R is for Rockin Rodney Speed

Every day in April I will be participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge. Each day I will write a post dealing with an issue that is near and dear to me that starts with the letter of the Alphabet the corresponds with the day of the month. Neat right? Today is April 18th so the letter of the day is R.

R is for Rockin Rodney Speed. And that time at the Wetlands when he taught Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey of moe. how to play Smoke on the Water.

Rodney Speed is one of the most amazing people on the planet. And my bandmate in the Rodney Speed Experience. He also happens to be my best friend. There will be a lot more stories about Rodney on this site, but today’s is about one particular night at in the year 2000.

Rodney and I met when I started working at Wetlands in 1994. Rodney was a Wetlands original – one of the few who worked from opening day to closing night. 12 years of service to the beast of Rock N Roll. Anybody who has met Rodney knows that he has always been a rock star, but for some strange reason he had never had his own band. I knew we had to get him on stage but wasn’t sure how. Then I had yet another one of my million dollar ideas. We used to do something at Wetlands called the “Powerjam” where we would rent a bunch of backline and invite the best and brightest musicians of the jam band scene to come down and just improvise all night long. For this particular night I advertised that we were going to have “a very special guest at the stroke of midnight – someone too hot to advertise” I dropped some hints to the right people that this very special guest was going to be Trey Anastasio of Phish and the rumor mill was one fire. At 11:40pm the “band” who had assembled onstage stopped and announced to the crowd that there would be a short break and that at midnight a new band would take the stage with this very amazing special guest.

At the witching hour the band walked onto the stage. It was Al and Chuck from moe. and Max Delaney of Uncle Sammy on guitars, Jim from moe. on flute(!), Aaron Comess of the Spin Doctors and Vinny from moe. on drums, Tom McKee of Brothers Past and Little Georgie Wood on keys, Backyard Bill Stites on bass, Pauly Herron on percussion, and DJ Motherfucking Stitch on turntables. There was also some Crazy fucking cab driver who had driven me home the night before who I invited to join in but that’s a story it it’s own right that might just best be left untold….

The band started out playing War Pigs by Black Sabbath and as the grooved through the extended into, a mysterious figure in a black robe and hood strode, with much swagga, out to center stage! Just as it was time for the vocals to he ripped off the hood and bellowed “Generals Gathered in the Masses” and revealed himself to the 700 people inside. Funny thing was, only about 7 of them knew who he was. They went bananas anyways. At the end of that song, I hit the stage to let everyone know who they were watching. And he got thunderous applause.

Their final song was the Deep Purple classic “Smoke on the Water”. One of the first guitar riffs that aspiring axemen learn. But when the band kicked into gear, Rodney’s keen musical sense knew something wasn’t right. Rodney sang the first line of the song and then turned to the band and told them “hold it, hold it!” He then proceeded to explain to Al Schnier, professional guiatrist extraordianire with more than 1,000 gigs and 1,000,000 miles under his belt, that HE WAS PLAYING THE SONG WRONG!!! Rodney told Al that he the song was in the the wrong key, that it needed to be played in G, and the pointed out the frets on the guitar neck that al needed to play the power chords on. Al complied, and the band followed suit, and Rodney grabbed the mic and screamed “Now that’s what IM talkin’ about!” and DJ Stitch started cutting and scratching on the phrase “OH SHIT.” The band proceeded to tear the house down with a raging version of the tune… and the legend of Rockin Rodney Speed was cemented! I’ve seen a lot of shit in my day, but I’ve never seen a literal first-timer school of a buncha of fucken PROS onstage in front of a sold out crowd. Rockin’ Rodney Speed is truly one of a kind. When God made Rodney, he didn’t brake the mold. Rodney tore that mold out of God’s hand, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it like it was a narc at a biker rally. Im not exaggerating a single fucking piece of that story. And here’s the proof: