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On Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 2:45pm, my wife of 34 years, Rebecca, died in my arms in an emergency room.

The last words we spoke were in perfect synchronization: "I love you with all my heart."

 

In Memory of Ace Moreland

November 17, 1952 - February 8, 2003

Ace will live on in our memory, he was a very special friend.

I remember that our last few phone conversations made me cry. 

Ace was medicated  to the point of  incoherent.  But he remembered my birthday.

The last words we ever spoke to each other were, "I love you, man."

We were going to call each other within a day or two, but he didn't live that long.

I called Oklahoma, and his sister told me he died.  I went into deep depression. 

 

Together, we played live shows, we cut records,

we drank beer and shot pool all night, we laughed a lot.

Being around him was always a pleasure.

Ace gave this world a lot more than he took from it

thanks to Ace, this show at Universal Studios completely sold out of tickets

Ace Moreland LIVE VIDEOS are at this link

 

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 artist. 

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 own pocket. 

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 each 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 awhile.

 

Kingsnake owner, Bob Gr$$nlee, had probably been through every keyboard player in Florida - maybe the whole Southeast. 

Until I 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 (Hammond organ). 

If 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 stairs.  

 

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. 

 

Ace went 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 around money. 

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. 

I 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. 

You can listen to it if you'd like. 

Charles played piano, Ace played guitar, I played "church" Hammond.  Everything else was overdubbed afterwards. 

No - 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 else. 

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, I 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. 

We played that song about 40 times.  The chords were drop-dead perfect.


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 weak spot. 

I played 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, and he 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 ShelleyLet's just GAMBLE! 

 

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.  This was just our way of becoming tight friends - bonding - lots of beer and bold talk, STAX music blasting out of the jukebox. 

Ace was 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 better 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. 

Those barroom cues are pieces of shit. 

 

Pretty soon, I taught Ace how to play 9 ball - 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 each other. 

 

We'd shoot 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. 

 

But 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 very seriously 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 everything. 

He fell for that trick plenty of times, and we 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 fairly, 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. 

Both Ace and Shelley never give me very good driving directions, and I think I got lost going to at least 50% of the jobs. 

They always 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 Yeehaw Junction. 

Look it up on a map - it'll scare the shit out of you, too. 

 

Second - you probably think I'm just jivin' - but I'm not.  I stopped and watched an ALLIGATOR - about 15' long - crawl across the street. 

That bastard was as long as a car!  I got to the show somehow, thanks to cell phones.  I had to be talked 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 tire, too. 

 

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 man.

 

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.    

I miss Ace - I really do.  I miss playing with him, and I miss his friendship.

 

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