My Career as a Concert Promoter Begins
It wasn’t long after I created my underground newspaper The Tin Whistle in 1968, that I decided to become a rock concert promoter to raise money and publicity for the paper, which had become an instant success by selling out at four high schools in Central Illinois, even though it was banned at all of them, except Uni High, our local prep school for the best and brightest.
For my first concert, I asked Blues Weed to perform and they agreed. Donny Perino (seated in the top right photo), the leader and keyboard player, had been my predecessor on bass guitar in the Knight Riders. I couldn’t understand why the Knight Riders wanted to get rid of Donny since he was the best musician in the group, however it didn’t take him long to start a new band using a couple of the best high school age blues musicians in town. Unfortunately, a few days before the concert, Blues Weed pulled out, leaving me scrambling to find a substitute band. Naturally, I wanted a Friday or Saturday night at a major venue on campus, but that turned out to be difficult and expensive. I discovered a hall I could rent on Sunday afternoon for cheap, although I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get people to a concert on a Sunday afternoon. At the last minute I got my former band, the Knight Riders, to agree to perform for around $100. The total budget on the event was probably around $200 and admission was $5, so I only needed 40 paid attendees to break even, and the hall easily held over 300. I set up 40 folding chairs in front of the stage and left the back of the hall open for dancing.
For some reason, I decided to drop acid shortly after the doors opened. This was not a good idea because as soon as I started coming off, some of my friends started playing mind games and decided to haul me down to the front of the stage and feed me to the speakers while the band was playing. I suddenly got real nervous about the cash in the money box, and inexplicably decided to leave the concert with the money in order to put it in a safe place. About four of my friends came with me, and we stopped by Chug Wyatt’s house so I could drop something off. My friends pretended to drive off without me as soon as I got out of the car. I could see them waving money from the cash box out the car windows as they drove off laughing and celebrating. Fortunately, they just circled the block and then picked me up and took me to my parent’s house, where I dropped off the cash box with my mom.
When we got back to the concert, the show was just ending, and the band wanted to get paid asap. They said they needed cash now because they’d borrowed the amps for the show from another band and needed to put $10 on each amp when they returned them. And they got one of the toughest black kids in town to intimidate me and make sure they got paid right then.
I was tripping pretty heavy while this beefy black dude was threatening to beat the shit out of me unless I produced the money for the band instantly. I ended up calling the foreign student who had bankrolled the first issue of the The Tin Whistle. He gave the band some money, which allowed me to leave with my face intact. But the incident really burned whatever bridges I had with my former band, and I never really spoke to any of those guys again.
Meanwhile Donny Perino turned into a hermit, possibly due to his addiction to marijuana at an early age. Far as I know, he still lives in Urbana, but no one has seen him in decades. I hope he’s ok.