The Henry Lee Summer Days: Paybacks are Hell

When I was about 21 years old I guess I’d been working for Henry about two years. Henry was booked to play our old high school in Frankfort, Indiana. I say “our” because Henry’s sound engineer was a buddy of mine, who went to that very school with and was just a year ahead of me.  Well, as you can imagine, having only graduated from there a couple of years before, we were both very well acquainted with many of the students as well as much of the faculty and staff.

The Faculty representative that greeted my partner at the door was more other than Mr. Seaver. A man who would not be on the top of my manly men list, if you know what I mean. I had nothing personal against him myself, but it seemed as if my partner might have had a different view of our “Teacher Representative.”

After pulling in to the dock at the back of our old High School and preparing ourselves for the day on the ride there (it was 1984, and we were in our very early 20’s, what do you think that meant? lol) I could tell my partner was gearing up for a day of controversy by going over the “Rider” to the contract with the school. A “Rider” among other things, is a list of requirements or “demands” that a group or artist requires for the performance. If these “requirements” are not met, that can mean “breach of contract”. A phrase that was thrown around liberally that day.

As we got out of the truck and casually walked up the stairs of the loading dock, I couldn’t help but smile. A mere three years ago or so, we were both wandering the halls within as simple students hoping our parents would be gone for the weekend, so that we could party our asses off. As I got closer to the doors of the back entrance, my smile grew wider as I realized I was a twenty year old kid getting ready to walk into my old High School like I owned the place. As I looked at my buddy and saw “The Grinch” grin, I thought to myself, “We own this place.” And for the next 10 hours, we did.

First, the stage was not of the proper height, or size. Before the truck was to be unloaded, this problem must be rectified or your fifty percent deposit will be forfeited, which was paid in advance, and we will leave. After that was accomplished, no small feat by the way, it gave us enough time to find a few other things that weren’t up to “contract standards.”

Not enough stage hands, get more now! The power you have supplied, not adequate – call an electrician. The dressing room, are you freaking kidding me! I wouldn’t let my cat shed fur in here! It went on and on.

By lunch time, you could have cut the tension with one of the supplied butter knives. The two of us sat alone in the very inadequate dressing room awaiting what was sure to be a sub-par lunch. As the “student helpers” brought in our trays of food for lunch my buddy and I looked things over very carefully. We didn’t complain to the helpers, after all, our “beef” was with just a few faculty members., not the pretty high school girls bringing our trays of food. As the girls set the trays down on a table, in walks Mr. Seaver. Big smile grinning while exclaiming what a success “his” show was going to be.

As Mr Seaver droned on about his work to make the show a success, my partner and I looked at each other and grinned. I stood up with my plate of food and slowly started to make my way to Mr. Seaver. As I approached, his smile faded and his demeanor changed. When I got close enough, I shoved the paper plate of food under his nose and exclaimed, “Are you freaking kidding me man!?” I got the quinzical look of a man in total bewilderment as I went further to exclaim, “The rider calls for two different kinds of meat, three types of cheese, and two types of bread. Not to mention the missing condiments and side dishes! What the hell kind of “Hoot-N-Nanny are you running here?””

As I’m explaining the inadequacies of the meal, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my partner had picked up the deli try and was moving his way toward us. As I was beginning another verbal assault, my partner hurls the deli tray against the wall and exclaims, “This is Bullshit! Who do you think we are? We’re not the little high school kids who walked out those doors a couple years ago, I think you’re confused, is that what you think?” As Mr. Seaver tried to respond, my partner continued his verbal assault,
Let me tell you something, Rock and I could walk out of those doors right now with half of your money and there’s not a judge in the world that would make us give it back to you. Do you understand?”

As Mr Seaver was collecting his lower jaw from the floor, I continued, “But we’re not going to do that, do you know why?” Again waiting for a response, I say, “because it’s not the fault of the students who have been anticipating this show for months. It’s your fault for not reading and understanding the “Rider” to the contract. I have to say Mr. Seaver that I’m very disappointing in you and your attitude during this entire process.”

With that being said, my partner and I walked out of the room and back to the stage where we proceeded to set up the sound, lighting, and band gear for the performance that night. Mr. Seaver was out of sight and out of mind until around dinner time when he exclaimed that we could be having steak dinners for the band and crew directly after sound check.

While we enjoyed our dinner, my partner and I contemplated whether we had gone too far in our antics for the day. That answer my friends came at the end of the day when we had more than enough stage hands, a wonderful spread of “after show food”, and rave reviews of the show by not only the students, but the faculty and staff as well.

As we were closing the doors of the truck, Mr. Seaver approached me and apologized for not being professional. We shook hands and as I walked away, I heard him say, “You are certainly not the same two boys who walked out of here a couple of years ago!” I smiled as I walked away thinking, you’re right, we’re not the same, but you are the same person we left here, and will always be.

Rocky Harrison Old School