I'll tell you some stories - mostly about Ace -
but also about Kingsnake.
One weekend, I
think it was in 1998, I was playing at a two day, outdoor concert.
On Saturday, the Kingsnake
group, "The Midnight Creepers", including Ace, were there to play behind a Kingsnake
They heard me play, and invited me to play with them, too.
Bob Gr$$nlee paid me a ridiculously unfair $50.00 for playing. Ace chipped in $25.00 out of his
That's when I
first saw the Gr$$nlee writing on the wall.
I played Hammond, and Bob Gr$$nlee played me.
On Sunday, another Kingsnake
artist, Sonny Rhodes, asked me to play with him. I guess the
word got around fast. I played Hammond, and Sonny did not play
me. He paid me fairly. I didn't get rich - but I was
treated fairly. If I recall correctly, Sonny paid me $150.00.
Within a week, I was traveling 2.5 hours
way to do sessions at Kingsnake.
Everybody there pretty much loved my
playing, maybe because of my
STAX background, and the fact that I'm not
a busy player - I don't even know how to play busy.
I became part of their house rhythm section for
owner, Bob Gr$$nlee, had probably been through every keyboard player in Florida - maybe
the whole Southeast.
started doing rhythm section sessions, the sessions were usually cut
without keyboards. The keyboard
players Bob found were far too busy for the simple R&B and blues tracks.
So keyboards were
just added later, after the rhythm section tracks were down.
Most sessions consisted
of Warren (guitar), Ronnie (drums), Ace (guitar), Bob (bass), and me
Ace engineered, he'd probably overdub guitar parts, or sometimes Augie would engineer
while Ace played.
Sometimes Warren would engineer, and Ace would cut the tracks.
And sometimes Ace would engineer and play guitar tracks, with the amp and mic
outside the control room door, in the little hallway at the top of the
I did a
lot of sessions at Kingsnake,
and burned up tanks full of gas. Frequently, I got caught up in
Disneyland traffic, and the 2.5 hour drives became 3.5 hours.
to bat for me more than once with Bob Gr$$nlee, because I should have been getting paid
quite a bit more.
There were several arguments, and they all revolved
Bob Gr$$nlee wouldn't even compensate me for gas money.
I was the
only one that had to drive 5 hours - everyone
else lived nearby Kingsnake's studio.
Bob lived at the studio - it
was a converted barn on his property.
I'm sorry to be
so honest, but Bob Gr$$nlee was probably the cheapest person I've ever met in the music business.
It got to the point that I just didn't want to go to Kingsnake anymore. I
loved cutting the music, the players were great R&B musicians, but the hours of driving and mileage just weren't
worth what Bob Gr$$nlee was willing to pay.
really felt like I was being used.
Ace produced a song on Charles Atkins.
It was allegedly (according to Bob, who planned on making millions
from this project) supposed to become the new Florida State Anthem.
can listen to it if you'd like.
played piano, Ace played guitar, I played "church" Hammond.
Everything else was overdubbed afterwards.
it didn't become the new Florida State Anthem.
We had a great time during recording
sessions. Musically, I felt more "connected" to Ace than anyone
We'd share all kinds of ideas for parts, and more often than not, Ace would
use the parts I suggested.
At the time when we were cutting Billy Rigsby
tracks, one song didn't have a chord progression for the hook part of the
song. I came up
with the chord changes, they fit, and we cut the track.
Later that night,
played the Eddie Floyd song that gave me the idea for the chord changes -
I had the CD in my van. Ace just flipped out.
played that song about 40 times. The chords were drop-dead
After recording sessions, Ace, Shelley, and I
would head for the local beer joint to eat, get plastered, and shoot pool.
The bar owner
really loved Ace - there was a huge oil portrait of him hanging on
the wall, and everything in the jukebox was picked by Ace.
He was a legend in that bar,
everybody knew him.
I think the
name of the bar was BEER:30. It was just
a few blocks away from Kingsnake.
We shot a LOT of 9 ball, and I found his
with his head, talking shit, and I constantly pretended to
hustle him. I always had my own cue in the van - a $2,500.00 TAD in a $500.00 Fellini case.
I beat the
living shit out of Ace. Every time he lost, he had to buy me another beer,
had to feed quarters into the table for the next rack.
I loved Ace,
but when it came to 9 ball, I tried to kill him. He'd go over to the
bar to get my beer, I'd holler, "Hey, Ace! You better get $40.00
worth of quarters - you're gonna need 'em!"
I offered to give him the 5, the 7 and
the break if he'd bet $100.00.
(That means if he could make the 5 or 7 or 9, he won - I
lost.) I'd give him
the break and half the Goddamn table if he wanted it - I tried to play him 11 straight racks for
Shelley. Let's just
After months of buying me bottles of
(expensive) Corona, he started buying (cheap) big pitchers of beer.
So I'd "adjust" our "gambling" a little ..... if he made, say, the 4
or 5, then I'D buy us beers, no matter who won on the 9. It was
like giving him beer, but he had to earn it.
I just kept
hustling him, and he just kept playing right back with me. We never
shut up - we were like yapping, laughing kids.
Half the beers I won
went to Shelley anyway - I couldn't drink them all.
Honestly, I never took a dime from Ace.
Our "gambling" never existed, but it had a purpose - it created something.
just our way of becoming tight friends - bonding - lots
of beer and bold talk, STAX music blasting out of the jukebox.
absolutely berserk about STAX music, and that jukebox was loaded with it.
I was playing on plenty of those songs.
Sometimes I'd get lucky - break and run the table
- and run my mouth, too ....."Hey man, you comfortable, sittin' on your ass there? Let Shelley
c'mon over here and rack 'em - you might as well take a nap. It's
gonna be awhile before you get to shoot."
And he'd give it right back, too. "Steve - you
stick to playing Hammonds. Soon as I get up, I'll run the table -
you can't even see the 5 ball."
"Shit! I'll break the 5 outa there on this roll - watch!"
"Then I'll just put a safety on you,
and make you think you're in the Federal Pen!"
Damn, did we talk
some shit - damn did we love each other.
I'd already started bringing another one
of my good cuesticks along, and I let him use it all the time.
barroom cues are pieces of shit.
Pretty soon, I taught Ace how to play
- bridging properly, playing safeties, planning his shot strategy in advance - and Goddamn
if he didn't get serious! He started giving me a good run! It wasn't too long,
and I was stuffing quarters into the table, buying the beer, and
racking the balls.
We had nothing
but fun after sessions. We'd get halfway crosseyed, staying until the bar
closed. I usually took
Shelley and him out for breakfast. I liked paying for breakfast,
because I realized how many beers Ace paid for.
Those nights, I was lucky
if I got home before dawn.
Several times, we played shows close
to my home, and Ace and Shelley would come over.
Rebecca and Shelley
got along GREAT - just as well as Ace and I did.
It's a shame we didn't live closer to
9 ball on my 9' Goldcrown - that totally blew Ace away. Compared to a bar
table, mine looked bigger than a parking lot.
We were still talking shit
- I was trying to play him for cash, his amp, his guitar, anything.
The "gambling" threats were unbelievable - I almost lost one of my Hammond
organs to him.
there's no question: Ace really did get a LOT better at 9 ball.
We never stopped having fun at the pool table, and we never really
"gambled" at all. We just talked a lot of shit - maybe we
just really liked and respected each other a lot.
Maybe our mutual respect could even be called love.
Ace would call me for live shows constantly.
Something I used to do pretty regularly was joke with Ace while he was
trying to introduce a song to an audience.
He'd be talking
into his mic, maybe explaining what the song meant, how or why it was written,
and I'd quietly say something totally unrelated.
That distracted him, and got him confused, and, if he understood
what I'd said, sometimes he'd respond to me - into the mic - completely
baffling the audience - and himself.
Sometimes, I'd kind of whisper out loud that
this song was originally written for Aretha Franklin, or it was the
#2 record in Europe, selling millions of copies, and Ace would just lose track of
He fell for that trick plenty of times, and
all laughed about it.
I recall declining to play at 3 or 4 shows
- they were like "Daytona Biker Week" and "Spring Break" things, and I wasn't even
about to consider exposing my Hammond to that kind of insanity.
If he was earning enough to pay me, I'd load my trailer. I
most often use a Hammond B3 organ and 3 or 4 Leslie speakers. That's about 1000
pounds of musical instrument that has to be moved in and out of each show.
God forbid that I would bring any of the rest of my keyboards: electric
piano, clavinet, my synthesizers, amps, and keyboard PA system. (If I had
any sense, I would
have been a harmonica player.)
Ace always saw to it that I got paid
even though it sometimes meant giving me some of his own pay.
He always treated me
right, and I tried to return his respect.
Sometimes, I'd let him buy me a few beers, wait until the
end of the night, "pay time", and tell him I didn't want any money
- take Shelley to a real nice restaurant instead.
We played some pretty odd shows, in some
pretty odd places.
Ace and Shelley never give me very good driving directions, and I
think I got lost going to at least 50% of the jobs.
related to driving from their area - but I was 2.5 hours west
of their area. Confusion reigned regularly.
We played one out
in the sticks someplace, and I wound up about 50 miles east of where I was
supposed to be, in some Godforsaken place called Yeehaw Junction.
First of all, just the name scared the shit out of me.
Of all the places on Earth, I don't
EVER want to end up in any
Look it up on a map - it'll scare the shit out
- you probably think I'm just jivin' - but I'm
not. I stopped and watched an ALLIGATOR - about 15' long - crawl
across the street.
bastard was as long as a car! I got to the show somehow, thanks to cell phones. I had to be
back to the show. I'm just lucky the Goddamn cell phone even worked
in Yeehaw Junction.
I'm lucky that alligator didn't rip off a
We'd play shows,
he'd help me with my equipment, and I mean really lend a hand.
Sometimes he'd offer to get me a motel room, so I wouldn't have to drive
home right after a show - he had a real sense of dignity.
Ace was a good man. No - Ace was a great
Take a look at the three videos of Ace at
Universal studios. The link is above - I wish I had the equipment to
put more of his videos online.