcia! Rocky Hill is dead! R.I.P.
I hung out with Rocky a lot at the Old Quarter (the original) listening to Towns van Zandt and Rex Bell, taking acid trips and contemplating life and music. The Old Quarter was in an old building with high ceilings and store front windows where you could sit and watch the foot traffic, down by the bayou in Downtown Houston. There was a whole district springing up down in
that part of Houston at the time, along with Market Square and Love Street Light Circus. It also had an upstairs part to it. I used to sit and look out that window into the dawning of new days having spent the late night hours tripping with Rex and Rocky and Rex's girl friend. The club was like someone's living room with sofas and easy chairs and coffee tables scattered about. Its d├ęcor was furnished in late Goodwill. All kinds of people ended up down there. It was a study in diversity. Allen's Landing was just down the street with all kinds of poster stores, bars, psychedelic shops for clothing and smoking paraphernalia, just old buildings we had claimed for our own to hang out in. Market Square which was just a short distance away ( a matter of a few blocks) was a destination for a lot of folks with Rock, blues, hippies, vaudeville, banjo music, steaks, girls, jazz, Greek music and food, hotels, hookers, dealers, whatever you wanted you could find in that part of town. And people were coming. The joint (The Cellar) paid for itself in six weeks, a cost of about $225,000. If you watched one table all night long it would "turn over" about 5 x an hour, sometimes more. That's a lot of $2.50 drinks per night. And they paid their bands, well, not much. I
started out at $13.37 a night and at the most, I made (w/ The American Blues) $ 30.00 a night. It might've been $50.00. I really don't remember. What a place the Cellar was, and still is in some minds. There was nothing else like it. Pat Kirkwood created it in the middle sixties. It was a place to hang out at, drawing the very hip and beat fans. It was about jazz, coffee, girls and thou. Black and dark, cushions on the floor so as to lounge and watch the girls in their underpants dance. Open all night! They had more than one band, and all the equipment was provided. Wow! Here was the deal, during the week there were two bands plus an early set. The doors opened at 6 pm and closed at 4. On weekends they ran 3 bands plus an early set and stayed open till 6am. Your status with the club and management resulted in when your band played, if your band played, and what you made. You might get the early and late shows while the top bands played during the middle hours. It was a high test proving ground. Johnnie Carroll, who'd had been a rockabilly star earlier was the music director and did a lot of the early sets. I used to go in early and play with him sometimes; he turned me on to Willie Nelson. And I got to experience playing with the Echo-Plex as he would loop the tape and walk off while me and his guitar gently played. And so it began. The later sixties brought about a change in music (The Beatles and the British Invasion) and a change in the number of bands seeking to play. It was a hotbed of testosterone. Musically, it was a hotbed of amazing talent. I guess that involves testosterone too! It was whack! It was right on, dude! Ask anybody that ever went there. The evidence still exists in the number of musical careers that have spanned the decades. We still get together. In fact we just celebrated the Fiftieth year anniversary in Feb. 09.

************ ********* ********* ******
"All good things are wild, and free". Henry David Thoreau

No comments: